Amazon Mechanical Turk is a “marketplace for work.” Per their website, “We give businesses and developers access to an on-demand, scalable workforce. Workers select from thousands of tasks and work whenever it’s convenient.” This review is based on the Worker’s viewpoint, not a Requester, who is someone submitting work to be done. To gain access to the Mechanical Turk site and accept work, you will need an Amazon account, which is free of charge. If you have shopped at Amazon, that account information will work with logging into Mechanical Turk. You will also need to create an account with Amazon Payments (very similar to PayPal), which is also free to set up.
Work assignments are referred to as HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks). An individual or company will post a HIT, and as a worker, you look over the list of available HITs, which will have a brief description. Examples include surveys, transcribe voice mail or document, compare two websites, locate an email address, locate the page ranking on Google, translate a paragraph or document. If you are interested in a HIT, you simply click on “View a HIT in this group.” This opens the page that lists the specific details of the HIT and sometimes shows exactly what they want (such as what keywords you will be looking up on Google), otherwise there will be a detailed description. If you wish to do the task, you click on the “Accept HIT” button and begin the task. Once you have completed it, you click on “Submit.” It’s that simple!
Payment is made fairly quickly, the Requester has a chance to review your submission, and either accept it or reject it. If accepted, Amazon will transfer money from the Requester’s account to your account as a Worker. If rejected, no payment will be made. Your HITs will show as pending until this is done, which can be up to 1-2 days, and there is a brief holding period when you are brand new. See the FAQ’s on Turk for complete details.
Qualifications for Performing HITs
Not everyone can do every HIT. Qualifications are assigned by the Requester and you can request to be approved. Sometimes it’s based on data or demographics and you’ll find out right away if you are qualified, and sometimes you need to take a test. The test may be a sample of the HIT, which will prove that you are capable of performing the task, or for doing transcription work, you will need to take a sample transcription test.
Qualifications are also given for the number of HITs that you have completed, as well as the number of approved and rejected HITs, and abandoned HITs, which means that you accepted the HIT, but then did not complete it. (Try to avoid that!)
There are time allotments for the HITs, most of those are much more time than you will need. Some Requesters will indicate the average time for the HIT, such as the surveys, so that can give you an idea of whether or not you want to start it.
How much does it pay?
Some of the HITs pay literally a few cents (yes, you read that correctly), although keep in mind that sometimes you can do a lot of the same HIT over and over, a HIT might take you a few seconds. If you are very fast at internet research and with Google, you could do quite a few in a short time. As an example, I chose a HIT that was paying the 3 cents per HIT, and was required to review two sentences and decide which, if any, was grammatically correct. Seemed simple enough, and remember, this Requester is looking for your opinion. In other words, you are not going to be graded on your answer! I personally don’t like doing any job half-way, so I definitely gave it my best effort, and I did five, each one definitely less than a minute.
The transcription available for work on Turk at the time of this writing were paying approximately .40 per audio minute, which is fairly low for per-minute rates. Many of the HITs have the audio available for you to hear before you accept the HIT, or at least a sample of it, which is definitely a plus.
Tip: For someone just getting started with transcription – an opportunity like Mechanical Turk could give you the experience that you need to then apply with other transcription companies, and in the meantime, you’ve also been improving your skills and making some money.
The surveys that I have seen on Turk are comparable to other sites I’ve seen, or even a little better. But what’s nice about doing a survey through Turk is that you actually get MONEY versus a lot of survey sites that pay with things like discount coupons or reward points. I did one survey on Turk that paid $4 through the Requester “Movie Enquirer,” and which was simple to do and took about 10-15 minutes. Kudos to Movie Enquirer for being willing to pay in dollars versus cents!
How do I get paid?
Payment for your work is done through Amazon Payments. If you are familiar with PayPal, Amazon Payments will seem quite comfortable to you, if not, you will find it very simple to work with. You can get your money deposited directly into you bank, with no fee charged, with a minimum of $10 and it takes 5-7 business days. (It’s considered a withdrawal.) You can also use the money in your account to purchase merchandise, not just on Amazon.com, but on any website that lists that Amazon Payments as a form of payment. Click here for more information on Amazon Payments. (put hyperlink about here)
Mechanical Turk is, if nothing else, very straightforward in getting started, in describing what the HIT is, and in getting paid. The website itself is easy to use and the HITs are typically fairly simple.
Tip: A word of warning is that you may sometimes see quite high offers of pay to do things like fill out a form at a credit report website. Do NOT complete those, and in fact, most of those violate Mechanical Turk’s policies, which do not allow a requester to ask you for your email address or even your name. If you do see some of these “too good to be true” type of HITs or asking you for that kind of personal information, you can click on a button within the HIT to report it to Amazon. I have not spent a lot of time in Mechanical Turk, but whenever I have gone to that site, there are almost always at least one or two of that type of HIT. I have reported a few, recommend you do if you see any, and as in the case of the day I am doing this writing, I went back to a HIT like that to report it, and it was already gone, so clearly someone else reported it. If in doubt – don’t do it.
Is Mechanical Turk something you could live on? No. (In fact, Amazon even has the right to limit the number of HITs done by any worker.)
But all in all – if you enjoy spending time on the internet surfing, doing surveys, etc., I think Mechanical Turk is one of the more reliable companies out there to at least get a few bucks while you’re doing it. I have put very, very little time into it myself, I think I’ve literally gone and done a few surveys 3-4 times since I first checked it out in the middle of May of this year, about 5-6 weeks ago, and I have about $14 in my Amazon Payments account from just trying it out. If I even doubled that, it would pay for a book, lunch out, or even pay a small bill. Not bad for putting on some music and doing some simple surveys or Google searches.
In the end – it’s all a matter of perspective. If you’re someone who has a very “per-hour” way of looking at money, then you’re going to scoff and think it’s not worth your time. However, there of those of us (myself included) who view surveys and little Google searches that take a minute or so as more or less relaxing time that I might be playing a game or watching a YouTube video or something, and if I’m going to be sitting at the computer entertaining myself, I’m fine with earning a buck or two!
You need to be at least 18 years of age to work on Turk, but if you have a student in your family 18 and up, they could earn some extra spending money, gas money, or maybe purchase some of the books they need with the money they earn.
And yes, let’s not forget that there are people who do need every penny they can get and are in circumstances where they have the time to sit and do as much as they can, and at least be getting something for it and are grateful for that. Editor’s Note: Let’s all pray for the day when no one would even consider offering someone $1-4 an hour for their time and when there is no one who is accepting it because they really don’t have a choice.)
Overall, I would recommend Mechanical Turk to friends and family, as long as they understand the information I’ve provided to you above. And yes, I’ll likely go back now and then and see what surveys are available and if I continue to do it even as infrequently as I have been, I’ll have a small Christmas fund built up by December for a few gifts!
Good luck in your job search and wishing you much success and happiness in the hours you spend earning your income at home!