Mechanical Turk Review: How I Made $21,000 a Quarter at a Time

how to make money on mechanical turkMike Naab is an analyst, writer and online entrepreneur with a unique, open-to-almost-anyone side hustle: completing tasks on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. 

Mike is such a successful “Turkey” (my made-up nickname) he even wrote a book on the subject: Side Hustle From Home: How To Make Money Online With Amazon Mechanical Turk

I’ve used mturk as a buyer before, but never as a income stream. Read on to hear how Mike has turned his free time into an extra $150-300 per week.

Take it away, Mike.

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I started looking for a side hustle right before my first daughter was born. I was putting together a mental checklist of all the expenses we were about to incur: daycare, diapers, food, etc. and I started freaking out a little bit.

Nick’s Notes: I’m right there with you!

My wife and I already had full time jobs so I was mostly looking for something to supplement our income, preferably from home. The last thing I wanted to do when starting a family was to pick up a part time job and never be home. So I started looking to see if I could find a way to make money online.

At some point, you’ve probably seen ads or spam emails claiming that you can make money taking surveys online…Easy! Quick! Earn cash for your opinions! Most of these are completely bogus, ranging from phishers to scammers to Nigerian princes in need of transferring money if only you’ll pay them a small fee.

Some of these survey sites are legitimate but have either low pay for the work or only pay you in gift cards instead of cash.

MTurk: A Legit Way To Make Money From Home

It was only when I came across a Yahoo article on ways to make money from home that I finally stumbled upon my answer. Last on their list was Amazon Mechanical Turk, a site where businesses, researchers, universities and consumer product groups post tasks to be completed by online workers. While normally skeptical, I figured since it was hosted by Amazon and listed on Yahoo, it was probably legit.

I did my own independent research and I concluded that this had some potential.

The tasks on Amazon Mechanical Turk are called HITs, or human intelligence tasks, which are posted by people called “requesters.”

mechanical turk review

Nick’s Notes: I’ve been a requester in the past, using mturk for some tedious data entry tasks.

Each HIT has a price that it pays to complete it as well as the time allotted to complete it. You can scroll through the list of work available (typically hundreds of thousands of HITs at any given time) and accept the ones you want to work on. Once you complete the work, you submit the HIT and await payment.

There are a large variety of HITs available to work on. Surveys are probably the most common type of HIT with topics ranging from consumer products, personality, finance, ethics, education, etc. If surveys aren’t your thing, there are also audio/video transcriptions, categorization tasks, excel spreadsheet work, and YouTube video rating, to name a few.

Your potential earnings really depend on how much time you put into it. There’s work available immediately upon signing up, but many of the higher paying requesters require you to complete a certain number of HITs before you can work on their tasks. Qualifications of 100/500/1,000 HITs completed are pretty common to access some of the better work on there.

Nick’s Notes: In that sense, it’s similar to other freelance platforms. You might have to “put in your time” with some lower-paying work in order to build up your portfolio.

Having worked on Amazon Mechanical Turk for 2 and a half years (completely as a side hustle), I basically meet all qualifications from a HITs completed standpoint (over 87,000 completed).

I typically make anywhere from $150-300/week and have earned over $21,000 in total by doing nothing but working on tasks right from my computer at home.

Nick’s Notes: That averages out to $0.24 per task, but as you can see in Mike’s case, it definitely adds up to some significant earnings.

mechanical turk legit

How Long Does It Take To See Real Money on Mechanical Turk?

So what about those that are just starting out without all of those HITs completed levels met?

I’ve gotten a few friends of mine signed up and earning $100/week after only a couple of weeks.

I try to look at it from an hourly rate standpoint. Sure, a survey might only give you $0.40 but it might take you 2 minutes to finish. That’s a $12/hour pay rate and you made it sitting on your computer at home. Every HIT is going to be a different pay rate (since each comes from a completely different requester), but you can probably expect to average $6-12/hour on average.

Nick’s Notes: One thing to consider with Mechanical Turk is the opportunity cost. We’re talking about less than minimum wage in some cases. Is there another activity that would bring you more fulfillment or income?

What if you used that time to start a blog or online business instead?

Admittedly, I delegated work there because it was cheap labor that didn’t require any specialized skills. If you think your time is worth more per hour, you’re probably right; it’s just a matter of finding a client with a problem you can solve.

