Stephanie's Top Five Tips for Successfully Taking Online Surveys

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I’ve been taking surveys for a few years now and have learned a lot of tips over the years about how to be successful. Although tips can vary by survey panel, I have come up with some general tips that apply to all survey panels out there.

Here are my top five tips for getting the most out of your survey-taking experience:

  • 1) Focus on the survey panels that work best for you
There are a lot of survey panels available online and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed with so many to choose from. What I find that works best for me and other survey takers is to sign up with several of them and then watch your email inbox (and/or survey dashboard on their website) for the amount of surveys they send you. Keep track of what most of the surveys pay for the time invested and which companies you make the most money from. Eventually, you will find what panels work best for you and you can concentrate on taking surveys from them.

I am signed up with a ton of survey panels, but I mainly focus my attention on the five or more that are the most profitable for me. I still stay registered with the panels that don’t do so well for me in case a survey comes along that pays a lot, but I tend to not take many of their surveys.

I found myself wasting a lot of my time trying to take surveys from all the panels I was registered with when I first started taking surveys, so I decided to concentrate on just a few and my earnings went up quite a bit. When you’re too busy sifting through lots of low-paying surveys to find higher-paying ones, you miss out on a lot of better opportunities from other companies. You have to learn to manage your time well and focus on specific companies since a lot of surveys fill their quotas very quickly.

  • 2) Don’t take too long on one survey or, on the other hand, rush through it
This is something I still have issues with as a long-time survey taker. There are times when I take a survey and then get interrupted for a little bit. Then, when I come back to the computer to finish the survey, it tells me the survey has expired. This can happen even when being away from the survey for just a few minutes and depends on the survey company. Sometimes you can restart the survey or click the link in the invitation email to reenter it, but most of the time you can’t go back to the survey. Sometimes I can leave a survey open for a half hour to an hour and can continue it from where I left off, but you’re better off not taking the risk. You should complete the survey in one sitting just to be safe.

On the other hand, sometimes survey companies will penalize you for completing a survey too quickly. If you rush through a survey without thoroughly reading the questions, sometimes the survey will end prematurely or the survey company will not pay you (SurveyHead tends to do this quite a bit). It’s a time balancing act and you just have to try your best not to take too long on a survey or move through it too quickly.

  • 3) Always keep your demographic information and profiles up-to-date
This is something a lot of people tend to forget or put off. It’s very important to update your information and profiles regularly. I try to update mine for each survey company I belong to twice a year (or more frequently if something major changes in my life). That way, I don’t miss out on any new survey opportunities or get surveys that I don’t qualify for because I didn’t update my information (such as no longer subscribing to a specific television or Internet service). For example, I’ve noticed there are a lot of surveys out there for people who use iPhones or iPads, so if you purchase one of those devices, you will want to make sure you update your profiles as soon as possible so you can take part in those surveys and earn more cash.

It can be tedious to keep everything updated, but I find it to be worth it. Also, I’ve noticed that I tend to get more surveys immediately after updating my profiles, but perhaps this is just a coincidence.

  • 4) Keep a record of all cash-outs and other important information
This is incredibly important, especially if you’re a member of a lot of different survey panels. I keep a record (in a Word file) of all the times I cash out with a company. I include the company name, date of cash-out, and how much I cashed out for. I also sometimes take a screenshot of the cash-out process (if necessary) so I have proof that I cashed out in case something goes wrong.

All of this really helps to keep track of all my cash-outs so I know what to expect in the mail or in my email in the coming days or weeks. If I don’t receive a payment that I know I’m supposed to get, all I have to do is email the company with my information (and screenshot, if I took one) and the issue is soon (hopefully) resolved. I make sure to cross out the payments I’ve received so I know not to worry about them anymore.

I also keep a record of all my login usernames and passwords for each survey panel in another Word file. It just helps to have all that information available in one place in case I forget something and can’t log in to a survey panel anymore. It’s helped on several occasions when I’ve been particularly forgetful.

  • 5) Always cash out when you reach the minimum payout level
Survey companies come and go, and a lot of them get taken over by others or make major changes to how they pay survey-takers (such as getting rid of gift card options or PayPal). When a survey company goes under and you still have money left over in an account with them, you’re almost always out of luck and you lose that money. This has happened a couple of times in my experience of taking surveys (although, thankfully, it wasn’t a huge amount of money that I lost) and it’s incredibly frustrating.

