By Dr. James M. Dahle, WCI Founder
It's a simple proposition. You have valuable knowledge and can always use a little extra money. Various companies want that knowledge and are willing to pay for it. Why not get the two parties together and make a deal that causes them both to be better off? You can take surveys for money. You can make money taking online surveys. Online surveys for cash. Got it?
Recommended Physician Survey Companies
So, which companies should you try out? Here are the five we recommend. Note that we have an affiliate relationship with each of these companies. If you sign up with them, we get paid a few bucks. Thank you for going through these links to support the mission of The White Coat Investor. You also sometimes get a special deal by going through these links that you can't get by going directly to the company.
#1 M3 Global
M3 boasts over 2 million members in its community, most of whom are healthcare professionals. Most M3 surveys are online, but you also could do phone interviews, focus groups, webcam interviews, in-person interviews, social media research, and chat groups. M3 aims to keep the screening process to fewer than 15 questions and five minutes. Surveys average 20-30 minutes, and you're typically paid within two days after survey completion. Surveys are typically from pharmaceutical companies. Get a $10 registration bonus once you have completed the registration process.
The All Global Circle community is set up to provide a clear, easy, and efficient means of communication between the pharmaceutical industry, the research industry, and those professionals who are using new developments and end products on an ongoing daily basis. If All Global Circle can't get you a survey to take within 90 days, they'll pay you a loyalty bonus just for logging in and checking a couple of times per month. By signing up through these links, you'll get an extra $50 just for being a member of the WCI community. It generally pays within two weeks of survey completion.
Curizon, like most of these companies, primarily works with pharmaceutical companies to find the new “CUres” on the “hoRIZON.” Get it? It will work with all kinds of professionals including:
- Managed Care Professionals
- Eye Care Professionals
If you sign-up through these links, you will be entered into a drawing for $250. Curizon generally pays within 2-6 weeks of survey completion.
Incrowd boasts a community of more than 50,000 expert healthcare professionals and an average survey time of just 3.2 minutes. That's less than the screening time of many surveys with other companies. Incrowd will take people from all of these fields:
- Active Physician
- Nurse Practitioner (NP)
- Nurse (BSN, LPN, RN, CNA)
- Physician Assistant
- Hospital Administrator
- Pharmacists and Staff
- Managed Care
- Practice Managers
- Dental Hygienists
- Medical Resident or Fellow
- Genetic Counselor
Incrowd has a fun feature that lets you compare your responses to those of your peers. You can also arrange to get survey invitations on your phone, perfect for a quick survey during downtime during the day or when you're on-call. Incrowd pays via Paypal or Tango (gift cards). It pays for surveys every time your balance reaches $25 and for interviews within 24 hours.
#5 MD for Lives
This one is for docs only, and the company also sends you CME material. It's all on an app for both Android and iPhone, making it super convenient to do surveys on your phone during downtime. MD for Lives pays via Paypal, Amazon vouchers, or through edX or Coursera, and it pays monthly. Surveys pay $50-$500. If you sign up via these WCI links, you'll get a $20 sign-up bonus.
Why Doctors Should Take Paid Surveys
Why would someone want to become a paid survey-taker? There are a fair number of reasons besides the obvious.
#1 Take Surveys for Money
A surprising number of doctors are looking for a side gig. Multiple streams of income are a good thing. Taking surveys isn't ever going to overtake your clinical practice as your main source of income, but you can make a surprising amount of money doing them as a physician, especially compared to non-physician online survey companies.
#2 Start a Business and Get a Solo 401(k)
Here's another big reason people want to do surveys. If you are an employee at your practice, one big advantage of taking surveys is that you get some self-employment (1099) income. Since you and your employer are completely unrelated employers, that means you can start an individual or solo 401(k). Yes, that's right, you can have more than one 401(k). Assuming you're maxing out the 401(k) at your main gig, you can contribute 20% of what you make doing surveys into the solo 401(k). You can also roll traditional, SEP, and SIMPLE IRAs into it, allowing you to do a Backdoor Roth IRA, at least if Congress continues to allow them after 2021. Be sure to treat the enterprise as a real business. Get an Employee Identification Number and a separate business bank account. Treat its finances separately from your own. Report the income and put any expenses on Schedule C and SE each year.
#3 Make a Difference
These companies really do want to know what you think, so much so that they're willing to pay you for your knowledge and opinion. This influences the products they come out with, how they market those products, and perhaps even what they charge for those products. Most of the time we're talking about medications here, but there are certainly surveys about other products.
#4 Learn About New Products
Let's not kid ourselves. These companies also want to get the word out about their new medications and other products, and they want to develop brand recognition. Why shouldn't you get paid for them to advertise to you? Plus, you'll be up to speed on the latest and greatest.
How Much Can You Make Taking Physician Online Surveys?
It depends on how many surveys you take, how much each survey pays, and how quickly you can take them. No matter how many companies you sign up for, you're not going to get enough surveys that you can spend all day just taking surveys. You have to take them as they come. But it's pretty easy to knock them out during some downtime during the day, while watching TV, while helping with homework in the evening, or while commuting on public transit.
