Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Review: For Transcriptionists

UPDATE: I think Mturk is a huge waste of time for transcribers. Elance , Odesk and Freelancers maybe better options.

In my endeavor to make more money online as a transcriptionist I have come across many a freelance website promising to be the destination for freelancers online. One of them is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk or Mturk, in short.

Just last week I thought I’d give Mturk a test drive. Even though I’ve registered a long time ago I’ve never had the opportunity or rather the urge to try it out.

Before I share my opinion on it, lets look at and define some terms used in Mturk.

What is Mechanical Turk (Mturk)?

logoAI3 Amazons Mechanical Turk Review: For TranscriptionistsThe Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace that enables computer programmers (known as Requesters) to co-ordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks that computers are unable to do yet. It is one of the suites of Amazon Web Services.

That is how it is defined on Wikipedia, anyway.

So, basically Mturk is a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace where transcriptionists can perform tasks (transcription) for individuals or companies.

A requester is the individual or a company that provides you the transcription work and pay you for your services. And, you are a Provider.

HITs or Human Intelligence Tasks are the jobs posed by requesters.  So an audio file up for transcription is a HIT on Mturk.

Some requesters require qualifications/tests before they allow you to work on their HITs. They can also reject or accept the job done by providers.

Mturk payment is done via Bank transfers (US) or Paypal.  For Indian freelancers, however, there is a charge of $4 for withdrawing your Mechanical Turk earnings in India Rupees!

How it works

Once you sign up as a transcriptionist you may be able to accept HITs for most transcribing jobs but not all.  Some require qualifications/tests.

Take your time to take these tests. You will be rewarded points on completing your tests.  And, according to your points there are HITs that you will be able to work on. The more your points the more HITs you qualify to work on and the pay also seems to be better.

Not all transcriptionists will qualify as reviewer or proofreader straightaway. But that’s what you should aspire to to make Mturk a worthy freelancing opportunity.

Two major transcription companies using Mturk are SpeechInk and CastingWords. Both require qualifications/tests to pass before taking on their HITs.  As a transcriptionist, you will have to focus on these two companies to really earn money on Mturk.

My Review of Mechanical Turk as a Transcriptionist

My initial impression of Mechanical Turk was that the payments are very minimal. And, that was why I’ve been putting off using it as a way to make money for so long.

But, last week I decided to explore it and understand how it works before I can recommend or refute the idea of working on Mturk.

My feelings are mixed. There are very good reasons why a transcriptionist should work on Mturk.  And, there are very good reasons why not to work on Mturk as a transcriptionist.

First, the cons:

  • Pays are low. As a freelance transcriptionist who is used to earning more a dollar per audio minute, seeing a 15 minute audio pay $1 is not exactly exciting.
  • Requesters can reject your work. There is no security that you will be paid for a job done. Your requester has to be satisfied with your job.
  • For Indian transcriptionists, there is no direct bank deposit service and there is a fee for withdrawing your earnings, $4 for each withdrawal.

The Pros:

  • There is always plenty of transcription jobs. As I said before, most of these jobs are from CastingWords and SpeechInk. That is not to say that there are no individuals and other medical transcription companies using the platform to crowdsource their transcription jobs.
  • You can work any time, any where you please. Every HIT has its Time Allotted (deadline). Since most transcription jobs are of 5 minutes to 30 minutes, TAT is usually 1 hour to 6 hours to work on the HIT.
  • You can reject the job any time. Having once accepted a job if you feel you can’t do justice to it or have no time to complete it you can always reject it later.
  • There are plenty of tasks, simple tasks for everyone – not only transcription.

The best way to work on Mturk

As a transcriptionist, it’s not the best rate you can work at. But it can be a useful filler to your freelance transcription jobs. Earning a fulltime income on Mturk may be extremely difficult. However, if you plan on using Mturk to earn some extra money here are a few suggestions.

  • Choose HITs that need qualifications, they tend to pay more. That means basically, to try and qualify for CastingWords and SpeechInk jobs.
  • Devote a block of time to log on to Mturk everyday or whenever you can. Most transcription jobs will require at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. I was able to complete 5 minute interview audio in 30 minutes for $1!
  • Before your accept HITs, first read all instructions and listen to the audio (you can even download the audios beforehand to see if you can do justice to it.
  • Give the tests or qualifications required to be eligible for better jobs. I think your ultimate goals should be to work as a reviewer (proofreader). That way you’ll complete more jobs faster and the pay seems to be a little bit better.
  • Use it as a filler, not your main source of income.


I think it’s good to be aware of such sites where any transcriptionist can make money online. If you are new to freelancing it may be a good training ground. For veterans, it’s a filler you can utilize when you are lean on freelance transcription jobs. So far, I’ve worked on two HITs each paying $1 each. I think I will be working on it soon.

So what do you think? A good site to explore? If you’ve work on Mturk, please chime in with your experience.





  1. how can you attach your paypal account to mturk? can you make a step by step instruction please?

  2. how can you attach your paypal account to mturk? can you make a step by step instruction please? from india

  3. On my first ever transcribing HIT, I took a 60min long lecture on something or another (not allowed to say, copyright or something)

    But yeah, it was hard for my first time but it was actually very interesting…

    And I got paid a bonus, so instead of just the $5 I got $23… :D


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