What is Amazon Mechanical Turk (mTURK)?
mTurk, formally known as “Amazon Mechanical Turk”, is Amazon’s crowdsourcing platform. Named after the 1769 Hungarian nobleman Wolfgang von Kempelen’s “artificial intelligence” chess mannequin, which for reference was not actually an artificially intelligent mannequin, but in fact containing a chess master cleverly hidden inside of a large contraption. The premise behind the mTurk platform is similar to that of the “artifical mannequin”. Amazon suggests that humans still significantly outperform most computers at completing simple tasks such as photo or audio identification. This creates an abundance of opportunity for both types of members on the platform, the requesters, and the workers! Requesters post “Human Intelligence Tasks”, commonly known as HITs and workers complete these HITs in exchange for a reward. That is Amazon mTurk in a nutshell!
In this article, I will be discussing my personal experience with building an online business and earning money online using mTurk! This article covers the registration process, what to expect when approved, and how to start earning online using mTurk. I also cover little considerations that will expedite your earnings on the platform. With a little bit of effort and consistency, you can easily add $10 – $20 into your passive income stream daily.
Please understand earning on mTURK will never put you into another tax bracket, but it could definitely fund the start of a business venture or dampen monthly expenses. Consider it a small, supplementary income in exchange for an hour of your day. Personally, I use my mTURK earnings to cover my Amazon diaper subscription every month!
How did I discover mTURK?
I came across Amazon mTURK doing research on how to earn money online and grow my passive revenue streams. I cannot remember the exact moment I discovered the mTURK platform, but I do remember the year being 2020, and being convinced it was likely a sham.
I registered my account and was approved immediately. I fired in my credentials, updated my profile (covered later in this article), and land on a worker page filled with HITs I am unqualified to attempt. No new worker support, no suggestions on how to start, no real guides online that appealed to my needs. The only information you receive is in your “account approval” email, which loosely states that your account will be deleted if you fail to maintain a high quality of work. Great, we are off to a good start! At this point, I am very confused, but attempt to complete a number of tasks. I make under $0.20 and catch my first rejection in my first 10 HITs. I determine very quickly that the Amazon mTURK platform is not for me. I logged out and never logged back in until… this year.
My hunt for passive income streams revitalized as I excitedly await the arrival of my first born. I re-visit some of these medial task platforms to see if I can start growing some passive daily income. I approach with a “baby-steps” approach this time around because all of my previous failed attempts were likely caused by my “bite off more than I can chew” mentality. Generating even a $10 / day passive income would have satisfied me because I would have eventually turned that $10 into $20, and so on, and so forth.
I fire up Amazon mTURK on my browser and attempt to login. To my surprise, the account I forgot about since 2020 was still active, and approved to work! Oblivious to how the platform works and how to efficiently navigate it, I start blindly picking at HITs. Audio editing, information gathering (such as surveys), and machine learning (talking with a bot) are some examples of the work you may encounter on mTURK. After about a day or two of blindly completing HITs I discover there is a method to the mTURK madness, and I intend to break it down for you in this article!
What are the requirements to start earning money online with mTURK?
In order for you to start earning money online with mTURK, you require:
• Device that is connected to the Internet (computer, phone, tablet).
• Valid email address to register an Amazon account (existing Amazon accounts work)
• Mobile device for verification purposes, if necessary.
• Banking Information / Social Security Number (payment for work, tax purposes)
You may be able to skip adding your banking information / social security information if you choose to receive your payout in Amazon giftcards instead of sent to your bank. I, like you, am always skeptical about sharing personal information online. Rest assured, the social security number that Amazon requests from you is for tax purposes and is secure. Don’t feel obliged to provide that information if you are uncomfortable to do so!
You are being enrolled into the Amazon mTURK payroll as an mTURK worker, and Amazon is required by federal regulation to supply you with a W-4 (USA) / T-4 (CANADA), especially if you are raking in significant numbers. I would not be concerned with this unless you are making bank on mTURK. I recently switched from bank payouts to Amazon giftcard payouts to help support my newborn diaper fund!
Earning online with mTURK: Registration!
Before you can start earning on the mTURK platform, you need to register and be approved by Amazon. Unfortunately I have no idea what their approval criteria is. I think it may be based on active “turkers” (the nickname for mTURK workers) in a certain geographical area. Qualifying for HITs is heavily dependent on your geographical area, if they need more Canadians for instance, you are more likely to be approved if Canada is your listed country during registration.
This unfortunate condition should not stop you from registering. If you do some of your own mTURK research you will notice most people do not get approved immediately, but do eventually get approved within a week or two of applying.
Time to register! I documented my registration process for this article so you can follow along. Use the images below to follow along! Captions specify the details of each step.
One of the awesome features I have recently been taking advantage of is converting my earnings to an Amazon Giftcard. After funding a couple of investments with my mTURK earnings, I chose to opt with the Amazon Giftcard to supplement my diaper fund for the newborn! It has been nothing short of sweet.
