Thursday, August 23, 2012

Earning Money while being a SAHM: mturk.com

It's been 3 years since I quit my full-time professional career.  Sometimes I miss the challenge of my former job, sometimes I miss the people, and most of the time I miss the money.  But, I don't regret my decision to quit my job and stay at home with my 3 kids.

I will admit I've had a really hard time getting used to the idea that I no longer earn money.  When I first quit my job, I started doing mystery shopping on the side as a way to contribute, even if just in a small way, to our family finances.  At the time, I had one kid in school 4 days a week and 1 at home with me.  I liked the flexibility of mystery shopping because I could sign up for jobs when I had the time and when they were located conveniently to me. I could usually bring my kids along or do the jobs at night and on the weekend.  I earned about $100-$300 a month and actually found the jobs to be quite interesting.

When I became pregnant with our 3rd child, I was so sick that I had to quit doing the mystery shopping.  And I have never picked it up again because now I have kids with different school schedules and various activities and I just can't seem to fit it into my schedule.

I've never been interested in the multi-level marketing jobs that many SAHMs enjoy (Avon, Scentsy, etc.) and I am skeptical of a lot of internet jobs. But last year I started doing work on mturk.com and have had some success earning money on it (it was one tool I used to earn money for our Christmas budget last year, see this post).

I just spent the last few weeks working on mturk and I earned enough money to buy this pink Radio Flyer tricycle for my daughter's upcoming birthday.  It cost $64.91 with tax and shipping and I worked for 13 days for around 1 hour a day to get the money.  It averaged out to be around $5.00 an hour, which I realize is very low, but I can choose my own hours, choose my own tasks, and choose how long I want to work.  I only worked when my youngest was napping or at night after all my kids had gone to bed.


Mturk.com stands for Mechanical Turk and it's a website run by Amazon.com.  It's basically an online place where people can post to have online work done, or you can search for online work to do.  Each job is called a HIT (Human Intelligence Task) and the pay per task can be as low as one cent up to $10 or $15 (that's about the highest I've seen).

From what I've seen there are 4 main types of tasks that people post:
*  Surveys (usually from university graduate students or political surveys from interest groups)
*  Writing articles (blog posts, articles, comments on a website, comments on a forum)
*  Generating webpage hits/traffic (i.e. get paid to create a dating profile at a new online site, get paid to hit "like" on a new Facebook business page, etc.)
*  Miscellaneous internet research (i.e. go search for these things and post back website addresses)

I now only do surveys on mturk.  This is because they are a sure thing, just complete the survey and it gives you a completion code and unless you didn't pay attention in the survey, your HIT is automatically accepted.  (Most surveys do have certain questions to see if you are actually paying attention).  I've written a few articles in the past but to me those take more time and they are more subjective and if they don't like your work you might not get paid.

I've tried other online survey companies but what I've found is that I could spend 30 minutes trying to fill out surveys only to learn after working on each one for 10 minutes that I don't qualify, and then that time was wasted.  Most of the surveys on mechanical turk just require you to be over age 18 and live in the U.S. (most, not all).

I've learned to maximize my efficiency on mechanical turk so that I spend the least amount of time searching for work and the most amount of time actually doing work.  I usually don't work on the site for 2 days in a row, I like to let the potential HITs build up for a few days and then sit down and do a bunch at once.  I also sort them by newest added first, so that I can first see the HITs that were added since I logged on the last time.  I also put in a minimum threshold of 35 cents in my search, because I don't want to be bothered by anything that pays less.  I also look at the maximum time allotted to complete each HIT because that gives a clue (usually) as to how long it will take you to do it.  Most of the surveys I find actually take less time than they allow or say it will take you.  There is definitely a learning curve to figure out how to most efficiently search for the tasks you want to do.

Once I complete a HIT, it is reviewed and either accepted or rejected.  If you start working on a HIT and don't like it or realize it will take more time than the pay is worth, you can return it and not be penalized.  But if you accept it and just don't finish it, it will count as a strike against you and you might not be eligible for certain future HITs.  It can take up to 21 days to actually get paid in your account, but usually it takes just a few days.  The money I earn from mechanical turk goes into an Amazon payments account which I can use right on Amazon.com to order stuff, or I can request it go into a bank account.

I realize that there are many other part-time jobs that pay more money than online work sites like this, but right now I don't want to commit myself to set hours and a set schedule that would take me away from my kids.  When my kids are all in elementary school, I would like to get a "real" job, but for now I like the flexibility of working when I can or when I want to.

Have you done any work on Mturk.com?  Do you have any other sites you use?

16 comments:

  1. I totally get this Nancy. I felt the same way after I quit my job. It has taken awhile to realize my value/worth is not based on how much money I bring home. But, eventhough I know staying at home is the right answer for our family, it's still hard.

