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How to Use Amazon Mechanical Turk/MTurk to Make Money
What Is Amazon's Mechanical Turk?
Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a "crowdsourcing Internet marketplace." This means requesters can make "human intelligence tasks," abbreviated HITs, available to Mechanical Turk users. Crowdsourcing marketplaces are very popular. They allow employers to hire workers at will, instead of paying them a salary or wage, to accomplish tasks computers cannot do well. For example, a HIT may consist of choosing which picture is better, writing a product description, or transcribing an interview. Marketing and behavior studies are also popular HIT topics.
Can I Actually Make Money on Mechanical Turk?
In a word, yes. You absolutely can make money on MTurk, but it takes time and effort to produce real results. I have read many articles online claiming that MTurk is a huge waste of time and you can never make money - these people did not take the time to learn the system.
As you can see by looking at the screen capture below, I was ultimatly very successful on MTurk. I did not write for MTurk requesters frequently during 2012 because I didn't have the time, but the 2011 earnings shown reveal the amount I made from August through Decmeber of that year. $3,800 in under half a year is a pretty nice income booster! However, I struggled through my first several weeks because I did not have a solid plan. I accepted random HITs, accidentally abandon a few, and even got banned by a requester. Avoid these mistakes and discover how to make money by reading my hard-won knowledge below.
Proof You Can Make Money on MTurk
Amazon's FREE Guide to MTurk
More Work From Home and Crowdsourcing
How to Be Successful on Mechanical Turk
Before accepting any HITs, you must create a free account. You can use the same email address as your regular Amazon account, but you do have to set up a separate MTurk account. The process is quick, painless, and secure. When you first access the MTurk website, you should see the same image given in the screen capture below. If your screen looks different, you may have found some sort of knock-off website. Check the web address for typos and try again.
In order to get well-paying HITs, you must earn a high approval rating. Many HITs require you to have successfully completed a specific number of prior HITs, usually 100 or more. In order to gain access to the better tasks, devote some time to finishing simple, easy tasks, even if they only pay a penny or two. By earning a high approval rating, you increase your chances of getting better HITs.
In order to find HITs you are qualified for right off the bat, go to the main HIT page and click the "for which you are qualified" box in the upper right portion of the page. If you look at the screen capture below, you can see this box is checked. You can also sort the HITs in a variety of ways. The default is to sort by the number of HITs available for a certain task. Usually, but not always, the HITs with a higher number of available tasks pay the least. This means these tasks are a great way to start out and boost your numbers. However, if you want to see better-paying HITs you are qualified for, make sure the aforementioned box is checked and sort by "Reward Amount (most first)," as shown in the picture.
When you are just starting out, you can frequently take advantage of university and marketing surveys. These surveys usually take 10-30 minutes to complete and pay a dollar or less, but they are a good way to make a few dollars without taking special qualification tests.
Once you have 100 or more approvals on your account, look for better-paying HITS. If you are an accurate typist, take a qualification test for one of the transcription services. Transcription HITs, particularly longer ones, usually pay fairly well.
If you are a strong writer, look for writing HITs from companies like QuestionSwammi and CrowdSource. Many companies that require qualification tests have multiple levels of qualification. By taking the entry-level test and satisfactorily completing HITs for the requester, you can frequently take higher qualification tests and earn access to even better paying HITs. I have actually seen writing HITs for a specific MTurk worker that paid $50, or even more! For me, writing is the main way I earn money on MTurk. I primarily write for CrowdSource. Its HITs vary, but it is common to see a 100 word product description that pays $2.25 and requires a basic certification. With a better certification, you can make $5-$10 per HIT. If you write well and quickly, you can easily write 100 words with a main keyword and a secondary keyword in just a couple of minutes. My highest-earning day from writing brought in over $100, and I 'worked' less time than I do at my real job!
My number one piece of advice for becoming successful on MTurk is always pay careful attention to a HIT's requirements. If the task says to use a specific keyword three times, use it three times. If they say to avoid using all "be verbs." do not use a single be verb. If you ever accept a task and find it is not what you expected, hit the "return" button. Simply abandoning a task hurts your account's stats, and submitting a HIT that is sure to get rejected hurts your approval rating, which affects the HITs you can accept in the future.
What to Expect on MTurkClick thumbnail to view full-size
Things you Could Buy with Your New MTurk Income
How do I Get Paid by MTurk?
You can receive your payments from MTurk in one of two ways - direct deposit to your bank account or as an Amazon gift card. You may only request a payout if your account has 1) been open for at least 10 days and 2) has at least $10. Ten dollars is one of the lowest payout thresholds available on the web. You may request a payout at any time, as long as these conditions are met. Many other Internet services make you wait for a specific day and require a much larger deposit. For example, crowdsourcing site iWriter pays on Tuesdays and requires a minimum balance of $20.
You may also apply the balance of your payments account (money you have earned but have not transferred to your bank account) to an Amazon purchase at any time, no matter how much or little is in the account. I am always impressed by the speed with which Amazon credits my bank account. The payment page says to allow up to a week, but I usually see the money hit my account the next day.
If you follow these steps, you can become successful on MTurk. If you are willing to put in a lot of work to earn the credentials needed for well-paying HITs, you could earn a decent income from home. The money I made on MTurk was earned during my free time and days off from my full-time job.
In summary, carefully build your on-site credentials, take qualification tests, and keep your approval rating high to see the money start coming in.