TL;DR User testing is an emerging form of virtual work that pays you to review and provide feedback about websites, software, and apps. Facilitated by screen sharing, focus groups, and voice recordings, these gigs generally pay more than data entry, and can even lead to a tech career in Quality Assurance.
If you enjoy looking at your phone (or computer) and have a lot of opinions about what you see on your screen, you can earn cash by sharing those opinions. User testing is an emerging form of virtual work that involves reviewing websites, software, and apps (called “products” by tech workers and developers), and sharing your opinions, impressions, and specific feedback via screen share recording, to a mediator, or in a focus group. Some user testing gigs go even deeper, and include identifying bugs within products. These part-time user testing jobs can become a bridge to higher-paying full-time jobs in tech within quality assurance (QA) or quality control (QC) departments.
User testing companies like UserTesting, uTest, Test.io, Tester Work, Userfeel, and Enroll hire testers to evaluate the products and experiences of companies including big names like Uber and Starbucks as well as new apps and companies that have yet to hit the market. Unlike traditional data entry and old-school focus groups (customers around a conference table with executives behind a two-way mirror, like in Mad Men), these user-testing jobs can be done from home. Some self-guided tests can take 10 to 20 minutes to complete and pay $10 per test. Pay goes up from there for testing that takes longer, is moderated by a brand rep, or for tests in which you identify bugs. Pay can reach upwards of $60 for about an hour of your time. Keep in mind that a user testing side hustle likely won’t add up to full-time work; testers typically get only one or two tests per week per user-testing company.
Why your opinion matters
Companies want their products to appeal to their target audiences. So if you’re in that target audience, they want to know what grabbed your attention, what made you want to buy, and what made you want to leave the site and never come back.
They’re paying for your opinion so they can improve their product. This helps companies find problems in their product before it’s released to the general public, tweak their marketing strategy, fix bugs, and spend less money on quality control down the line.
What kind of user testing jobs are out there?
If you’re already a business professional — for example, you’ve worked in marketing or own a small business — you might be able to earn even more money by participating in user research, in which a company identifies its user base/audience and interviews people who represent that audience. Respondent says it pays an average of $100 an hour for participants who are experienced in sales and support, $500 for business owners, and $150 for marketing pros. You’ll have to submit a work email address and LinkedIn profile to get verified, but if your background matches what a company’s looking for, you could earn a nice chunk of change for providing your opinions during an interview.
For other forms of user testing, you might still need to submit demographic and behavioral information about yourself, but it won’t be as career-centered as the user research jobs mentioned above. Instead, you’ll answer questions about yourself and your consumer habits. Everything from the kinds of credit cards you use to whether you have a home security camera. Your answers help the user testing company pair you with the right products to test.
Another form of user testing is usability testing. Your job is to give feedback on how easily you’re able to accomplish a goal — like completing the checkout process, for example. By contrast, there’s also UX testing, which is more holistic. In UX testing, you’re not only talking about the product’s performance but also how you feel about using it, what you’re expecting from the product, and how you feel about the brand overall.
User acceptance testing, meanwhile, is yet another form of user testing — also known as beta testing and end-user testing. This involves testing products (like software) before they’re released to the public to make sure they’re working and are perceived by their target audience as intended.
In these gigs, you’ll deliver your feedback by recording yourself giving your opinions while scrolling through a screen-shared web page or app screen via an interview with a moderator (who might be rating the quality of your response), in a focus group, or by answering questions in a survey.
How do I get into user testing?
First, you’ll apply to be a user tester at a user testing company, like UserTesting, uTest, Test.io, Tester Work, Userfeel, and Enroll. For many of these companies, no experience is needed, but you do have to be over the age of 18. There may also be a language requirement—for example, fluency in either English, French, or Spanish.
Your work takes place online, so you’ll need a reliable internet connection and a computer, laptop, or smartphone. On a computer or laptop, you may need to download a special browser extension for providing your feedback to the platform. On your smartphone, you could use the stock recording app installed on your phone, or download an app specifically for your testing gig.
While you’re working, be sure to turn off any blue-light blocking filters that affect the colors on your screen. This will ensure you’re providing accurate feedback about an app or web page’s color palette.
After you sign up, you’ll usually have to take an unpaid “practice” test. Once you’re accepted, you’ll regularly log into your dashboard to see what tests are available. These tests will ask you screening questions to make sure you’re the right tester for the gig. If you’re not accepted for a certain test, don’t sweat it — they might be looking exclusively for people who bake their own bread or ride fixie bikes. The right test for you is right around the corner.
Many user testing gigs pay only via PayPal. Before you start working, confirm the method and frequency of payment, whether that arrangement works for your financial setup, and if you can remember your PayPal password.
How do I get good at user testing…and turn it into a tech job?
To do well in user testing, you’ll need to make sure certain skills are sharp. Communication is key. You have to be good at delivering precise feedback — not general statements like “hey, looks good.” Your detailed impressions could include why you’re attracted to (or repelled by) a certain part of a webpage, maybe due to word choice, photos, or design. You should be able to communicate what choices you’re making on the website or app and why. Honestly evaluate how easy or complicated a user experience is. You should also strive to work quickly, which means you’ll earn money more efficiently.
In addition to user testing gigs, you can build up your feedback and bug-reporting skills by taking courses at uTest Academy or by taking a software testing/QA bootcamp via platforms like Udemy. A mix of skillful first-hand experience and more technical training can be your bridge to a full-time QA job at an app company, digital publisher, or website.