Product Testing Jobs: How to Make Money as a Product Tester

by Spencer Mitchell on May 31, 2013

I was out of work a few years ago.

I wasn’t alone. When the economy took a downturn in 2008, a lot of people lost jobs and had difficulty getting a new one. Hiring froze and money became hard to come by. I looked around for different kinds of work to help bring in income. That’s when I discovered paid product testing.

For those of us needing a little extra income to supplement part-time work, or for those of us looking to make extra money in our spare time, becoming a paid product tester can be the answer. Product testers can also work from home, which is great if you’re a stay-at-home parent who takes care of their children at home during the day. There are a variety of paid product testing companies out there who contract with manufacturers who are trying to make their products as appealing as possible to as many consumers as they can.

Getting started is easy, and your income will be largely dependent by how much time you can spend testing products. Product testing is straightforward, easy to do, and it fits within your schedule. You even get to keep the products you’re sent to review. But how do you get started? What exactly does paid product testing mean? How do you get paid? Is paid product testing too good to be true? Do problems ever arise?

Let’s find out.

What is paid product testing?

Product Testing Example

Paid product testing is a simple process. You contract with industry-funded research panels, who then send you products through the mail with basic instructions about using the product. Many times, these are food items, so you’re being paid to eat food. After a period of time, often a few weeks, you’re required to fill out a survey rating your experience with the product. When you submit the survey, the company issues payment.

Testing can also involve participating in focus groups, or in-office testing. Secret shopping is also a form of paid testing, where you test customer service experiences at a retail store.

It’s a way for industries to comply with government standards. The United States FTC stipulates that companies will not make false or misleading claims in their advertising. Product testing can be a way for companies to make certain that their products live up to the claims that they are making or that their products meet regulatory standards.

More commonly, product testing is a way for companies to compare brands, to see which features appeal to consumers most. This could mean assessing which packaging appeals most to consumers, or certain flavors in snack foods, which fabrics are most comfortable, or which deodorant smells best and is most comfortable when applied. This means that, while cookies, t-shirts and deodorants may essentially be similar, companies want their brands to stand out:

Company Branding

Which means they need LOTS of information on how people experience their brands. Large corporations are especially careful at extensively testing their products and considering their moves wisely before they spend a bunch of money to roll out a product or ad campaign. They don’t want to introduce a flop. This leaves a wide and lucrative field for people wanting to test products.

How to Get Started

The best way to get started doing paid product testing is to sign up with firms that conduct tests.  Some leads for you can include Nielsen Homescan, Mindspay, Swagbucks, and Surveyspot. This last service awards you points that are redeemable for cash. You’ll have to fill out forms giving out your personal information, such as your name, address, e-mail. There are also Apple product testing jobs. You know the drill. After that, companies will contact you when they have products they want to run by you.

As a male, age 18 to 40, I’m often given products that companies want to market to people in my age range. People in this age bracket are a lucrative demographic, which means lots of product testing opportunities for me! But that doesn’t mean that if you fall outside of it, you won’t get work. There is a world of products you could test, from gum, to shoe sole inserts, to toothpaste, anything you could think of. What you’re given to test is always surprising if testing it isn’t always thrilling.

Take, for example, toothpaste. What product testing toothpaste involves would most likely be using it for a week, or using a variety of toothpastes for a longer period of time, and then filling out a short survey about your experience. Did it taste okay? Was it too harsh? Did it leave your mouth feeling clean? Were there any side effects? Did it have a strange after-taste? The questions will be of this nature. You’ll usually be given multiple-choice questions, or be asked to rate your experience from 1 to 10. It’s simple. Depending on how long the trial took, what you were asked to do, and how much the company prizes the feedback you’re giving them, you’ll be issued a payment from a few dollars to denominations of ten.

Another way to make money doing product testing is to attend a focus group. These require your presence at a specific place where the testing is conducted, so it makes less sense for stay-at-home-parents, or people who live in rural areas. You can find ads for paid product testing in your local newspaper, or by searching online for for “product testing” and the name of the place where you live.

Problems With Product Testing Jobs

Product testing is admittedly a difficult way to make a living. It is time-consuming and purposely set up to provide testers with enough incentives to participate, but not enough to make them rely on testing for income. The reason for this is simple: how are you supposed to give enough attention to a company’s product if you’re testing others at the same time?

Corporations spend a lot of time and financial resources on these paid tests, so they want the data that testing provides to be as conclusive as possible. In fact, many product testing companies will try to screen out applicants who appear to them to only have monetary reasons for doing product testing work.

You have to consider your own time, as well. If you want to do a good job, and thus get more work through paid product testing companies, you have to provide them with useful feedback. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to write them an essay describing the product using flowery terms; it just means that you have to fill out the questionnaires and surveys they send you completely and in a timely fashion. It’s easy, but if you’re trying to coordinate a hundred reviews at once, it won’t be easy.

Also, be aware of scams. Only sign up with reputable companies who do product testing. Before you sign up for one and do work, do a Google search of the company and look for negative feedback, especially their record of issuing payment. Make sure everything you sign up for seems legitimate. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Lastly, this type of work isn’t for everyone. When the economy pinches us, we often look everywhere we can to make necessary income. Sometimes what you’re asked to do for testing isn’t worth your time, both from a financial standpoint and a personal one. Video game testing, for instance, sounds like a lot of fun, but consider whether spending hours in front of a TV, playing a glitchy game (that might not even be fun) is how you really want to spend your time. Sometimes “spare time” is useful you can keep your sanity and make money elsewhere…without a product testing job.

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