Sunday, December 9, 2012

MTurk qualification tests

What are Amazon MTurk qualification tests?

One thing that pretty much every turker comes across sooner or later are the MTurk qualification tests.  These are set by the requester and are generally a way for them to restrict the turkers who do their HITs, essentially by trying to weed out workers who lack certain qualities or skills.  The qualification tests are in addition to the other restrictions that the requesters can impose, such as minimum HIT acceptance rates and nationality.

What do the tests involve?

There is no set answer to this question as there are numerous types of qualification test.  It all depends on which skills or attributes that the requester is looking for.  The test will in most cases reflect this in the form it takes.  For example, if the requester wants to assess your English language skills, you might be given a series of sentences and asked to judge which ones are grammatically correct.

Some tests are as simple as just pressing a button, or answering a yes or no question.  Other qualification tests can involve elaborate tasks which are difficult and time-consuming.  Of course, if you spend a long time taking a difficult and time-consuming test and ultimately you are told you have failed, it can be very frustrating.

Should I take an Amazon MTurk qualification test?

Generally speaking, I would say yes in the majority of cases.  As I mentioned earlier, many of the tests are very easy, and even if they aren’t, you haven’t got too much to lose from trying, apart from your time. 

Don’t take a test if you clearly don’t fit the criteria, however.  If the HIT involves translating text into German and you don’t speak German, then common sense dictates that the test will be checking your German language skills and it isn’t worth taking.

Some tests will also fail you for things that you can’t control, such as where you live.

The advantage of taking tests is that if you succeed, they can sometimes open the door to you doing some of the (relatively) better paid HITs.

Monday, October 15, 2012

What is Squidoo? A review

I must admit that despite having heard many positive things about Squidoo over the past year, it has taken me three attempts to get going on the site, with my first couple of attempts ending up as false starts. Why? I think all the cartoon monsters on Squidoo (they dish out the points and trophies) is off-putting to me for one thing – I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the site is not targeted at my demographic group (middle-aged men), but rather one that is younger and possibly more female? Anyway, I have overcome my aversion to cartoon monsters and I am here to give you my Squidoo review.

What is Squidoo?

Squidoo is online writing and earning site where you post one page articles, known as “lenses”. There are some rules that Squidoo imposes regarding what lenses can be about, but generally speaking, you can write about any topic that choose (preferably something that you know about!) Your lenses are given a rank by Squidoo. There is scope for them to gradually rise up the rankings – if this happens then you will receive a payment from Squidoo, with the payment varying according to which “tier” of rankings that your lens reaches. Squidoo (and you) make their money from the adverts and sales made via the lenses with the pot getting split fifty-fifty. There are a variety of different affiliate advertisers that you can use, such as Amazon, eBay, etc.

How do you rise up the rankings?

Squidoo keep their exact formula secret. However, there are a number of factors that have been picked up anecdotally by writers over the years. Traffic levels and the number of sales made through specific Squidoo lenses seem to influence rankings the most. Positive feedback from other writers seems to have good effect (interactivity with other users is encouraged), with the number of “likes” lenses receive seeming to affect their ranking too.

How much can I earn on Squidoo?

Like with most writing sites, the majority of writers don’t make much money and what they do earn takes many months to accumulate. However, there are a tiny proportion of writers who seem to do rather well from Squidoo, earning hundreds, or even maybe a few thousand dollars each month. It does seem to take a lot of lenses and months (years?) of work to achieve this, however. It also helps if you have a basic understanding of the search engines rank web pages and follow some simple SEO tips, plus and have some online writing experience. (Although I know from experience how much money can I make with HubPages, my knowledge of Squidoo is still fairly minimal, as I only joined relatively recently. I do know some Squidoo writers from HubPages, however, so I understand that the earnings can reach two, three, or even four figures per month for some people).

How do Squidoo pay me?

