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

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