Skip to main content

Surveys 101: A Newbie's Guide to Living the Survey Life

Renny is a freelance content creator with a deep love of pets, tiny living, green living, tech, gaming, and living well on a tight budget.


The Hook

Make $300 – $1000 a day doing surveys! Sign up here!”

This sure sounds too good to be true, right? Well, that’s because it is. At least in my experiences and time doing surveys, anyhow. I have yet to come across any survey place that you could make that kind of money from daily. Any I DID look at were blatant scams. It IS tempting though, isn’t it? That's kind of the whole point!

The Low Down

On a more realistic note, you CAN make money with surveys, so don't get discouraged. How MUCH you make depends on a lot of factors:

  1. How much time you put into doing them.
  2. How much patience you have before you give up.
  3. Your demographics: age, gender, money bracket, ethnicity, and so on.
  4. The actual site you use.

There’s more, of course, but those are the top factors in your payout.

The main thing to remember about taking ‘actual’ surveys is this: You’re going to disqualify. A lot. I personally am a broke, white, single female who doesn’t drink, smoke, go to movie theaters, have the latest electronics, eat out, or even have a car, so that bonks me out of a lot of opportunities. I’ve been disqualified for so many random reasons it would make your head spin just to list them. You know what, though? I keep doing them. I might only end up finishing 10 out of 100, but, that’s still money I didn’t have.

The reason why you disqualify more often than not is because these companies are usually looking for input on very specific things – a liquor survey isn’t going to count for someone who only drinks tea and juice, and so on. So, patience, patience, patience!

Scroll to Continue

Breaking It Down

Now, before you get confused, let me break down the different types of things that are available, so you know what you’re getting into:

  1. Surveys: 'Actual’ surveys are opportunities from various companies looking for feedback from real consumers. Whether you think the latest movie sucked or you only drink one brand of tequila, they want to know.
  2. Tasks: I call these ‘penny tasks’, what your site calls them may differ, but they are usually from Crowdflower. They are small things you can do usually for a few cents, I will explain these more in a minute.
  3. Affiliate offers: These are usually on what most sites call an ‘external wall’ or ‘offer wall’. These you want to watch carefully, I will explain more in a minute.
  4. Videos: pretty simple, really. You watch a video or a set of videos, and usually earn a couple ‘points’ or whatever your site calls it.
  5. Cashback offers, games, and special deals: not all sites have these, but some of them have offers where you can shop on retail sites and earn points per dollar spent. They sometimes also have links to playable games that have coin or token packages to play, again usually so many points per dollar spent. Then, there’s the other ‘special deals’. These are usually things where you donate to charities, or get free trials of certain websites or what not, and they give you so many points for spending money. These are all ‘if you have the cash and would do it anyway, go for it, but if not then proceed with caution’… if you get a free trial and cancel before a certain point, you can get the points taken away or even get in trouble with your site!

Now, about Crowdflower and sites like them. I use CF a lot, make a decent little bit of change from them. The basic concept is micro tasking – there is a job posted, you select the job and read the instructions on what they want done. If you decide the pay is decent and the job is easy for you to do or understand, or you just really want the money, you can go ahead and do the task. There are usually ‘quiz’ questions on the first page, they help you to understand the task at hand and test you on your understanding. Your accuracy will either allow you to work, or expel you from the task, so work hard on getting it right! You can’t get paid if you can’t do the task . Also, maintaining a high accuracy will enable you to rise in ‘levels’, which will give you access to higher paying and better tasks. You can usually visit the CF site itself to get an idea of what you need to rise higher and how you’re doing in general.

On to Affiliate offers. These, I tend to take with a whole box of salt. You’re going to more than likely find the majority of these on ‘offer walls’ from companies like Peanut Labs, OfferToro, TrialPay, and so on. You have to be really, really careful with the majority of these, a lot of them are ‘enter every speck of personal information you could ever possess and throw in some DNA while you’re at it just to win this super expensive thing! Did we mention you need to complete a credit card offer?’. Win a free $100 gift card for your opinion? Not really. Win an awesome game system just for entering your email and picking your favorite soda? I don’t think so. These almost always require you to spend money, and they inundate you with spam until you want to vomit. I consider these to be scams and avoid them like the plague. The main way to spot these kinds of things is to look in the fine print for ‘participation in offers required’, or if it’s a really high dollar item for no effort. Proceed at your own risk and with much caution.

There are so many survey sites out there with so many different ways of doing things that I can’t list all the ways here, otherwise I’d be here all day and so would you! I will be posting reviews of my top survey sites to help you out, so don't worry about getting in over your head! In the mean time, I’m going to leave you with some main do’s and don’t’s to keep in mind as you prowl around.

Please Do:

  • Learn your site rules and how your site works. For instance, One account per person.. or one person per account! Want to have all family members doing the same site? Make sure they allow it. Make sure you know the pay out requirements and time frames before you get that Paypal payout or gift card. No trying to do the same survey 3 times for more credits, one per person please!
  • Have patience. Yes, I know it’s frustrating when survey after survey kicks you out, but in the end sticking with it will pay off. A lot of sites have quality scores, which rise as you complete surveys and they are approved. Higher quality scores on these sites mean access to better paying surveys and the chance that you won’t disqualify as much – sometimes you can earn in home trials for certain products or even follow up surveys that pay good bucks!
  • Be honest. Always be honest with your answers about everything, you never know what survey companies are looking for. A lot of these survey makers and survey sites DO keep your basic demographic information though, and if you’re a white female one day and an asian male the next, they’re going to notice and flag your account. Same goes with the money bracket. Don’t do that.
  • Be consistent. This goes with being honest – if you said ‘I hate peas’, then you always hate peas! A lot of surveys will ask you questions more than once to make sure you’re paying attention and not just rushing through – they want real answers.
  • Pay attention. This falls in with being consistent and honest. A lot of surveys will have ‘trap questions’ that they tell you what answer they want to make sure you’re with them – don’t mess these up!
  • Take enough time to make sure you’re reading everything you answer.

Please Don't:

  • Expect to pay your rent off of surveys, especially when you’re just starting out. Unless you get really lucky, it’s not going to happen.
  • Try to scam the system by trying to do the same surveys over and over or in multiple tabs at once – that just makes it difficult for all of us and gets you in trouble.
  • Get disappointed if a survey kicks you out – sometimes it’s because you don’t fit the bill, and sometimes it’s because the survey filled up while you were answering. It’s annoying, but, it’s not the end of the world.. and it’s not a reflection on you!
  • Be rude to site admins or mods or just cause trouble in general… why waste time yelling about how the site is a waste of time?
  • Just jump into anything willy-nilly, make sure you do your research on offers and sites before you waste a lot of time for nothing. Doing website review searches help a lot, that’s how I found the sites I’m using!
  • Forget to read the fine print on everything. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!
  • SHARE SURVEY INFO. This is a huuuugeee no no. Huge. No getting on twitter and going “Hey guis omg I just saw the new concept for “Brain Exploder 6000″ Omg!” In fact, this disclaimer is usually at the beginning at every survey. FOLLOW IT.


Be sure to remember that while you are putting some serious time and thought into this, that doesn't mean you can't also have fun doing it! Whether you’re trying to create a stash for the holidays, get an extra tank of gas, or just fund your caffeine fix, surveys can be a great way to help flush out your budget and wallet. It really all depends on the time you put in and the effort you make. Happy hunting!

Pro tip: For the sites that allow payout through PayPal, they usually require your site email and your Paypal email to be the same!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Related Articles