You are probably overpaying for data entry. Here’s why.

I recently noticed there was a surprising amount of job postings online for temp data entry work. It is often said that, “the future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed,” and for good reason. Businesses have order forms, logs, receipts, invoices, all living on paper, needing to be put online. The easiest way to do this is to give the paper to people, and have them enter it into computer systems by hand.

This seems like opportunity for automation. If we could get computers to automate much of the drudgery of data entry, that sure would save a lot of time and money.

Amazon Mechanical Turk: the Solution

How can we solve the problems of those who need data entered? Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Amazon Mechanical Turk (mturk) describes itself as a tool to “Access a global, on-demand, 24x7 workforce.” Mturk lets you structure your work as small tasks, and you pay based on work output, not on time spent completing a task. Instead of paying twenty five dollars an hour, per hour of work, you now pay a fixed cost on each document you need entered. You are no longer paying for lunch breaks. You are no longer paying for training. All you are paying for is the bare minimum to accomplish work your business needs done. Who is doing the work? Maybe it’s stay-at-home moms in Kentucky, or college students in Montana. It could even be people between jobs in Texas, just trying to make ends meet.

If you were previously paying a staffing firm to source temp workers, you can now:

  • scan the data you need entered into a digital format.
  • upload your data to mechanical turk
  • download the results as an excel spreadsheet

This workflow solves many problems. Instead of hiring a temp employee who will take weeks to enter thousands of documents, we can hire thousands of temps to enter a few documents each in a matter of hours. Instead of paying a temp employee and a staffing firm big money to accomplish tasks, you are now saving thousands. If security is a concern, splitting documents up into anonymous parts can prevent sensitive business information from being leaked.

The Future

My belief in the power of mturk lead me to start While managing data uploaded/downloaded to mechanical turk can provide massive benefits to your organization, It still has a pretty sharp learning curve. manages all of the complexity for you, so all you need do is upload your documents, and receive formatted data in return. If automating data entry is something you are looking for, feel free to drop me a line at