I discovered Amazon Mechanical Turk while searching for a way to make money online and work part-time. It’s one of the most famous crowdsourcing websites; it allows businesses to post online micro-tasks (at most a few minutes long), which will be completed by online workers. Due to their short durations, these tasks pay very little individually, often a few cents; however it’s possible to complete many of them in a single hour. I spent a bit more than two months on Mechanical Turk; although I work part-time and I’m a non-US worker (more on this below), I managed to make around $375.
You may wonder why I publish an article related to crowdsourcing on Alternative Investments. I think that one large advantage of real-estate crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending is that they allow to invest very small sums, making them much more accessible than traditional investments. However, even these small amounts may be unavailable to some would-be investors, especially when you factor in the fact that you need to diversify your investments. Crowdsourcing allows nearly anyone to make an additional revenue easily, providingthem with some additional income they can invest.
Signing up to Amazon Mechanical Turk
As I already had an Amazon.com account, signing up to Mechanical Turk was trivial. A few days later, I received an e-mail stating that I got accepted as a Mechanical Turk worker. Unfortunately, it looks like Amazon doesn’t accept all applications; the required criteria are unclear, and some even suggest that they’re purely random. In case you’re rejected, all you can do is wait; apparently several workers got accepted at a later date.
First steps with Amazon Mechanical Turk
If you’re among the lucky ones who get selected, you’ll be taken to the main screen of Amazon Mechanical Turk. In spite of its simplicity, the it can seem a bit overwhelming. By default, you’ll be on the “HITs” part of the website. A HIT (human intelligence task) is simply another name for the tasks available for workers.
The screen will show you a list of available HITs; for each of them, the site shows the requester’s name, the title, the number of HITs available, the reward and how long ago it was created. If there’s more than one HIT available, workers commonly talk of these HITs as a batch; they’re a quick way to improve your statistics and earn more if you can work on them quickly enough.
Clicking on “Accept & Work” will directly allow you to start working on the HIT, while “Preview” will only display it, allowing you to either accept it or skip it. Note that it’s also possible that the HIT you selected isn’t available anymore, if another worker completed it; in this case you’ll be taken back to the main screen, which will also display an error message at the top.
It’s possible to search for a special requester or HIT name by using the search bar. In addition, clicking on “Filter” shows the following dialog, which not only allows to filter but also to sort. Note that sorting is also possible by clicking on any of the column header labeled “HITs”, “Reward” or “Created”.
Finally, you can display how many HITs are shown for each page.
Previewing & accepting HITs : let’s work !
HITs can be anything. You’ll find many surveys; other may involve searching for a company’s website, transcribing data, tagging photos and videos… The possibilities are rather endless and there are always new requesters, which provides some variety.
Each HIT will look different, however in most cases the controls at the top and bottom of the screen will be the same. If you’re previewing the HIT, you have the opportunity to Skip it; that is, switch to the next one on the batch. Otherwise, you can start working on it by clicking on Accept. Once accepted, you can Submit the result of your work if you’re satisfied; you may also give up the task by using the Return button.
At the top of the screen, you’ll also see the HIT name, requester name, number of HITs available, reward for each HIT as well as a timer showing how much time is left to complete the task. Indeed, you’re alloted a limited time; once the time is up, the task is automatically returned and you can’t submit it anymore.
After a task is submitted, the requester had one month to accept it or reject it. In most cases, it will only take two or three days. If your work is accepted, the money will be added to your available earnings. If unfortunately the requested isn’t satisfied and rejects your work, you won’t get paid and your statistics will be hurt. While having a few rejections is unavoidable, you should try to have as few of them as possible. Let’s head out to the dashboard to find out why.
Amazon Mechanical Turk’s dashboard : show me the money !
The main role is the dashboard is to display how much money you’ve made so far. It also allows you to transfer your gains to your Amazon.com gift card.
However, another very important information here is the statistics on the number of HITs approved and rejected. Indeed, if you click on any HIT on the main screen, it will show you the conditions necessary to be able to work on it. Many of them require you to have a minimum of approved HITs, and often also set an approval rate threshold. The more HITs you complete and the higher your approval rate, the more HITs will be available; it’s kind of a virtuous circle. I can’t stress enough the important of having a good approval rate ! Otherwise you’ll have to transcribe handwritten text for one cent until the end of your life 🙂
Qualifications & tests
In addition to your statistics, other aspects will influence the HITs availability. HITs may be targeted at workers in a specific country (often the USA), barring you from taking them.
If you uncheck “HITs that I’m qualified to work on” in the filters screen, you will see many more HITs. With some perseverance, many of them may become available. Indeed, when inspecting the requirements for a HIT by clicking on it, you may see a “Take Test” button, like in the following hit.
Successfully taking the test will grant you the matching qualification. Should you fail, you may be able to try it again later; however, in some cases, you won’t be given the opportunity for a second try ! This information is displayed before you start the test; if you’re unsure of yourself, I strongly advise you to wait a bit and take the test later.
Note that you may also try the “Request qualification” button when it’s available, although apparently the request isn’t visible to most requesters and thus useless.
As time goes by and your statistics improve, you’ll have more and more tasks available. Even as a non-Us worker, I now have enough to keep me busy several hours a day if I want to !
A warning note for non-US workers
If you’re located outside the US, the only way to enjoy your hard-earned money will be to use it to buy stuff on Amazon.com; you won’t even be able to spend it in other national Amazon stores !
One safe but slightly inconvenient way to get rid of your gift card is to use purse.io in order to exchange them against bitcoins. You’ll fulfill other people’s orders using your gift card, earning bitcoins in return. Unfortunately, the price to pay for the safety of the process is high : you’ll often lose as much as 20% of the transaction’s value.
Is Amazon Mechanical Turk worth it ?
It totally depends on your expectations. I’m totally satisfied with my earnings so far, considering I work part-time. However, the restrictions on the payout may be really bothersome for non-US workers. Also, it requires a rather large time investment at first, in order to boost your stats and have access to HITs that pay better and are more interesting.
In a later article, I’ll share some advises in order to help beginner Turkers (that’s how workers at Amazon Mechanical Turk call themselves). meanwhile, a great way to get more information is to browse Reddit’s forums.