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Making Money Online: Amazon Mechanical Turk

Updated on August 21, 2011
You too can work from your couch. (Props if you recognize the logo on my shirt)
You too can work from your couch. (Props if you recognize the logo on my shirt)

Amazon Mechanical Turk

If you have been researching ways to make money online you may have come across Amazon Mechanical Turk. Amazon Mechanical Turk operates on a principle known as "crowdsourcing." Crowdsourcing is a method where an employer with work to be done breaks it down into simple tasks and provides it to a crowd (in this case Mechanical Turk workers) to be done. Employers on Mechanical Turk are known as a "requester" and the work to be doneĀ  are called "HITs" which is an acronym for "human intelligence tasks." Amazon markets this as "artificial artificial intelligence" as these are tasks requiring human intelligence that computers are not capable of doing. Typically these tasks include things such as tagging photos, flagging inappropriate photos, organizing information by category, basic data entry, filling out surveys, or writing short blurbs.

Amazon requires a requester to maintain an Amazon payment account in which they deposit money. After a requester reviews a HIT you have completed and approves your work, Amazon will transfer the payment from the requester's payment account to yours (you are required to setup an Amazon payment account as well). You can be paid via a bank transfer to your bank account or you can redeem your earnings in the form of Amazon gift cards.

Avoiding Scams

Before I go any further it's important to point out a few things. Scammers are everywhere including on Amazon Mechanical Turk. The last thing you want is to spend time working and end up having your private information hijacked. To avoid this you should keep a few things in mind. On Mechanical Turk you have the opportunity to preview a HIT before accepting it. Always pay close attention when previewing a HIT. If the requester asks for personal information do not give it to them. This is most likely a scam. A legitimate requester will never ask for personal information. Never agree to do transactions outside of Amazon Mechanical Turk and most certainly never agree to download anything that a requester may claim is necessary to complete a HIT. Use common internet sense and you will keep yourself safe from scams.

A different kind of scam to watch out for is when a requester rejects quality work in an attempt to not pay for it. I have not experienced this myself but have heard of it happening. There is a tool that you can download for your browser called Turkopticon. Turkopticon allows workers to rate requesters. Using Turkopticon you can see how other workers rate a particular requester allowing you to spot scammers and cheats. Turkopticon is very useful and I recommend it.

Mechanical Turk Strategy

Critics claim the low pay being offered by requesters on Amazon Mechanical Turk amounts to a "cyber sweat-shop." While I agree that you're not going to get rich using Mechanical Turk I do not agree with this sentiment. Realistically you can expect to make a few hundred dollars a month. I suppose if you were really dedicated you could make more but often the hurdle I face is that I get bored with the HITs. I will be honest, many of them are quite boring but it is still possible to make a decent amount of extra cash using Mechanical Turk. To make sure you don't actually end up getting paid like you do work in a sweat-shop it is important to employ proper strategy.

You won't get rich with Amazon Mechanical Turk, but you can make extra money.
You won't get rich with Amazon Mechanical Turk, but you can make extra money.

Profit vs. Time

Amazon Mechanical Turk has a wide range of HITs available for workers. The reward offered per HIT varies considerably and may range from as little as a penny to a few dollars and in unusual cases, ten or twenty dollars. Higher paying HITs are usually snatched up very quickly. Just because the high paying HITs go quickly doesn't mean you can't make money. It's all about amount of time spent on a task vs. its reward. If you spend two or three minutes on a HIT and it only pays a penny it isn't worth your time. But if a task only takes two or three minutes and pays twenty-five cents or more, now we're talking.

Finding Good HITs

When working on Amazon Mechanical Turk it is important that you find HITs that are worth your time or that you enjoy working on. It will become apparent very quickly that you must utilize the search function to find good HITs. When you perform a search you can select whether you would like to view all HITs or only those for which you are qualified for. I'll touch on qualifications more later.

In my experience the most worthwhile HITs involve flagging or tagging photos, organizing tweets, writing short paragraphs, and taking surveys. If there was only one type of HIT that I would recommend it would be the surveys. Often they pay 50 cents to a few dollars and many may only take five to ten minutes to complete. Make sure you pay attention and follow the directions carefully with surveys as they often have built in quality control. If you fail the quality control they may reject your work and not pay you.


Amazon Mechanical Turk provides a system where a requester may require you to pass a qualification test or to meet certain qualification criteria to be able to work on a HIT. It is often worth it to take a qualification test or to request a qualification. This may open up the opportunity to work on HITs that are not available to everyone and as a consequence often have a higher payout.

There are certain qualifications you cannot request such as your percentage of approved HITs. This is why it is important that you read and follow all instructions carefully and provide quality work. If your percentage of accepted HITs falls below a certain amount many good HITs will become unavailable to you. Requesters have the option of blocking workers whose HIT acceptance rate is too low.

Give It a Try

If you haven't tried Amazon Mechanical Turk, give it a shot. There is nothing to lose and getting started is easy. Just visit the Amazon Mechanical Turk website, setup an account, and start working. It takes a little bit of practice to figure out a strategy that works for you but when you do you will be burning through HITs in no time. Amazon Mechanical Turk isn't a get rich quick method but you can earn a few extra hundred dollars a month with it and I don't think anyone would scoff at that.


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    • Words By William profile image

      Bill Ashworth 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      I have tried Mechanical Turk and seem to have considerable problems finding my way back to the original HIT page in order to enter completion codes. Several times, that has meant not getting credit for performing the HIT. I was hoping you might be able to help me. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Brad 5 years ago

      Thank you, very helpful!

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 6 years ago from new jersey

      very informative.