Therefore, I highly recommend that survey-takers cash out whenever they reach the minimum payout level. Each survey company differs on what this level is (such as Global Test Market, where you have to reach the 1000 point or $50 level to cash out), so you have to do your research and keep track of how much money you have in each account. As soon as that level is reached, I make it a priority to cash out just in case something happens to the company or a certain redemption option I like is removed. You never know and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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Comments (13)

  • Napoleon July 28, 2016 Reply
    Your article on taking online survey is very helpful and an eye opener for a newbie like me in this field of work. I have just signed in with one last July 25, 2016 and on the waiting phase. Unfortunately when i registered with Paypal, i had problem in acquiring the 4 digit code they sent to my card account because i cannot verify it online. I also had a bad time confirming with them my mobile number. Feels like that their panel is nonresponsive. Anyway your article is very useful and timely. Thank you for coming out with it. Best of luck to you.
  • FELIX June 21, 2016 Reply
    Your tips are reasonable and can guide any newbies. Thanks a lot.
  • dilip October 10, 2014 Reply
    i did not completed any survey , when ever i started to take survey its endup in one or two opinon , reason massage shown is 'U CANT PROCEED MORE AS PER SURVEY CO PARTNER' , any sugession dear SIR....
  • reginald March 22, 2013 Reply
    thank you for review guide.i was encourage with it. when i started, it was seems it will not go.even i decided to drop.but as i read the review,strength enter me.i remember a saying that one thousand mile journey mile,starts with a step.i was disqualified.i say in trying times,dont quit trying.there are no hopeless situation.but there are only men who have grown hopeless about them.nobody and nothing can keep you down unless you decide not to rise again.thank once more for your helpful effort towards my regain strength.i highly recommand you to anyone that thinlks about sign up for a market research website.
  • omar zaki March 03, 2013 Reply
    Thank you so much Stephanie for these wonderful tips you taught me, I learned a lot from it. God speed.
  • Danielle Hua January 24, 2013 Reply
    Thank you so much Stephanie for these wonderful tips you taught me, I learned a lot from it. God speed.
  • LapisLee February 25, 2012 Reply
    Hey, you're right. I never noticed that SurveySavvy is owned by Luth Reseach. Good eye. There was nothing in the email to indicate that it came from SurveySavvy, so maybe they have a separate group for their Invoke-type surveys.
  • LapisLee February 23, 2012 Reply
    I like to think about my top 20 survey list like a stock portfolio or Mutual Fund, with a nice blend of good, average and slow (but dependable) earners. Of course, a few Amazon gift card sites like Valued Opinions is also good. Some months you do well with certain panels and other months another panel will shine. Since I average $190 per month, a week like this week, with $350 in online discussions and Invoke Interactives (not collected yet!), really tip the balance towards those three survey panels: GTM ($225), USA Talk Now ($75) and Luth Research ($50). I don't make $225 in a whole year from 12 of my top 20 panels.
    • josh c February 24, 2012 Reply

      By Luth do you mean SurveySavvy?
  • Stephanie February 23, 2012 Reply
    Hi Lee,

    Thanks for the comments and extra tips!

    For me, my survey earnings go up and down quite a bit according to survey panel. Some months I do really well with one survey panel, while other months I hardly get any surveys from that one survey panel. It just depends on how many surveys are offered and what the topics are about. I'm a member of over 20-30 survey panels and my earnings fluctuate a lot with them some months.

    I don't think I earn that much from any one survey website to have to file a tax return. I never have in my several years of survey-taking. However, I do keep records of most of my survey-taking just so I know I'm making a decent amount of money and am not wasting time on surveys that don't pay out enough.

  • Lee New February 20, 2012 Reply
    Stephanie, that is a very well-written article with some really great tips. I would just add:

    1) You really don't need more than ten good survey panels to make some decent money. I remember in the very beginning, back in January of 2008, I was taking every survey from every panel I could find! I would work more than eight hours per day long into the night until a few years later, I realized that 73% of all of my earnings came from my ten best survey sites. I generally earn around $195 per month so that is $142 from my top ten panels each month.

    2) What really burns me up is getting disqualified for finishing a survey too fast, like in nine minutes instead of the required 12-15 minutes, which is based on 80% of the average times that all other survey-takers took to complete the same survey. I am much faster than most people, so I usually take a five-minute break after 20-30 minutes of any survey; however, if you don't finish in one session, occasionally the browser page will expire and not let you finish. Fortunately, SurveySpot, OpinionOutpost and several other panels have the links for incomplete surveys listed in the survey histories on their websites and allow you to click on them to finish.

    3) The best time to update your profiles is right after you buy a new car, HDTV, Blu-Ray player, Smartphone or when you experience a major life event such as moving, birth of a child or new job. Many survey panels send you a reminder each year that reminds you to update the profilers.

    4) You have to keep records or else you end up wasting your time taking too many surveys for too little incentives. I know exactly which survey companies pay ME the best and I eagerly look forward to their email invitations and give them my full and undivided attention in order to give them the best possible information. It's worth it for a lot of survey panels, but there are even more that are just not worth my time. Also, Excel is a good spreadsheet for keeping track of survey earnings. I really need to know if I am getting close to $600 with any one company, such as SSI which owns both SurveySpot and OpinionOutpost, during the fiscal year (usually either starting in January or October, but could be any time depending on the company) because you will be sent a W-9 tax form to fill out and must report your earnings if you earn more than that amount.

    5) I like cashing out for $50 chunks for some reason. I guess it makes my bookkeeping easier. :-)