Friday, March 2, 2012

Avoiding an Unanswerable Pre-Survey Profile Question

One of the best things you can do if you want to receive more and better-targeted surveys is to answer all the profile surveys at your survey site or sites of choice and to keep them up to date. These surveys usually don't pay you anything, but they will (hopefully) allow you to participate in more paying surveys in the future. Nonetheless, I've always suspected that survey sites have a tough time getting their panelists to answer profile surveys -- it's a somewhat tedious process for the survey-taker. To get more people answering profile questions, some survey sites get a little creative; for instance, Global Test Market has started asking survey respondents to answer a few profile questions before being redirected to a paying survey. This isn't a bad idea: it's easier to fill out profiles a little bit at a time, and this is a way to reach people who rarely login to their survey site accounts and thus may be only dimly aware of the existence of profile surveys.

Unfortunately, GTM's execution of this concept leaves something to be desired. The site has repeatedly presented me with a profile question I cannot answer because of the limited answer options made available. It concerns my Internet service provider -- my actual provider is simply not one of the choices. Call it one of the perks of living in a small town: Time Warner abandoned our market a while back so a much smaller company is the only cable Internet/TV provider around. What makes this particular question so terrible is that "Other" or "None of the Above" simply aren't options, and I can't skip the question and just proceed to the survey either. Terrible question design!

This has been a problem for some time, and what I did originally was simply close the survey whenever I saw that dreaded profile question pop up. Probably lost a few dollars that way. Still, I'd rather miss out on surveys than pick the wrong answer just to get it out of the way...we're not getting paid to make things up, and market research only works if respondents are truthful. However, I've discovered a much better way of dealing with the Profile Question From Hell: simply refresh the survey or re-click the survey invitation link from your email. Either action will lead you the real survey. We shouldn't have to engage in Profile Question Avoidance Maneuvers, of course, but this at least provides a solution until Global Test Market fixes that particular question.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Paid Viewpoint's Brave New World of Surveys

I recently mentioned Paid Viewpoint in my list of quick and daily earning sites, but I thought it really deserved a post of its own given that I've been spending more time there of late. What's particularly interesting about Paid Viewpoint to me is that it really seems to be trying to change the whole paradigm of online survey taking. They seem to recognize what survey takers find frustrating and annoying about surveys and have actively designed their site to provide a better experience for all.

The major issue that Paid Viewpoint fixes is the "screening problem." If you've ever taken surveys online, you know what I'm talking about. The simple fact is that the vast majority of surveys I get invited to I don't qualify to complete -- that's because market researchers often just want to poll very specific demographics. If I'm the wrong age, don't use a certain product, work in a particular profession, don't have a certain medical condition, etc I may not be eligible to complete a given survey. What's terrible about this system as it exists is that survey takers end up wasting lots of time on surveys that they get screened out of. Many surveys are poorly designed and force respondents to answer multiple questions before screening them out. I've spent 10-15 minutes on a survey before only to be told I don't qualify for it -- you just want to pull your hair out or start throwing things when that happens because you typically get nothing or next to nothing for the time you've just lost. Paid Viewpoint totally eliminates this frustration: you get paid to answer EVERY survey you're invited to. You also accrue money as you answer on a per question basis; your answers in a given survey may affect the number of questions you're ultimately asked, but you do get paid for every answer you give. It's a fair system which is very respectful of panelists' time.

As you might expect, Paid Viewpoint needs to create fairly sophisticated profiles of its users to match them with the right surveys. Indeed, you'll be asked to answer profile questions pretty much every day. On most survey sites, filling out profile surveys is just something you do in order to get more survey invites -- most don't pay you anything for filling them out even if they're quite long. (I suspect in practice this means that many survey takers don't actually bother to fill out profile surveys, let alone keep them up to date as their circumstances change.) Once again, PV has a better system: it pays you for answering profile questions in just the same way as it does for regular surveys (these are called "biz" surveys on the site). Answering profile questions honestly is a must -- every user receives a TraitScore based on their perceived trustworthiness which affects what surveys they're invited to. Still, even with all this profiling you do get to keep SOME privacy...they don't even make you give them your real name!

