Making Money From Home - A Review of Amazon's Mechanical Turk
What is Mechanical Turk?
Mechanical Turk is hosted by Amazon and provides a place for individuals, companies, universities, etc. to post tasks to be completed by workers who sign up and in some cases meet specific qualifications. You will not be completing tasks for Amazon but rather for the person who posted the job. The pay for posted jobs depends on skill level, time to complete the task, or in some case what the poster feels they can afford to pay to get the work done.
Money Instead of Rewards Programs
Is Mechanical Turk a Legitimate Source of Income?
I decided recently to work solely from home and have spent a significant amount of time looking for legitimate sources of at-home income. I have been using Mechanical Turk for one month now and while I won't get rich doing it, the extra income from completing tasks (called HITs) has been a huge help. How much you will make will depend on your skill level at different types of tasks and how much time you are willing to put into making some extra money. I decided I could use time that I was spending doing things like watching TV, staring into space, or playing online casino games. In one month I have earned an average of $50 per week in time that I otherwise would have wasted. It is possible to make more money than I have, particularly if you are willing to learn new skills or already have skills that I don't possess. You will also make money if you spend more time completing tasks, it is up to you to decide how much your time is worth.
What Types of Work are Available on Mechanical Turk?
Tasks on Mechanical Turk include: obtaining search engine results, taking surveys, writing and editing, transcription, testing apps, pretty much something for everyone. You are not immediately eligible for all tasks, for many you will have to ask for qualification and may have to take a test created by the company or person who created the task in order to qualify. This should not dissuade you however if you are looking to use Mechanical Turk for a little extra money. Because I spend much of my time writing, I primarily complete surveys when I need a break. Not only does this help me get over the inevitable writer's block because I am thinking about something else, it pays a lot better than catching up on television.
How Much Money Can You Make on Mechanical Turk?
The amount of money you make will depend on which HITs you choose to complete and how much time you spend doing it.
Transcription - Some of the better paying HITS are for people who are able to transcribe audio or edit transcriptions quickly and with accuracy. While that is not a skill that I currently have, I am seriously considering getting the proper equipment to give transcription a try. From the HITS for transcriptionists that are available, you could keep yourself very busy and make a nice income on Mechanical Turk. I cannot guarantee that Mechanical Turk is the best place to go for someone with transcription skills, but there is work available.
Taking Surveys - There are many scams out there when it comes to taking surveys, and many sites that overinflate your ability to make money taking surveys. Survey-taking on Mechanical Turk is netting me an extra $50 per week so for me it is time well spent. Because information regarding pay is included on every survey (some also include bonuses), and most give an estimate of how long it will take to complete the survey, you can decide whether a particular survey is worth your time. Because I do it as an extra source of income and in time I would otherwise waste, I'm happy if taking surveys works out to an extra $5.00 per hour. There won't always be surveys available for you, but as compared to other sites there are very few surveys for which I spent more than 30 seconds before finding out that I wasn't qualified. More importantly, that has only happened a few times as compared to other sites where I have spent up to 15 minutes answering questions only to be told that I don't qualify and won't be paid for the majority of surveys I attempted to complete.
Sometimes I choose a short survey that pays less because I like the topic, sometimes I choose a longer one because I have the time to complete it properly and like the payout. The most I have been paid for a survey is $4.50 plus a $1.80 bonus for a total of $6.30. The survey took about 30 minutes so I made in effect $12.60 an hour in my spare time. Surveys that pay that well are few and far between, I believe the best approach is figuring out as I did how much your spare time is worth. Six 10-minute surveys that pay you $1 each may not seem like a lot of money, but if you do that for a week you just made an extra $42. I just took a little break and went over to Mechanical Turk and spent 15 minutes taking a survey about outdoor activities and earned $1.80.
