All year long, Clark.com’s Michael Timmermann is sharing quick and easy ways to save money as part of our Michael Saves series. Check in every Monday as he puts new and familiar savings strategies to the test. Sign up for our newsletter to have these stories delivered to your inbox!
If you’re a busy parent, student, retiree or anyone looking to make money from home in your spare time, Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) has thousands of virtual jobs available right now!
Never heard of it? MTurk is a legitimate way to earn money online, but it’s unlike any other job I’ve had before.
Work from home challenge: Complete 30 jobs in 30 days with Amazon Mechanical Turk
For starters, MTurk refers to the micro-jobs it offers as Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs). Each HIT represents a single, self-contained task that a worker can complete and submit for payment.
Various businesses submit HITs to the platform and workers pick and choose the ones that appeal to them.
There are literally thousands of micro-jobs available to complete at any given moment. The time commitment and the pay rate for each HIT can vary significantly — most tasks don’t require any special skills.
What kind of jobs can you expect to find through MTurk? Here’s what the company says on its website:
“Amazon Mechanical Turk is based on the idea that 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. Traditionally, tasks like this have been accomplished by hiring a large temporary workforce (which is time consuming, expensive, and difficult to scale) or have gone undone.”
I’ve used MTurk on and off for the past two years and can confirm that it’s not a scam! Earnings are transferred to an Amazon Payments account or can be redeemed for an Amazon.com gift card.
The last time I cashed out, I had earned $25.53 for doing three hours of transcriptions, surveys and other HITs.
To get a better idea of how much money a worker can make with MTurk, I’ve challenged myself to complete 30 different jobs over the next 30 days — spending 30 minutes on HITs daily.
Bookmark this page and check back often for updates on the jobs I’m doing and how much they pay. Let’s get started…
Day 1: Product to interest audit
On day one of my experiment, I spent 30 minutes completing 307 tasks. The pay? Just a penny per HIT. My job was to look at a product and determine if it was relevant to a particular interest.
Here’s an example: For the interest “vegan recipes,” I was shown a vegan cookbook — it was a match.
This job required very little thinking. All I had to do was answer a simple yes or no question per assignment. Each HIT took only a few seconds to finish.
When completing batches of assignments like these, it helps to activate the “Auto-accept next HIT” feature.
Some MTurk jobs require users to request qualification, so I spent a few minutes going through this step in hopes that I’ll be approved to try out new jobs all this week and share my experience with you.
Day 2: Search phrases online, enter 3 most popular results
Next, I took on a job that asked me to search for a phrase online — like “best NFL players of all time” — and enter the three most popular results.
This assignment from the requester Unspun Opinions was simple, but it was also tedious. Each HIT had a reward of 50 cents and I finished six of them in 30 minutes, so I should have $3 added to my account if they’re all approved.
After completing my HITs, I did a Google search for Unspun Opinions and found a Reddit post where people share their experiences with this particular requester. Several users complained about the instructions for the task and slow payment.
In hindsight, I wish I would have checked out the requester before I accepted the work. Here’s a link to that Reddit forum.
Enter data from receipts and surveys
For the third day of my challenge, I searched for jobs at night and struggled to find good HITs that are generally available during regular business hours.
I started by entering information from grocery receipts for less than 10 cents, but the job didn’t pay well enough for the amount of time it was taking me to finish it.
After striking out with that task, I moved on to a batch of surveys with rewards between 20 cents and 40 cents each.
From my previous experience with MTurk, surveys aren’t the best way to make money on the platform, but they’re easy and you can do them while watching Netflix or listening to music.
I was able to complete nine surveys in the 30 minutes I set aside for MTurk today — total earnings $2.50.
What I’m learning is that speed is key, but some HITs are just better than others. For tomorrow’s update, I plan to test out a handy tool that promises to help workers find high-quality assignments.
Day 4: Entering responses to recent news articles and other surveys
Today was my best day of the challenge so far! If all of my HITs are approved, I’ll have $3.20 deposited into my account for 30 minutes of work.
Like last night, I completed a bunch of different surveys — but there was a difference.
A Clark.com reader suggested that I download Turkopticon 2 Beta, which is a user script that helps Mechanical Turk workers decide if jobs are worth it.
Once installed, the tool helped me choose surveys that would pay the most. Here’s an example:
I primarily focus on the pay rate column when deciding whether to accept jobs. Many of the surveys are short and can be completed in just a few minutes.
Some requesters also provide time estimates to help eliminate guesswork for people completing the assignments.
The surveys that I finished today involved a range of topics. One of them asked for my reaction to a news article and another was about consumer spending preferences.
I plan to use the Turkopticon tool before I accept future jobs on MTurk — whether they’re surveys or anything else.
