Looking for a better work-life balance? Wish you could make money working from home? Want to become a digital nomad where you can travel the world and work from anywhere? Or maybe you don’t want a full-time job or part-time gig, you just want to make money online in your spare time.
There are lots of reasons why more and more people are getting into the freelance gig economy – and it shows no signs of slowing down.
But how do you go about finding a steady, yet flexible job?
There are many online freelance job platforms, but the one we’re delving into today is Amazon Mechanical Turk, or MTurk for short.
If you’re thinking about looking for a job with MTurk, or interested in learning more about the platform, keep reading.
Here’s our definitive guide to making money with Amazon MTurk.
What is Amazon MTurk?
What exactly is MTurk? In simple terms, it’s a freelance job platform. It connects freelance workers with businesses looking to hire people to perform certain services.
Visit the MTurk website, and you’ll see the (somewhat confusing) way that they describe themselves:
“Amazon Mechanical Turk, aka MTurk, is a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence. The Mechanical Turk service gives businesses access to a diverse, on-demand, scalable workforce and gives Workers a selection of thousands of tasks to complete whenever it’s convenient.”
By creating an MTurk account and signing up to use the platform, you’ll be able to access an array of different jobs from a wide variety of companies.
As long as you can handle the simple tasks, you can start working right away.
What Types of Jobs are on MTurk?
MTurk calls the jobs on their platform HITS (human intelligence tasks).
HITS vary widely, but generally speaking, they are small digital tasks that almost anyone can do. They are jobs that can’t be completed by a computer, but they’re also jobs that (typically) don’t require any special set of skills.
The jobs on Amazon MTurk include things like taking online surveys and giving your opinions on websites. Sometimes they need people to provide transcription services. Sometimes you’ll find jobs such as data entry, auditing images and videos, and selecting the best pictures that represent a product.
Some tasks include doing data verification and clean-up work. You may be tasked with identifying and removing duplicate content from a website. In other cases, you might be needed to verify restaurant details such as phone numbers and hours of operation.
If you’re good at gathering information, you can answer simple questions about various topics or look for data in large legal documents. If you prefer to use your language skills you can find work translating content from one language to another.
You can even search for tasks that include writing content for websites. These types of HITS pay a little bit more, so if you can churn out articles quickly, you can make some decent money.
Our suggestion for writers?
If you’re a serious wordsmith, you’re better off trying your skills on more competitive sites. Create an account on a site like Upwork, where clients tend to pay significantly more.
Overall, tasks on MTurk are varied, but there are lots of HITS available for anyone who wants to do them.
How Much Money Can You Make with MTurk?
We’re not going to sugarcoat this at all:
In some cases, a HIT will pay as little as one penny (we’re not kidding) but you can make minimum wage, or a little more, if you know how to do so.
The trick with making a decent wage on MTurk is to find jobs that can help you reach a better hourly rate. For example, if you see a HIT that pays 10 cents and you can do it 100 different times in one hour, you can make $10 an hour.
In December 2017, Cornell University published a research paper that delves into this a bit more. According to this study, they “recorded workers performing 3.8 million tasks on Amazon Mechanical Turk,” which
“revealed that workers earned a median hourly wage of only ~$2/h, and only 4% earned more than the $7.25/h.”
A worker profiled by the Atlantic reports that she works about 30 hours per week for an average hourly wage of $4 to $5 per hour.
And, as if the pay isn’t already low enough, keep this in mind:
Amazon takes a 20% cut of your earnings, no matter how much or how little you make.
So is it worth it to complete HITS on MTurk? That’s up to you. Sometimes, making any amount of money per hour is better than making no money per hour, but you’ll need to decide if that’s what’s right for you.
Signing Up for MTurk
If you think you want to give MTurk a try, it’s very easy to sign up. It only takes a few minutes to get started, so if you’re ready to give it a go, head to their website and sign up.
If you already have an Amazon account, you can use that to sign in. Then you’ll need to fill out some basic information, including social security number of tax purposes, but that’s about it.
With that said, it’s important to note that some people have reported not getting approved. Those un-approved workers also report that they’ve been given no explanation as to why.
Why we can’t explain why some workers aren’t approved, we do know that Amazon MTurk has this requirement:
“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).”
So if you sign up and get approved, make sure you complete at least one HIT per day, no matter how little the pay may be. At the same time, make sure you don’t exceed the threshold of doing more than 100 HITS per day in your first 10 days as a worker.
Tips to Increase MTurk Earnings
If you’re interested in working with MTurk, it’s safe to say that you could benefit by knowing a few tips and tricks to increase your earnings.
To put more money in your pocket, check out these 7 ideas:
1. Be Selective with your HITS
Since most HITS pay very little, it’s important to find the ones that you can do quickly. For up-to-date tips on what HITS are easy to perform in just a minute or two, check out this subreddit for MTurk workers.
