“What the heck is MTurk?
That was my first thought when I first heard of Mechanical Turk, or the street name, MTurk.
My bored self was sitting behind another university student in a lecture hall. As I sat behind this tall, red-bearded student, my eyes drifted into his laptop and saw that he was browsing Reddit.
Nothing out of the ordinary happened until I then heard him whisper to the guy next to him, “Hey, I just made 75 cents, you want the link?”
This was back in 2011/2012 so a lot of the most well-known survey websites today simply didn’t exist back then. I thought it was crazy he was paid 75 real-world pennies for an online survey!
I thought — “Hey, I am as strapped for cash as the college kid sitting behind me and in front of me – let me into this weird, mysterious Internet world.”
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Table of Contents
What is MTurk?
Simply put Mturk is a crowdsourcing platform where requestors (employers) post a job or a task to be completed and Workers on the platform click on the task and complete the task. It has been glorified as the sweatshop factory of the Internet basement — and that’s is actually the most accurate description I’ve heard.
A lot of MTurk tasks are fairly easy but do require some bit of human intelligence, the tasks include “caption this image” or “do a manual web search and tell me the page position of this keyword.” The tasks that can be completed on mTurk vary from completing online surveys to data validation to extracting data to transcribing. Tasks that are completed are micro-tasks or one-time tasks.
The tasks are defined as “HITS”, as
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Should You Work on MTurk?
This is not a platform used to make lots and lots of money, but a platform to make a little extra cash on the side (and I mean little). But, I firmly believe every little bit helps, and it’s a great starting point to gain experience in tasks such as transcribing and data validation.
Anyone who wants to make a little extra cash on the side and put in the time would benefit from using this platform.
Mechanical Turk is most often used as a tool to supplement a current income, not be the sole source of income!
Mechanical Turk is often used by stay-at-home moms (or dads), individuals who have found themselves unemployed, college students, or someone who just needs a little extra cash on the side.
I started off as a college student and the “ease” of playing around on mTurk during class and between work break was an easy way to grab a buck.
How to Qualify to Work on MTurk
Most of the workers that work on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk are either from the United States, Canada or India, although there are workers from all across the globe.
Plug Ins & Add-Ons
Mechanical Turk workers absolutely need these plug-ins and add-ons to get started. Although the majority of the assignments can be done from the web-based platform, having access to some of the plug-ins or add-ons can make some of the tasks easier to complete and much more accessible.
HITS really can be performed on almost any browser, although most workers will recommend to those just starting out to use either Chrome or Firefox.
1. Turkopticon Add-On & Site
The add-on toolbar will provide you with access to reviews or requesters (individuals who post the HITS) and reviews of the HITS available.
This tool is so very valuable because it can tell you if a HIT is going to be worth your time. You wouldn’t want to take a HIT that received terrible reviews or where the workers were never paid!
2. HIT Scraper Tools
If you want to go deeper and possibly make consistent income from MTurk then you need a HIT scraper tool.
There are tools that are available to
Hitscraper is the most widely known and widely used plugin that
TamperMonkey (Chrome) and Greasemonkey (Firefox) are user-script managers that help to run and read the data from Hitscraper. There are few other versions of a scraper for Mturk out there on the market, but most, if not all, are always compared to Hitscraper. Tamper and Grease come highly recommended as best and almost universally used.
3. Various MTurk Forums
When you Google forums for Mturkers the results are daunting, and in all honesty, some of them really aren’t worth your time and some are only for the requesters to use.
The most frequently used forum and the one with the most valuable information is the forums found on Reddit. Turkers socialize and share valuable information across these forums, even individuals who have been “
- CloudMeBaby Forum (Nice community, daily up to date thread of best hits and commentaries.)
- MTurk Grind
- MTurk Crowd
- Reddit’s MTurk (General) & HWTF (Best Hits)
- Turkopticon – Addon Script (Quick look at requester review)
4. Practical Misc. Scripts
- A useful few I suggest is a script that keeps your MTurk ID in view. You will be asked constantly to input your ID so keep it handy.
