Here is how Prolific compares to other sites in the same category:
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What is Prolific?
Prolific was started to fulfil a definitive need. Graduates (and post-graduates) often required a research study as part of their qualifications. Such studies often required getting the opinions of people to test hypotheses. Getting such people could prove to be incredibly time-consuming, and the tested way (asking on internet forums) was not guaranteed to give unbiased samples or reliable results.
Prolific thus became a middleman. For a fee, research participants could gain access to a higher quality dataset, targeted in the specific way they wanted. And for the regular person, here was a chance to earn some extra pounds simply for assisting people with their research. For every completed project they earned a small payment. Better still, participant quality could be assessed by the platform. Those who were on to waste time or not taking the project seriously could be marked by the researchers, and eventually they would be expelled from the platform.
Since its inception, Prolific have grown rapidly and are probably the market leaders in this niche.
Are Prolific profitable?
Prolific are a trading name of Prolific Academic Ltd. This company has been incorporated since 2014. The last years accounts were filed on 28 Jan 2020 and cover the period of 12 months to 30 April 2019. These abbreviated accounts are light on detail, but show the cash balance increase to £1.683m and an implied profit of c.£100k. This cash is almost entirely balanced out by the creditor balance. Presumably, the majority of this must be the collective balances of the user accounts.
Their employee account was just 9 on these accounts, yet the employees page implies a much greater number. We can presume that many are employed on a non-contract or consultant basis.
With Prolific taking a 33% cut from researchers, we can presume this is a fairly healthy business model presently due to the lack of alternatives. Profitability as a metric is slightly less important here than for other platforms. The average user is likely to only have a negligible amount of money outstanding at one time.
Prolific Sign Up Offer
There is no Prolific sign-up offer. You can register and earn (almost instantly). Prolific did use to offer a refer-a-friend scheme, but this is now closed.
Prolific Operating Model
From the point of a view as a participant, this is really rather straightforward. The sign up process is important. Here, you can answer demographic and other questions about yourself. This will help you become eligible for research studies, as often researchers are looking for particular characteristics. New screening questions can be added at any time, so it is best to regularly check your account.
Once an eligible research study becomes available, it will appear in your account. Sometimes you will get an email reminding you, but quite often there will not be. In most cases, you will be pre-screened already for the study, so it will not be the case that you answer a few questions only to be screened out. (This is common on other platforms).
There is no obligation to take a study, you can choose whether to do it or not. Each study gives some basic information on what the study is about, together with the average time of completion and the reward you’ll get for completing the study.
The latter two items can vary tremendously. You can get some very short surveys only having a few questions, right the way through to some that take more time. None are particularly complex and most often want your opinion, so there are no wrong answers. Pay varies. Prolific encourage researchers to compensate people for their time accordingly, and for the most part that it so. A pro-rated rate of £7-10 an hour is quite common. However, with surveys often taking only a couple of minutes to complete, each completed task tends to be not worth much.
Once your survey is completed, your responses will be checked. Once OK’d by the researcher your payment appears in your Prolific account. Payment is by Paypal, and you can request payment once your account total reaches £5.
Fraud protection is important for a site like this. Most surveys will include some ‘attention check’ questions to ensure it is a human and not a robot filling out the forms. Furthermore, it is likely that your responses are checked before payment is made. Persistent offenders can be ejected from the platform.
Prolific Review Pros:
- The surveys genuinely do help research participants. As such many of the surveys can be quite interesting particularly if you are academically minded. The tasks are not difficult to complete, often canvassing opinion rather than specific answers.
- In general, the pay rate is good relative to the time taken.
- Opportunities can come by regularly. It is not totally seasonal either, as research is being done all year around.
- Cash out is at a relatively low level of £5.
Prolific Review Cons:
- Participation in surveys is dependent upon your characteristics. If you are unlucky, you may find yourself not in demand that much.
- Often the site is quite busy and/or the survey requires a small amount of people. This means that opportunities for earning can disappear almost instantly.
- Earnings for tasks can be quite small due to the short time; many less than £1.
Prolific Typical Earnings?
Much will depend on how many surveys you qualify for, and also how many you can sign up for. Some can close really quickly. Subject to answering the questions correctly, around £10 a month could be attainable.
Prolific Review: Conclusion
Prolific isn’t a site that is going to return a large amount of money. But the rewards given relative to the amount of time spent is fair, and you can also help students with their research.