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I Tried That - Amazon mTurk

Updated on October 27, 2015

Amazon Mechanical Turk describes itself as a marketplace for work. Business and developers have access to an on-demand work force, and workers complete HITs to earn money.

As an mTurk worker, you complete small tasks for small payouts. For example, you might be asked to copy items, UPCs, and prices from a picture of a receipt. A lot of the HITs involve copying text from images. These jobs earn you between $0.01 - $0.10 per task completed, and some companies offer bonuses based on the amount of items entered.

There are other types of tasks available on mTurk. Often, there are surveys and studies available that can earn you a little more money per task.

There is transcription work available on mTurk, but these types of tasks generally require completing a qualification test. These tasks are higher paying, but time consuming. The directions are sometimes difficult to follow. I have tried to qualify for some transcription work in the past, but when I was able to pass the qualification, I found the work to be too difficult.

Writing tasks exist on mTurk, but I usually pass over these because of the low payout. For example, when I was writing this article, I found an HIT willing to pay $10.00 for a 1200 article. $10.00 seems like a nice payout, but I felt that if I was going to put that much effort into writing something, it might as well be a Hub that has the potential to earn me more money in the long run.

Occasionally, better and interesting opportunities crop up on mTurk. While I was preparing for this Hub, I found a simple task of watching short video clips and clicking 'yes' or 'no' if a certain action was present. For example, I did a couple of sets where I looked for the action of boiling in cooking video clips. This HIT was quick and easy to complete, and each one earned me $0.10. Unfortunately, there weren't many available.

I have a lot of typing and data entry experience. For this trial, I took a few online typing speed tests and averaged 105 words per minute. With a typing speed that high, I hoped I could complete HITs quickly and show the full earning potential of mTurk.

My Experience

Signing up for mTurk was easy. I had an existing Amazon account and I was able to link this to my new mTurk worker ID. To get paid, you can either transfer your earnings to an gift card balance, or you can move them to your Amazon Payments account. From your Amazon Payments account, you can cash out your earnings to a bank account. To me, it seemed worth setting up an Amazon Payments account. There is a minimum cashout of $1.00, and I wanted to be able to use the money I earned for anything.

And off to work I went! The first day I tried out mTurk, I didn't go in with any particular strategy. I picked the first task that jumped out at me - I wanted something simple that I could learn quickly and do over and over. After transcribing 6 receipts for one company for $0.08 and a $0.01 bonus for every four items over twenty, I got curious about other tasks and other rates for similar tasks. I found a shorter task of extracting different information from images that paid $0.04 that I could complete more quickly. After completing thirty of these in an hour, I switched focus again. For those keeping score, I earned $1.20 that hour.

I tried out a higher paying task. This one involved answering multiple choice questions about an image for $0.25. It sounded like a great deal, until I started and realized there were a ton of questions. They wouldn't have been hard to answer, except they were worded really awkwardly. Pass.

I returned to extracting purchased items from shopping receipts, but this time for a different company. I'd overlooked them at first because the HIT only had a $0.01 reward, but on taking a closer look, I realized that this company offered a per item bonus. Their interface was easier to navigate than the first company, and they kept a running tally of what I was earning - $0.10 per 20 items, instead of the first company's $0.08 per 20. I completed 15 of these tasks in an hour, and I felt sure I was coming out on top. After adding in my bonuses, it turned out I wasn't earning any more than the $1.20/hour I'd added up before.

I started to feel like I was wasting my time. I did another search through the tasks and ended up completing a few more HITs to add $0.55 to my earnings for the day.

The next day, I went in with a different strategy. I decided if I was going to copy text, I was only going to go for higher earning HITs. I also completed some surveys, though it felt like a rip-off. I earned between $0.10-$0.35 per survey completed, and I have tried some survey sites that have bigger payouts per survey. By the end of the four hours I decided to devote to mTurk, I ended up earning about the same as I did the day before. I think I lost a lot of time just searching for higher paying HITs. I completed fewer tasks to earn this amount, but it ended up taking the same amount of time.

On the third and final day, I stuck to the higher paying receipt copying. I felt productive and I didn't mind the work, but I found myself questioning whether this was all worth the effort.

I had to wait until a few days had passed to tally my totals, because not all of the payments post immediately. After three days and eleven hours of work, I had 146 HITs completed and I made $7.96, which included a few bonuses. This averaged about $0.05 per HIT, $2.65 per day, and something like $0.60 per hour.

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The Review

Would I reccommend mTurk? Yes and no. Sometimes, you'll have opportunities to make more money than other times. If you're a fast typer and don't mind repetitive tasks, you can make a little extra cash. I think the most money would lie in audio transcriptions, but I was unable to qualify for a lot of those opportunities.

mTurk isn't a good way to make a living from my experience with it. However, it is an interesting way to earn a few extra dollars. If you have a specific goal to meet, it's not so bad. For example, if I wanted to buy a particular item from Amazon that wasn't too pricy, I'd definitely consider making the money for it on mTurk.

mTurk is definitely reliable. I have had no issues getting paid what I was owed, which makes it appealing to check out from time to time.


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    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I kind of suspected that mTurk doesn't pay enough to make it worthwhile for me, and the info you share confirms that assessment. Thanks for sharing your experience.