When conducted by a reputable market research company, paid online surveys can be an easy way to make a little extra cash in your spare time. These companies used to seek consumer opinions in the mall or by phone.
Many of these market research companies are now relying on the Internet to meet their survey needs. However, if you type "paid online surveys" into a search engine like Google, you'll get hundreds of pages operated by middlemen advertising "get rich quick" schemes [source: About.com].
Many companies use online surveys as part of their overall market research efforts. Every product or service that a company sells has a target demographic. For example, if a company sells video games, its target demographic might be young men between the ages of 10 and 25. When conducting market research, the company will look for respondents who fit that target demographic.
The same holds true for paid online surveys. Your survey responses are only valuable to the company if you fit their target demographic. It's true that you can get paid up to $50 or even $100 for completing an online survey, but that's if you fit a highly valued, very targeted demographic. Unfortunately, you can't fit each and every demographic, so big-money paid Internet surveys will most likely be few and far between [source: About.com].
You're unlikely to "get rich quick" by taking paid online surveys, but if you happen to fall into a prized demographic, there is the potential to make a reasonable amount of money participating in paid focus groups and one-on-one interviews -- both online and off.
Many "paid" online survey sites don't actually pay cash per completed survey, but compensate participants with coupons, discounts, freebies and sweepstakes entries. For example, e-Rewards awards members receive "cash" for completing surveys. Members can exchange the cash for certain prizes like frequent flyer miles, free movie rentals or magazine subscriptions.
On the next page, we'll talk about some of the dangers of paid surveys.