- Another suggestion is color-coded HITs displays so you can filter out what you are looking for.
- If you have a specific earning goal in mind, add a script to your Chrome browser that will give you Pending Earnings – it shows how much money is coming into your account.
- If you are curious about your exact MTurk work hour then an hourly tracker script can let you know your performance.
Which HITS are Worth It?
Usually, the HITS that pay the most are the single hit or follow up survey HITS. Be mindful, because you will not always qualify for the surveys that you click, as you may not fit the demographic the requestor is seeking.
Other HITS that are worth your time are HITS that have you transcribe data (especially if you are an adequate typist) and HITS that have you extract data. I have found that it is worth it to sometimes even do the somewhat lower paying
Overall, I think you have to be mindful of what works for you, you may be better and more comfortable doing certain types of tasks than another
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Pros and Cons of Amazon MTurk
Let’s get the downside of working for MTurk out of the way first. When someone starts working on microtasks for Mturk, the tasks that are available to you only pay pennies, I remember one of the first jobs I did pay $0.02 for 15 minutes of work.
A lot of workers stop working on MTurk after the first week or two because they just don’t see the amount of money they are making as being beneficial.
Workers are also competing with each other for tasks, so to be successful you have to constantly be looking for HITS that you qualified to work.
The same types of task are not always available, which can be frustrating and the higher paid HITS go FAST!
Now onto the good stuff — the best thing about performing tasks (HITS) on Amazon Mechanical Turk is that you can set your own hours and work at your own pace (mostly – some tasks are timed).
The payments from Mturk are paid in cash in the US (I have mine deposited straight into my bank account) and through Amazon gift cards in other countries and there is not a minimum amount to cash out. The more HITS you do the more you make, and the more successful HITS you have you will become qualified for more and more HITS.
Casual MTurk Workers
If you are just a casual Turker, the easiest way to see what hits are worth doing is simply visiting Reddit’s HWTF (Hits Worth Turking For) and sorting for the Newest HITs.
For most of college, that’s what I did during class and it accumulated to a few hundred dollars alone. It’s the easiest way to make a casual buck, especially if it’s a generous researcher who wants a lot of data. Casual MTurkers can earn up to $100 – $200 every month (that’s what I made depending solely on HWTF).
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Competitive MTurker Workers
How do you make sure that you receive all
The first 1000 hits can and probably will be daunting, as it takes time to become familiar with anything new. However, the more HITS you do the easier it becomes and the more HITS you do, you will get access to better HITS.
It is recommended to aim for approval milestones (reaching a certain number of approved HITS) instead of an amount of money during your first 1000 HITS, simply because the better paying HITS require a certain approval rating before you can begin working on their HITS.
Working and building your reputation on Mturk takes time and perseverance – stick with it and celebrate the small milestones along the way!
Turkopticon allows you to gain valuable information experience so you can become a more efficient Turker, do HITs faster, and perhaps gaining the elusive Master’s qualification (more on that below).
When I first started using Mturk a few years ago I had no idea what a qualification even was or how to become more qualified to work on more HITS.
Basically, MTurk qualifications are parameters that let you have access to the HITS you are capable of working based on certain parameters such as location, your HIT approval rate, the number of HITS you have completed, or certain demographic characteristics.
You will get an email notification when a requestor grants you a qualification. Not all qualifications are explained or all matter. They are just a requestor’s way to give you a “rank” or grant you authorized access to a survey you prequalify for. There is even a qualification that requesters can set for workers to view mature content. The workers do have to go in and fill out the requester surveys, some you will qualify, others you will not.
MTurk Masters (Myth or Meal Ticket?)
Everybody knows those few Turkers with the elusive MTurk Masters qualification gets the best $$$ surveys. But no one knows how exactly to get the Master’s qualification.
Masters are elite groups of Workers who have demonstrated accuracy on specific types of HITs on the Mechanical Turk marketplace. Workers achieve a Masters distinction by consistently completing HITs of a certain type with a high degree of accuracy across a variety of Requesters.
