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How to make money with Amazon Mechanical Turk

Nadia Krige 13th Nov 2017 One Comment

Reading Time: 5 minutes

With the traditional 9-to-5 dying a slow and painful death, more people are looking to diversify their income streams with jobs that can be done from anywhere.

Continuing this trend, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (known as the MTurk for short), has been offering willing workers across the globe the opportunity to make some extra cash by completing simple online tasks.

If you’ve been looking for reliable ways to make money from home, this might just be one of your answers.

Here’s everything you need to know to get started with Amazon Mechanical Turk.


What is Amazon Mechanical Turk?

Human intelligence concept graphic

Based on the idea that human beings can still do certain things much more effectively than computers, Amazon MTurk is a marketplace that connects businesses with a scalable, crowdsourced workforce.

Employers post jobs known as Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) – such as writing short descriptions for photographs, penning product reviews, filling out surveys and capturing data – on the site, which workers can then browse and complete in exchange for a monetary payment set by the employer.

The name was inspired by ‘The Turk’ – an 18th-century chess-playing automaton that toured Europe and beat several famous personalities. It was later revealed that this “machine” was not an automaton at all, but in fact a human chess master hidden in the cabinet beneath the board and controlling the movements of a humanoid dummy.


Who can sign up for Mechanical Turk?

Sign up page on computer screen

While MTurk was once only accessible to workers in the US, it has been opened up to an additional 43 countries, including the UK, over the past year.

Virtually anyone can sign up to be an Amazon MTurk worker, completing HITS from wherever they want and according to their own schedule. The only requirements to complete tasks and collect payment are to have a computer connected to the Internet and to be at least 18 years old.


HITS – the tasks you can expect to find

Young man lying on floor listening to music on laptop

The most important thing to know about HITs: they will never be rocket science. While this may be great for some people, it could end up frustrating those who enjoy a bit of a challenge.

Here are a few examples of HITs you might find on MTurk:

  • Data entry – e.g. categorising products, finding item numbers, converting jpegs to word files etc.
  • Audio and video transcriptions – e.g. material can vary from just a few seconds to a number of hours
  • Translations – it’s important to note the languages you’re comfortable writing in on your profile page
  • Surveys – e.g. topics vary greatly, covering everything from finance and shopping habits to personality and finance
  • URL searches – e.g checking that URLs point to the correct pages
  • User experience feedback – e.g. judging whether certain sites are suitable for certain audiences
  • Copy editing – e.g. cleaning up the captions in photographs


How much can I earn?

Tablet with Amazon Mechanical Turk website on and a stack of cash beside

Firstly, this depends greatly on the amount of time you can actually put into your HITs. The more you complete in a day, the more you earn. Similarly, the longer you’ve been a worker for, the more likely you are to get higher paying HITs.

Many people report that it is possible to make between $2.50 and $5 an hour, especially if you take on a lot of small HITS that can be completed relatively quickly.

In other words, if you work a full week’s days (40 hours) for a full month (30 days), you can expect to earn around $800.

So, it’s probably not a good idea to quit your day job and become a fulltime Turker, but it certainly is a rather uncomplicated way to make a few bucks on the side, in between other work, studying or job hunting.

Of course, you could make more – especially if you manage to catch some of the really high-paying HITs that come through, but there’s really no way of tracking this except for checking on the site regularly.


How doEs payment work?

Amazon Gift Card in Box

Unfortunately, only workers in the US and India can disburse their earnings into a bank account.

Workers from all other countries can transfer their earnings (always in US$) onto an Amazon gift card.

So, if you need money to pay the rent, this is not the way to go.

However, if you’re just looking for a bit of pocket money to purchase cool stuff, being an Amazon MTurk Worker could be perfect!


4 tips for using Mechanical Turk effectively

Man using laptop

  • Set up a schedule that works for you

Most MTurk workers report that working on HITs throughout the day, while busy with other work/activities, is the best way to go about it.

In other words, it pays to set up a bit of a schedule, slotting MTurk in wherever is most convenient for you – maybe an hour in the morning before getting started on other work, 30 minutes during lunch and another hour just after dinner.

The schedule is entirely up to you!

  • Avoid really low-paying HITs

One thing all MTurk workers who have shared their experiences online have in common is they think the one cent jobs just aren’t worth it.

According to Trent Hamm from the Simple Dollar: “If it pays less than fifty cents and takes more than a couple mouse clicks to complete, it’s not worth it.”

  • Make sure you can do a HIT before accepting it

Accepting a HIT and then having to return it because you don’t have time or feel comfortable with the subject matter reflects badly on your HIT return rating.

The same goes for returning HITs that are incorrect or not really what the requestor wanted.

An unfavourable HIT return rating, in turn, lessens your opportunities of getting high-paying HITs in the future.

Avoid this by reading through the instructions thoroughly before accepting.

  • Do the surveys

Surveys tend to pay relatively well for the short amount of time you spend on them.

Finally, as with any online portal, be extra careful about the information you share with requestors on Amazon Mechanical Turk. While most are legitimate tasks set up by companies and organisations, some could end up being attempts to get banking or credit card details. If something seems odd to you, best report it.

Read through Amazon Mechanical Turk’s FAQs before signing up to be sure you know what to expect.

Also read:

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5 years ago

Interesting article, I had never heard of MTurk before.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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