A popular misconception is that mystery shoppers give our opinions about the businesses we shop. Nope. We share objective observations—opinions have no place in a mystery shopper report.
If you like to give your opinions (And who doesn’t?) focus groups are perfect for you. Not only do you get to tell them what you really think, you get paid for it! What could be better, right?
Focus groups and other opinion research studies are typically run by market research companies. If you live in or near a city of any size, there are probably several market research companies in the area. Many of them allow you to register with them and will contact you when they have a study for which you qualify. (More on that later in this article)
What’s the catch?
They typically have very specific requirements for each study, and you may not qualify for many. And, once you have participated, they may not use you in another study for many weeks or months. This is not a way to make a regular income, or even a reliable supplement to your income. But, it is fun!
I have participated in many surveys over the years. For several years I got paid to rate songs played on the radio. The market research company would play short (about six seconds) bits of hundreds of songs, and the study participants would rate each song. It sounds like it would be hard (kind of like playing Name That Tune) but it was actually very easy and fun.
In other studies, I evaluated fabrics being considered for a clothing line’s upcoming fashions, sniffed scents being considered for a home dry cleaning product and even taste-tested chocolate!
How can you get started? First, locate the market research companies in or near your town. An easy way to do this is with an online search for “market research companies” and the name of your town. Visit the websites and look for a page where you can register for their consumer panels.
You may also find some companies advertising for study participants on Craigslist and other online classified sites.
Be careful, though! In with the legitimate market research companies there will likely be some scammers. Just as with mystery shopping, do not pay to sign up or for promises of jobs.