The following guest post was written by Dave from CatholicPostage.com.
Mechanical Turk is a crowdsourcing network where you can perform small tasks online for pay, or pay others to do tasks you set up. I will give you a snapshot of how it works, then give you my review at the bottom.
HITs – Human Intelligence Tasks are the tasks that you complete for pay. Most can be completed in less than an hour, and are usually fairly simple things like “tell us the emotions of blogs”. The reason for the site’s name is “The Turk”, a chess playing automaton from the 18th century which toured Europe. The chess playing “machine” turned out to have a master chess player hidden inside, controlling the moves. Human intelligence was needed for the machine to work, just like human intelligence is needed to complete HITs.
Amazon Turk Requester – The requesters are the “bosses”, they fund their account, create the work and the requirements, and pay the freelancers upon completion. They have a global workforce working 24/7, so work can get done fast.
Pay – Payouts for each HIT start at 1 cent, and are paid to the workers after the requester reviews their work. Work can be rejected, meaning the worker gets nothing and their ratings go down. Bonuses are also sometimes available for exceptional work. The money you make as a worker will go into an Amazon.com account, which can be used for purchases at Amazon, or transferred to a bank account (for free).
Ratings – Just like Ebay selling, ratings are everything. After your work is rejected a few times, you will quickly become ineligible to complete HITs. Some HITs will require a 96% HIT approval rating, meaning that 96% of your previous work has been accepted by the requester. I recommend making sure you can complete a HIT accurately before accepting it.
Qualifications – These are skill or assessment tests you can take to qualify yourself for specific HITs. For example, to do certain audio transcription HITs, you will need to “audition” by transcribing a sample recording. Some HITs are restricted to invitation only, and sometimes you may not realize you are being qualified! A regular HIT may be in fact a test to prove your skill. I would recommend taking all the qualification tests you can in areas you enjoy. They are sometimes not tests at all, sometimes qualifications are simply granted to those who click on them. The requestors know that the spammers are unlikely to click through a qualification and wait for a confirmation email.
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Reviewed
Pros of MTurk
On the plus side, this is a low commitment way to make money. It takes only seconds to sign up, and I am usually paid for my work within a week. It can be fun to save your earnings for a book or CD, then order it from Amazon. The ability to transfer your pay to a bank account for free is also a nice touch. There is ultimate flexibility, and unlimited work. You could also use HITs to gain experience and improve skills. Some skills are also needed in traditional jobs, such as writing, typing, and transcribing audio.
Cons of MTurk
On the negative side, payouts are very low. This is bad if you are a worker, good if you are a requester. It is basic economics, there are lots of workers out there, and not so many requesters, so pay can be ridiculously low. It would be difficult to make a living through Amazon Turk, but decent money can be made. Do not chase the bonuses, I have never received a bonus. Do not complete a HIT that only offers a chance at a bonus. That could be compared to trying to make a living on lotto tickets.
The most difficult thing to do is to find the good HITs. Many of the high paying HITs ($3-$5 range) are simply click fraud. The requesters will claim it is a survey, then send you to a site to sign up for college information. The colleges are paying the requester (Boss) to find a possible applicant, and you are told it is just “a survey”. Another trick is for the requesters to ask you to be a “secret shopper”. They will tell you, “don’t reveal to anyone you are secret shopper!” They don’t want you to tell because it is really click fraud.
You also can not trust keywords, unscrupulous requestors will put all the desirable keywords in their HIT’s to attract workers, and the HIT may have nothing to do with the keywords. You’re best bet is to write down the names of honest requestors, and check for new HITs periodically. Unfortunately, you can not search by requester, but there is a way around this.
Once you bring up a HIT by a desired requester, if you click on the requester name it will bring up all other HITs by that requester. For example, if I find a HIT by “Yale Cognition and Development Lab”, right click the name, and bring up the properties of the link, I get: https://www.mturk.com/mturk/searchbar?selectedSearchType=hitgroups&requesterId=A1B2ILT2409W4R
I can add that to my favorites in my browser and search for current HITs any time.
My Experience with Mechanical Turk
Here is a chart of my earnings for a five day period. Keep in mind I was only doing this in my free time, and I have a full time job and 3 kids…
The center column is how many HITs I completed, and the right column is the total paid to me that day. So in this period I completed 21 HITs, netting $7.67 in payments. That is an average of 37 cents per HIT. Remember also you are not paid on the same day, so these HITs were completed up to a week before these payments were credited to me. I am estimating I made at most $2/hour.
My feelings are mixed about Amazon Turk. Just like a traditional job, you will earn more money with practice and hard work. I think you would be hard pressed to earn more than minimum wage, but that may be enough for your current circumstances. Maybe you don’t have access to a traditional job. Maybe you are disabled, or live in a rural place. If your current job has large amounts of “down-time”, or you need to stay awake while you are on-call, Amazon Turk may be an option for some extra income.
Half the battle is finding the good HITs to complete, but setting up links (as explained above) to the best requesters would help. Also, rare skills (such as the ability to translate Korean), would allow you to complete higher paying HITs.
I would recommend this site to those who enjoy it, and are willing to put time into becoming a seasoned “Turker”. If the idea of completing online tasks doesn’t appeal to you, I would not recommend this at all. Another possibility, similar to a temp agency, is that there are real people requesting these tasks, and if they like your work they can contact you and offer you work not available to the public. I have received positive feedback on my work through email, and I believe this is a real possibility.
Amazon Turk is a creative idea, and may become more lucrative if more requesters offer work. Thanks for reading, I hope this has been helpful and informative. God Bless and Happy Turking!