What is known is that Masters is an Amazon-controlled qualification and not an education one, it has nothing to do with a Masters degree. Requesting for a Masters qualification from
Master workers have historically high accuracy in data submission and typically can earn more income. However, there have been very little Amazon Masters given out post-2015. It’s almost become a myth now with only a few given out per year. Amazon has stopped making those Masters stats public. The MTurk forums cover more information on the history of Masters and the current discussions on it.
Having Masters now does not mean they are somehow superhuman workers; a lot of workers could have the same level of accuracy but never be granted Masters. It seems to be more luck than anything else these days. The Masters requirement is for skittish requestors who believe they could collect better data from Master level workers.
Ooooof, yeah, rejection hurts. When I got my first rejection from a scammer, I was so mad I tracked the scammer down on his personal Facebook. The rejection ruined my perfect 100% feedback score. One rejection doesn’t matter really but the first rejection is the hardest. Most requesters put 99%+ or more commonly 95%+ which means as long as your feedback stays above those percentages, you can work for them just fine.
But with anything rejection will eventually happen, I received most of my rejections on HITS when I very first started working on HITS on mTurk, mostly because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.
Avoiding MTurk Rejections
Don’t let the rejections discourage you, but instead read the feedback, and do better next time. The best way to avoid rejections on this platform is to read the instructions thoroughly, make sure you understand exactly what the requester is asking you to do or complete.
There have been a few HITS along the way that I returned because I wasn’t 100% clear on the directions, so I decided against completing the HIT.
Returning HITS is not as bad as a rejection, so I play it safe.
Appealing MTurk Rejections
You can appeal the rejection if you fill you have submitted quality work. The most direct way to get a rejection reversed is to contact the requester (politely) and simply ask them for feedback on the HIT (if they did not provide feedback previously) and if they will be willing to redo/correct the HIT.
Communication is the key to hopefully getting a rejection reversed, but know it doesn’t always work, sometimes you just have to take the rejection (ouch!)
Unfortunately, unlike most things that are found online these days there will always be dishonest individuals, which will occasionally include requesters on Mturk.
These requests are often the individuals who do not provide feedback when they reject a HIT or reject the majority of the HITS that are submitted (basically they are getting the work done but are not paying the worker).
If you are unfortunate enough to come across one of these individuals the best thing to do is to block the requester so their requests do not show up in your feed ever again.
This is another reason it is really beneficial to run the Turkopticon script to run the program. Note: you cannot block individual HITS, just requesters.
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Earning Potential on MTurk
Are you going to get rich working on mTurk? Absolutely not. Not even with a Masters qualification.
However, it is a great platform for making a little bit of extra cash on the side. With dedication, you can earn $1,000/month but that is with a lot of time dedication. If you are paying back debt or need a temporary stretch of cash, MTurk is perfect.
If you were to use Mturk consistently and frequently you could make up to $6 – $10 an hour. The more HITS you have approved and the smaller your rejection percentage is – the more you will make. However, the average person who works on Mturk, makes between $3 – $5 an hour, depending upon what types of HITS they are accepting.
Your qualifications can affect your earning potential, there are HITS that are only available to people in a certain region or to some that only speak a certain language, so sometimes the HITS you can complete may be limited.
The biggest factor that can have an impact on your earning potential is how much time are you willing to invest and what types of HITS are you willing to complete?
MTurk Pay Out Options
Individuals who live in the U.S. have the ability to have their earnings deposited directly into their bank account or transferred to an Amazon gift card. Bank transfer and Amazon gift card are the only two cashout options currently. Workers in other countries can work as Turkers, but the only option for these individuals is to have the funds placed on an Amazon gift card.
Working on Amazon Mechanical Turk is not a replacement for a full-time income, most won’t make a livable wage. However, it is a great source to make a little extra money on the side. I often find myself completing tasks when I am sitting in front of the TV not doing anything anyway – and can make $10 – $40 bucks in a few hours, depending upon the tasks that are available that day.