Still, Mechanical Turk represents an easy-to-start side hustle and you can see some results with it right away, even if the initial dollar figures aren’t huge. Persistence pays and as Mike has shown, the quarters DO add up.

Amazon Mechanical Turk Earning Potential

When you’re just starting out and learning the ropes with a limited number of HITs completed, you’ll probably be on the lower end of that pay scale but it definitely picks up as you go.

Some HITs are amazing. I’ve had $3 surveys that took me 2 minutes (a $90/hr rate!) and batches of work that are 25 cents each but I could complete 3-4 per minute. It’s just a matter of being on there at the right time.

mechanical turk make money

Mechanical Turk Benefits

What I love about it is the flexibility.

You can work on there all day or for 10 minutes if you have a break in your day.

While you can use your earnings directly on Amazon, you can also link your bank account to transfer cash directly into your account. There’s also no minimum to hit before you cash out (unlike some other survey sites).

Mechanical Turk Drawbacks

While Amazon Mechanical Turk is convenient, it’s not perfect.

The highest paying work tends to come through during normal working hours on weekdays. If you only have time to do it at nights or on weekends, you’ll still find work but likely not as much good work.

It’s also not going to make you rich. The pay is pretty decent but it definitely works better as a supplemental source of income.

Additionally, there is work available in most countries for people living outside the US, but only workers in the US and India can withdraw cash. Workers from other countries can only redeem their earnings through Amazon gift cards.

Nick’s Notes: Perhaps the best way to frame a Mechanical Turk side hustle is with a specific monthly income goal in mind. Take one recurring expense you really hate to pay — car insurance, a cell phone bill, day care, etc. — and try to “erase” it with mturk earnings.

I call this the Side Hustle Snowball.

How to Get Started on MTurk

Sounds good, sign me up!

You can sign up for free at mturk.com.

It takes about 48 hours to approve your request. During that time, they verify your social security number (needed for tax purposes).

Once verified, you start out in a probation period where you need to complete at least 1 HIT for 10 days. During that period, you have a cap of 100 HITs per day and you can’t withdraw your money. After the 10 days are over, there are no withdrawal restrictions.

Your Turn

What do you think? Viable side hustle or no?

Let me know in the comments if you’ve worked on Mechanical Turk before or if you think you’ll give it a shot after reading this.

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Check out Mike’s blog at TopMoneyHabits.com for more ways to earn, save and invest your money. You can also follow him on twitter @TopMoneyHabits.

Mike’s book includes all the tips and tricks he’s learned in his 2 and a half years as a Mechanical Turkey. He shares scripts that will increase your efficiency, useful forums, and the highest paying requesters. 

mechanical turk side hustle

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63 thoughts on “Mechanical Turk Review: How I Made $21,000 a Quarter at a Time

  1. I tried this and was turned down for reasons they would not specify… Anyone know what can cause this or a way to fix this? I am a united states citizen and have a ssn that is original and valid

    • They originally did that to me as well, then about a month later, e-mailed me again and said I was accepted. So I say wait and see if you hear from them again. Sometimes they turn people down because they have too many people applying at that particular point in time.

    • So, Christopher, did you ever get accepted? I saw a response from Layna that said sometimes they come back and let you in. I was rejected for no reason too (applied a few days ago). Just wondering.

        • Same here. Applied and turned down for reasons unknown. Just got an email and started working yesterday.
          I find the article to be spot on-no hyperbole. It can be an ok extra income. Good luck!

          • I was told to go here and make an account and when I made $10 they would invite me to join. I did that and they soon sent me an email that said I could join. Also I have found that you cant have more than one account. So if you inadvertently signed up with another email with the same person information then you wont get approved on the second account, but they don’t tell you why.

  2. How are the taxes handled? R u considered an independent contractor and given a 1099 at the end of the year?

  3. That was never mentioned in the screening process except to say that if a turk does too much qork for the same requester it could be considered contract work. Nothing more specific was said about that. The rejection simply stated that I was rejected and to respect the privacy of their users they could not state the reason

  4. Nice idea for a side hustle. I’ve taken survey’s on line before so the variety of work on Mechanical Turkey seems logical.

