Hello friends! Last week I got some unexpected news. My former employer wants to hire me back as an independent contractor to help with some training and documentation. I was tempted to pass, but it’s a short-term gig and I’ll be paid hourly, so I agreed to do it. Unfortunately, that means it will cut into my blogging time. However, it also means I’ll have more money to play with for my projects after I’m done, woohoo!
Speaking of money, it can be in short supply if you are living off one income. My favorite side hustle is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. It’s very easy to make an extra $500 a month on the platform, working a couple hours a day. If you are willing to take the time to read this tutorial and download some browser add-ons, I can show you how to make money with Amazon MTurk.
This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure here.
Most of us use Amazon for shopping, but did you know that you could work on Amazon as well? I’m not talking about selling things. Rather, you can easily join the MTurk workforce and begin working for different Requesters almost immediately doing everything from data entry to website classification. Amazon MTurk can be very intimidating if you are new. Many people get overwhelmed, leading to some scathing articles about how bad it is. However, with some help, it’s possible to make consistent income on Amazon MTurk.
For the purposes of this entry, I went and looked at my July earnings. I made approximately $988, working about four hours a day. Additionally, when I say “working” I don’t mean consistently working. Rather, much of the time I am waiting for good HITs to pop up while I work on my blog or do housework.
What could you do with an extra $500-$1000 a month?
How To Make Money With Amazon MTurk
What Exactly Is Amazon MTurk?
Amazon MTurk stands for Amazon Mechanical Turk. It is essentially a crowdsourced workforce. Requesters, as job posters are known, can post tasks on MTurk for workers to complete, known as HITs (human intelligence tasks). Some of these tasks pay pennies and require a simple yes or no answer. For example, I did a batch of tasks from a Requester where I read a product review and classified it as positive or negative for $.05. While that sounds like a paltry amount of money, I was able to make a decision on the review within five seconds, meaning I was making around $36/hour.
Additionally, MTurk is a popular place for academic institutions to post surveys. While some bloggers recommend paid surveys on Swagbucks or InboxDollars, I’ve found that MTurk surveys pay better. MTurk Requesters also typically list any requirements for survey takers in the title of their surveys rather than screen out participants after they have already spent five minutes answering questions.
How Do I Get Started?
It’s easy! Head over to mturk.com and choose to get started as a worker. You’ll need a couple things to sign up:
- Social security number
- Name and address
If that seems daunting, just remember, Amazon knows everything about you anyhow. 😉 It typically takes around 48 hours for your account to be approved. At that point, you can start working. However, before you jump into performing HITs, there are two add-ons for your browser that I recommend getting. Actually, they are essential if you want to have a positive MTurk experience!
Download Your Addons
MTurk has hundreds of thousands of HITs posted at any given time. So how do you find the good ones? By using some simple add-ons and/or scripts. Please note, you need to use either Firefox or Chrome. There are three essential add-ons that I use for MTurk:
So, what do these do? Tampermonkey manages your scripts. It’s simply a way to turn scripts on and off. You won’t use it while you MTurk, but it will run in the background. You can toggle your scripts off and on from there.
MTurk works on a first come, first serve basis. Meaning, if you don’t pounce on a $3 survey fast enough, someone else will! That’s where PANDA Crazy comes in. PANDA stands for Preview and Accept. What PANDA Crazy does is it allows you to continuously try and “catch” HITs that you may have missed the first time around, or that you know are awesome reoccurring HITs from great Requesters.
Prepare Your Workspace
The key to early success on MTurk relies primarily on catching good HITs. When you are new to MTurk, you won’t have the qualifications or HIT numbers that open up new work. You’ll have to lean heavily on being able to see the great HITs that you DO qualify for right away. Your workspace may vary, but the screenshot below shows how I like to set myself up while working on one monitor.
I use two browser windows so I can always see HIT Finder while I’m working. HIT Finder is a very simple tool that you can access from the Mturk Suite extension which allows you to continuously scan for HITs that fit whatever set of criteria you’ve defined. I usually have it look for HITs that pay more than $.20. HIT Finder beeps whenever a newly posted HIT pops up. You can accept HITs right from HIT Finder, which is why you want it visible at all times. Even if you are working on a HIT you want to be able to grab any fresh good ones that pop up.
My left window looks a little cluttered, but there are only three things that I keep open at all times. I keep my current HIT open (what I’m working on), PANDA Crazy open, and the “daily work thread” from mturkcrowd.com. Workers sometimes post good HITs on the forum that I may have missed.
Avoid Bad Requesters
Before you start accepting HITs, sign up for an account at Turkopticon. Turkopticon is a website that allows MTurk workers to review Requesters. It’s very important to avoid bad Requesters early on because you want to avoid rejections. Rejections occur when a Requester decides your work is not up to their standards. Rejections aren’t a big deal, they will happen to you. However, you want to keep your approval rating as high as possible, so early rejections can hurt.
If you reference my screenshot above, you can see the Requesters TO (Turkopticon) ratings in the column labeled TO. Requesters are also color-coded based on their TO score. As a general rule, avoid any Requesters who are red. If you’re curious why a Requester has a low rating, you can click on the TO score and it will take you directly to their reviews on Turkopticon.
Your First 1000 HITs
If you’ve made it this far, you are light years ahead of many of the workers who try Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. It’s time to start doing some HITs! Your first 1000 HITs are very important because many Requesters want workers who have done at least 1000 HITs. Amazon will limit you to 100 HITs a day for the first ten days, so max out that 100 if you have the time. Please note, if you return a HIT it will still count against your 100 for the day.
I’m typically picky about the Requesters I’ll work for, and you should be too. Good Requesters offer fair pay, don’t reject work often (unless you really do a poor job), and respond to workers if they have problems. Some great Requesters to work for include:
- Pinterest (yes, really!)
- Ben Peterson
- Amazon (offers yes or no HITs for $.01/each)
- Any survey with a decent TO rating
As you complete your first 1000 HITs the most important thing is to avoid Requesters who reject work. One of my first HITs was only worth $.03 and was rejected for a single typo on one of ten receipts. It dropped my approval rating to under 80%. This immediately disqualified me from doing HITs where Requesters were asking for an approval rating of 95% or higher. Many Requesters want 98%-99%.
After you cross the 1000 HIT threshold, a new MTurk world opens up to you. From there, the next milestone is 5000 HITs. Additionally, as you become more comfortable on MTurk you can begin to explore more advanced topics like closed qualifications. Finally, if you find a Requester you like working for, I highly encourage you to set up alerts so you know when they post jobs! Happy Turking my friends! 🙂