Top 10 Amazon MTurk Tips and Tricks
What is Amazon Mechanical Turk?
For those who don't know, Amazon Mechanical Turk, or MTurk, is a 'crowdsource' program where you earn money online by performing basic tasks (known as "Hits") for employers (known as "Requesters").
You can be paid either in the form of cash (which Amazon pays into your bank account), or by purchasing Amazon gift cards which you can spend at their website.
In my experience, Amazon Mechanical Turk can be one of the fastest ways to make money online and my top 10 Amazon Mechanical Turk tips and tricks should help you to earn more, as well as lower the chances of you getting ripped off.
Typical MTurk HITs that you might find on the site are simple, but ones that a machine is unable to do, for instance: rewriting sentences, completing surveys, writing original articles, copying text from scans and photos, transcribing audio files.
(Mechanical Turk has a number of rivals, one example being Microworkers, read my article: The Pros and Cons of Making Money with Microworkers for more details.)
The Main Pros and Cons of Amazon MTurk
Rather than write a formal Mechanical Turk review, I've listed the main pluses and minuses of MTurk in a pros and cons format below.
You can work from home.
You can pick and choose the jobs that you want to do.
It's free to sign up.
Amazon doesn't regulate it, so there are quite a few scams and rip offs and you don't have any comeback.
The payments can be stingy (and they seem to be getting stingier as time goes on).
Top 10 Amazon Mechanical Turk Tips
Here are some of the tips and tricks that I have picked up.
1. Watch out for the scammers!
Stay clear of any hits that ask you for your real email, full name, address, credit card details etc. You don't want to end up being spammed, or even worse, defrauded. Genuine Amazon Mechanical Turk requesters won't ask you for personal info. (For more details see my article: How to avoid MTurk scams).
2. Use forums such as Turker Nation and MTurk Forum to keep yourself informed.
The MTurk Forums will keep you up to date with what's happening with Amazon Mechanical Turk and and you can learn from other worker's experiences. These forums are set up and self-run by Mechanical Turk workers and though they won't give you any comeback against the rip-off requesters and scammers, they may help you to avoid the worst of MTurk and direct you towards the best requesters and practices. The main two that I've used are Turker Nation and MTurk Forum.
3. Download and use the Turkopticon toolbar.
This is maybe the most important of my Mechanical Turk tips and tricks. The Turkopticon toolbar will allow you to see how previous Mechanical Turk workers have assessed a particular requester. You can see helpful reviews from other Mechanical Turk workers before you decide to take a hit or not. Did they reject an MTurk hit without good reason, did they pay in reasonable time etc. (one scam that some unscrupulous requesters use is to reject your work on the grounds that it is inadequate in order to get out of paying).
This tool is worth having if you're a regular Mechanical Turk user, in my opinion, as it really does work. There are toolbar versions for Firefox and Google Chrome browsers on their website, though I didn't see anything on their website for Internet Explorer.
4. Avoid the 1 cent hits on Mechanical Turk, unless they look like fun, or you're desperate.
Even if a one second hit takes you only three minutes to complete, you are still looking at a pay rate of just 12c an hour. That means you'd have to spend an entire day working on Mechanical Turk just to earn a single dollar. The 2 cent Mechanical Turk hits aren't much better. The only way that these hits pay is if all you're doing is clicking on something or copying and pasting a word or phrase.
5. Think through how long a task takes in Mechanical Turk and the relative pay rate.
It's worth looking at whether it's worth it before you get involved with an Amazon Mechanical Turk hit. Some of them require a qualification test to be passed before you can even begin working on the hit(s) proper. Some of them have extensive instructions, slowing you down and increasing the chance of you getting your submitted hits rejected. If there are plenty of Mechanical Turk hits for you to do and the pay's not too bad, it may still be worth you accepting the hit, but give the matter a little thought too.
6. Surveys are often good payers in my experience.
The surveys you find in Amazon Mechanical Turk pay better than most hits generally and you are more likely to receive your money, as they are often conducted by colleges and universities, rather than virtually anonymous individuals. Some of the Mechanical Turk surveys will pay you $1 or more for 5 or 10 minutes work. Just be wary of the scam hits that sometimes dress themselves up as surveys, eg answer some questions about our website, fill in this form giving us your personal details etc.
The other good payers in Mechanical Turk, if you have writing skills, are the short articles hits that are often advertised, where you put together a 100-200 words for between $1 and $2. Most of the time you can just reword information that you copy from Wikipedia. UPDATE: Since I wrote this article, the payment rates for surveys have gone gone considerably and you often get paid 40 or 50 cents for a survey that 18 months ago may well have paid you $1 or $1.50.
7. If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is!
Unfortunately the big paying Amazon Mechanical Turk hits are usually put there by scammers. Generally speaking, nobody is going to pay you $10 in Mechanical Turk just to test their website. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Those Mechanical Turk requesters who offer $10 or $20 for a 1 or 2 minute tasks, eg wanting you to check if their website is working, are pretty much always up to no good.
8. Read the instructions carefully before you accept a Mechanical Turk hit.
One of my most important Mechanical Turk tips. If you regularly end up having to return an Amazon Mechanical Turk hit because you are unable, or don't want to complete it, then this will affect your "hit return rate" adversely. Alternatively you may complete and submit a number of Mechanical Turk hits incorrectly, then get them rejected, which can be very frustrating, as well as a huge waste of time. This doesn't matter if you do it once or twice, but if you do it regularly, then it will limit the range of Mechanical Turk hits that you can take.
9. Use the Sort By and Search options to find the Amazon Mechanical Turk hits that you are after
For instance, if you were looking on Mechanical Turk for a new survey that paid over 50c, you'd type "survey" in the search box and set the hit value to 50c. You can then put the results in order with the newest hits first. Searching like this can save you a lot of time on Mechanical Turk. There are over 100,000 MTurk hits on offer sometimes and you don't want to end up wading through them one at a time.
10. Link your bank account to Amazon if you want to get paid in cash from your Mechanical Turk Account
Amazon keep you posted on how much money you've earned with Mechanical Turk as you go along (though be prepared for the fact that many Mechanical Turk requesters won't pay you immediately). The Mechanical Turk money will appear in your regular Amazon account in a section called Amazon Payments. You can convert this money into gift card money which you can spend in Amazon. Alternatively, if you want it in cash, then you have to link a bank account to your Amazon account.
© 2011 Paul Goodman