Online Surveys

No. That’s the short answer. Yes, there are exceptions, but you’ll rarely make much from doing online surveys.

In fact, I haven’t seen a credible report of anyone making minimum wage, but perhaps it’s possible. The thing about calculating what you make is that most people just plain don’t know how to do it objectively and accurately. That leads survey-takers to think they’re making a better wage for their time than they really are. They then spread that misconception to others.

The most common mistake is not tallying up ALL of the time needed to make money. For example, you do a survey in ten minutes and get $1.25, so you multiply by 6 to arrive at a figure of $7.50 per hour. Right, like you never spent any time looking for the survey, or starting and stopping ones that you didn’t get paid for. In truth you might have spent 30 minutes working to find and finish that survey, bringing your wage down to $2.50 per hour.

By the way, if you make $2.50 per hour doing online surveys, congratulations! You did better than me, and I work fast. If you’ve never done online surveys, read on as I demonstrate how little you’re likely to make.

An Example of My Experience With Surveys

I’ve previously written about InboxDollars.com, one of many places you can do paid surveys. But even in that less-than-flattering account I probably overestimated the potential income, and didn’t make it clear enough how frustrating the experience can be. So I’ll stop now in the middle of writing this post, to take a survey and more accurately document how it really works. Here we go…

I just logged in and looked at the survey “opportunities” on my dashboard at InboxDollars.com. There are three available at the moment. One will make me $0.25 (that’s right, 25 cents) and it’s about entertainment. It’s supposed to take fifteen minutes. If you are good at doing math in your head you have probably already noted that this works out to a dollar per hour. Whoo hoo!

The next one is about cell phones, takes ten minutes, and also pays 25 cents. Well, that’s 50% better for the time, so I click the “Take Survey” button for that one. After almost a minute the survey loaded and I was told I had to take it on my cell phone. I’m at my computer. Oh well, on to the next…

The third survey available paid 50 cents and takes 20 minutes, but there is no topic specified. I click on that one and after some time I get this: “We’re Sorry, but you presently do not match the criteria for this survey or it has already been closed. We have found additional surveys below you may qualify for.” Okay, I’ll try one of those…

I click on one that pays 75 cents and takes 25 minutes. I read these instructions:

Please remember to answer all of our questions carefully and thoughtfully. Your survey completion will be rejected and your reward will not be paid in the event that you demonstrate inattentive behaviors such as speeding through our survey or entering false information. Survey participants who rush through our survey will not be rewarded. There is a chance you may not qualify for this survey. The first few questions in the survey will determine your qualification. If disqualified, you will be returned to our website.

I go ahead and click the “Start Survey” button, not really expecting to do a full survey or get paid. More instructions are loaded and I click the “next” button after reading them. I get a page that asks if I use mobile work stations at my place of work. I answer “no” and hit the “next” button. The next page asks if mobile work stations are used where I work for creating animations and such. No. Next. Are MWS’s used for scientific purposes where I work? No. Next. After five more similar questions I get this: “We’re Sorry, but you presently do not match the criteria for this survey.”

I try another survey and get a similar result. By now I have spent fifteen minutes trying to earn anywhere from 25 to 75 cents. If I go ahead and try another 25-cent survey and actually qualify and spend fifteen minutes on it, I’ll have spent thirty minutes total to make $0.25, for an hourly rate of $0.50. That’s less than half of what a minimum-wage worker in Guatemala makes.

Why do Bloggers Promote Survey Sites?

Since this is generally such a crappy ways to make money, why do so many websites and personal finance blogs promote survey sites? For the commissions, of course. Even in my poor review of Inbox Dollars I linked to the signup page using an affiliate link, so if any readers really want to try it I’ll get 10% of whatever they make.

By the way, you can see my review of Inbox Dollars here.

Your Thoughts: Have you tried doing online surveys, and have you ever made more than $5 per hour?

Flickr Photo by Wesley Fryer