I’ve taken thousands of online surveys – yes, thousands – over the past several years and while I can’t claim to be living an extravagant lifestyle thanks to my survey-taking income (and neither will you), I have studied the genre quiet extensively and have uncovered a number of tips and practices that can help you earn a little more and do it more efficiently and productively. But you’ll have to be a bit of a rogue to do so.

Let me emphasize that this article is not about where to go to take online surveys nor which online survey-taking sites are better (although you’ll find some of my comments might favor or disfavor some sites over others). There are many articles on Infobarrel, or elsewhere on the web, where you can find where or how to link up with online survey companies. This article is purely about the tips, dos and don’ts, and other insights on how to make taking online surveys a little more lucrative and not spending all day and night doing so (if that’s what you are doing now, you are overdoing it). It’s also about what many survey takers do but don’t talk about – you have to bend the rules if you’re going to increase the amount of cash or prizes you’ll accrue from taking online surveys.

How Much Money?

What kind of money are we discussing here? I can’t claim that my online survey taking is either an average or a top-of-the list amount of money when compared to others survey takers. In fact, it’s almost impossible to know what ‘a great deal’ of money may be when it comes to online survey taking. Whether the amount you make is great or meager is really about your own expectations. For me, I average more than $100 a month in extra income from survey taking alone. Not a great deal, but I don’t spend more than an average of one hour a day taking the surveys. You may do more or less and your income may vary accordingly. If that amount of money and time appeals to you then my tips will help. If they seem to be a waste of time for very little money, you may want to end your reading right now.

My income from online survey taking has increased since I started and I attribute that increase almost exclusively to the tips I’ve learned over time and that I’m about to share with you. You may find some of these work well for you while other tips may not. You might have other ideas that can help both me and other survey takers – and I hope you’ll be willing to share them here at Infobarrel. Most important, these are tips that bend the rules and certainly aren’t what the online survey companies prefer you do.  But they do work.

So, let’s begin and see if together we can’t help each other with our online survey taking experience.

1. The Need For Speed

Speed is the number one method to increase your profit margin by way of survey taking. While all online survey sites warn you against speeding through surveys – and some may indicate lack of an appropriate amount of time spent on a survey is grounds for disqualification or banishment – taking a long time on a given survey is a sure way to limit your earning power. I’ve taken many surveys that threaten to eliminate me if I don’t spend enough time on it (and some survey sites do have ways of monitoring time spent on a survey). But, it doesn’t matter. Your number one job is taking as many surveys as possible in order to gain points, cash, prizes, etc. Even if you are bumped off of a survey, as I have on only one or two occasions, for not taking your time don’t worry about it. Move on and move fast.

2. Surveys Are Often Advertisements – Tell Them You Love Them

It may come as a surprise, but not all online surveys are actually surveys. In fact, I would estimate that fewer than half of all surveys are truly interested in your opinion. The majority of so-called online surveys are actually advertisements and marketing tactics made to look like surveys. Why should that matter to you? Well, advertisers are looking for people who say they just love their product or service. If you are the very honest type and you tell the maker of the a particular product or service that you don’t like it and would never use it, you’re probably going to be bumped right out of the survey without earning a cent. When given the option of whether you like, you like a little, or you hate something in a survey be more positive than negative. You are likely to complete the survey and get points/cash if you do. This goes for questions such as ‘would you use this product,’ ‘would you tell your friends about it,’ and so on.

Another aspect of ads masking themselves as surveys has to do with automobile advertising. There are a lot of auto-related surveys. To be somewhat successful in taking these kinds of surveys you must make sure you tell them you are about to buy a car. In these surveys you’ll first be asked when you plan to buy a car. If you indicate it will be a year or more you’ll invariably be bumped out of the survey. The sooner you indicate you are thinking about buying your next car, the greater likelihood that you’ll be able to complete the survey and get points for doing so.

3. Keep It Short

Sometimes surveys will ask you to describe how you feel about something, or to describe an image you just saw or a description you’ve read. The survey company wants you to write as much as you can. Don’t do it. The time you take to write a long response will gain you nothing and suck up a great deal of time. Try to keep your responses short and move on. This is one of the ways you’ll end up spending too much time. Be brief!