The companies generally send you a check 4-6 weeks after the study or survey is complete. Hourly rates while actually taking the survey range from $60-$300 per hour, although most surveys won't take an hour. If you really make an effort at this, it would not be terribly difficult to make $1,000-$2,000 per month on surveys. That might not be much for a super-efficient and busy plastic surgeon, but it's enough to move the needle for lots of doctors and it is life-changing money for a resident or fellow.
What About the Screen-Outs?
One of the biggest complaints of doctors who have tried surveys is that they often get five or 10 questions into the survey only to learn that they will not be paid to take it. They are “screened out.” This can be particularly annoying as it often feels like they already got your opinion and valuable advice just in the screen-out questions and didn't bother compensating you for it. There are a few ways to work around this.
#1 Play the Game
With some experience, you can often figure out what the company is looking for and make sure you screen in, rather than out. Obviously, you don't want to compromise your integrity for $100, but there is some gamesmanship here in the gray areas.
#2 Take a Lot of Surveys Knowing the Screen-Outs Will Happen
You can also view the screen-outs simply as part of the job. Even if you're screened out of 3/4 of the surveys, is it still worth your time? If so, then quit beating yourself up about screen-outs.
#3 Let Market Forces Adjust
These companies know that survey-takers hate being screened out. So they have an incentive to minimize the screen-outs, too. If one company screens you out more than the others, quit taking their surveys and take the ones from companies that don't screen you out. If not enough docs are willing to even try their surveys, it may force these companies to pay you something less than the full survey price when they screen you out. Some companies already do this outside the physician survey space, although they're only paying 5-25 cents for screenouts.
#4 Fill Out Your Profile Completely and Carefully
Many sites allow you to fill out a profile. They use this profile to decide which surveys to send you. The more completely you fill it out, the fewer surveys you will get but also the fewer screen-outs you will get. That means that a much higher percentage of the surveys you do take will go all the way.
#5 Take the Survey Soon
Most companies hiring a survey company only want a certain number of responses. There may be quotas for each type of group—50 emergency docs, 50 family docs, and 50 internists for instance. The sooner you take the survey, the more likely you are to get in before they get their required number of responses.
#6 Read Questions Thoroughly and Don't Rush
Believe it or not, there are people who just click through surveys as quickly as possible to try to get paid. Obviously, the data from those survey-takers is worthless. So the companies actually screen out people who go too fast. Especially if you miss a question such as, “The answer to this question is B. Please select B,” that has been specifically inserted to catch people doing that and screen them out. If the survey is supposed to take 20 minutes, don't finish it in two.
#7 Stick to Short Surveys
Shorter surveys tend to have fewer qualifying questions and may even pay more on an hourly basis.
Does Your Medical Specialty Matter?
Unfortunately, yes. Years ago when I looked into doing surveys, I discovered that my opinion as an emergency doctor was worth dramatically less than that of an endocrinologist, rheumatologist, neurologist, or dermatologist. Why? Because my main prescriptions are on the Walmart $4 list. If you're prescribing $10,000+ a month biologics, your opinion is a whole lot more valuable than mine! Don't get me wrong, there are surveys for every specialty, but some definitely have an advantage.
What About the Sunshine Act?
Many doctors would prefer their names not appear in the public database of the Sunshine Act, which requires pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers to report all payments and gifts made to physicians. Payments to physicians for participating in pharmaceutical and medical device marketing research are typically made by research companies, instead of manufacturer-sponsors. Those payments are, in most cases, excluded from reporting under the Sunshine Act law.
Do I Have to Pay Taxes on Online Survey Income?
Yes, all earned income is taxable, even if the compensation comes via gift cards. The companies aren't required to send you and the IRS a tax form unless you earn $600+ in a year, but you're required to report it all as income.
Ready to Get Started Taking Surveys?
So, what should you do if you're serious about this?
#1 Get an EIN
The first thing I would do is get an Employer Identification Number (EIN). You don't have to do so. You can simply use your own personal Social Security number. You'll automatically have a sole proprietorship and file a Schedule C for this new business. However, if you want to open a Solo 401(k) to shelter 20% of your survey income, you will need an EIN so you might as well get it now. It's fast and free from the IRS. Seriously, it's super easy. Like 30 seconds easy.
#2 Open a Business Bank Account and Paypal
Next, open a business bank account at your bank or credit union. Get a Paypal account, too, for your new business. Link them together. Route all income and expenses for this business through those accounts. You don't have to do this, but it will make your accounting MUCH easier at tax time.
#3 Sign-up with All 5 Companies Above
Which company to sign up with? Sign up with all of them. Why not? It's free and easy. You can sign up with all five in less time than it takes to open a bank account. As time goes on, you will likely find you get more surveys from some than others. That's OK. No harm done. Be sure to use the WCI links above for special deals and to support our mission.
#4 Return and Give Feedback Below in the Comments
After you gain experience working with these companies, come back and tell your fellow white coat investors about it. Maybe you can inspire another doc to begin doing their own side hustle without having to actually spend much time doing it.
If you are already doing surveys, share your experience. Which companies do you like best and why? Which do you not like so much? What other companies should we add to the list? Which ones pay the most and the quickest? Which are least likely to screen you out? Comment below!