Part of the ethos at Squidoo is that they encourage writers to give at least part of their earnings to charity (Squidoo give you a large choice of good causes) – it’s completely optional what proportion, if any, of your earnings that you give, however.
How Squidoo calculates earnings is one of things that Squidoo’s detractors sometimes express a dislike for. Unlike writing platforms like Wizzley where you generally earn through Google Adsense and affiliate sites such as Amazon, and the details of how your earnings are made up can be viewed, the Squidoo system is pretty opaque – you have to more or less trust Squidoo to allot the earnings in a fair and reasonable way. I generally prefer the Wizzley way overall, but the Squidoo method has the advantage of being simple and straightforward, as you simply get a single payment to your PayPal once/month provide you pass the threshold (which you can set at just a dollar if you wish).
Squidoo use PayPal to send you your money. I have no problem with this, although I know that some people don’t like PayPal, I have never had any trouble with them.

How do I join Squidoo?

Squidoo is free to join. You give them basic details like a name and email address, write your first lens, fill out some profile details and you are away.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Total processing time for MTurk payments from HIT to bank account

I get quite a few comments from people asking about the processing time for MTurk payments.  Usually they are new to Amazon Mechanical Turk and panic when they don’t get their money straightaway.  I have to say that although MTurk is one of the quickest ways of earning money online, in that you don’t have to reach a high threshold level of earnings or wait for a monthly payout date, you still don’t get your money instantly.

I thought I would give you a personal timeline of how the earnings system works, starting with me completing the HIT for the MTurk requester, through to the money becoming available in my bank account.  It is written from my own experience, but bear in mind that I live in the USA and the system might work a little differently if you are in another country.

HIT is completed for an MTurk requester.  It then sits in the HIT Status section of my dashboard page waiting for the requester to approve or reject it.  This is often the longest part of the process and it can take anywhere from being almost instantaneous to up to a month.  In reality most hits are accepted or rejected within hours or days – it’s difficult to predict however and depends entirely on the MTurk requester.

Even after a HIT has been accepted it doesn’t get credited to me straight away.  In my experience, it is normally credited to my current balance (found in Account Settings) within 24 hours of acceptance though (and very often sooner than that).

Once the money has been credited to my Current Balance, it can be spent online at the Amazon store.  If I want to transfer it to my bank account, however, I need to reach a minimum of $10 earnings credit to do that.  You will also need to link your Amazon MTurk account to your bank account - it is some time since I did this, but I seem to remember that it took a day of two before my account was set up.  You transfer money by clicking on the “Withdraw or transfer your earnings” link in the “Your Earnings” section of the Account Settings page.  Once you transfer the money, it typically takes a couple of days to appear in my bank account.  Transferring it at the weekend will take even longer.  Once it appears in my account it can be withdrawn or spent as normal.

As you can see from the steps above, you don’t get money instantly.  You have to wait up to a month to get the HIT approved (although usually it is done within a few days).  You have to wait up to 24 hours to get the money credited to your current balance after approval.  It can then take several days to transfer it your bank account.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sticking to surveys and diminishing returns

I’ve been sticking to doing online surveys for money on Amazon Mechanical Turk recently.  After working a lot on MTurk in the run up to Xmas to get some extra money for the festive season, I’ve just been working fairly intermittently in the last few months for a bit of extra pocket money to spend on small Amazon products, such as computer accessories.

Diminishing returns

I think that generally speaking, it is best to see MTurk earnings as pocket money, rather than trying to earn it as any sort of wage.  It might be different if you are in a developing country, but here in the US, the money that you can earn (with the occasional exception) is generally just too small to make a great deal of difference.  This wasn’t necessarily true in the past, but I think it’s fair to say that MTurk payments have overall been driven down over time.

Online surveys

Surveys are a good example of this phenomenon.  When I started doing the online surveys for money on MTurk over a year and a half ago, it was common to see 15 or 20 minutes surveys that paid, $1.50, $2, $2.50, or more.  Now the equivalent survey generally pays at most a sum more like 50c,75c, or, if you’re lucky, a dollar.  (My stats are anecdotal, but I’m pretty sure that the lower earnings aren’t just my imagination!)


The worst falls in earnings come with the general, more mechanical tasks, however, that are open to anyone in the world to do.  These tasks pay less than 10% of what they did a couple of years ago in some cases.  Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t begrudge fellow turkers from the Indian Subcontinent earning an honest buck, but MTurk is definitely an example of how globalization can sometimes have a negative effect on workers’ wages.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Best 3 ways to make money writing online

As experienced turkers know, the size of payments for writing tasks on Amazon MTurk vary considerably.  I have done well with certain writing tasks in the past, but recently I’ve struggled to find ones that are worth the effort.  I am not sure whether payments are gradually decreasing in value, or whether I am just getting more fussy.  Anyway, there is never any harm in exploring alternatives.

