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5 secrets for making money with Amazon Mechanical Turk

COVID-19’s effects on the job market cannot be understated. In the last few months, more than 40 million unemployment claims were filed, and if you include workers in the gig economy, the number of unemployed Americans is probably even higher.

As a result, people are scrambling to find work that will help them back on their feet. There’s just one problem: COVID-19 has dramatically changed which jobs are in-demand. In addition, the pandemic has also made job seekers wary about taking on work that can put their health at risk. Tap or click here to see which work-from-home jobs are hiring right now.

If you’re looking to get a head start or make some extra income on the side working from home, Amazon Mechanical Turk is an excellent option. The service offers a multitude of small tasks like surveys and quick write-ups that you can perform freelance for money. The payouts may be small at first, but the numbers can start to add up very quickly. Here’s how.

What is Amazon Mechanical Turk?

Amazon Mechanical Turk (or MTurk) is a freelance gig service owned and operated by Amazon. Here, program participants can engage in an assortment of small online jobs dubbed Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) in exchange for payment. You can set your own hours and pick whichever jobs you want, and the tasks are simple enough that anyone can do them.

The reason: These small, simple tasks require humans to do them rather than machines. Programming a machine learning AI or pattern-recognition software takes a lot of correction over a long period of time, and using MTurk workers (Turkers) can make the whole process easier.

Although the payments for these HITs start small (sometimes as low as one cent), you can strategically organize your labor to turn it into a solid secondary income. One of Kim’s guests was even able to turn his MTurk side-gig into an extra $10,000 per year of income.

1. Avoid choosing HITs that pay too little

When you sign up for MTurk, you might be startled at how low some of the tasks are willing to payout. Don’t worry, though, this is par for the course — but that doesn’t mean you should settle for too little.

There is a trade-off: lower-paying tasks tend to be the simplest. This can include options as easy as matching images to words, answering a quiz, or solving a puzzle. But unless a task is worth .50 cents or more, it might not be the best investment of your time.

Keep in mind that some higher-paying tasks will also demand more out of you in terms of performance — and sometimes even privacy. Kim’s guest, author Michael Naab, described a higher-paying task that required him to turn his webcam on imitating facial expressions that appeared on the screen. To date, he still doesn’t know what his face was used for.

2. Be mindful of time (and use it to your advantage)

Speaking of time, pay attention to the time allotment given by the requester. Your goal should be to make the equivalent of minimum wage within an hour’s worth of work. If you know what to look for, it’s entirely possible.

Times can vary greatly between HITs. Some, like pattern recognition tasks and image fielding, can be as brief as a minute. Others, like surveys and self-reports, can take as long as 15 minutes. Usually, the longer a task takes, the higher the pay rate will be. But this is not always the case, so use your best judgment before diving into a potential time-sink.

If you complete your tasks within the allotted time, your account’s approval ranking will go up. This is helpful in two ways: You’ll have more time to move on to the next task, and you’ll also give requester more reason to choose you over other Turkers to complete their projects.

3. Be on your best behavior and strive for success

Not all HITs on MTurk are open to everyone. As it turns out, some require qualifications to show that you’re up to the task, or that you’ve demonstrated you can complete tasks successfully and within the expected timeframe.

But there’s an upside to this. Higher paying HITs tend to have higher qualification barriers, which helps deeply invested requesters weed out newcomers in favor of more experienced Turkers.

When you start performing HITs, don’t try to breeze through them. Requesters won’t even pay you until they’ve verified you’ve successfully completed your tasks. Sloppy or incomplete jobs won’t cut it.

Take your time and put your best effort into any task you perform. That way, you’ll earn higher approval marks and have multiple successful jobs under your belt. This will help open the doors to tasks that pay in the realm of dollars, which can help you reach your own hourly goals.

At MTurk, your approval rating is like your resume. If you fill it with several successful jobs with great feedback, you’ll be able to climb the rankings much faster.

4. Be available during optimal hours

The HITs available on MTurk shift rapidly, but as anyone can tell you, the cream of the crop are almost always available during normal working hours on weekdays. If you already work a full-time 9-5 job, finding tasks that pay better and take less time will be a lot more difficult during off-hours.

If you have time to spare during the middle of the day, however, this is your time to shine. You’ll not only have less competition from people looking for side-gigs, but you’ll also have access to better-paying tasks that can bump your hourly rate.

5. Consistency is the name of the game

Of all the steps so far, this is the most critical to making your MTurk experience a successful side-hustle (or job, for that matter). If you’re not spending your time getting as many tasks as possible under your belt, you’re not using it wisely.

Small payouts may seem discouraging at first, but add a hundred of those payouts together and you’ll be surprised at how quickly things add up. This is the exact mindset to have when maximizing your hourly rate, as it can help project your earnings in a way that motivates you.

MTurk provides a surprising level of opportunity for practically no overhead, and it can be a great way to put your extra hours to use while making cash you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Time is money, after all. Why waste it?

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