We’ve made user research a priority at our startup, but recruiting participants remains a time-consuming part of the process. To speed things up, I’ve been hiring TaskRabbits as research participants. It’s not perfect, but it’s a fast, cheap, and reliable way to find people who can participate in user studies.

Michael Margolis explained research recruiting in detail, so I’ll share some of what I’ve learned about using TaskRabbit to find research participants.

TaskRabbit is great for:

  • Rapid participant recruiting. Bids often come in within minutes of posting. I usually select participants within 24 hours, but you can leave your posting open for longer to get more responses.
  • Testing on a budget. I generally pay between $25 and $35 per participant for a 45-minute in-person interview. Of course, your price may vary depending on study length, office location, or the city where you’re located.
  • Reliability. I’ve yet to have a no-show, and with the exception of one person, TaskRabbits have been very responsive to emails.
  • Quality participants. All TaskRabbits go through a vetting process that involves a video interview and a background check.

Not ready for:

  • Rigorous participant selection. TaskRabbit makes it difficult to include a long screener questionnaire. I usually ask about five questions covering demographics and technology use.
  • Wide range of demographics. You may not be able to find TaskRabbits who fit your ideal participant profile. For example, all the TaskRabbits I’ve come across have been college educated.
  • All geographies. TaskRabbit is currently only available in nine major U.S. cities.

Tips for recruiting participants with TaskRabbit:

  • Post your task in the “Other” category. TaskRabbit offers categories from “Laundry” to “Moving Help,” but I’ve seen more diverse responses from the “Other” category. You might post in a different category to reach a different audience. For example, you could post under “Office Help” if you’re testing enterprise software.
  • Choose your own TaskRabbits. By default, TaskRabbit chooses for you based on price. However, you’ll want to select “Let me review the TaskRabbits who make offers” so you can start developing a database of potential participants for future studies. If you don’t pick someone by the deadline (and you have good bids), TaskRabbit will revert to the default setting and choose someone for you.
  • Consider making your task private. Your posts are public and searchable on Google by default, so you may want to make your task private. That way only TaskRabbits can see it, and it will be hidden from everyone once assigned. You can always change this later.
  • Post the same task multiple times. TaskRabbit doesn’t let you hire multiple people with one post, so you need to post separately for each participant you want to bring in. Update: TaskRabbit now allow you to hire multiple people for the same task!
  • Ask TaskRabbits to answer your screener questionnaire. It’s tempting to just list participant criteria, but a proper screener questionnaire will be more effective at selecting the right people. (In earlier experiments, I skipped the questionnaire and inadvertently hired a TaskRabbit who had used a competitor’s product in our space.)
  • Use private notes to work out logistics. I use the private notes section to point the winning bidder to our Google Calendar appointment slots, share links to our non-disclosure agreement and permission forms, and provide directions for parking. (Be sure to mention in the task description that there are more details in the private notes.)
  • Ask for feedback after the study. As soon as the session is over, send an email to the TaskRabbit asking for feedback on the overall recruiting process. In my experience, TaskRabbits have been happy to provide suggestions, and these comments will help you improve the participant experience in future studies.
  • Use your questionnaire responses as a database. Because you chose to review and select a TaskRabbit, you will start developing a database of potential participants. For your next study, you can go straight to an appropriate person’s profile and click “Hire.” TaskRabbit will give that person a period of exclusivity on the task before offering it to the rest of the community.

Have you used TaskRabbit to recruit research participants? Have you found other ways to rapidly recruit participants? If so, I’d love to hear your experience.