Amazon Mechanical Turk (also known as MTurk) operates a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence. If you think that sounds vague, you’re right… but in this review, we’re going to talk about it. Can you really make money working for MTurk.com?
As it turns out, you may be able to… but there are some details that you need to know first. Let’s talk about it.
The Basics: What Exactly Is MTurk.com?
MTurk.com is, at first, a little bit difficult to understand. Here is a quote from their landing page, though, that may help you to get a better feel for what they actually do.
“While computing technology continues to improve, there are still many things that human beings can do much more effectively than computers, such as identifying objects in a photo or video, performing data de-duplication, transcribing audio recordings or researching data details.”
So yeah. Basically, this company performs mundane online tasks that just aren’t very well-suited for outsourcing to software or bots. Some companies need a lot of this kind of work done, and if they want to hire all of it in-house, they would need access to a rather large (and expensive) workforce. But MTurk.com provides this service as more like an outsourcing-type setup, making it not only easier, but more affordable for companies of all sizes.
For example. Let's say that a company needs 100,000 photos of products labeled with the appropriate tags? This is temporary work, so hiring a large pool of workers would be a waste. This is basically what MTurk.com provides.
They basically provide an on-demand workforce, available when you need it, 24×7.
This is actually a pretty cool idea, but I still had no idea how to potentially work for them. I found this site in a list of online opportunities where anyone could potentially earn some money… but I had not yet seen any indication that MTurk.com was accepting help in return for payment.
I was also not sure exactly how much they paid, or even what currency they paid out in. (I actually figured this out after reading the FAQ. You get paid in cash, and you can either cash it out with an Amazon.com card, spend it on Amazon.com, or get it transferred to your bank… though there is a holding period.)
According to that article I read, you are supposed to be able to pick micro tasks and perform them for payment when you join. As it turns out, this was true… but I was still curious about the details, so I kept looking around.
Here is what I found.
Working For MTurk.com
I browsed the site for quite a while, and ended up learning quite a bit about it. First of all, I noticed that they maintain a pretty in-depth blog, and keep it updated pretty regularly. This blog seems to be focused on the MTurk Hit processes. A Hit is basically a job that someone can post that MTurk workers can choose to accept or not. One cool thing about this service is that when clients post ‘Hits,’ MTurk.com workers can choose whether or not to take part in it.
So the workers are kind of like freelancers. That provides incentive to companies to make their Hits (jobs) competitive… because if they want the work done within a decent time-frame, it is in their best interest to make the job as easy and as profitable as possible.
But at this point, it was looking like getting a job on MTurk.com wasn’t as simple as just ‘signing up’ for it. It is absolutely remote work, but it was starting to look like the only way to access it was through the Careers tab, which you can find located near the bottom of the Mturk.com landing page.
(Note: this is actually something different. The careers tab is for web developers who work on the actual MTurk.com site… but we will get to that in a moment.)
Here is a picture of some of the content on the career page.
As you can see, there is quite a bit of information here. But the most interesting thing that I learned was that these positions are NOT for Workers (people who complete the tasks). Instead, these jobs are for developers to help build scale-able web services to aid Workers and Requesters in their jobs. So how do you get to be a Worker? How do you get to perform tasks for MTurk.com and get paid for it?
This was answered quickly enough when I just dug a little bit deeper into the website. At the very bottom of the MTurk.com landing page, there is a button that says ‘Get Started With Amazon Mechanical Turk.’ At first, I thought that this was pretty much just for Requesters… but after clicking on it, I learned that it was for both. Here is a screen shot.
I was quite thrilled to find this! Now, all I needed to do was follow the bread-crumb-trail. Here is what I discovered.
Creating An MTurk Account
The first thing that you will need to do is either sign in to Amazon, or sign up for an account with them. Once you have done this, you will be taken to a page where you can complete an online Worker Registration form. For this, you will have to provide…
- Your country of residence
- Your full name
- Your address
- Your phone number
They also ask how you found out about MTurk.com, and also ask you what your primary reason is for wanting to work with them. Once you have filled all of this out, you can move on to the next step.
The next page says this…
“We are reviewing your request to join Amazon Mechanical Turk. We will email the Amazon account you sign in with when we have completed our review or when your invitation is available.”
This was actually pretty straightforward. The next thing I did was check my email, just in case I got something automatically sent to me when I signed up.
I didn’t have an email waiting for me, but still, I felt like I had enough information to at least get a feel for what was going on. Here are my thoughts.
My Personal Feelings About MTurk.com
This was an unusual type of opportunity. And to be really honest, I haven’t seen very many services like it. I like what they do, but I also like how easy it is to get started with them. I was still waiting for my confirmation email, but the entire sign-up process was pretty straightforward. I also liked how workers can pick and choose which jobs they take, and that they get compensated for each job.
But of course, the entire thing also had some downsides. For one, I wasn’t able to get a feel for how much workers make because I was not yet able to gain access to the jobs. And second, there was really no frame of reference for this given on the site.
I didn’t see any examples of how much workers could expect to make, either. But then again, that is not really so unexpected. Very few sites like this actually provide an idea of what they could be earning, unless they are in desperate need of workers and need to try to attract them with a monetary figure… which did not seem to be the case with MTurk.com.
The company is literally an Amazon.com company, so if you do end up working for them to make some extra cash, you will be working for one of the largest companies in the world. That is also pretty cool!
I also really liked how flexible the process is. From how I understand it, workers are able to work whenever they want, at any time of day… though obviously, they are only able to take jobs that are open. Some jobs also do basic screenings (such as ask questions, etc.) that may further narrow down the worker pool… but I am not sure how often this really happens.
Here are some examples of people making real money using mTurk: $500/month, $21k/quarter. Not everyone is a fan though, and it's clear that these are low paying jobs for the most desperate of freelancers.
In the end, here is my official opinion.
I think that MTurk.com could actually provide a decent opportunity for earning some sweet extra cash. I don’t think that they are going to pay a lot for the jobs that they do offer. How much do you value your time?
At the end of the day, I think that this is definitely worth a try for someone who wants to put in some extra work for some extra cash at odd times during the day. If you take yourself seriously and want to make good money being a freelancer, and establish a “brand” that you can grow over time, UpWork is much better. Even better, build your own website.
MTurk not going to make you rich, and you may only make a little bit, depending on the jobs. But still… extra money is extra money.
Our Final Opinion Of MTurk.com
Should you sign up and work for them to make a bit of extra cash?
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