My previous review of Amazon Mechanical Turk was mostly positive, but had some drawbacks. We already know that MTurk has the potential to have scam offers, but they can be mostly avoided. However, this article will dig a bit deeper into the business model of MTurk, and how to make the best of your experience utilizing the service as well as helping make the experience of others a little bit better. These are tidbits of information that I have gathered by my experience, and others’ opinions may differ.
Many offers are highly under-priced
You will find that a lot of the offers on MTurk seem quite under-priced, bordering on what you might imagine Chinese wages being. Working on these tasks will, at best, pay for the electricity used to run your computer. You are not likely to be able to even pay your bills with the money that you can gather from doing 2 to 5 cent HITs. Sometimes, you will find that there are not enough HITs that are actually worth your time. At this point, it is best to simply look for other opportunities.
Time spent searching is completely unpaid
If you work a traditional job, if there is nothing to do you will still be paid and will be expected to pick up working immediately as soon as you are asked. With services like MTurk, you are the one looking for tasks to do. You pretty much are your own boss, and time spent just finding work to keep yourself busy with doesn’t count. You are only paid for the actual completion of tasks. So, you want to minimize the time you actually spend searching for jobs to do. Reddit has a “HITs worth turking for” page, and turkopticon is a great place to find out about HITs that are worth it, as well as read reviews to ensure you aren’t wasting time and reputation on reject-happy requestors.
Keep the economy in mind
For some users, Amazon’s MTurk is a last ditch opportunity to get some form of employment. However, you really need to keep the economy in mind before completing HITs. For instance, if you only work on HITs that pay out a few cents a piece, you won’t make enough to get by. Even if you’re just a kid who wants to make a few extra bucks, you will ensure that the requestors always have a supply of extremely cheap labor. Make sure to only complete the HITs that you think a real person with real expenses can reliably earn a living doing. Yes, you alone won’t make the difference, a vast majority of people have to choose to not do those low-pay HITs. But, as it is with voting, if you choose to do them you just increase the statistic. What’s a good offer? Well, that’s completely up to you to decide, but you should calculate potential earnings and make sure that you would be getting around minimum wage.
Have many fall-backs
Amazon MTurk is not a be-all and end-all solution. When there are only very low-pay HITs, or you don’t have enough qualifications to get the ones you are after, you don’t want to spend your time simply waiting. Go ahead and look into services like fiverr, odesk, freelancer, etc. Having a variety of services that you can work with will give you an opportunity to work only the jobs that actually are worth working on.
There are many issues that you will encounter when you are working with MTurk. The volatile market, in which there are sometimes very good HITs and sometimes absolutely none, means that you have to have alternatives. We have explored that you can actually do a small, but very important, part to keep the economy of MTurk strong. While spending your time searching for good offers doesn’t hurt the MTurk economy, it does cut into your earnings. So, find other services where you can do various tasks and be compensated fairly for your time.