Making Money from Amazon MTurk: Tips and Tricks for Mechanical Turk

Photo by @Saigon on Flickr
Photo by @Saigon on Flickr
When it comes to commerce, Amazon is one of the biggest players around- but if you’re looking to make extra cash, Amazon also offers plenty of opportunities. MTurk is Amazon’s gig marketplace, which means they work with other companies to provide small gigs for workers to complete for money.

How MTurk Works

Working with MTurk is simple- just sign up on the MTurk site, wait for your approval (which usually takes about 1-2 days) and sign in to start working. You’ll see a list of tasks available and can pick and choose the ones that sound interesting or profitable for you. Work on as many or as few tasks as you want- there’s no minimums or maximums. However, some companies will require you to take a test before accessing specific tasks or will limit your access to just a few of a specific task until you’ve proven yourself as a reliable worker.

How Many and What Kind of Tasks Does Amazon MTurk Have?

When it comes to how many tasks MTurk has available, the number is typically pretty high. At the time this post was written, MTurk had 322,000 tasks available, and companies tend to add more daily.
Tasks on Amazon MTurk vary from identifying products in videos to writing marketing copy for online catalogs. Other tasks found on MTurk have included listing the top Google results for specific keyword terms, transcribing audio files into written form, adding tags to product images, and filling out surveys. Many tasks are boring, some are difficult, and all of them pay.

Pay Per MTurk Task

The pay for most MTurk tasks is low, but the work tends to be easy. Many tasks on MTurk pay as low as a penny or two up to a dollar or two. When you’re assessing tasks, think about how long it will take you to do them. Clicking a box to categorize photos as plant, human or animal might only pay a penny, but if you can do 30 of them a minute, you’ll have a better per-hour take than completing a $1.00 task that requires you to watch a 5-minute video and write a 100-word summary of what you just saw.

Making the Most of Your Time with Mechanical Turk

As mentioned earlier, the low-cost tasks on MTurk aren’t worth it unless you can do them very quickly. Sticking with one task for a while is often more profitable than switching to a new task every few minutes because once you get used to a particular task, you will speed up and be able to complete more in less time.
Tasks requiring tests tend to have a better time-effort-pay ratio, so you should try to qualify for as many higher-paying tasks as you can.

Turk during breaks at work or while you’re doing something fairly mindless, such as watching TV or eating lunch. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to turn your free time into moneymaking time with MTurk.

What Are the Biggest MTurk Mistakes

With an opportunity as big as MTurk, mistakes are common. Many workers, who tend to call themselves Turkers, end up caught up in cycles that limit their earnings. One way to avoid this is to not get caught up on penny tasks. If there are better opportunities available, move up to those as soon as possible instead of feeling like you have to keep going on a low-paying time-consuming task that you’ve been doing for a while.

When it comes to some tasks on MTurk, skipping is your friend. If something on MTurk takes more than a few seconds for you to understand, you should probably skip it. Some tasks are just poorly designed, and others include a few dud tasks that are almost impossible to complete according to the rules. Don’t try to make the rules bend so you can get those few cents or dollars. Skip the task and move onto an easier one.

Letting your rating drop too low is another big mistake made by beginning Turkers. Your rating gives you access to higher paying MTurk gigs, so you want to keep it as high as possible. If a particular client on MTurk is tossing a lot of rejections your way, you should drop them and move onto more forgiving gigs. If you keep trying to please the picky MTurk company, you’ll just end up with a low rating that ruins your chances at getting other MTurk work.

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