  5. Mechanical Turk is nice as you say. But it only brings benefits to those in India and USA alone.
    Other regions such as Africa are left out coz you can’t withdraw your earnings to PayPal or Bank transfer. You can only spend them on Amazon gift cards. There’s no opportunity to earn money here. I think this site only favors a chosen few.
    Hence, its creators are selfish
    It would be great if doors were opened up to Africa. We have a lot to offer the world. If only were given a chance…

    • You can use your iPad mini. I use my iPhone and have no trouble performing the hits. The only time I incur an issue is if the requester requires the use of a PC. Other than that all hits I’ve completed were strictly from my iPhone or tablet.

  6. I just started this last week. It is okay, I wouldn’t call it much of a side hustle. I completed 8 HITs and only made $0.26. I’m also not crazy about the fact that some requesters just want you to go on a site and like things. I mean buying likes really? Idk I’ll stay with it for a while and see.

    • Because you have to learn how to make the most of the site (hence the article above). Once you complete more hits you get better approval ratings and more approved hits. So you become qualified for better paying hits. Plus you should always make sure you filter your available hits by “reward amount, most first” so you know if you can do the highest payout hits first. I’ve been doing this VERY part time and average $1.00 a hit! So my advice would be just keep at it. You can’t expect to just get rich instantly from it. Just extra side cash.

  7. I do amazon turk and mint vine. Mint vine is a survey site that pays you in gift cards or straight into your pay pal account between m turk and mint vine I make like 300 dollars a month and that’s not bad for a few minutes a few days a week :)

  8. Thanks for the article guys! I’ve recently signed up from South Africa, so I only have the option to receive payment as gift cards, which has opened up a whole other can of worms – apparently, you can sell your Amazon gift cards (sometimes for more than they’re worth…) for cash, but it all sounds REALLY dodgy – has anyone heard of this or done it successfully?

      • Oh cool – thank you for the reply. I was just concerned because some people reported that they had issues with ebay where the person they sold the card to would claim they never received it, and be refunded by Paypal, leaving them with the card and the seller’s money. But I hear only good things about Granny, so I think that option should be pretty safe then – thanks for the feedback :-)

    • They’re paid! I’ve been on for about 2 weeks now. I’m just shy of 100 hits and have earned about $25. It’s not a lot of money, but it covers my half of the electric bill and I did it all while laying on the couch watching Netflix. Plus, once I do hit the 100/500/1000 bench marks I’ll hopefully earn more.

  9. I’ve been working on Turk for about two years now and while I’ll never get rich on it, I sure enjoy the pocket money I’ve earned. I am somewhat limited to the tasks I can do because I am visually impaired and there are a lot that will not work with screen reading software such as having to extract text from images which I cannot do or surveys that do not include the accessible version which makes them more difficult if not impossible to complete, but I still enjoy what I do and it is the best place I have found for making consistent money. The convenience of being able to use it for amazon purchses can’t be beat and I love how the pay is almost instant with no minimum required to cash out.

  10. Hi, I also wonder how the income of Mturk is handled by the IRS.
    Is it 6$ – 12$/hr before deductions for self-employment, social sec tax and such? If so, it is way less than min wage and a joke. Can anyone enlighten me please? Thank you!

    • To answer this question, working as a Turk would be independent contracting work (1099 worker). The Fair Labor Standards Act does not apply the minimum wage payment requirement to independent contractors. As such state and federal taxes would your responsibility to track and pay to the IRS.

  11. Hi there,
    I am Subhash from India. I am a private school teacher, struggling to make both ends meet. So I am looking for some online work as a part tlime job. I tried to register in mturk, but it was rejected. Anyone know why I might have been rejected? Is there any possibility someone can help me in this regard?
    regards
    Subhash

    • Sometimes it’s hard just to make ends meet, and you’re trying to make both ends meet.. That’s a struggle. Hopefully one day we’ll figure out how to get the meat in between the ends.. #LuxurySteak

  12. When he said:
    “Once verified, you start out in a probation period where you need to complete at least 1 HIT for 10 days. During that period, you have a cap of 100 HITs per day and you can’t withdraw your money. After the 10 days are over, there are no withdrawal restrictions.”

    Did he mean:
    “Once verified, you start out in a probation period where you need to complete at least 1 HIT **(PER DAY)** for 10 days”?