2. Avoid Penny Tasks
If you see a task that only pays a penny, pass. It’s not worth it. Even if it only takes you a minute to complete and you complete one every minute for an hour, you’ll make a whopping $0.60 that hour. You would need to complete 1,000 in an hour to make $10 per hour.
Those HITS aren’t worth it.
Look for HITS that pay at least 40 cents – then think about how long they will take. If a $0.40 HIT takes you 10 minutes to complete, forget it. If it doesn’t take much time, like only takes 2 minutes to complete, then it might be worth your time.
3. Reach a High HIT Number
Some jobs (including some of the higher paying jobs) require that you have completed a minimum of HITS to apply. In some cases, you’ll need to have 5,000 HITS under your belt. For other HITS you’ll need to have completed 10,000.
The more HITS you complete and the more experience you have working with MTurk, the better access you’ll have to higher paying tasks.
New workers might be tempted to complete penny tasks to reach these minimums, but we still don’t think it is worth it.
4. Maintain a High Approval Rating
You won’t have any success on MTurk unless you have a high approval rating. To be successful, you’ll need to maintain an approval rating above 98%.
That may sound high – and it is. But the reason is this:
The tasks are simple, but they all have their own set of directions. And those directions must be followed. If you can’t follow simple directions, your approval rating will plummet.
5. Increase Qualifications
To apply for some HITS, you need to prove that you’re “qualified.” So you may have to complete some qualifications to do that HIT.
Make sure that you complete all qualifications, as that will make it easier to find higher paying HITS in the future.
6. Filter Requesters
Do yourself a favor and avoid requesters (employers) with low ratings. If their ratings are low, it may mean that they have a history of not releasing payment to their workers.
To filter out the bad requesters, use a tool like Turkopticon. With Turkopticon you can report shady employers who don’t pay and see who other workers have reported so you can avoid them altogether.
Pros of MTurk
Every online platform has its fair share of pros and cons. And to be fair to MTurk, it does have its benefits. Here are the three biggest pros of finding jobs on MTurk:
MTurk isn’t the only website that offers payment for small tasks, but it is one of the most reliable. Amazon is one of the largest and most trusted companies on the globe, so you can rest assured that MTurk is legit. You will get paid.
You can get paid daily.
Need to pay a bill right now? Need to put food on the table tonight? With MTurk and Amazon Payments you can get paid daily, with direct deposits to your bank account. And for some people, that’s the biggest benefit of all. You can even get paid in Amazon Gift Cards if that’s what you’re looking for.
Work when you want.
Working for MTurk certainly won’t make you rich, but it can help you make some extra bucks. Whether you’re unemployed or looking for an additional gig that you can pick up on the side, with MTurk you can make some extra money in your free time. And for some people, that’s the difference between making ends meet or falling behind on your bills.
Cons of MTurk
With the pros comes the cons…here are the biggest drawbacks to working through MTurk:
Extremely low pay.
We’ve already discussed this one quite a bit. But we’re going to say it again:
MTurk is one of the lower paying workplaces in the ever-expanding gig economy.
Some workers report earning as little as $2 per hour. Some claim to make $4 or $5 per hour. And while hourly rates vary, only 4% of all MTurk workers make over $7.25 per hour.
In addition to the low pay, you also have to pay Amazon 20% of your earnings. That Amazon commission is extremely high compared to other similar work platforms.
When you’re making very little to start with, having to pay Amazon a commission can feel like a punch to the gut. Of course, they need to take their share to maintain the platform, but 20% is a bit harsh.
Most of the tasks on MTurk tend to be a bit menial and rather boring. If you’re okay with that, it might be worth a try.
Our Take on MTurk
If you want our honest opinion, and we assume you do, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk should be your last-ditch attempt at getting into the gig economy.
For most people, MTurk is not worth it.
With that said, it’s a viable opportunity for people who are unqualified or unable to get other freelance jobs. It is a legitimate site. You will get paid. But Mechanical Turk workers are often underpaid.
If you’ve got some experience and solid skills, you’re much better off creating an account and looking for freelance jobs on a site like Upwork.
If your professional skills are limited, consider driving for Uber or Lyft. See if you can deliver food for GrubHub or DoorDash.
You can even find jobs on Handy where you can work as a housecleaner or a furniture assembler.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, you’re not going to get rich working for Amazon MTurk. The only one getting rich in this scenario is Amazon itself.
Even if you can complete a high number of HITS, the extra income will be less than you’d get from working a minimum wage job.
So before you subject yourself to working for $2 or $5 an hour, see what other gigs are out there that you might qualify for. With the gig economy expanding all the time, there’s a good chance that you can find one.