By Jenny | Edited by Steve N Updated 29 Jun 2015
Willing to give views on politics, washing-up liquid or what goes on between your bedsheets? If so, it's possible to earn Ј100s a year, without any special skill or talent.
It's all about filling in online surveys for cash and attending face-to-face focus groups. This guide has a full rundown of the top 20 free paid survey sites, tips to max your survey income, plus the top focus group agencies.
Also see 30 Ways To Earn Cash Online for more ways to click and earn.
How online survey sites work
Marketing is big business. By learning to target products at the right people, companies cut their advertising spend and increase sales. Add to that the focus group world of politics and the media, and it's clear why businesses pay for your opinions.
Better still, because the whole point is focusing on different types of people, you don't need special qualifications. You just need to be you.
How to take part
There are two ways to take part:
Online surveys for cash. All you have to do is sign up, wait for survey alerts to land in your inbox, then zip through the questions. Survey sites then add the cash to your account. Polls are often fun – you get to vent about everything from video games to your sex life. For a full how-to, see Survey Sites below.
Focus groups. Traditional market research focus groups pay much more per session, but you're limited to a few a year. All it involves is giving opinions on the chosen subject, usually with free refreshments, and you can walk away with anything from Ј30 to Ј160. See Focus Groups below for more.
Dedicated survey-stashers can make Ј200 a year in cash and vouchers. Some forumites have even pushed it to the max and made Ј800 a year.
While we don’t want to give the impression that this is a way to earn thousands instantly, a little bit of inspiration may help. Please add your successes to the Survey Sites forum discussion.
It takes a few years to build up enough to cash out with various sites, but I earned Ј800 last year in cash and vouchers. Comes in very useful! - funnyguy
I have earned over Ј200 in the last year just doing online surveys while watching sport on TV or listening to the radio. The money from these - I always get cash if possible - just helped me pay for my new boiler. Next stop new windows! - jet9cat
In the last year I've made over Ј800 on online surveys, but it does take a lot of spare time and all survey sites were definitely not created equally. If I really busted a gut and did every survey I received I could probably double it. - nehpets81
I am a massive fan of focus groups as a way of earning some extra cash - especially if you have time on your side. I go after work or in my lunch break, and I recently got Ј160 for half a day.
It's good money for just being honest about your thoughts and you get free hot drinks and sandwiches. One group I attended even had free wine! - MartinLewisisalegend
Survey sites: The DOs & DON'Ts
Before you become a survey stasher, there are a few things worth knowing. Remember, patience and consistency are key virtues.
Survey companies aren't banks. There's no protection if one closes, taking your cash with it. So withdraw your cash as soon as you reach the payment threshold. When a previous survey firm closed down, many lost money.
Don't use your normal email address - it'll be immediately flooded. Instead, set up a dedicated email account. As a powerful free option, Gmail is among the best.
This is also a quick way to check which surveys you've been given.
DON'T expect to be instantly rolling in it
One downer is you've no control over how many surveys
you're picked for. So it can take a while to earn enough to hit survey sites' payout thresholds. If you give up, it means the surveys were done for nowt.
For this reason, it's important to understand it's not quick cash. Yet it's nice extra income, provided you consistently fill out the surveys, and have a little patience.
If you have a choice, opt to get paid in cash. If you do get paid in gift vouchers, spend them ASAP. That way the retailer can't go bust on you, invalidating them. Plus you can't lose them or forget them until they go out of date. Full info on this in Gift Voucher Warning.
DON'T tell porkies
Be honest. When a survey pops up that's clearly aimed at a certain group, it's tempting to say, "Yes, I am a 41-year-old, tobacco-chewing dentist from north Manchester who was a middle child." Yet, in the long run, you'll lose out. Companies often corroborate previous answers, and will uncover any fibs.
A few forumites have amassed Ј40 over a year, only for the website to accuse them of fraudulent answers and wipe the balance. Rare, but worth knowing.
Likewise, don't sign up with two different email addresses to double the income - sites kick people out for this too.
DON'T forget to check your emails
The key is logging in often, because surveys close once enough people have responded. If your boss doesn't mind, check surveys in your lunch hour with a cuppa.
Some sites are better than others at tracking which surveys you've completed. To avoid wasting 20 minutes, keep a record of all surveys filled out, jotting down the title and the promised payment. Take a screenshot and make a note of any reference numbers.
Missing some cash? Chase the sites up, asking them to give you the correct points. Survey sites are often happy to add them to your account.
DON'T forget tax
Before you start counting the dosh, don't forget some of it belongs to the taxman. For most people it'll be around a third. Survey earnings are unlikely to push non-taxpayers over the threshold, however.
As any sources of extra income need to be declared so it's worth getting in touch with HM Revenue and Customs. It's a tricky one as survey earnings are technically self-employed income, but declaring your status might depend on how much you're taking home each year.
If it's loads, you might need to register with HMRC as newly self-employed, but if you're just doing a few for fun, you might not. It's worth giving them a ring on 0300 200 3504 to check if you're not sure. You need to register, so make sure you do so by the end of the third calendar month after you've started – or you could face an automatic Ј100 penalty.
DO complain via Facebook and Twitter
If you've complained about problems to no avail, try using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to voice your issue.
There's a glut of survey sites on the internet charging up to Ј80 to register, promising to pay Ј100s after you've coughed up. Never pay to register with a survey site.
DO refer a friend
Most survey sites require you to earn a certain amount before you can withdraw your cash, for example Ј25. Trouble is, people often find themselves stuck 20p below the threshold, waiting for that one survey email to push them over.
If you're left in limbo, try referring friends. Many pay you 50p for referring a mate - handy if your survey emails mysteriously dry up with a few pence to go.
DON'T worry too much about screenouts
Some survey companies have a cheeky habit of asking several questions, then suddenly announcing that you don't qualify. Fine if it's only a few secs, but frustrating if you've donated 10 minutes of your time for nowt.
The list of top survey sites below notes the worst offenders, but in the long run, most people qualify for enough other polls to make up for it.