Well, 2020 has certainly been an interesting year. Liverpool won their first title since I was a young lad, a sea slug was seen in UK waters (usually found in the Pacific or Mediterranean) and the Mrs. Brown’s Boys Christmas special was terrible. Apart from that, nothing else noteworthy happened…
But before the year began, I decided that I was going to document all my online earnings for all to see on my blog.
I have spent many an hour trying to convince my friends and colleagues that I’m not wasting my time filling out surveys or scouring the internet for the best deals when it comes to cashback. But it does feel a little difficult to convince them, especially when I’m in the middle of filling out a survey worth just 10 pence.
My hope is, that I can prove to everybody (or at least somebody) that I am not wasting my time.
My 2020 income
In total, I managed to make a grand total of £8,580.92. Now, consider that I work 40 hours per week and have 3 young children I’m forever ferrying around, I’m more than happy with that amount.
Whether people consider this a life-changing amount really depends on your situation. But if you managed to earn that amount over 40 years, it comes close to £350,000!
Yes, I could have earned this amount by working overtime at my full-time job. But in all honesty, I spend much of my life there and it’s the last place I want to be.
And I find that earning money through a side-income is fairly stress free and can be quite interesting.
The question is, what are the best ways to make money on the side? Well, below is a breakdown of how I earned my extra income.
This is where I have made the bulk of my income through 2020 – £6,428.72 to be exact. It’s an easy way to make money and many sites allow you to earn from your phone. That means you have the chance to work whenever you like.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that survey sites are the answer to your prayers. There are a lot of sites out there that pay terribly. I know, because I’ve used them. We’re talking in the region of £2 per hour. The reason they do so well is that they pay a generous referral bonus, so people will happily give them good reviews. And users will stick with them because they don’t know any better. If you see people recommending sites like Inbox Pounds and Toluna, you can be sure that they are more interested in making money for themselves, not you.
Good survey sites will pay in the region of £6+ per hour. Yes, I know this is less than minimum wage, but they aren’t meant to replace a full-time income. It’s extra money you can earn in your spare time from the comfort of your chair. You don’t need qualifications or any particular expertise, you just need to share your opinion. You can even do it whilst watching TV.
But, there are surveys that pay far more, sometimes up to £12 per hour. They are limited in number though, so you can’t rely on these coming through too often.
My top earning sites this year have been:
You can also take a look at my top 10 best-paid survey sites, which can help increase earnings. Never put all your eggs in one basket as my gran used to tell me. IntelliZoom isn’t strictly a survey site but focuses more on website evaluation. However, it pays very well.
Online focus groups
This is actually something fairly new to me. 2020 has been an odd year, as I explained above. But one of the benefits has been the rise in online focus groups.
Companies love to get your opinion on a whole range of subjects, but sometimes a survey doesn’t really cut it. So instead, they hold focus groups or one-to-one interviews. That way, you can talk over your opinions in far more detail.
Pre-2020, most of these groups were held in-person at a central location. Although they paid well, you would need to make your own way there and your pay rarely included travel time. But social distancing has meant that it was far safer to hold these groups online. This is great for us as we still get paid well and all from the comfort of our own home.
Pay varies depending on the tasks, but you can earn anything between £30 and £80 per hour. Now, this could easily replace a full-time income. Except for the fact they aren’t that easy to come across.
There are quite a few companies you can work for, but they are always looking for a certain demographic. Plus, they like to share out the work quite fairly and not just rely on a few individuals.
With focus groups, it’s a case of joining as many sites as you can and applying for anything you think you may qualify for.
I managed to earn £714.11, with the majority of the money coming in the last few months of the year.
Take a look at my post on online focus groups to see the sites you should look at joining.
I do love a cashback deal. And I’m still surprised that so many people still don’t take advantage of cashback sites.
All you need to do is create an account with your chosen site (or sites, there are plenty to choose from), click on the link and make a purchase. Money will then be paid into your cashback site which can then be paid into your bank.
But it’s not just shopping you can earn cashback from. You can earn from switching energy provider, changing your bank account or taking out insurance. You can earn from almost anything, it’s just a case of remembering to click on a link beforehand.
However, it’s important to note that there are a couple of downsides with cashback sites. First of all, the money isn’t guaranteed. Occasionally, there can be an issue between the tracking, the store and the cashback site. Although it can sometimes be sorted, it doesn’t always happen. It’s an issue I’ve come across a couple of times, but that is out of close to 1000 transactions over 15 years.
And don’t think that earning cashback necessarily means you’re getting a good deal. You may be able to find an item cheaper elsewhere, even with cashback taken into account.
And a little anecdotal evidence… I once retrieved a car insurance quote from a well-known company and was quite happy with the price. I then found they were listed on TopCashback offering £50, so naturally went for a new quote through them only to find this one more expensive. By exactly £50!
But please do use cashback sites. I have made over £3,000 from them since I joined and they are well worth using. In 2020 alone, I picked up £455.12.
Take a look at the best cashback sites you can join.
I like this, because it’s very simple to do. There are plenty of apps out there that will pay you for taking photos of you receipts. The process is automated and takes a matter of seconds. Some apps only accept physical receipts whilst others include online ones too.
There are also apps that will give you cashback towards certain items. All you need to do is buy a featured item, scan the receipt and you’ll earn a refund. This can be 50% off, up to receiving the item completely free.
Last year earned me £279.44 from scanning.
Take a look at the best receipt scanning apps.
Did you know there are banks out there that reward you for having an account with them? Sadly, they’re becoming harder to find and the amount you can earn isn’t as good, but you should still consider them.
They usually have some terms and conditions attached though and you may need to transfer money into the account each month (it can be from another account you hold), or have direct debits set up.
Most come with fees attached, but they can be waived if you meet certain conditions or the money you make often outweighs the monthly cost.
I made £160.30 from all of my current accounts last year.
Take a look at how to get paid by your bank.
Due to obvious reasons, 2020 has been pretty dire for mystery shopping. It’s usually a decent way to earn a free meal with some extra cash on top. But for safety reasons, I decided to give it a miss this year, although it has been a decent earner in the past.
I only mention it as it might be of interest to anyone reading this looking for other ways to make money. With a bit of time, you can easily make over £100 per month.
Find out more about becoming a mystery shopper and the sites you should join.
And the rest…
The astute amongst you may have noticed that the figures above don’t quite add up to £8,480.92. The rest of my income came from various sites that I have tried out throughout the year.
The best income comes from referring my friends to Octopus Energy. They are often one of the cheapest providers and we both receive £50 credit when they join.
If you want to find out more about them, you can take a look through my monthly income reports.
Important to know
One question that always comes up with regards to earning extra is whether you need to pay tax. And unfortunately, you do.
You are allowed to earn £1,000 as a side income, without having to declare it to HMRC. Above that, you will need to state your earnings on your tax form.
However, cashback doesn’t have to be declared as it is considered as a discount, rather than an income.
Good luck if you decide to start earning extra and please feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments section below.