This brings me to my next point, you can use your existing Amazon account to register, or you can create a completely fresh account for your side hustle. This is entirely up to you. I use my existing, Prime-subscribed Amazon account for my mTURK activities.
Earning online with mTURK: Approval!
As specified earlier in this article, I have no clue what determines account approval for the mTURK platform. I suspect it is related to your demographic, but this is just my own personal opinion. It is definitely an automated system. Regardless, if you are not immediately approved to start earning money online with the mTURK platform, you can expect to hear back from Amazon mTURK within a week or two. When you are approved, Amazon mTURK sends you an email that looks something like the picture below.
When I started working on mTURK, I had no clue what I was doing. I was just happy to start earning some extra money and blindly completed HITs, oblivious to three important considerations I wish I knew as a rookie turker. If I could go back in time and restart, these would be the three tips I would follow:
#1: Your account is on “probation” until you complete at least 1 HIT 10 days in a row. While under probation, you can only complete 100 HITs a day. Hit this cap if you can.
#2: Your first goal is to increase your HIT approval statistic (located in dashboard). Complete cheap and easy HITs (usually $0.01 – $0.03 in value) to increase your HIT approval. Strive for anywhere between 250 – 500 approved HITs. Reaching these milestones will make you eligible for better paying opportunities. Make sure you are checking the approval rate of a requester, if it is anything under 97% DO NOT accept the HIT. Early rejections will tank your approval rate and make it difficult for you to start earning decent money.
#3: Set yourself a goal. If you want to do 50 HITs per day, make that your cap. If you want to earn $15 a day, make that your cap. Strive to achieve your goal, and then stop. You will burn yourself out easily on mTURK. If you want to make decent earnings stick to your goals and be consistent.
When you first login to an approved Amazon mTURK account, you will likely be prompted to fill out a profile. Fill out the required information. Once your credentials are filled out, you will see a page similar to the one below. This is your homepage. You can only complete HITs that appear white. If the HIT appears a color other than white, you are likely not eligible.
Earning online with mTURK: Completing your first HIT!
You can filter out HITs that you are not eligible for by clicking on “filter” in the top right corner as seen below. I advise against this in the beginning stages of your mTURK experience because you can actually qualify for these unavailable HITs by clicking “Qualify” and taking a prerequisite test to qualify (if available). Often times, these tests will qualify you for well paying HITs from specific requesters. Keep an eye out for this.
In the following segment we cover two different styles of HIT you will encounter on the mTURK platform. For confidentiality reasons, we blurred content that can link a specific person or organization to a HIT, but left non-infringing content to give you an idea of what to expect when earning on the platform. If you are confused or have any questions about the process of completing a HIT, do not hesitate to comment below!
The first hit we complete is a survey that rewards you with $0.50 USD after completion. Before you accept the HIT, click on the requester’s name and inspect the approval rate. Early rejections will make qualifying for the good HITs challenging because the qualifying criteria is a 99% approval rate for profitable work. New turkers can expect to complete anywhere from 100 – 250 low paying HITs to start qualifying for better paying work.
In order to accept a HIT, you must first qualify for the requesters criteria. If you do not qualify, you will not be able to accept the HIT and a lock will appear where normally an “accept” button would appear. If you qualify for a HIT, you immediately accept from the dashboard, or click the HIT for further details.
Accepting a HIT will take you to the requesters work page. You will find important details pertaining to the HIT. Ensure you follow and understand these details. Often times requesters hide specific information in the HIT info to make sure answers are provided honestly. Once you understand the requester’s expectations, you can accept and start your online money making journey.
Depending on the requester, a HIT may require you to leave the mTURK platform. This is almost always true for surveys. Requester HITs are generally verified before being able to post, but for my own peace of mind, and yours too, I recommend having some kind of browser extension anti-virus to prevent accessing malicious websites.
I personally use AVAST, and whenever I accept a HIT that leads me to a suspicious website, I return the HIT and find something else. I am super paranoid about this, probably a lot more than I should be, but this is a personal rule that I choose to follow. If you currently have no anti-virus and you are curious about AVAST, I will link to their site in the button below!
After confirming that your requester isn’t some kind of super top secret Russian spy trying to hack your computer, you can follow the link the HIT provides you to start working. In this case, we follow the survey link to a page hosted by a university located in Canada. This pre-survey summary tells us that we will be asked a series of questions on behalf of the “Department of Psychology” of this Canadian university in exchange for a $0.50 USD compensation.
Simple enough, right?
We confirm that we are 18 years of age, and we start the survey!
We complete the survey in about 5 minutes. Unfortunately, the content of this survey was triggering in nature so I chose not to specify the questions asked. Once you fire through the prompts, you will be notified of completion. You are not finished yet! Once you complete your HIT, you need to submit the completed HIT on mTURK.