    I really enjoy sewing, and it's something I can do at night after the kids are in bed, during naptimes, or when the kids are playing together (nicely!). An etsy shop has been the perfect balance for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad that somebody else gets it! And I've also come to realize my contribution is different and not based on how much money I bring home. It's just harder to quantify. I can see how etsy would be a great thing, I wish I was more crafty and creative! Glad you found a good balance!

      Delete
    2. This sounds like a great opportunity to earn some extra money. Did you by chance set up your payments with your bank account? Did giving our your bank account information make you nervous at all? Also, how did you find out that this was a reputable site? This sounds great but I am always a little leery when it comes to online activities.

      Delete
    3. Mechanical Turk is run by amazon. Many other companies use it, and some scammers that just won't pay or may try to get personal information from you. Unfortunately Amazon does not monitor it well. However, actually signing up is done with amazon. You sign up for an amazon payments account, which is amazons version of PayPal. Requesters deposit money in their account and post hits. They cannot post the tasks without having money in their account. Then you do the tasks, and if the requester approves (or auto approves) your work, then the amount for the task is transferred into your amazon payments account. From there it can be used on amazon or you can link a bank account and transfer to your bank. There is a minimum of $10 to make a transfer and just like PayPal it takes 2-5 days. I have never had any issue with the amazon side of things, and they do not share your banking info.

      The issue comes in with scammers. They may have work, you do it, then they just do not approve the work, so you just worked for free. And also there are scammers trying to get credit report and other affiliate/advertising dollars and they will give out tasks like make $30 for filling out a simple online dating survey. Some of those may ask for personal info (against amazons terms), and most do not pay.

      You can find out more on my tips page. It is linked further down, so I wont spam the link again. The tips shows tools and resources for finding the good requesters and avoiding scams. If you have questions about it, feel free to post a comment there.

      Happy turking!

      Delete
  2. Nancy,
    Thank you so much for your post. I might have to try out Mturk and supplement it with my freelance writing. I plan to share this with the moms group I am in. Too bad you don't live in Missouri! I would have you speak to our group!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Beckie SchuerenbergAugust 23, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    Hey Nancy! Good for you for doing this! It's hard to find work you can do while the kids are right there. I had 2 weeks of August where most of the kids were gone at camps, then this week is when my editor needs things and I had all 3. ugh. But at least I can break it out into 15-30 minute segments or do it at night. I love being able to contribute monitarily again!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Stopping by from money saving mom. I am thinking of making the leap to be a sahm and yet I still want to contribute a little bit financially. Thanks for sharing your experience with mturk.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Excellent post. I am unemployed and have used mturk and mystery shopping for a while to try to rake in a few extra dollars. It can be slow, and I too have found the average equivalent pay rate to be in the $4-$5 dollar range for surveys, and that is if you read quickly. Other tasks range from $1/hr to perhaps $10-15 per hour. Most of the higher ones are transcription tasks I am not fast enough or accurate enough to make that type of money. If you do not mind a shameless plug I have a couple blog posts with tips for mturk your readers may find useful. I also have other posts there about mystery shopping and other online opportunities. The mturk tips is at http://bradthegeek.hubpages.com/hub/Brad-The-Geeks-Mechanical-Turk-Tips-and-Tricks

    Take Care!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, William! I will definitely check out your tips.

      Delete
  6. Thanks for the tips! I used to do a lot of work on mturk several years ago, but the tasks available have changed significantly. I'll have to look for surveys next time I sign in. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. HOw do you find the surverys? I was looking and didnt see any.

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Finding surveys on mturk can be a little tricky as they don't all have 'survey' in the title, and many that do may be scams. The two single best methods I have found are this. Search for HITs worth .50 or .70 or more, sorting by newest first. You will get lots of other junk. Checking the HITs you qualify for checkbox will eliminate some, but you will have to scan at first. If you keep reloading page one of this search every 5-30 minutes though, new HITs will sort to the top so it gets easier. I do not always like checking the qualify checkbox as some Surveys have an instant granted qualification I can do before doing the survey, and then I won't see them.

      The Other method is to join a forum. This will take a while but there is a forum called turker nation where people share information about all sorts of turking stuff. One thread is for posting surveys. I watch it with an email notification to help me catch surveys. It takes a while to become a full member though. You can read my tips page to find out more!
      http://bradthegeek.hubpages.com/hub/Brad-The-Geeks-Mechanical-Turk-Tips-and-Tricks

      Delete
  8. Also stopping by from Money Saving Mom :-) Thanks for the details about mturk. I have heard of it before (actually have it bookmarked) but have never looked into it. Since I am also a SAHM, any extra money helps and I will give it another look. ~angela

    ReplyDelete
  9. Does the money you make through Mturk need to be claimed on your taxes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not a tax expert, but I think it does. Mturk does ask for a social security number, but each hit requester counts as a separate company. I think you will get a tax statement at the end of the year if you earn over $500 from a single hit requester.

      Delete
  10. This sounds like a great program! I have been looking up information on structured settlement companies and some how your post came up in between them. Thanks so much for your post I found it to be very informative!

    ReplyDelete