Capitalism lesson number one: companies need us to like and buy their product. It’s hardly rocket science, but it is an integral part of what keeps our society ticking over. Rather sensibly, many companies like to know whether people will like their brand new innovation before they spend millions on a new product launch. That’s where market research comes in.
There are many companies who specialise in organising focus groups for companies. I’ve been signed up with a few companies who offer this for a while, but wanted to wait until I got my first bit of work before doing this post so I could speak with some degree of understanding. The companies I signed up with are Saros, FocusForce, Focus4People and Indiefield. Each works by you signing up with them, and then they send out emails to you when an event is available, though with varying degrees of ease. Saros has by far been the best in my experience – they only send emails to which you match the general description, the forms are simple and easy to fill out. Focus4People is also good, and again targets the notifications very well. FocusForce, seem to have the most opportunities, but are by far the most irritating. They do not seem to filter their emails in any way, so I frequently receive emails (on a daily basis) inviting me to apply for a focus group for pensioners, or when only looking for female participants. Considering they have my details you would expect they could target a little better. Indiefield have been pretty silent, although I did recently pick up a project with them that is just a simple survey every few months via the post, but not had any focus group invites from them that I can recall.
I have been signed up for these for about 4 months, and only just this week went to my first focus group, so a bit of perseverance is necessary, but it is worth it in the end. Due to being made to sign scary legal documents that entitles them to my first born child if I leak any information (may not have been the actual terms), I can’t say too much about the session I went to, however I will tell you it was for a very large, very famous computer gaming company to test a new game. I am sworn to secrecy until the game is launched, even though I never actually saw it. This is because I was the reserve, meaning if everyone else turned up, I wasn’t needed and could be sent away, however, if someone didn’t show, I would be called in and the session could carry on without delay. This particular research was a 4 day event from 9.30 – 1.30 each day. I would be paid £120 if I wasn’t needed and £240 if I was needed for each of the days. I saw it as a win-win, if I wasn’t needed, I get paid £120 just for showing up and hanging around for an hour, if I was, then I play a computer game for a few days and get paid double. In the end I wasn’t needed, which was probably the better option as it allows me to use the time for other things, and still get paid half the money.
No monetary investment is needed. All that’s required is a little time to sign up with the agencies, and then a few minutes to apply for any groups that interest you.
Time(hrs): 0.5 per week
Return On Investment
Typically the payment can range anywhere from £30 – £300, based on the amount of time required. It usually equates to about £20ish/hour from what I’ve observed. There are rules about the frequency you can participate, generally only one every 6 months, regardless of whether it is through a different agency.
Projected ROI: ∞
ROI inc. labour: 223% (based upon minimum wage of £6.19/hour)
Expected Return: £100-£300 in a year (given average payment amounts and reasonable luck in being selected)
Each group looks for a different type of person. There is likely to be at least one opportunity for which you fit the bill every few weeks. Being selected comes down to a combination of luck and persistence. The more invitations you respond to, the better your odds of being chosen are. A basic level of writing and the ability to discuss your thoughts openly with, and in front of, complete strangers is a necessity for every group, so if you’re very shy, perhaps it won’t be up your street. It’s nothing scary though – everyone there is in the same boat, and in my experience were a friendly bunch.
There isn’t too much risk at all. I suppose there’s the chance of wasting time responding if you never get picked, but if you select the invitations you respond to with any degree of logic this shouldn’t be too much time at all, and eventually it is likely you will be selected. It’s important to also factor in travel costs as to whether it’s worthwhile. Many are in big cities; London, Manchester, Birmingham etc. so if you live in or near one of those it will be easier. If you don’t live near those, look out for the ones done over the phone or visits to your home.
The limit is about 2 per year, unless you are lucky enough to keep being the unused spare, in which case you can go again as soon as you like. But once you have participated, the rule is to wait 6 months before taking part in another. For this reason, it is not scalable at all. However, the high one off payment make it worthwhile for those couple of times a year.
It’s never going to be a long-term income earner, but for the amount of money it is when I can get the work, it is certainly worthwhile. It’s difficult to argue with £120 for showing up and having a drink for an hour. As such, I will continue to be on the lookout for opportunities to participate in these market research sessions, and enjoy the nice boost they provide to the stash.