There are currently over a half-million people on Mechanical Turk completing millions of simple tasks posted by researchers in return for quick cash. These tasks include labeling images, taking surveys, transcribing receipts — work is perfect for helping fill spare time for retirees or other folks who have time to kill. You can make some serious cash in the time you might otherwise spend in front of the TV or staring at your phone. Kim had a caller on the show who makes about $10,000 a year on Mechanical Turk. Let’s look at how it works, how you can sign up and tips for making some decent money using it.

What is Mechanical Turk and how does it work?

The tasks posted on MTurk are typically things computers and algorithms aren’t equipped to handle yet — anything from conducting simple data validation and research to more subjective tasks like survey participation, content moderation or searching for not-safe-for-work images. According to MTurk, the goal is to “harness the collective intelligence, skills, and insights from a global workforce to streamline business processes, augment data collection and analysis, and accelerate machine learning development.” In other words, if you’re completing tasks on MTurk, you’re helping with microtasks for larger projects, filling out surveys, pushing AI to become more advanced and filling in the gaps until it does. Sounds good, right? And it is, mostly. You can work on MTurk tasks on your own time, it’s easy to sign up, and you don’t need any particular skills to succeed. Plus, you can earn some extra cash without having to do a ton of work on any particular task. The downside? The tasks on MTurk don’t pay much. The minimum fee per task on MTurk is 1 cent per assignment or bonus payment. Now, those pennies take a while to add up. On average, most MTurk users can make a few bucks an hour or so, but how much or little you make will vary based on a ton of different factors, including how much time you put in. Some users have reported making less than $1 an hour, and other studies have shown that the average MTurk user makes about $2 an hour. Other users, including a guest Kim interviewed, can rack up thousands of dollars each year by doing menial tasks. Ultimately, it’s possible to turn those pennies into dollars if you know how to do it.

OK, so how do I sign up and start working on MTurk?

Once those particulars are sorted out, you can sign up and get to work. Here’s how: Once you receive an email verifying that your registration request is accepted, you need to: Once your account is set up, you can start working right away. Search or browse through the tasks available and find the ones that work for you. After you accept a task, complete it and submit your work. Once the requester approves your work, your earnings are available to use.

Tips for making decent money on Mechanical Turk

Given that the tasks on MTurk pay so little, it’s important to use your time wisely if you want to make money at it. If you want to start racking up the cash, take note of these tips, which can help you weed through the useless tasks on the platform and start maximizing your earnings.

1. Avoid the lowest-paying tasks

Try to avoid the lower-paying tasks if possible. They may be simple, but it takes a long time for 1 cent at a time to add up. Try to find and complete tasks that pay 50 cents or more. The goal is to make at least the equivalent of minimum wage per hour, so look for tasks to help you meet that goal.

2. Work on MTurk tasks during work breaks

If you work a job that allows you to take short breaks, consider completing some MTurk tasks during these breaks instead of surfing the web or scrolling through social media. This way, your side gig won’t impede on your free time, and you’re adding more money to your hourly pay rate by doing simple tasks on the platform.

3. Weigh the time vs. pay for low-paying tasks

If you opt to go for low-paying tasks, make sure you look at the instructions thoroughly before accepting the assignment. If you think you can complete it in the short time frame given and it makes sense to you, go for it. But avoid the ones that don’t make sense to you and will eat up too much time.

4. Be available during work hours

A lot of the higher-paying HITs appear during business hours on workdays, so if you have the option to hop onto the platform during working hours, do it. You’ll find a lot more well-paying gigs during those hours than you will during off-hours, which will organically help you maximize your earnings.

5. Stay active

Those who offer tasks on MTurk can choose who to make their tasks available to, and many higher-paying requesters prefer to work with people who have thousands, or even tens of thousands, of completed tasks under their belts. If you want access to those opportunities, you’ll have to stay active and complete tasks regularly to unlock them.

6. Pay attention to the directions

Remember that your completed tasks have to be approved by the requesters before you’re paid, so make sure you’re really paying attention to what the tasks entail. If your work is rejected, you run the risk of lowering your approval rate. If you fall below a 98 to 99% approval rating, it won’t be easy to get work in the future.

7. Focus on qualifying

Some types of tasks, especially the higher-paying ones, require you to take a test or perform a sample task before working on them. It can be worth your while to complete the hurdles for better-paying tasks. You can also get “qualified” for certain tasks by taking the tests available to you. Making money online doesn’t require many special skills or even mountains of free time. With a little effort, you can add money to your bank account. If you try out MTurk, let us know what you think!