So, from my perspective, Paid Viewpoint is indeed building a better survey site...but that doesn't mean you should just join it and forsake all other survey sites! There are still a few advantages that the more established survey sites have over PV. For one thing, your earning potential on a traditional survey site is considerably more because Paid Viewpoint surveys tend to be short and to the point. From a time management perspective, it's great to make $0.30 answering a short multiple choice survey on Paid Viewpoint...however, you can make $1-$5+ per survey elsewhere if you're willing to put the time in that those surveys require. Paid Viewpoint also only pays via PayPal -- many other survey sites offer a choice in redemption methods. The referral system isn't the greatest, either; you receive a flat $1 bonus whenever one of your referrals completes 6+ biz surveys. So there will be no residual earnings based on your referral's further activity on the site and no earnings at all for referrals who quit before they reach that 6 biz survey mark. Another notable downside to PV is that they have a weird rule which punishes people who need to change their phone number or PayPal address. Changing either zeroes your other words, you lose all your earnings to that point! If you're like me, you don't change your PayPal address or phone number very often, but this rule still strikes me as unfair. Undoubtedly, this is a fraud prevention mechanism, but it has the potential to punish innocent people who have to change a PP address or phone number.

All in all, I'm really happy with Paid Viewpoint so far. I'll post another update when I cashout for the first time (hopefully that'll be in the next month or so)...however, I have full confidence that PV will pay since its sister site, Instant Cash Sweepstakes (which also specializes in short surveys), has paid me numerous times. Unlike ICS which only accepts US members, PV accepts users from all PayPal-supported countries.

Is Not Yet Ready for Primetime?

I've had only good experiences with PayPal so far, but that doesn't mean I necessarily want to see PP continue to dominate the online payments space. I've heard enough horror stories to recognize that it's never a good idea to have your eggs in one basket. Thus, I was thrilled when I heard American Express was releasing its own online payments solution,, last year. I was particularly pleased that a big and widely trusted company like AMEX was behind Serve since so many of the other PayPal competitors are fly-by-night operations -- it's hard to say whether the companies backing them are worthy of trusting with your financial operation or have the wherewithal to compete over the long-term. I was even more intrigued when I noticed Serve was bringing something new to the table, namely subaccounts which make transferring money to anyone from family members to employees to handymen a breeze. The beauty of subaccounts is the monitoring that they allow: you would be able to tell where your kid is spending his allowance money, what your roofer is spending on supplies, etc. Naturally, for everyday payments for goods and services you don't need subaccounts, but for very specific purposes it's a great concept. To top it all off, was (and is) offering a $10 bonus to everyone (US only...Serve has yet to go international) who starts an account with them. Naturally, I signed up as soon as I could!

Unfortunately, Serve isn't quite living up its early promise, at least not from my perspective. At this point, I've got $10 in a Serve account and a Serve debit card, but I feel like my account is in suspended animation for no reason. All I tried to do was link my Serve account to my bank account -- ever since I can barely do anything in my account without getting a message about my account being currently reviewed. My account has been in "review mode" for months. The message I'm getting says I can contact them if I don't receive an update, but I thought I'd use this circumstance as a way to test Serve as a service. Unfortunately, Serve is failing pretty badly so far -- I have my doubts that my account will ever leave review mode unless I contact them about my problem. In my opinion, I shouldn't have to...Serve simply isn't ready to compete with PayPal if it can't handle users linking their bank accounts to their Serve accounts. That's a pretty basic, everyday operation for a payment processor. I hope these account reviews (which, judging from Internet comments, seem to be quite common) aren't simply a way to keep people from withdrawing their bonus money. Most likely, Serve has been overwhelmed by signups and simply can't keep up with the volume of activity...that's really not a good sign for a PayPal competitor, either. Unless Serve cleans up their act, they won't be getting my business in the future.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Quick and The Daily: Penny Edition

The idea of "making a little extra money online" is seductive. What could be easier than sneaking in a few minutes at your computer and working on your own schedule and at your own pace? In practice, things aren't so easy or straightforward. Indeed, although it may seem counter-intuitive, I think "making a little extra money online" for some people may be harder than making a living online would be! That's simply because the little extra money people invariably have other commitments that take up their time and prevent them from focusing more on their online work: some may be stay at home parents raising young children, others have one or more "real world" jobs, and some have medical conditions which require constant attention or treatment. The circumstances vary from individual to individual, but the fundamental problem faced is the same: there's just not enough time in the day to get everything done! It's very easy to get caught in a cycle where you're only doing very low paying work online because you don't feel you have the time to take on anything more complex or demanding.

