Thoughts for Hire

Dear Reader,

Do you have a side hustle? I am a big fan of the gig economy (although there are a number of super valid criticisms) and for the past few years, I have been an active part of it. I work part-time at more than one job and in the past, I have taken part in a number of small events (such as paid research studies) for extra cash. Nowadays, I’m a graduate student, so I have less time to devote to my side hustles, however, every once in a while an opportunity pops up that I cannot refuse.

Have you ever participated in a focus group? Focus groups are an important tool to help researchers (in politics, business, etc.) gauge the opinions of certain demographics. I am on a few different email listservs for market research studies, but until now, I have never been chosen. Often, the demographics to participate in these groups are quite specific (for example, new moms who use certain brands of diapers or pregnant women who suffer from diabetes). Additionally, many of the focus group studies in my area take place in physically remote locations, which makes it hard for me (someone who primarily relies on public transportation) to reach these studies. However, this time I was in luck and I, a graduate student of a certain age and other demographics, was a great fit for this virtual market research.

The study was simple — a two-hour small group interview (I can’t say much more on the subject as I signed a non-disclosure agreement to participate). Because of the pandemic, we convened online and were compensated generously for our time (you can easily make well over $50 an hour for these things!).

Downtown, Boston

The researcher, let’s call her Rachel, greeted us and we briefly introduced ourselves to the group. Looking around at the other participants, it was easy to figure out a few demographics that we shared, however, other components, such as age for example, did not seem to be limited to one group.

To start, Rachel briefly explained the point of the study and asked us if we could share our feelings on the company. Then she asked us a series of questions that gauged our reactions to certain statements regarding the company (such as “Employees who work for the company are generally friendly. Do you agree with this statement?”). Whenever someone would give a brief answer, Rachel would probe for further details. This sort of attention to one’s opinions, can make one feel… special 🙂 Of course, I know that it is not us as individuals who are valued, rather we, as a demographic, who are of interest as we may be representative of a larger portion of the population. Regardless, it was nice to see that a total stranger was very interested in what I had to say.

Overall, I had a good experience. The conversation was light and fun (unlike what it may have been had this been a political focus group) and as an introvert, I felt oddly refreshed rather than drained after this 2-hour discussion.

All in all, if you are a good fit for a study, don’t mind giving (and elaborating on) your opinions, participating in a focus group can be a relatively easy way to make some extra cash (and help out the researchers!).



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