Love Free Samples? Earn $14 an Hour Handing Them Out at Stores

free samples

Whether you love or loathe shopping, it’s always a treat to arrive at a store and realize it’s free sample day!

There’s something about a piping-hot mini slice of pizza, or a tiny sample of a new ice cream flavor, that brightens your day. If the food is really tasty or the product demonstrator is particularly good at his job, you might even leave with your wallet a bit lighter than you intended.

What you may not know is that product demonstrators, who politely remain silent when people come back for seconds (and thirds), are not store employees. They’re usually independent contractors hired by outside agencies — which means they can earn more than they would working for the store where they’re demonstrating.

Curious about the job? If you’re considering working as a product demonstrator, here’s what you need to know.

How to Get Started as a Product Demonstrator

You’ll need to be ready to represent both the brand and the store to customers. Think of yourself as a one-person sales team: your goal is to get shoppers to buy the product as you explain its various virtues.

These jobs generally have few requirements which, once you establish a relationship with a company, makes it an easy way to earn some extra money when you have a free weekend. Employers look for people who:

  • have excellent communication skills
  • dress professionally
  • are friendly and outgoing
  • can stand for up to eight hours
  • pay attention to details
  • are reliable
  • are able to work independently

Ready to learn more? Check out these tips for a successful product demonstration if you haven’t had much sales experience.

Where to Find Project Demonstration Jobs

At Your Service Marketing, PromoWorks, and Action Link are a few of the agencies that line up work for project demonstrators for national brands. For more options and local jobs, check a job search website or Craigslist. If you don’t get many results searching “product demonstrator,” try some of the job’s other names, such as “engagement specialist,” “product specialist,” “assisted sales person” or “professional demonstrator”.

Besides having a vehicle to get to the demonstration location, you won’t need much in the way of equipment to get started. If you’ll be demonstrating food, you’ll typically need:

  • a card table
  • a white tablecloth
  • an electric skillet, cutting board and serving utensils (as appropriate)
  • promotional materials from the company

You may be given money to buy supplies, or asked to purchase them yourself and invoice the company. If you don’t have the funds to buy a card table upfront, you can always borrow one.

How Much Do Professional Demonstrators Earn?

How much you can make varies by product and company, with payment typically being on a per-demonstration basis. One commenter on Budgets Are Sexy says she’s earned as much as $40 an hour demonstrating wine, and her lowest rate is $18 an hour. However, the average product demonstrator earns closer to $14 an hour, according to 2013 data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Product demonstrations usually take place during the weekend, so this could be a great side opportunity for college students looking for extra cash, stay-at-home parents who want to get out on the weekends, or retirees who want to remain productive and active. Even employees who work a 9-5 job could supplement their income, earning money to invest or pay off debt by taking on weekend shifts.

The shifts vary in length and there’s no guarantee to how much work you’ll get in a given month, though, so you may not want to rely on product demonstration as your only source of income.

A Typical Shift as a Professional Demonstrator

Once you accept an assignment, you’ll either be given materials or be told what to buy for the demonstration. You may also have to verify the time with the store and remind them to have plenty of the item in stock — check with your company whether this is your responsibility or not.

On the day of your shift, you should arrive early to set up the area and your supplies. This includes setting up your food preparation area, organizing leaflets and coupons, and starting to prepare the first batch. You should also be neatly dressed and ready to start on time.

During your shift, remain attentive to customers and engage them by asking questions that draw them in so they’ll sample the product — and hopefully put it in their shopping cart. Answer their questions honestly and share your experience with the product. Of course, only sing its praises if you’ve actually tried or used the product and genuinely feel that way; don’t be deceptive.

If there’s a lull in customers, don’t succumb to the urge to sit down or pull out your phone; tidy up your area if necessary and strike up conversations with people passing by. Future work may be dependent on the number of products that people buy during your shift, which might be the motivation you need to chat with strangers instead of checking Facebook!

After you shut down your demo area, you’ll need to pack up your supplies, clean up your work area and take care of any paperwork from the company or store that you’re working for.

While serving up samples might not be a full-time job, it might be a great way to earn extra cash on the weekends. Will you give it a try?

Your Turn: Have you worked as a product demonstrator? Share your experiences with us in the comments!