Sound bleak? It can be. Many people are surprised to find how difficult it can be to earn a relatively small amount online -- say, for instance, enough cash to buy Christmas presents for the kids at the end of the year -- when they can only devote an hour or so of time a day towards that goal. With people in this situation particularly in mind, I've been searching for earning sites that take very little time to use each day but pay at least marginally better than click or captcha sites. These are still penny jobs, for sure, but all it takes is 30 cents a day to end up with $109.50 at the end of the year. That may not be enough for a new video system, but it's enough to purchase a few budget-minded gifts at Christmastime. Unfortunately, most of the sites I'm about to discuss are strongly geared towards US members; I may try to do an international version of the list later on, but they're harder to find.

The first site I want to mention is Sidetick. This is a social network geared towards online earners -- you're allowed to blog about your favorite sites, meet like-minded individuals interested in joint ventures, and also do normal online earning tasks such as offers. The "quick money" part of Sidetick involves commenting on Jenny Stein's daily blog entry. Each day, Jenny posts a new blog topic for people to discuss...usually something very simple. Write a short or long comment on the topic and you'll receive $0.13 for your troubles -- this can easily be done in 5 minutes or less. There are a number of other ways to earn with Sidetick that you can explore if you have more time. One downside: Sidetick's minimum payout is $25 so it'll take a while to cash out if you all you do is comment on Jenny's blog.

Next up is Beezag. This is one of the funnest earning sites I use -- you simply watch TV commercials and get paid for it. The site is a cashback shopping site so you can take advantage of offers related to the products you see advertised. However, you can also just earn from watching purchase is necessary to earn. You'll earn at least 2 cents for each video watched; in general, I find that I earn between 2 and 10 cents a day depending on how many videos are available. However, I've earned as much as 20 cents in one day before here!

The next site on my list, Instant Cash Sweepstakes, is a little bit different in that it lets you earn a few pennies every three hours instead of just once a day. It's a very easy site to use -- you simply respond to multiple choice surveys (usually 3 questions per survey). In return for your time, you'll win either a random cash prize (ranging from $0.01 to $0.10) or entries into prize draws. You can only answer a limited number of questions each session (the precise number depends on your trust score level, which increases as you answer profile questions), but I find that I usually win one cash prize every session on average. The prize drawing entries aren't worthless either -- I've won three $2 cash drawings in my time on ICS.

Since I mentioned ICS, I should also mention its sister site, Paid Viewpoint. It specializes in short surveys that are easy to complete and pay well for the time they take. One particularly interesting aspect of the site is that it shows you making money with each QUESTION you answer until you've completed the survey. It also often (always?) allows you to skip questions you don't want to answer. Perhaps best of all, you're always qualified for every survey you're sent -- if you've used other survey sites in the past, you know how annoying and time consuming the survey qualification process can be. I find that I can usually make 8 cents a day on Paid Viewpoint, but considerably more than that when there are actual surveys to take rather than just profile surveys.

Next I want to bring up Swagbucks, one of the most popular GPT sites on the Web. There are numerous ways to earn with this site: you can do everything from trading in old cell phones to taking surveys. Since we're focused on simple, quick methods of earning, though, I want to focus on Swagbucks' search engine and daily poll section. If you search with Swagbucks, you'll win points periodically after submitting your query or moving to a different page of search results. It's usually quite easy to win for the first time each day -- it's possible to win multiple times per day, but it'll take much more time. The daily poll section allows you to win one swagbuck for answering a simple poll question. This brings us to one complicated question: just how much is a swagbuck worth? The answer is, "It depends!" You can redeem your swagbucks for all kinds of prizes, including gift cards and PayPal cash, which are valued wildly differently. If all you do is search and do the daily poll, you should earn at least the equivalent of 5 cents per day regardless of what prize you opt to redeem.

Down to our last site...FINALLY! This one is one I've used pretty much for as long as I've been earning online: it's a little site known by the name of Cash Crate. This is a classic "get paid to" site: think offers and daily surveys. Both completing offers and daily surveys can get time consuming in a hurry, however...they're not the reason Cash Crate made my list. Instead, I'm promoting CC here because of its Daily Check In feature. It's as simple as it sounds: press a button to check in and get three cents added to your account balance. Granted, it'll take quite a while to reach the $20 minimum needed to cash out if all you do is check in so it's probably a good idea to do an offer or take a survey every now and then at least.

To finish up, I just want to break down a possible daily earnings scenario if you use each of these sites. This is based purely on my own personal experiences so far; your experiences may not match mine.

Sidetick: $0.13
Beezag: $0.04
ICS: $0.04
Paid Viewpoint: $0.08
Swagbucks: $0.05
CashCrate: $0.03
Total: $0.37

That's still small potatoes, but it's better than nothing!