4. Learn Good Survey Sites and the Bad Ones

Not all online survey sites are equal. Some are worth the time you spend on them and others are most definitely not. How can you tell the difference? The most obvious sign is the value they provide to you. If the points/cash/prizes are paltry or it takes you months to earn anything at all don’t waste your time. I recently canceled my involvement with Harris Polls, one of the best-known survey and polling companies. Their prizes were few, it took to long to get to the level where I could actually win the prize, and when I had finally gotten to that point I found the prize list had changed and what I hoped to trade my points for was no longer available.

Another indication of a poor online survey site is the site doesn’t offer many surveys at all– you get something from them no more than once a week, for example – that’s an indication that you might want to stop wasting time because it will take you a very long time to get enough points to win anything.

Another indication that an online survey is not worth spending time on is the amount of time required to complete the survey – even if you speed along as fast as possible. This is something you get to learn over time as you recognize a particular survey company. For example, I’m very wary of a company that I recognize because the survey or the url indicates it’s from “otx.” Surveys from that company are invariably longer than most and it’s a site that more often than others fails to award points even after you have completed the survey. Other such survey company are “Ipsos” and “opinionshere.”

5. Post-survey Surveys

Some online survey sites will ask you to complete a questionnaire about your experience after you’ve taken a survey. I spend as little time as possible on these and so should you. For example, Opinion Outpost – one of the better sites by the way – will ask you after each completed survey to complete a questionnaire. You’re given five stars to select from as to whether you enjoyed the survey a lot or very little. Check off the third or middle star. Checking off the first two or the last two stars opens additional questions to answer and that’s not a good use of your time.

Taking surveys can be lucrativeCredit: ryaz.com

6. “Sweepstakes” Only Prize? Forget It

Many surveys, instead of offering cash or points will reward you with an “entry” into their sweepstakes that each month award cash or prizes. Don’t bother with these surveys. The chances of your winning one of their sweepstakes are astronomical. It’s all about points gained from taking a survey and/or cash. Sweepstakes entries are a waste of time and I opt out of those quickly.

7. Don’t Wait To Hear From Them

When you sign up for an online survey company they promise to email you every time there’s a survey available for you. Don’t wait for them to contact you. Bookmark the survey sites you are a member of and set aside some time each day for going to the websites and see what surveys are waiting for you. While some survey companies are very good about emailing you when a survey is available, I’ve found I can take many more surveys if I go to them rather than wait for them to email me. And remember, once a survey site has had enough people take a survey they may take it offline. So, take advantage of your window of opportunity. I’ve found Opinion Outpost and Focusline are particularly good survey sites, but I make a point of checking their websites daily and doing so has proven to provide me with a great many more opportunities than if I wait for their email.

8. Security Is Important

While this may not be directly related to maximizing your survey taking potential, it’s worth mentioning. Taking surveys does reveal information to the survey companies, their affiliates, their sponsors, advertisers, etc. So, be careful with the personal information you give out – most sites require it at least to sign up– but you should draw the line on things like giving out your phone number or detailed financial information when you actually take a survey.  Decide if you want to participate in surveys that ask you to reveal which bank you use, etc. When I take a survey and it asks me which bank I use, I never reveal which I use – and it doesn’t seem to matter because it’s never inhibited me from completing the survey in which I was asked such a question.

9. I Never Took That Survey

Online surveys will often ask you if you have completed a survey on a particular subject, or about a particular product, in the last three months or year. If you answer “yes” you’re likely to be bumped out of the survey. Answering in the negative will usually allow you to proceed.

10. Link to Social Networks

Some survey sites, like Toluna, encourage you to submit your own survey questions for other Toluna members to answer. Getting responses to your survey, or responding to others’ surveys can gain you points. Is that worth doing? For the most part no, although Toluna will reward you with additional points if your respond at length or large numbers of other members respond to you. What can earn additional points/cash is if you submit a survey and then link it to various social media like Facebook or Twitter. So if you have a great many friends on these or other social media sites and you link your own surveys you may enhance the number of responses and earn more points. It’s not a great point maker but if you have a large social network it might help a little.

So, those are my top 10 online survey-taking tips. They may help but only your own skill and experience will tell. And if you feel guilty about not precisely following the rules – get over it. Those extra hundred dollars or more could come in handy.