Writing and Editing on Mechanical Turk - Many of the writing and editing HITS available on Mechanical Turk are placed by CrowdSource. I learned through trial and error that the best way to qualify to complete these HITS is to sign up on the Crowdsource website and take their tests. They have different levels for writing and editing and the number of HITS that you will be able to complete will depend on which level you have obtained. The pay range also varies according to what level you obtain and so like with taking surveys whether you want to spend the time to write and edit comes down to your ultimate goal. You may only earn $1 for a 200-word piece but if you want to practice your writing skills it may be worth it to you to get paid to do so.
There are other writing tasks available on Mechanical Turk, many of which are product descriptions. I completed a HIT earlier today that paid .75 cents for a product description of an article of clothing at a particular store. It was 80-100 words and for some it is not worth their time to get paid less than .01 per word. I like practicing my writing skills, particularly on something that will take my mind off my other work for a while. If someone wants to pay me to do that, all the better! As with any online writing job, the amount of money you can make writing and editing depends primarily on your skill level and the time you are willing to put into it.
Other Tasks to Complete on Mechanical Turk
When you first log on to Mechanical Turk and see the HITs that are available don't be dismayed when you see tasks that pay .01-.09 cents. It is completely up to you whether you want to spend time on these and for those who have very good internet skills and don't find it boring you can make money completing these. Last week I wanted to get my total payments up by about .25 cents in order to reach my weekly goal. There was not a survey available so I clicked on a HIT that paid .09 cents each time I searched for three phrases in Google and copied over the URL of the search results. I did three of them in only a few minutes and so made .27 cents. These are not tasks that I would want to spend a lot of time on, but if you are willing to do it for long periods of time the tasks are available and you can still make $4-$6 per hour.
Money in Your Spare Time
Will You Actually Get Paid For Work Done on Mechanical Turk?
My experience on Mechanical Turk has so far been a good one. I have had only two HITs rejected after I completed them, both with a message that it appeared that I did not complete the work seriously. In total I have had 99% of my work accepted, with most of it being paid out within a few days. Please be aware that you may have to wait up to 30 days to be paid for completed work, but my experience so far has been that most posters paid much more quickly than that. I currently have only two HITs that have been outstanding for more than 10 days, with many more than that which were paid out the same day I completed the work. Were the two that I did not get paid for actually scams? It is difficult to say, I'm sure as with any other site there are some people who post who have no intention of actually paying people. But as I stated earlier, the number of times this has happened to me personally is very small and because I read very quickly it could well be that they believed I finished the survey too quickly.
How Does the Mechanical Turk Payment Process Work?
For people in the United States, you can choose to be paid by transferring money into your bank account, choosing an Amazon Gift Card, or keeping money in your account to make purchases through Amazon. Be aware that you will have to wait 10 days after you submit your first HIT to be eligible for a payment. I was at first annoyed by this waiting period, but after transferring $72 into my bank account I was glad for the wait as it made me realize that this was a viable source of extra income. I wish this had been around when I was in college!
For payment and other information about Mechanical Turk for those living outside the US, you can read their FAQs here.
Are There Dangers in Using Mechanical Turk?
As with any use of the internet it is important to protect the security of your information and to limit visiting sites that may harm your computer or download programs you don't want. Amazon has policies regarding what information posters can ask for and what they can ask you to do, and you can report a suspicious HIT to Amazon for investigation. I have turned down a few HITs because after looking at them I saw that they wanted me to download software or visits websites for which I had no information regarding their content. I also would never provide personal information other than general demographics. For example, I have no problem with providing my age, but have stopped taking surveys twice because they asked for my specific date of birth.
Overall Impression of Amazon's Mechanical Turk
For me, Mechanical Turk is a good place to make extra income in my spare time. Unless you have a very specific skill set which many people are looking for it will likely never be anything but a way to supplement your income. It is what you make of it. The best way to decide if you want to become a "Turker" is to look at how you spend your spare time. If someone had asked me months ago if I would rather spend an hour or two a day playing online games and watching TV or have $50 at the end of the week instead, I would have signed up much sooner. If you don't have a specific skill set that is in demand or the idea of making less than minimum wage in your spare time appalls you, this is likely not for you. If you are ready to sign up, you can do so here.