Earning money while helping with academic research

Earning money while helping with academic research



Since retirement  one of the most interesting ways I have found to supplement my pension is by helping with academic research.

I joined    Prolific  which is   a website that  links academics from around the world with participants willing to help complete online research studies.  Many studies are on psychological topics but a variety of other subjects are covered.  Surveys can take from a few minutes to an hour or sometimes more.  You are told in advance how long a survey will take and what the fee will be. Payment is generally about £5.00 per hour and can be made via circle or paypal or donated to charity.  Unlike most survey sites  you rarely get disqualified from a study .  You don’t need a degree to join and participants from most countries are accepted on to their panel.

So far I have completed about 200 studies and earnt over £200.00

click here to find out more  Prolific      I get a small bonus for referring either a researcher who wants to run a study or a participant.

Volunteering for local university research studies

Many universities also recruit volunteers directly for studies.  I recently was a participant in a study on dopamine and memory run by the University of Bristol.  This was a very interesting experience  which involved two overnight visits to the Bristol sleep clinic and an E.C.G., E.E.G. and an MRI scan.  Luckily I was recruited as a healthy control.  I enjoyed doing the memory tests and meeting the students.  I also received very generous expenses and dinner and breakfast on the two nights I spent at the clinic.

Helping students is something I miss since giving up work and I feel it is a worthwhile use of my time.  If you would like to give it a try, it is worth checking to see if your local university is looking for volunteers for studies.  .

I was also invited to a tasting session for high protein biscuits.  We spent

an enjoyable half an hour discussing such things as crispiness and crunch.  We soon discovered that if you are developing a product to be used as a supplementary food for the elderly you need to assume that at least some of them will have false teeth.

Another study was on cicadian  rhythm and memory.  I had to wear a glucose monitor for four days and check my blood sugar regularly.

A  Bristol company which recruits volunteers for focus groups and telephone interviews is People for research   

I have not taken part in any project with them myself but I think they are reliable.  Most focus groups take place in Bristol, London or another big city but they recruit people nationwide for phone interviews.

How to earn money as a mystery shopper

Mystery shopping

This is a black and white image of a shadowy figure with a shopping bag.

I first started mystery shopping last  summer. I retired in April at the age of 65 and decided that I would try to replace some of my lost income by working from home. Thanks to web sites like the money shed I have been dipping my toe in to the world of secret shopping.

My first surprise was that a lot of shopping could be done at home. So far jobs have included ordering groceries on line, phoning up to enquire about insurance, receiving letters and even a tweet to enquire about disabled access at a railway station. In fact so far mystery shopping  has involved very little actual shopping. I am suprised at the variety of jobs offered and it is interesting to compare my findings about a brand with newspaper reports.My favourite jobs have involved visiting local stately homes.

What you need

Mystery shopping actually needs very little equipment. I bought myself a new mobile phone (a Samsung galaxy) and a new computer (which I needed anyway). The phone acts as my camera, voice recorder and stop watch and the computer is needed for writing the some times lengthy reports. I am lucky enough to have a bus pass so get free local travel. I also already had a printer needed for printing out a paper copy of the questionnaire.  You also need internet access.  Reports generally have to be written within 24 hours of a job.

You need to have a reasonable memory and a good standard of written and spoken English.  You need to be able to remember what was said and what the team members looked like.  I take a notebook with me so I can jot down details particularly if I have to ask for something like options for a train fare.  I also try to find a nearby coffee shop or library so I can write up my notes while my memory is fresh.


Payment is usually about minimum wage for the jobs themselves but this does not include travel time nor time downloading instructions nor typing up the reports. Some jobs include the cost of purchases. A job last year included £5.00 to spend in any department of a local department store and £3.00 for a drink in the cafe.

Payment method varies between the companies you work for. A company like Red wigwam treats you as a casual employee and deducts tax. Other companies pay you a set fee and leave you to sort out your own tax.  Payment is usually by BACS.

I am slowly getting to grips with terms like gondola end and shelf barker. Another useful distinction to understand is the difference between a shop audit where you have to check if a product or poster is present in a store and if goods are correctly priced and displayed and a mystery shop where you are expected to buy something and report on the service received.
A recent job wanted an audio recording detailing my experience which I could do on my phone.

Many mystery shopping companies seem to use Sassie software and once you are signed up to the Sassie system you are given log in details for Presto maps which shows you jobs in any part of England.  You have to apply to the individual job agency for a particular job but you can see what is available locally.

Beware of scams you should never have to pay to join an agency and I have never been offered £100.00 to spend on a product of my choice.

Here are links to a couple of companies that are reliable and good for beginners.  They are also happy to employ retired people.

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