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mTurk Guide For Beginners

mturk guide for beginners

I make between $100-$200 a month online. I recently wrote about how I do that here, and I mentioned that one of the sites I use is mTurk. But mTurk can be pretty overwhelming for someone that is just starting out. And there are a lot of tips and tricks you need to know to make the most of using the site.

mTurk Guide For Beginners

What is mTurk?

It’s a site run by Amazon.com for people that need tasks completed by actual people and not computers. Computers can’t do everything and that’s where you come in. Requesters sign up for the site and post their tasks or “hits” which are basically small “microtasks” that can be completed quickly (anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes). Workers get paid a certain amount for each task (usually between a few cents to a few dollars depending on the type of task).

mTurk Hits

One of the easiest ways to get used to the mTurk platform is by doing some marketing or academic surveys. They usually pay between $0.20-$2.00 depending on how long they are. When you search for hits the best way to find them is by clicking on “hits available to you” and then in the search criteria use “reward amount (most first)”. This will show you the tasks you can do based on your qualifications (more on that below) and the highest paying ones first. Click one that looks like a survey. Here’s an example.

mturk guide for beginners

Click on “view a hit in this group” and you’ll be taken to a page like this.

mturk guide for beginners hit

Important things to note are the “Duration” or time which is in the upper right hand corner. This tells you how long you have to complete the hit. If you don’t complete it before it expires it will be rejected. However, most hits give you more than enough time to complete them. But every now and then you’ll run into a hit that has a very low timer and that’s something you want to take notice of before accepting a hit. You want to get as few (hopefully zero) rejections as possible. Some requesters only allow mTurk workers with a high “approved hits” rating. I’ve completed thousands of hits and have only had 4 of them rejected. My current approval rate is 99.9%.

Accepting A “Hit”

You have to hit “accept” before you can work on a hit. Some hits will have the page you need to work on inside the “hit” area. Others, like the one in the picture above, have a link for you to go to. You want to open this link in another tab or window because after you complete the hit there will be a code for you to put in the hit area before you submit it. This is how they verify that you’ve done the task (this is a very common way for surveys on mTurk to be set up). However, not all hits will give you a code. Some of them can just track you by your user ID. Also, a lot of requesters will also ask you for your user ID so it’s a good idea to have it handy somewhere so you don’t have to keep going back to your account page to find it. I keep mine in a notepad file that I keep open while working. So that makes it easy to just copy and paste it.

And if for some reason you decide you don’t want to do a hit you can just hit “return hit”. This returns it and you won’t get a rejection.

Useful mTurk Tools

There are a lot of browser extensions for mTurk workers. So after you get used to the mTurk platform you can search through them and see which ones will suit your needs the best. Every mTurk worker has a different style of working and therefore, your mTurk script needs won’t be exactly the same as everyone else’s. But here are a few you absolutely need to have even as a beginner.

Turkopticon mTurk Extension

An annoying thing about mTurk is that requesters can reject your hits for any reason. This doesn’t happen very often but you want to make sure you avoid getting rejections so it’s important to know who the bad requesters are. That’s where Turkopticon comes in. This is an extension that will show you what other workers have to say about a requester. If someone is rejecting hits for no reason, you better believe they’ll report it on Turkopticon.

After you’ve downloaded this extension, it will show a little red arrow next to the requesters name. Put your mouse over it to see ratings come up. It will show a bar next to different categories like “communication” and “fairness”. Green is good, orange is where I would proceed with caution, and red is bad. I would completely avoid requesters with a lot of red bars. If you want to see exactly what workers have said about a requester you can click the reviews link.

HitScrapper 

This is one of the most popular mTurk extensions. It helps you find hits you’d like to work on regularly and you can set it to only find hits that pay at least $0.50. If you leave your account window open it will also make a notification noise as soon as a hit comes in so you won’t miss it.

PANDA Crazy

This lets you snatch up hits before other people can. This is important because some requesters will only have a small number of hits to be completed so once they’re gone, they’re gone. With PANDA Crazy you can accept hits automatically. But you need to be careful with any extension that does this. Remember, you don’t want to get rejections. So you need to make sure you have enough time to complete all the hits you accept. You can see the hits you’ve accepted by clicking “hits assigned to you” in the mTurk dashboard.

How To Install mTurk Extensions

If you use Chrome just download the Tampermonkey extension which lets you add on and manage all your mTurk scripts. If you use FireFox you’ll need GreaseMonkey.

There are tons of useful extensions for mTurk workers. After you get used to mTurk you should research them all and decide which ones are right for you.

mTurk Guide to Qualifications

To make the most of mTurk you need to get as many qualification as you can. Most people only do the smaller paying hits but there are high paying hits that take a longer amount of time to complete. These types of hits are often things like transcription. But in order to get these hits, you’ll have to prove you’re able to do them. There are hundreds of qualifications.

Here is an example of some qualifications. Sometimes a qualification is as simple as answering a few questions. For instance, the requester Sticky (which often posts eye tracking webcam surveys) just wanted to know a workers age because they had a hit that was only for a certain age group.

mturk guide beginners qualifications

mTurk “Batches”

You shouldn’t necessarily avoid the low paying hits. Sometimes low paying hits are super easy to do and can be done quickly and in rapid succession. These types of hits often include things like describing photographs, tagging images, verifying information, etc. Each task might only pay a few cents but if you can do them quickly that can add up.

Getting Paid By mTurk

As you do hits and they get approved money builds in your account. Some requesters approve hits immediately but some can take a while. When you decide you want to be paid you have the option of transfering the money to your bank account (which takes a few days) or turning it into an Amazon gift card. Unfortunately they don’t send payments to Paypal (which is how I prefer to be paid) but I have my Paypal account linked to my bank account. So I just transfer the money to Paypal after it arrives in my bank.

How Much Can You Make?

That depends on how much time and effort you want to put into it. Some people use mTurk for pocket change and others are making $500-$1000 a month. Personally I don’t make a living from it but I use it combined with other sites to make between $100-$200 monthly. If you’d like to read about that click here.

If it turns out you enjoy working on mTurk you might be interested in another site called Prolific.

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