Side Hustle Review: Amazon Mechanical Turk

Is Amazon’s mTurk a legit way to earn money online?

In my ongoing search for legitimate ways to earn money from home, I have stumbled across one suggestion again and again: Amazon Mechanical Turk. When I first read this, I honestly had no clue what this was or how any of it worked. Being a curious individual that always wants to learn more, I had to do it for research sake, if nothing else. Cautiously optimistic, I headed over to to enroll as a worker. Who knows? Maybe I would find a new way to share with you all about how to make money online in your spare time. Let’s start by taking a look at the mTurk basics.

What is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk?

Amazon created their online platform, the Amazon Mechanical Turk (or mTurk) as an online, crowdsourced marketplace for businesses to post “micro tasks” that can’t be done by artificial intelligence or automation. Workers sign up to complete these micro tasks for a small monetary reward upon successful completion. After signing up, it takes a few days for Amazon to approve your application before you can begin completing tasks. The mTurk platform is very flexible and you can log in whenever you want to find work.

What types of tasks are available?

Tasks vary greatly and most are fairly simple. Typically, you can find data entry, short transcription files and surveys that can be completed in a couple of minutes (and sometimes even a matter of seconds). New workers will need to start with the most basic tasks, which also happen to be the lower paying ones. Your “starter” period lasts about ten days and you’ll only be able to complete 100 tasks per day. Once you are out of this probationary period, you can work on more tasks and start qualifying for higher paying tasks. You may need to request qualification or take a short quiz to qualify for the better tasks, but it’s definitely worth your time in the long run.

How much can I really earn on mTurk?

Here’s the million dollar question, no pun intended. This really varies on the tasks that are available at any given time. Some days there aren’t many tasks worth picking up, other days there are more than you can complete. The basic tasks you’ll likely be qualified to work on in the beginning may only be worth a few cents. You’ll have to push through several of those before you can qualify for the better ones. My first hour of completing surveys and data entry yielded only about $3. I don’t know how else to say it, but those are internet sweatshop rates. Surely Amazon doesn’t expect workers to spend their time for a couple of bucks, right? Color me disappointed, even if I’m only doing it for research purposes. I had to figure out how to maximize the potential on mTurk.

How can I maximize my earning potential on mTurk?

Always start by filtering out only tasks you are qualified for and by highest paying first. The majority of my time on mTurk seemed to be spent on finding decent paying tasks or HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks, as mTurk calls them). Don’t start at the bottom where HITs start out at $.01. Go from the highest paying ones that you’re eligible to work.

Qualify for higher paying tasks. Never pass up a chance to qualify for the highest paying HITs simply because you don’t qualify yet. Take the test or request qualification. Upon approval, you’ll be able to work in a higher category of tasks, making it a little more worth your time. The longer you work, the more you’ll qualify for eventually. Some of the better tasks are focus groups that pay up to $25 per hour. Not always available, but nice if you can find them!

Quality counts. Simply put, you must have a high approval rating or you won’t qualify for the higher paying HITs. If your approval rating drops, you’ll go back to the lower paying tasks. If you have a batch of tasks that get rejected, this can seriously damage your approval score. Try appealing if you feel it was in error or unjustified.

Run scripts and add-ons. This could probably have it’s own dedicated post since there are many tools that serious “mTurkers” use to work more efficiently. MTurk Suite is an extension you can load to speed up the search for worthy HITs and make the best use of your time. Check out sites such as Turkerview where fellow mTurk users leave reviews on the best and worst HITs.

Join mTurk forums. Reddit seems to be the best place to find fellow mTurkers that have fine tuned the mTurk process. r/mturk is the major subreddit to see what has worked for other workers–and what hasn’t. Learn from their tips and tricks so you don’t have to learn the hard way. r/HITsWorthTurkingFor is another valuable subreddit where workers post their highest paying HITs. Only tasks worth at least 10¢ per minute are listed in this subreddit.

Become a mTurk Master. The holy grail of Mechanical Turking is achieving Master level within the mTurk platform. This will allow you access to the cream of the crop HITs. I wish I could tell you how to obtain this status, but it seems to be a bit of a mystery as no one seems to know. Even after thoroughly scouring the mTurk subreddits, I couldn’t find any tips on how to become a Master or even find someone with Master status. Perhaps it’s a mTurk Master myth? Seriously, if you know how to become a mTurk Master, please let me know. Even Amazon wouldn’t reveal to me the necessary qualifications that one needs to become a Master.

How do I get paid? What are the payout options?

Once your tasks, or HITs, are approved, the funds will go into your Amazon Mechanical Turk account. You can find your earnings on your mTurk dashboard as well as the earnings page. You can schedule a transfer or set up to have funds automatically transferred to your bank account. Once you have worked for ten days, you can request a funds transfer. You can also schedule your payment transfers to be deposited every 3, 7, 14, or 30 days. You also have the option of being paid in the form of an Amazon gift card. Kind of cuts out the middle man if you have an Amazon shopping habit like I do 😉.

My actual earnings after about 3 hours of work. Not exactly raking in the big bucks.

So, is Amazon Mechanical Turk really worth my time?

This is one of those “your mileage may vary” situations. I pushed through a few hours of “turking” and tried to work the highest paying tasks I could find. My highest average hourly rate? Roughly six dollars per hour. That’s significantly less than minimum wage in my state. For me, mTurk isn’t really worth it unless I find some great paying tasks in my spare time.

However, consistency seems to be key for highest payouts on Amazon Mechanical Turk. The more you do, the better HITs you’ll qualify for. Maybe if I really hustled and completed more tasks, I would earn more and it would be worth it. I have seen in the subreddits that you can realistically earn between $100-$300 dollars per week on mTurk. Not sure how much time you would have to invest to earn that much, but I know I don’t qualify for tasks that would pull in that kind of money yet. To me, it comes down to whether or not it’s a good use of your time. I’m better off spending time at my day job or blogging, but everyone’s situation is different. If you’re completing tasks while watching TV and have plenty of time on your hands, it may be worth it to you. The potential is there if you have the drive to make it happen.

Do you have any mTurk experiences to share? I’d love to hear how it worked for you!


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