Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mechanical Turk: a review, Part 1

Rate of pay: varies widely with the task
How paid: Paid when job is approved to your Amazon Payments account

I’ve broken this article into 2 parts because there are some issues that have been brought up about Mechanical Turk in forums and a recent Huffington Post article that I want to discuss. I also want to cover strategies and tools to help you make the most of Mechanical Turk, and I don’t want to bog down the review/description of the site so I’ll give you the basics here and the next post will go into more depth.

What is Mechanical Turk?

Mechanical Turk (Mturk) is a marketplace for small online task work hosted by  Anyone who wants relatively simple online tasks done (called the requester) can list their jobs on Mturk.  Anyone registered as a worker can choose a task and complete it (if they are qualified) and get paid.  The term for these jobs on Mturk is HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks).  These HITs are tasks that at this time cannot be automated. There are a huge number of tasks available, as of this writing there are 190,349 HITs available.

How it works:

First you must register and open a worker/payment account with  There will be a delay of 1-2 days while they “Verify” your account, so don’t expect to start work immediately.  Once you are registered you will be asked to enter your tax information (SS#), if you don’t enter it you will be allowed to do a few HITs, but eventually you will be required to enter your SS# before you can continue work.

There are different levels of worker on Mturk, as a new worker you are not able to work on all the HITs posted on the site.  Most of the HITs available to newbies are low paying, but if you do good work at these jobs you can earn qualifications to work on the higher paying HITs.

You can click on "Preview HIT" to see the instructions for that job and sometimes an example.  Instructions are not always perfectly clear, but if you don’t understand the instructions you can leave it and preview another and chose one that you want to work on.  Click the “Accept HIT” button to work on the job, then click “Submit” when you have completed the assignment.  The requester will review your work and approve or reject it.  If it is approved the specified pay will be added to your Amazon Payment account.  There is a 10 day hold on using that money when you first start working for Mechanical Turk; after 10 days you can use the money to buy products on or transfer the money to your bank.

There are a good variety of jobs you can choose from.  HITs that require transcribing video and audio files pay the highest.  Writing jobs also pay fairly high, generally between $2 and $40 depending on the length and complexity of the job.  I’ve been enjoying answering surveys for university research studies, these usually pay around $1 each; low paying but easy and relaxing.  Tasks like ranking/evaluating websites, tagging images, copying text from a website, and other simple tasks pay anywhere from $.01 to .35.  You won’t earn enough to live on with Mturk, but you can make extra money here.

Mturk compared to Clickworker and Leapforce

Mturk has easier work than Leapforce, but pays lower; Mturk is far better than Clickworker which has horrible instructions and lower pay.  

At the moment I’m not even making the equivalent of minimum wage at what I’m doing on Mturk, but I do see potential to earn more.  I don’t think anyone should try to make a living using any of the techniques I write about, I see these things only as supplements to my income.

Next article: Strategies for avoiding problems and increasing your income with Mechanical Turk

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Find Lost Money

Find Missing Money
While you are waiting for my review of Mechnical Turk, here’s a topic I’ve been meaning to write about.  It’s not work, but could bring in some money anyway.

Have you heard of these “finding lost money” sites and thought they were all scams?  Do you firmly believe that you know where all your money is, and there can’t possibly be any lost money sitting in an account you don’t know about? You could be wrong, just like I was.  I’d heard of those sites, they even reported on them on the local news, but I resisted trying them out for years. When I happened across  a few months ago I decided to plug in my name and to my surprise found I had some missing money.  I claimed it and it arrived 2 months later.

To make a claim you will have to enter personal information including your SS number. I’m always suspicious of scams and phishing so I didn’t immediately enter my information to make the claim.  I searched for the site several different ways to make sure the link was going to the legitimate site.  Usually the money is being held in a state government treasury so only give out your sensitive information to the government site, never to a third party that claims they will assist you in making the claim.  You may have to send documentation proving that you are the person who owns the money including, as in my case, something that proves you lived at the address they have connected to the money.  It’s a relatively painless way to add to your bank account.

So even if you are “sure” you don’t have any lost money, check it out, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Quick Note on Mechanical Turk

When you register for an account as a worker with Mechanical Turk, Amazon has to approve your account.  That took two days for me even though I have both buyer and seller accounts with Amazon already.  So I haven’t had enough time to try out the site to give a thorough report on it yet.  

From reading forum posts by MTurk workers, it sounds like it is low paying at first, but as the “requesters” (the people paying to have the work done) learn that you are reliable and accurate, you can earn more.  The higher paying jobs often have qualifications you must meet before you can work on those jobs.  One positive aspect of Mechanical Turk is that it seems to have a lot more available tasks to work on than Clickworker, so I think there is more potential income on MTurk.

I’ll post a full review once I’ve done more work on the site.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Multiple sources of income

When working for yourself, especially in today’s tough economy, it is not wise to rely on just one source of income.  Although I am currently employed full time, my goal is to replace my current income completely with income from my own home-based business.  My plan for that business involves several different sources of income.  The origin of this blog came from my search for the best sources of revenue.

It’s easy and (relatively) secure to stay in your full-time job, but the last few years of a bad economy have proved that our jobs may not be all that secure after all.  So even if you have no plans to leave your full-time job, it is a good idea to supplement that income in other ways.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do some sort of contract work for another business, instead you could make and sell a product of your own, invest in stocks or a business venture, start an online business, or find a way to make money from a hobby.

If you find several ways to supplement your income, and one or two of them falls through or isn’t paying as much as before, you won’t be hurt as much if there are other sources to cover the loss.  It’s probably a good idea to always be on the lookout for even more ways to make money.  The internet landscape changes all the time, ways to make money come and go, you have to stay alert for changes and be ready to take advantage of new opportunities.

How many sources of income is enough?  It depends on how much you need to earn, the state of the economy and the quality of your business ventures.  My philosophy is that more is always better.  I plan to have as many ventures going as I can manage, that way I will have the flexibility to handle changes in the economy and to increase my income if my circumstances change and I need more revenue.

The philosophy of this blog is to search for the best ways to make extra money.  I find the ideas, try them out and report on what I find.  What works great for me may not work for you.  Or something that didn’t work for me might be a fantastic opportunity for someone else.  Try everything and go with what works.

Next, I’m trying Mechanical Turk.