My 3 favorite make money writing sites are HubPages, Wizzley and Squidoo.  I will give you a general advantages and disadvantages of writing on these sites, compared to writing on MTurk, and then give you a brief overview of each site.

Advantages of online writing and earning platforms

Potential earnings are generally bigger on writing platforms than on a site like MTurk, at least in the long term.

The income from these sites is “passive”, which means that in theory at least, you keep earning even when you aren’t working and can get paid multiple times for the same piece of writing.

Online communities can keep you up to date with online earning opportunities and help you to develop the necessary skills.

Disadvantages of online writing and earning platforms

It can take months before you begin to earn even relatively small amounts, and a year or more before you see a decent return for your efforts - even then, the earnings certainly aren’t guaranteed.

You need to be fluent with English and have some skill at writing - especially with writing one page articles.

“Passive” income makes it sound like you don’t need to do much, but the real truth is that these sort of sites require a level of continual commitment if you want to succeed.

You will often need to set up accounts with external advertising/affiliate sites in order to earn money (for example Google Adsense and Amazon).  Although free, it can take time and effort and sometimes it isn’t straightforward, especially for people in Asian countries, where the rules are sometimes stricter.


Hubpages is the one of the biggest writing platforms.  Users write one page articles called “hubs” and earn through HubPages own advertising scheme, plus Google Adsense, Amazon, eBay etc.  All the advertisers and affiliates are optional apart from Google Adsense which you have to be a member of, if you want to earn money.  HubPages articles generally rank well in Google, but Hubpages take a 40% share of your earnings.

Visit the HubPages website (using my referral link)


Squidoo is HubPages’ main rival.  It’s set up slightly differently and has its own unique appearance, but the underlying principle is very similar.  One advantage of Squidoo is that you don’t have to set up your own Adsense or affiliate account.  Squidoo pool all the money that’s made, take a 50% cut, then share the rest out to the writers according to how highly their articles (known as “lenses” within Squidoo) are ranked.

Visit the Squidoo website (using my referral link)


Wizzley is the new kid on the block.  Set up by experienced Squidooers, it is similar to HubPages and Squidoo, in that you write one page articles and earn from the adverts and affiliate advertising.  They take between a 50 and 60 percent cut of your earnings, depending on how many articles you’ve posted there.  Each article posted is checked by a real person (as a pose to a bot) to make sure that it comes up to the required quality standard.  The jury is out on Wizzley as far as earnings go, but I am enjoying my time there, so far.

Visit the Wizzley website (using my referral link)

UPDATE (February 2014)

I would no longer recommend Wizzley as a good earner.  Income from Hubpages and Squidoo is lower than it used to be, but still worth it. 

If you just want a quick and easy place to earn, I would recommend: Bubblews.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Disappointed by MyLot

For those of you who have followed my writing, you will know that I have recommended MyLot as a way of making money online in the past.  I must confess though, that despite my initial enthusiasm, I have become rather disappointed with it.

I am speaking in terms of the money making mainly (although the full page adverts can be a bit annoying too).  My earnings on there have been very low.  Even when I spent quite a bit of time on MyLot, I only seemed to bring in a few cents.  I could earn more in ten or fifteen minutes on Amazon MTurk than I could earn in several days on MyLot.

Maybe I am being unfair.  You only make money with MyLot if you are active with it and as I no longer spend much time on it, I make very little money.  People who enjoy the chatter and social networking side of MyLot rate it higher than I do and have commented so to me.  Although I do enjoy social networking, I tend to do all mine on non-earning sites like Facebook.

If you have photos that are of general interest (not just snaps of friends and family), however, then I would say that you would do much better uploading them to Redgage, rather than MyLot.  As well as earning money from the initial upload, you can also earn extra if people stumble across your photos on Google Images etc.  Although you won’t earn a fortune in Redgage either, you do seem to earn more than on MyLot.  I have earned 50-something dollars from Redgage for the photos I’ve uploaded, which is about ten times as much as I’ve earned from MyLot (although most of that money came from discretionary prizes that were awarded to me by Redgage, rather than through direct earnings, I’ll admit).