  13. I’ve had an Mturk account since 2010 (since before they had Amazon payments that messed up the whole thing, IMO) and only recently started using it again. I don’t yet have 100 HITs but in a week, I’ve earned enough to pay my premium CopyScape fee, lol, doing 3-4 surveys about maybe 15-20 minutes a day. Amazon payments only recently started doing business with my bank so I’m able to withdraw my earnings in cash. If you don’t have the ability to transfer to a bank account (as in you’re outside of the U.S.), it’s not worth it. I have no idea how to sell gift cards and that’s not something I’m interested in learning.

    • to me it seems like you should buy the cards and just use them for things you might want from amazon like toilet paper or detergent. we often buy things like that from the site anyway.. I’m lucky to have both options and I get the aggravation of it. I read in one comment that you can use a card to buy something then just resell it. is there anything like craigslist or ebay or something like that around the world? I would use that. also facebook as a ton of garage sale sites too.

  14. Hey Nick,

    Do you happen to know if you can have people leave reviews for products and services they have used? Is this an action that is allowed with Amazon Mechanical Turk?

  15. Generally, I agree with everything in your post with the exception of the true hourly rate. $0.40 for a 2 minute survey is only $12/hr if you have tons of them lined up and no down time. I block out two hours per day for turking and average between $1.25 and $2.00 / hr. You have to factor in the time you spend searching for hits, accepting them, getting thrown out by a hidden screen, badly formed or broken hits, checking TO ratings, monitoring your assigned queue, negotiating rejections, and so on.

    One of the biggest wasters of time are hits that you appeared qualified for, but aren’t really (because the requester didn’t make their requirements known up front).

    Honestly, you could make more money roaming through a parking lot looking for spare change on the ground.

  16. Their refusal to tell people why they are refused admission to mturk seems dodgy, and I wonder what discrimination laws are being violated. But then, the whole scheme seems dodgy, designed to bypass numerous labor protection laws.

  17. I just started on MTurk 2 days ago and have completed 45 HITS and earned $5.64 already! And this is with 25 HITS still pending, so I’ve earned $10-11 over 2 days (maybe 4-5 hours total time commitment). I’ve estimated I can earn $400-$500 a month if I do 1000 HITS a month at at least $0.30 a pop. I don’t know if MTurk updates its list regularly, but I can definitely see how one can make a not-insignificant amount of extra cash there.

  18. I’ve just begun on MTurk. I’ve done 40 hits in the last two days and only one has been approved. The rest just silence. Can anyone tell me how long average wait is to hear back if approved or rejected? I hope I didn’t do all these hits for nothing :/ .

  19. I was turned down originally and approved 8 months later I think it was that it was reopened to Canadians. The first few weeks I gave up so much work for pennies. I tried again in the last couple of months only taking surveys that paid over $1.00 and have made $70 in the last month spending very little time on it. Don’t give up if you are Canadian if there is a whole foods near you we can order whole foods gift cards from amazon.com and they convert to Canadian dollars in store.

  20. I applied in October of 2016 and today is 4/28/2017 and I just got the email saying I got in. This isn’t an instant get in and go type deal. Try and be patient with it and find other things to do in the meantime. I signed up with inteletravel.com the same month and have become a travel agent while waiting. I think that this was totally worth the wait and with the income I can generate from this it will pay my monthly insurance for the travel company I’m with.

  21. Just so you know too, your account will be under review for up to 48 hours where you can look at HITs available but not accept them. there is also some that don’t pay you anything but match you to hits you qualify for. take that into consideration when you do sign up and get to this point.

  22. Does anyone know how long it took Mike to earn this money? Was it over a period of a year or several years? This is important but is not stated.

  23. Great info here. I just got started, on day 4. Looking forward to the end of my 10 day waiting period so I can do more!!!! This looks like a great side hustle!!!!! Thanks.

  24. I’m retired and using a few survey sites and Mturk helps supplement my income pretty well. It takes the time to learn the ropes and build yourself up. Also if you’re doing Mturk they want quality work and your rating in this determines how much you can make to a great extent.

  25. Was turned down also. The email stated they couldn’t disclose the reason. It’s a little disappointing, but they say when one door closes another opens. I will remain positive and patient.

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