A legitimate way to make extra money from home: MTurk Surveys

Today I’d like to introduce a legitimate way to make extra money from home doing surveys. I know, I know. All around the corners of the internet, you will find “surveys” listed as a means to make extra money. There are SO MANY survey sites that will not make you money, are full of ads, and overall a fairly large waste of time. I’m looking at you Swagbucks, Survey Junkie, InboxDollars, etc. I have seen blogger after blogger go on about the greatness of such sites and even include screenshots of their payouts for verification but really, if they were 100% transparent – they would tell you that they make most of their money off of getting readers to sign up and piggybacking off their earnings (you make a percentage of your referral’s swagbucks forever) as well as the sign up bonuses for referrals. I’m not saying you can’t make money at all on Swagbucks, but it’s one $10 giftcard for a year’s worth of piddling in my experience. If you’ve been frustrated with these survey sites like I have, stay with me.

Have you been looking for a survey site that pays real money every week? I think having multiple “work when you have extra time or feel like it” options available are great back-up tools to have in your arsenal when you need or want a little extra cash flow.

Enter: Amazon Mechanical Turk

What is Amazon Mechanical Turk?

Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a crowdsourcing marketplace that makes it easier for individuals and businesses to outsource their processes and jobs to a distributed workforce who can perform these tasks virtually and yes it IS owned by Amazon. Right there, you know it’s legitimate because Amazon owns/operates it.

The tasks on the Mturk platform are called HITs (human intelligence tasks) and are most often research surveys (from what I’ve seen), but also include transcription tasks, verification tasks, website testing, product research, etc. They pay anywhere from $0-$20 each from what I’ve seen. The $0.00 HITs often pay out in the form of bonuses.

How Do I Start Turking?

Sign up for a free account on www.mturk.com. It can take a few days to set up an account but once setup is complete, you will be able to view a dashboard like this.

You’ll be assigned a worker ID and will sometimes have to use this in the surveys. It is a bit slow going in the beginning when you’re first starting, and chances are you will have to do more of the lower paying HITs to increase your approval rate. It is important to pay attention and complete HITs with accuracy, because if your approval rating drops too low, you will risk being deactivated.

You can see your personal stats and approval rating on your dashboard.

How Does It Work Exactly?

From the dashboard, you will click on HITs to get started. This will bring you to a page that looks like this and shows all HITs that are available. You will not be qualified to do all of them.

If you are qualified for one, you’ll see the orange box that says “Accept and Work.” The more HITs you complete accurately, the more will open up to work on. As you complete 500, 1000, and 5000 HITs, more and more become available. As you go along, there will also be requesters that email you directly to participate in HITs if you qualify for them based on the parameters they set.

To see the HITs you can work on right now, click the Filter option in the type right corner and you will see a box that looks like this.

Click “HITs that I’m qualified to work on” on the left side, and choose how you would like the list to be filtered. I typically check “newest first” or “reward amount: highest first” and set a minimum of 0.15. I would recommend experimenting with these different filter settings to see what works best for your work style.

In my time doing HITs on Mturk, I have completed more than 5000 HITs with a high approval rate. I often see HITs that pay 30 cents and up for 2-3 minutes of my time and this is how I like to do them. In the beginning, you will likely have to do more of the lower paying ones to get your numbers up. Most of the $1+ surveys will take much longer than doing 2-3 0.30 ones as well. That’s not a hard rule, but once I realized I was spending usually more than 10 minutes for $1 hits, I personally switched to doing more of the lower paying ones that are shorter and earn the same amount of money in the end.

How do I Get Paid?

You will link your bank account in the Mturk dashboard for payment. Payment is direct deposited every Sunday and the money lands in my bank account every Monday morning. There used to be an option to cash out whenever you wanted, but it has since switched to a weekly direct deposit model.

It can sometimes take a few days for the requestors to approve payment on the HITs you have completed. For instance, if you completed 100 $0.05 HITs this week, you may not be paid the full $5 in your Monday deposit, depending on how long it takes the requestor of the HITs to approve/pay out. Those will show as “pending” and will probably roll into the next week’s deposit.

Tips/Tricks I’ve Learned

  • Keep your approval rating over 98% for the best HITs
  • Once in a while, there will be a glitch in the survey and it will not give you a completion code to enter/get credit/paid. Screenshot any end of survey page where a completion code is not given to enter into the HIT. Fill that box with a sentence like ” Worker ID number – No code given, can send screenshot for verification of completeness” into the box. I have never had a problem doing this and have always gotten paid when this happens.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for attention checks. Not all HITs have them, but some requestors will try to weed out those who are just speeding through the task without reading all of the details carefully. If you fail an attention check (especially if it’s at the end of the survey), you will void that HIT, forfeit your pay, and have to return it to avoid a rejection.
  • Use scripts that help you catch the more elusive (higher paying, usually) HITs that show as unavailable when you click on them. (These are extensions you can download)
  • Join an Mturk Facebook group to learn how others use the platform (this is how I learned about scripts and that the $0.00 pay HITs pay via bonus usually). People will also share good batches (low paying HITs with high numbers available) and strategies in the group discussions.

Why Should You Turk?

I’ll be the first to say that earning money on Mturk is probably not a way to replace your day job. (Some of the people in the Mturk Facebook groups use Mturk as their main source of income and earn over $100 per day, though). BUT, it could be a way to fund some more joy in your life (adding a happy hour night or two), accelerate progress towards something you’re saving for or debt you’re trying to pay down, go towards a fun hobby, or if you are desperately trying to make ends meet – put a little more food on the table or gas in the tank.

If you work a desk job like I do, it’s incredibly easy to work a few HITs into the day. My goal on most days is to get over $2 and to do at least 1 per day (even on weekends). Usually, I find that if i do one, I will do two or three. $2-3 per day seems like a laughable goal but turns into $50 or $60 at the end of the month and is suddenly a real number that you could actually do something with (buy a week’s worth of groceries? pay your cell phone or internet bill? buy ALOT of things at the thrift store? buy an extra tank [maybe partial tank based on prices right now] of gas? go into a sinking fund? buy food for the shelter animals? Take yourself out to a nice dinner?)

I find that having a routine helps me be consistent in my earnings with Mturk. I usually will do a few HITs at the beginning of the work day, when I sit down at my desk. I will do the same around lunch time and the end of the day at minimum (anywhere from 4-7 HITs this way).

I like to open 2-3 at a time in different tabs and work my way through them. When I do this, I will first check each one to see how much time is allotted. Most give you at least 30 minutes to complete, but some will have shorter time limits (5, 10, 15 minutes). If this is the case, I do whichever one will expire soonest and until I complete all of them.

I’ve also tried different strategies for upping my number of completed HITs for the day. I tried doing 2-3 per hour every hour of the work day, doing 1 per hour, and just making a list of 1-10 on a post it note and crossing them off as I get a minute or two to do them. For me, the number I’m able to complete varies based on how involved my work day is – but I atleast do a couple at the beginning, middle, and end of the day to stay in my $2-3 range.

All in all, this is obviously not a way to get rich quickly or quit your real job. It’s just a way to pull in a little extra, whenever you have a little spare time. If you approach this systematically and do a little every day while you’re already sitting at a desk or watching TV, you can certainly make anywhere from $30-200 per month without too much effort.

I used Mturk to fund my fun money when I was aggressively paying off debt and I recently recommended it in a Facebook group to a woman who said she was having trouble making ends meet and chose not to eat dinner that night so that her three kids could. It could be a way to add a little joy in your own life or someone else’s or help make ends meet if you really need a lifeline. Every little bit adds up 🙂

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