Once you have been prompted that your survey is completed, go back to the HIT page where you accepted the work. Look for details regarding HIT submission. In this example, I needed to submit my mTURK worker ID into the prompt and click submit to be compensated for my work.
The form of submission varies, make sure you confirm how compensation is received before submitting work! Sometimes the HIT requires you to retrieve a survey code from the completion page of the survey and not your mTURK worker ID. If you close the survey page before copying the code, you might not be compensated for your work, so pay attention to the details and you will have no issues!
Submitting your HIT will direct you to the next available HIT, or back to the homepage if that was the last available HIT from the requester. Once you submit the HIT, you will be compensated for your work. There is two bars on the top of your screen when navigating the mTURK site. Earnings in USD are located on the left, and HITs completed on the right. Use these to set your daily goals!
Earning online with mTURK: When do I get paid?
Being compensated after a submission does not mean you have crossed the finish line! As stated in your mTURK account approval email, requesters can take up to 30 days to approve a submitted HIT and pay you out. The longest I have waited for a HIT to be paid out is 7 days. This is where your rejections will occur as well. If you fail to follow the HIT details, a requester can reject your submission. This means you will not be compensated for the work, and now you will have a rejection on your profile.
Everyone gets rejected, and it could happen for the silliest reason. 1 of my 3 rejections was from a “sentiment analysis” HIT that required me to look at a photo and determine if there was any sort of emotion associated with the image. As I fired through the HITs, I noticed that I came across the exact same image twice. My answer was the same both times. I later realized that I saw the same HIT a second time because the first one I submitted was rejected for no apparent reason. The second time I submitted the same HIT (without realizing it was previously rejected) had the exact same response, but was approved. This leads me to say DO NOT worry about rejections. It is inevitable, and it can happen for no reason. As long as you pay attention to the HIT details, you will be fine.
Be aware that often times surveys and other HITs will have hidden questions that will result in rejections if you fail to answer them properly. Questions like “Select the number 3”. If you fail to select the number “3” in this type of verification question, your HIT submission will be rejected. Keep this in mind. The name of the game is speed, I fire through every HIT I do, but I always take a second glance to make sure I don’t miss a verification question and land myself an unwanted rejection!
You can check your account statistics by clicking “DASHBOARD” on the top left on the mTURK homepage. This will break down your bi-weekly earnings, show your approval rate, pending HITs, and rejections!
Earning online with mTURK: Different types of HITs!
As a worker you will get to work on a variety of HIT styles. You will enjoy some of them, and you will absolutely despise the rest. At least that’s how I feel. As you complete more HITs determine what type of work earns you the most for your effort and do it! If you force yourself to do long, drawn out surveys hour after hour, you will burn out.
When I first discovered the platform I dialed in because I saw the potential and had a strategy in mind. I ended up burning myself out and stopped using the platform for about a week or two. I re-motivated myself to work on mTURK to supplement my newborn diaper fund, but now I strictly adhere to my set goals.
In the following set of pictures I will share another HIT completion for the sake of variety. The pictures are ordered step by step from start to finish. Check the captions for information regarding each step.
Earning online with mTURK: How do I become eligible for better paying work?
As you use the platform more frequently you will start to notice the repeat requesters. You are most likely not going to be eligible for any of the popular requester HITs until you meet their criteria. This will likely include a minimum HIT approval such as a minimum approval percentage (97%) or a minimum amount of approved HITs (100), and often a “special qualification” specific to the requester too.
Clicking “Qualify” on HITs you are not eligible for will reveal if the requester has a qualification test available to you. You can acquire these special qualifications by completing online tests for these requesters. If you successfully pass, you will be eligible for their HITs! Click on “Take Test” to be directed to the testing page.
Pay attention to the test details, there is often a limit to how many times you can attempt the test. This test can only be taken once. If you fail, you won’t be able to acquire this qualification for a significant period of time. Other tests I have done have timers ranging from 5 minutes to 24 hours for retries.
The tests are never challenging. They are designed to filter out automated workers (like bots) for work that requires human discretion like a personal opinion. I have about a dozen extra qualifications and I have yet to come across a “challenging” test. The answer is always accessible to you on the page somewhere, just keep your eyes peeled! Here is an example of a test:
Earning online with mTURK: Closing Statement!
mTURK is a wonderful platform to get started with your passive income journey but it unfortunately will NOT be the reason why you jump tax brackets. It could very well be the catalyst to the growth of a business venture or side hustle that does provide you with financial freedom though! You are training your brain to feel rewarded by earning. That hunger will manifest into something larger, and before you know it you’ll be running an affiliate marketing business or wholesaling on Amazon. Your options are endless.
Remember to set reasonable goals and stick to them. $10/day is $300/month. That $300 can fund advertising for your next product idea. Plant your metaphorical business seed and water it with some funds. Before you know it, that seed will flourish into a money tree!