Day 5: Secret survey and more
For the fifth day of the challenge, I spent a half hour doing only four tasks. That’s quite a drop compared to my first day when I finished 307 tasks in 30 minutes.
The four assignments I accepted were all surveys, but I used a different approach this time.
Instead of bothering with surveys that pay 10 cents or less, I used the filter tool in MTurk to search for jobs with rewards of at least 25 cents — preferably more.
One of the surveys I took, which asked about secrets I’ve kept throughout my life, pays a full dollar.
After spending 30 minutes a day for five days working on MTurk, I don’t have much money to show for it yet. Most of my earnings haven’t been approved.
My total for today should be $4. Check back Monday and I’ll share my earnings dashboard with you.
Day 6 and Day 7: Transcriptions through CrowdSurf Support
When I first played around with MTurk a few years ago, I read about a man who said he made $20,000 doing HITs in his spare time and I tried to follow his advice.
One thing I remember him saying is that weekend work was harder to find — it’s better during the week.
This past Saturday and Sunday, I spent 30 minutes each day doing short transcriptions from a requester called CrowdSurf Support, which paid five cents a HIT — plus a bonus.
The transcriptions were short — about 20 seconds each — although I generally had to listen to them at least twice.
My total for the two days (one hour) was a disappointing $4.90, but the time went by quickly because the work wasn’t quite as boring as some of my other assignments.
CrowdSurf Support always has tons of HITs available and is quick with payment, so it’s a good option for fast typers.
Day 8: Survey about shopping habits
I began the second week of my challenge with a survey about my personal shopping habits. There are so many different surveys on MTurk — often from universities — but I’m really drawn to the ones on consumer habits.
For example, one survey asked me to evaluate products sold at a big-box store and determine if they’re priced competitively.
To make sure that I wasn’t wasting my time on surveys that took too long to complete, I only signed up for HITs that paid at least 20 cents and used the Turkopticon tool that I wrote about earlier in the experiment.
I have $3.90 in pending earnings for today, but here’s a look at how I did during my first seven days:
That $21 is for 3.5 hours of HITs, which works out to $6 an hour. That’s obviously not a great hourly rate, but I’m hoping that it’ll get better as time goes on.
Day 9: Write titles and descriptions about online retail promotions
The ninth day of the challenge put my writing skills to the test. I accepted a job from requester NextGen Shopping LLC to visit a retailer’s website and describe the featured promotional offer.
For the HIT, I had to come up with a catchy title and description of whatever “big sale” the retailer had going on.
I completed a handful of these HITs for 15 cents each before moving on to other assignments, including one where I had to view someone’s LinkedIn profile and enter data like the person’s name, job history, education and skills.
Finally, I wrapped up my 30 minutes of work with a few mindless surveys to bring my estimated pay to $3.55 for the day.
Day 10: Select add-on products for an e-commerce site
Today’s job required me to look at a product being sold online and select add-on items that someone might want to buy.
For example, I was shown a fishing rod and then a few other fishing tools. All I had to do was confirm that the add-on products would go well with the main item.
I completed 10 of these HITs for five cents each before I maxed out and had to move on to other tasks.
A few surveys rounded out my 30 minutes for the day. The last one I took presented a series of headlines from the past two years and I had to determine which ones were fake news!
If all of my HITs are approved, I’ll have another $3.30 added to my account.
Day 11: Longer transcriptions
I’ve had success with short transcriptions from CrowdSurf Support, so I decided to attempt two longer transcriptions from a different requester with a higher pay rate.
The transcriptions from requester Kenneth Roe were a few minutes long, with rewards of more than $2.
I finished both of them within the 30 minutes I set aside for MTurk today, but I got an error message when I tried to submit the HITs. Other Reddit users also say they’ve had problems with these assignments.
I contacted Kenneth Roe and Amazon, but who knows if I’ll hear back! No earnings today. 😦
Day 12: ‘Short’ surveys
After apparently getting stiffed by yesterday’s requester, I decided to play it a bit safer today. My strategy was to search “Short survey” and complete as many as I could in 30 minutes — I finished eight.
I keep writing about the various surveys I’ve completed, so I wanted to point out that it’s important to read the instructions and never answer questions randomly.
Some surveys have an “attention check” question and will reject your earnings if it’s answered incorrectly.
Completing a series of short surveys instead of only a few longer ones didn’t really pay off for me. I only made $2.87 for 30 minutes of work.
So far, I’ve earned enough to pay my Xfinity Mobile cell phone bill for three months. More updates next week…
I’m going to continue this work-from-home experiment for an entire month and will update this article frequently.
Are you ready to sign up with MTurk and see if it can help you earn some extra spending money? Here’s what you need to know before you join!