Fancy free snacks and bonus cash in exchange for your opinions? Getting paid for your views as part of a focus group is an easy way to supplement your income. You can join in online, over the phone, at a venue or even in your own home. That makes for a surprisingly convenient way to earn a little pocket money!

How do I join a focus group?

Most of the big focus group research companies have online registration forms. Just fill out your details and they’ll be in touch if the dispassionate computer selects you for a study. There are plenty of agencies on the market, so it definitely doesn’t hurt to put your name forward to a few at once. Saros and Focus4People are reliable examples that will pay you to attend group discussions or online panels. Subjects cover everything from clothes and beauty products to politics and even your home life. Who knows? you might even get to know yourself a little better.

How often can I take part in a focus group?

GDS Focus Group
Photo by Gdsteam used under CC

It’s far from regular work. Some agencies will only let you participate in two per year, but there’s definitely money to be made. Looking for more side hustles? Check out our guides to cat sitting, life modelling and cycle courier jobs.

You can earn between £30.00 and £160.00 for a couple of hours. To top it off, there’s often tea and sandwiches too. We spoke to focus group pro Lucy Cairns for tips on fitting in sessions around your day job and putting some pep in your panels.

When was your first ever focus group?

I started back in November 2015 when I’d just come back from travelling. Since then I’ve been doing a couple a year.

What made you decide to start?

I was super broke and my housemate told me she wasn’t able to go to one. She said I’d get £50.00 an hour for going along for one hour a day and talking about Sky TV for three consecutive days. It was the biggest no brainer of all time. I had to get out of work five minutes early each day though to race down to Clapham for the 6 pm start.

What’s involved in doing a focus group?

On paper, you have to be really into the topic—whatever that is. Most of the time you don’t actually need to have that much of an interest. For example, I don’t really care about shoes, but I was in a focus group for a high-street shoe retailer where I had to discuss what makes a shoe shop feel awesome. I haven’t been in a shoe shop in years.

What kind of focus groups did you participate in (i.e. telephone/online/group)?

Mine have all been group face-to-face panels. Pretty much the classic movie representation of a focus group—so exactly what you’d imagine.

What kind of topics did you discuss?

Kennisland focus group
Photo by Kennisland used under CC

I’ve been involved in ones for motorbikes, shoes and internet service providers to name a few.

Are you self-employed, or do you get work through an agency?

I get tip-offs about about it through my housemate, who has a lady who rings her from time to time to recruit.

What are the hours like? Is it quite flexible work?

The ones I go to are mostly in the evening, as they take into account people who work nine-to-five. FGUK have called to offer me one before, which I had to decline as my age bracket would have needed to be there at 3 pm. Which was a shame—I couldn’t really take time off work for it. If you work full time, you’re likely to have to dissapear a little early or turn sessions down occasionally.

What’s the earning potential for focus group work?

Treat each session as one off. You can’t survive on this kind of work—it’s just a tasty bonus. A very tasty bonus. Like £150.00 cash-in-hand for three hours of eating chocolate and drinking Appletizer while pretending you might change your internet provider levels of tasty.

Any funny or unusual stories involved in your work?

Sometimes you put on a persona. I realised in the shoe assignment I might stick out a bit as an indifferent woman. They asked “So, is leather much better than synthetic?” and everyone loudly agreed YES! And I mumbled “no”. I got singled out and asked, “why don’t you like leather?”. I thought “shit”. So I ended up sort of pretending I was a vegan to make things a bit more interesting.

What advice or tips do you have for other people considering this type of work?

This might sound bad, but you can always colour the truth (or, um, lie!). Don’t admit to being a journo, working in media or knowing anyone who does. You won’t get placements. Pretend you’re into stuff you’re not if it’s at all feasible. And it never hurts to do a little research before you go in!

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