Amazon's Mechanical Turk
Industry: Crowdsourcing, micro jobs
One of the earliest and best-known crowdsourcing marketplaces, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, also called MTurk, utilizes what it calls the “human intelligence” of an army of independent contractors who complete small online tasks. These online tasks are things that its “requesters,” or clients, need real people, not computers, to do. This work-at-home division of Amazon is part of Amazon’s Web Services division and is separate from the online retailer’s home call center employees.
For more on Amazon’s call center division, see this work-at-home profile of Amazon.
Types of Work-at-Home Opportunities
Online workers at Mechanical Turk accept HITs, or “human intelligence tasks,” and are paid small sums for each. Though Amazon is a U.S.-based company, workers (and requesters) come from all over the globe. (See more WAH jobs hiring globally.)
Because of this global diversity, what HITs pay and what they require can vary greatly. Some jobs might pay 1 or 2 cents but take only minutes to complete and require very little expertise of the worker. Other HITs require workers to gain qualifications before being allowed to work on them. Qualification may be a test but it could also simply be approval or rejection based on your previous work, location, profile, etc. Jobs with qualification presumably pay more.
Unlike some other micro job sites, which may offer real-world and online tasks, Mechanical Turk is completely online.
The types of task might include:
- Blog comments
- Short editing and writing jobs
- Keyword searches
- Photo captioning and tagging
How Mechanical Turk Works
To begin working for Mechanical Turk, go to the Mechanical Turk website and simply choose to accept a HIT. It will then prompt you to sign into your Amazon.com account or to create one.
In taking this step, you agree to the Mechanical Turk privacy notice.
Browse HITs looking for ones that interest you. Examine the “Reward” field to see what it pays. “Time Allotted” tells you how long you have to finish the task before it is considered abandoned and is assigned to someone else. This is not necessarily how long it will take. Many HITs will give an estimated time for completion in the full description but some do not.
Click on the name of the HIT for a very brief description and click on “View a HIT in this group” to see a full description. On this screen, you can choose to accept a HIT or you can skip it and look at other HITs from the same requester.
You can search HITs by keyword or sort them by reward amount or qualifications required.
Payments from Mechanical Turk are based on a digital piece work model in which workers receive a fixed fee for each job completed. Because this work is for independent contractors there are no minimum wage protections. Another caution is that requesters may reject work and refuse to pay.
Immediately after a HIT is accepted by the requester, the worker is paid into an Amazon Payments account. However, the time between submitting a HIT to approval can vary from a few hours to a few days.
For U.S.-based workers, money can then be transferred to a U.S. bank account. Workers in India can elect to receive a check in Indian rupees. For all others not based in the U.S. or India, earnings can be transfer to an Amazon gift card.
All workers are required to submit tax information. U.S.-based workers need to submit a tax ID or Social Security number. Non-U.S. citizens living outside the United States also need to submit an IRS tax form. U.S. citizens living outside the United States may not work for Mechanical Turk.