About 25 years ago I worked for a telephone solicitation company, and the majority of our calls were attempts to sell something, usually magazine subscriptions. However, from time to time we would be calling people to simply do surveys on behalf of a client. I was young at the time, and did not understand why someone would pay us to call people when there was no chance of making a sale.
What I learned later was that our customer was simply trying to learn more about their customers, with the hopes that they would be able to sell to them more easily or profitably. Successful marketing companies understand that this kind of research pays huge dividends, so they are quite willing to spend a lot of money on it.
In the days before the Internet marketing companies would pay people to do surveys over the phone, in malls, and in stores. These surveyors were being paid regardless of whether they were successful in getting valid surveys from the type of customer they were looking for. Imagine paying a survey company $200 dollars a day to call people or stop them in the mall. Further, let's imagine that the average surveyor manages to ten valid surveys in a day (and that would be a lot; rarely can they do better than one an hour). This means they are paying $20 per survey, and that's before they collect the surveys from all the surveyors, enter them into a database and do their reporting.
Imagine now, instead, that thousands of customers sign up with a marketing company, saying that they are not only willing to be surveyed, but are in fact eager. The marketing company can pay the customer to do the survey, rather than a surveyor on the phone or in the mall. The customer prefers to take the survey on their own time without the interruption of a phone call or a stop in their busy shopping schedule. The marketing company cal also target customers based on their demographics, which they fill in when they sign up. Everyone wins!
The problem is that there are lots of marketing companies out there, and none of them sends out a ton of surveys. Fortunately, there are several companies that have compiled lists of such marketing companies. They provide direct links to the survey companies, and some provide some free tools to help enter information into the sign-up forms. The more of these that you fill out, the more surveys will be sent to you, and the more that will match your demographic information, and thus the more you get paid. Here are some links for services that list these marketing companies:
Daily Paid Surveys
Paid Surveys Etc.
Paid Surveys Online
Expre$$ Paid Surveys
Highest Pay Surveys
Home Survey Workers
All of these will give you lists of marketing companies that offer paid surveys. Some will also have companies that do in store "mystery" shopping, where you go and shop for something and report back your experiences. Others have focus groups, and similar opportunities.
One thing to watch for is the tendency for some marketing companies to "pay" with sweepstakes entries rather than cash. They can lower their costs by doing this, with the promise of a chance to win a large prize in place of a small cash payment. It is better to go for the cash payment, as these add up to more than you can expect from prizes. Others will pay in merchandise, and you can decide if these are worth the effort.
What all of these companies offer is a chance for nearly anyone to make some income online. If you shop for products, or are even considering doing so, then you can do this. You do not need any experience with computers (well, enough to use email and type your answers into forms) or marketing savvy. The perfect candidate for this type of income is a stay-at-home parent who has some free time at home, but cannot count on any particular time of day. the nice thing about these surveys is that they can be done at your leisure, provided you do them within a certain time frame.
You probably won't make a ton of money at this, but there are some people out there who make a full time income from home. However, if you are at home taking care of kids, and cannot get out there to make an income in a job, then any amount you make is a plus!