How I Make an Easy £150/mo on Research Studies10 min read
Prolific.co is an online research platform that pays you for your opinion and feedback.
It’s a legit and easy way to make money online that pays much better than “micro task” sites like Clickworker and Mechanical Turk.
In fact, one Side Hustle Nation reader reported earning £300 in a couple of months of part-time effort on Prolific. (Roughly $363 at today’s exchange rate.)
In this post, I’ll share:
- How Prolific works
- How to maximize your Prolific earnings — and determine if it’s worth your time
- The top Prolific alternatives to consider
Ease of Use
Prolific is a legit online research platform used mainly by educational institutions for academic studies. Participants earn £6-12 an hour completing surveys and opinion polls.
The site is well-designed, easy to use, and many of the studies are genuinely interesting. But is it worth your time? Check out our full review to learn more.
What is Prolific.co?
Prolific is on a “mission to improve human knowledge.” They do that by matching up researchers (often academic institutions) with participants (people like you!).
And since they recognize we’re all busy, they offer small payments in exchange for your opinions, data collection, and testing.
The official line: “Researchers want to understand how people feel, think and behave. On Prolific, you get paid cash for taking part in engaging research.”
How Much Can You Make on Prolific?
Your earning power on Prolific is usually between £7-8 per hour, though you’ll see studies as low as £6 per hour and as high as £18 per hour or more.
(At press time, £8 is roughly $9.66.) These rates may only be slightly better than minimum wage in the US and UK, but you can complete the studies from home in your spare time.
The rewards are all listed in pounds (even for US-based participants), and the site gives you both the raw reward and the hourly equivalent. For example, here’s what my dashboard shows:
I think it’s helpful Prolific gives you the hourly rate equivalent, so you can prioritize your work.
The studies shown are super short — expected to take under 10 minutes to complete. Sometimes these are screeners for a more in-depth task. It’s more common to see studies in the 20-40 minute range, with some as long as 1.5 hours.
(The “places” number is how many more participants the study needs.)
And while the short studies pay only small amounts, it all adds up at the end of the month.
The most I’ve earned in one day was around £30. My highest paying study so far has been £27 for an hour and a half of climate change discussion and making a simple PowerPoint presentation one Sunday morning.
What Kind of Work Can You Find on Prolific?
Prolific focuses on academic research studies, which can take several different forms including:
- short surveys
- longer-form questionnaires
- screen and webcam reaction recordings
- public opinion polls
- recognition tasks
- reaction tests
For example, here are a few of the recent studies available on the site and how much they paid:
- A Short Trivia Learning Study – £2.10
- Reactions to videos in different environments – £7.50
- Beliefs in Everyday Life – £0.29
- Impact of COVID-19 on Employee Engagement – £2.30
- A food ordering study – £1.65
- Survey on Legal Services – £5.00
- Learn a Gesture Language – £2.34
- Give Your Opinion And Review a Website’s Information – £0.46
The most entertaining study I participated in recently involved describing the emotional state of animated triangles — nice work if you can get it!
Because of the variety of studies available — and how quick most are to complete — Prolific is actually pretty addicting!
Plus, the site is used by some pretty high-profile institutions. I’ve completed studies for Washington University in St. Louis, the Chicago Booth School of Business, and Harvard Business School.
Who is Eligible for Prolific?
Although based in the UK, Prolific is open to people 18 and older in the following countries:
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- United Kingdom
- United States
Important note: The sign-up process may show you a message that they aren’t accepting applications from your region at the moment, or that they will contact you when you are accepted onto the program. Don’t be put off — it’s very likely you’ll be allowed to register.
Completing Your Prolific Profile
Once you’ve created your account, the next step is to complete your profile.
The “About You” section of the dashboard will walk you through a series of questions about your demographics, education, work, beliefs, and more.
Honesty is the best policy here — if you provide inaccurate information, you may get banned from Prolific.
The more information you can provide, the better Prolific will be able to match you up with relevant studies.
How to Make Money on Prolific
Now you’re ready to start doing studies and making money!
With Prolific, fortune favors the fast — the best paying studies fill up quickly. Don’t wait around for an email notification to come through.
I tend to keep a Prolific tab open so I can see when new studies appear. The website will automatically refresh every two minutes.
Even before completing all my profile questions, I was able to start completing studies and accruing money in my account. To begin, all you have to do is click into the “Take Part in This Study” button.
From there, you’ll head to a screen like this with a button to “Start study.”
I use ClipX to copy both my Prolific ID and Prolific email to my clipboard. You don’t always need them but some studies ask you to paste those in later.
(On Mac, CopyClip performs a similar function.)
Once approved, you’ll get an email like this:
You can also hit your Submissions tab to see a running list of your approved and pending studies.
How to Maximize Your Prolific Earnings
If your “Studies” tab is constantly empty, here are a few suggestions.
One thing to keep in mind: While Prolific does welcome users from many parts of the world, some studies target users in specific countries. That could be one reason you’re seeing fewer available studies than other participants.
Install the Prolific Chrome Extension
First, give Prolific’s Chrome extension a try. It’ll alert you of new studies:
Turn on Audible Browser Alerts
One of the great things about Prolific is you can be doing other stuff while waiting for new studies. If you want to make sure you see the latest options, turn on the audible notifications in the Chrome extension.
Manually Refresh During Peak Times
Competition can be stiff for the highest-paying studies, especially during peak times. Peak times on Prolific are business hours on weekdays in the UK and US.
