While many people are looking for a work-from-home job that will provide a full-time income, there are many others who are perfectly happy earning a little extra spending money in their spare time. Perhaps you don’t really need nor want an hourly position with a schedule. Maybe you would be happy earning $10 a day online if it was on your own terms and your own time.
If that sounds like you, you may have come across a site called mTurk (or Amazon Mechanical Turk) during your research. This is a legitimate marketplace run by Amazon that offers what we commonly refer to in the work-at-home world as “short tasks” or crowdtasking.
What’s a Short Task?
As the name suggests, these are tasks that take only a short amount of time to complete. Within the mTurk marketplace that may mean small transcription files, identifying a photo, small data entry or research tasks and more. Businesses may have hundreds of these tasks that need to be completed and, because they don’t require much skill or a dedicated schedule, they don’t really care if they are being completed by hundreds of different people as opposed to a dedicated staff. They are usually focused on low rates and a quick turnaround instead.
So, that’s the bad news. As with most entry level, non-scheduled work-at-home jobs, the trade-off is usually making minimum wage or less once your piecemeal work is complete.
How Does mTurk Work?
Like many task marketplaces, a buyer, or Requester submits the tasks they need done and the rate they will be paying for each completed task. These tasks are referred to as HITs, Human Intelligence Tasks. These HITs are then listed on the mTurk site and you can pick them up as a Mechanical Turk Worker (commonly called a Turker).
There are no set schedules or minimum hours to work though you do need to complete at least one HIT per day during your first 10 days as a Worker (there’s also a 100 HIT per day limit during your first 10 days). You can pick and choose the tasks that appeal to you. As stated before, you will find everything from surveys to categorization tasks inside. There is some incentive to put in some time. Better-paying HITs are available once you hit 100/500/1,000 completed HITs. During your first 10 days, focus on hitting these milestones over money.
Completed HITs have to be approved by the Requester before payment is released. This usually happens within 24 hours. Once approved, the payment will be available on your dashboard. There is an initial hold period of 10 days for new workers. After that, you can request a disbursement of earnings to your Amazon Payments or Amazon gift card balance once a day if you like.
How Much Can You Make on mTurk?
For the most part, people report average earnings of less than minimum wage. Those that focus on the easiest of tasks, like surveys, often report an even lower hourly average.
There are some things you can do to increase your earnings.
Increase Your mTurk Earnings
Be available. The best paying HITs usually come up during business hours and on weekdays. That’s when most Requesters are online submitting their tasks, after all.
Get your numbers up. While there are no required minimums to work on mTurk, there are some benefits to staying active. A lot of high paying Requesters only make their HITs available to experienced workers with 5,000 or 10,000 HITs under their belts.
Follow a subReddit. If you aren’t yet familiar with Reddit, you are going to want to change that. The day’s best HITs are listed on subReddits like this one. Users let you know what’s hot and they’ll also let you know once the HIT is complete so you won’t waste your time trying to grab something that’s no longer available.
Get out of your comfort zone. As with almost any type of work, the more skill involved, the higher the wage. Many of those reportedly happy with their part-time mTurk earnings are doing HITs like transcription.
Follow the directions. HITs have to be approved by the Requester before you will get paid. In addition to the possibility of nonpayment for rejected work, this number also goes against your overall score. Most Requesters require Workers have an approval rate of 98-99%. Even though this is really flexible work without a lot of oversight, you still have to put your best foot forward if you want to keep the option open.
Qualify whenever possible. You will come across many HITs that require Qualification. This may mean taking a test or performing a sample HIT before this type of HIT will become available to you. Take advantage of these opportunities. Also check your Qualifications tab to see what tests are available to you and what you have been approved for. Becoming “qualed” will also cut down on your competition for qual-required HITs.
Find your personal groove. There are so many methods to this madness you can read about in the forums and r/mturk subReddit, but you will quickly find out there isn’t one way to do it to achieve the best results. Each Turker has found a rhythm and the HITs they most enjoy and can do quickly that allows them to achieve their goals. There will be a learning curve.
Sites Like mTurk
If you like this type of work, there are some similar sites you should check out.
- Clickworkers – This is a very popular site very similar to mTurk. Take the initial assessments seriously as you will need to pass in order to pick up tasks.
- Crowdflower – This is a very large crowdsourcing site that contracts worldwide. This is a unique setup in that they offer their tasks through third parties like InstaGC and Clixsense.
- Fancy Hands – This site is well known for offering small task virtual assistant services. If you are looking for something a little more challenging than doing surveys, the tasks here often involve research, making appointments, answering emails. You will likely find the payment is a little higher, too. Maybe not much. But a little.
- iSoftStone – Though this site is most commonly known for their search engine evaluation positions, they also offer crowdsourcing tasks.
- Microworkers – Very much like mTurk. A quick scan of the buyer templates available on the site will give you an idea as to the most common types of tasks – categorization, surveys, content moderation, data mining, etc.
- OneSpace – OneSpace is the workforce side of CrowdSource. Their tasks primarily fall into the writing and research fields.
- Rev.com – Transcription is the name of the game over here. Pick up files as you choose.
Even with the best of tips, I wouldn’t rely on Mechanical Turk to pay your bills. It isn’t going to happen. If you are looking for something more reliable and with a flexible schedule I’d consider freelance opportunities that match your skills such as writing or virtual assisting.