Even with browser notifications turned on, there can be a lag in delivery that manually refreshing overcomes.
Weekends and holidays tend to be slower on Prolific.
Use Your Desktop, Laptop, or Tablet
Most Prolific studies require a desktop or laptop computer or tablet to participate. Some are mobile too, but never mobile only. If you’re only using Prolific on your phone, you’re missing out.
Bonus points if you have a working webcam, microphone, and headphones, since these are required for some studies.
Give Real Answers and Follow Instructions
Prolific researchers know some participants like to click through studies as fast as possible to maximize their hourly rate.
To combat this, they’ll often include “just making sure you’re paying attention” questions. Fail to answer those correctly, and your whole effort will be a waste — the submission won’t get approved.
Exercise caution when providing answers, especially with long lists of questions. Don’t get screened out due to providing random answers to get through the study quickly.
For longer studies, I often copy/paste instructions into Wordpad, or duplicate the window. If neither of these work, as can happen, a screenshot of the window can do the trick. It is VERY annoying to get screened out because you didn’t pay proper attention, or failed to remember the instructions properly.
Bonuses are often paid for completing tasks well, or as a random prize between a certain percentage of participants. It’s always best to make the maximum effort so as to get better rewards.
Don’t Give Up on Studies That Are “Full”
The key to obtaining studies when all of the places have been filled by other participants is to not refresh the page when a study shows as ‘Study full’ after clicking on the study link.
Instead, quickly and continuously click away at the “Take part in this study” button until either:
- the study shows the “Start study” button, in which case continue to the study
- 2-3 minutes have passed by
Multiple error messages will keep popping up, but ignore them.
Keep your mouse focused on the top part of the “Take part” button while clicking to avoid accidentally pressing on the “Cancel participation” button, which will pop up along with, and underneath, the “Start study” button which you hope to see appear.
While clicking on studies that are already full may seem counter to the goal of making money with Prolific, a percentage of studies do get returned. (Meaning the participant gets disqualified or doesn’t complete the study for whatever reason.)
With this method, I usually obtain at least one “Full” study per day.
“Return” the Study if You Screwed Up
On your Submissions page, you may have noticed a little red icon that says “Return and cancel reward”.
Now why would anyone do that?
For any studies which you failed to complete properly, it’s better to return the study rather than await its rejection.
Perhaps you realized that you had the sliding scale mixed up and gave completely opposite answers to what you intended. In that case, it’s best to take the near-term profit hit and return the study.
Rejections can be a “strike” against your permanent account record on Prolific and by being proactive about your mistakes, you keep your participant reputation intact.
Be Focused and Give Yourself Enough Time
Be interested and focused at all times, especially on reaction, recognition and puzzle tests. Audio recognition tests can be particularly demanding.
Check how much time the study allows for completion so as to have an idea of how quickly you need to finish it. A typical study might allow twice as much time as the expected duration.
Cashing Out Your Prolific Earnings
Once your account balance hits £5, you can cash out directly to PayPal.
Prolific is a great way to make money online for beginners. It definitely won’t make you rich or even let you quit your day job, but can be a fun and easy way to make some extra cash.
Naturally, you might be on the hunt for similar sites. Here are a few I think are worth a look.
(Check out my full guide to Online Focus Groups for more money earning opportunities.)
Respondent targets business professionals for higher-paying market research studies. Where Prolific’s studies are mostly fill-in-the-online-survey, Respondent’s are usually one-on-one interviews.
But the average payout is much higher: over $100 an hour. Check out our full Respondent review for more.
User Interviews is similar to Respondent. The company specializes in one-on-one market research interviews, mostly done over the phone or online.
The average rate of pay is in the ballpark of $100 an hour. I’ve earned $105 for about an hour and a half worth of “work” so far.
Check out my full User Interviews review for more.
Rare Patient Voice
A leading source for medical research, Rare Patient Voice pays participants $100 an hour. Most of the studies are phone or webcam interviews, and you can browse a full list of available studies on their site.
If you suffer from any sort of medical condition (even if it’s not super rare), I think this one is worth a look.
FocusGroup.com is run by Schlesinger, a long-running research company. They offer nationwide phone or webcam research opportunities that pay between $75 and $200.
Like Prolific, Testable Minds connects you with paid academic research studies. They don’t seem to have as much “inventory” of available studies, but the payouts are similar so this could be another good one to add to your list.
With Intellizoom, you can get paid to test websites and give your opinion as you navigate through specific tasks online. These pay pretty well, but studies can be infrequent and not as targeted to your profile, resulting in not qualifying.
The Opportunity Cost of Prolific
There’s no question: Prolific is an easy way to make money online.
But here’s a question for you: What else could you be doing with that time?
With Prolific, depending on where you live, you’re earning slightly above minimum wage. Would that time be better spent:
Sometimes the greater rewards come from sacrificing some easy near-term income.
Prolific is a legit online research platform used mainly by educational institutions for academic studies. Participants make money completing surveys, quizzes, recognition tasks, reaction tests, and so forth.
The site is well-designed, easy to use, and many of the studies are genuinely interesting. The payouts typically range from £6-12 an hour. It can be pretty addicting to knock out a few studies in your spare time.
But you’ll just have to decide whether or not the time investment is worth the reward.
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Big thanks to Stuart Marks, a Side Hustle Nation reader from the UK, for helping research and draft this post!