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Courier MBA Day 11: Tools of the Trade

The beauty of gig delivery work is, you can start a business, be profitable almost immediately, and oh, by the way, not have to buy a whole lot of stuff to get started.

Ever have someone try to talk you into a network marketing deal? There was always the kit you had to buy.

I spent a year or so flipping bike parts. I would buy bikes locally (yard sales, Craigslist) and sell the components on eBay. It was fun, I made some decent money, but it still cost money getting the parts and all the shipping supplies.

Related Episode 10 in the podcast got into this topic.

Here, we have our car (or bike, or in some places just some good shoes for on-foot delivery). We have our cell phones. Most of the delivery companies give us bags. We're set.

Every once in awhile the time arises where we might have to invest in something that can help us do our jobs. It means we have a little bit less money left over, which means it lowers our profits slightly. But there are times where it makes sense, if the tools help you earn more in your business.

What tools of the trade help you earn more (or spend less)?

The most important rule when it comes to spending money on tools to help your business.

If you are thinking of buying something for your business, it should either help you earn more money or help you spend less money. If it doesn't help you do either of those, don't spend the money.

How does it help you earn more money? If you went through yesterday's session you know that the biggest thing something can do for you is help you with efficiency. If you can get a delivery done faster because of it, you can get more deliveries in and make more money.

How does it reduce expenses? Can it help you drive less? Does it reduce the risk for major expenses down the line?

A tool should help you with the bottom line for it to make sense.

A quick note about tipping when it comes to earning extra money.

Tipping is one of the great variables in what we do. I do believe there are times where you can influence the tip through awesome customer service (or you could at least avoid being stiffed).

There was a time that the service we offered made a bigger difference on the tip, but now most people add the tip when they order. Uber Eats will allow customers to change the tip afterwards but it's rare when it happens. Doordash and Grubhub are pretty much set in stone when the order is placed.

There are times that a cash tip can be added. It does happen.

There are elements of the tools we talk about that can improve service. Generally though, when talking about if those tools increase our income, I'm going to focus on efficiency and less on tips, just because I think the income added via tips is minimal.

Some of the tools of the trade.

Let's talk about some of the things you need to consider when doing deliveries.

I'm going to post links and pictures of some of the tools. I do have an affiliate relationship with Amazon which means if you buy something off one of their links that I post, I may receive a small commission. You can read more in the Affiliate Links link at the footer of the page.

Your car.

We've got at least a couple of sessions coming up related to your car and driving. The thing is, you have to get around.

The thing about a car is you have to weigh a lot of things. Some would tell you to go out and get a hybrid or an electric car because you make a huge dent in that gas bill. Makes sense, right? It's reducing expenses. Unless what you have to pay to get that fuel efficiency costs more than you're saving in the first place.

I can tell you that a brand new hybrid or electric car will cost far more to operate than a 25 year old gas guzzling Buick.

We'll talk more about the cost of your car soon, but here's two rules I have for how you're getting around.

Related: In this article, I had just sold the car I was using. That allowed me to calculate the total cost per mile of operating and using that car. About halfway down the article, I talk about the lesson in that and what that says about what to look for in a car
  1. It has to be reliable. If it's not working you can't be making money. Use the 50 cent rule (or whatever your rule is): Every minute it's sitting in the shop when you could be delivering is costing you 50 cents.
  2. It has to be something you can stand spending a lot of time in. There's a lot of great fuel efficient cars that would cost me too much money because of one thing: They're uncomfortable as all get out. If I'm miserable driving the thing, I'll drive less. That means I make less.

What about a bike?

I just did an e-Bike conversion on one of my bikes. The conversion cost more than the bike itself. Is that a good business decision? There's a lot of factors:

  • It gets me around downtown a lot faster than I can with a car.
  • No parking
  • It costs a heck of a lot to operate per mile than a car
  • There's a smaller footprint where bike delivery makes sense. It takes time to GET to that area
  • I can't carry as much with my bike as I can with my car. Drinks and ice cream can be more challenging – that limits the number of deliveries I can accept.
  • Even with an eBike, it's slower on some deliveries than a car would be
  • Weather. Nuff said. (Put it this way – if you want to deliver in bad weather on a bike you usually have to spend a fair bit of money on clothing that works with a bike AND protects you from the elements)

I think you could make an argument either way. For me, this is more like, this was something I've been thinking of doing regardless – so there were enough financial advantages to make it a reasonable decision.

Delivery bags.

Grubhub, Doordash and Postmates all provide delivery bags when you get signed on.

I encourage you strongly to use them.

If you have to buy one, it's maybe one of the best investments you can make.

And it has nothing to do with how well it keeps the food warm or cold. I do believe we have an obligation to do that the best we can, but that's not the money making piece of it.

I'm huge on using the bag AND BRINGING IT INTO THE RESTAURANT because it gets you in and out of the restaurant faster.

First, it communicates immediately that you're there for a delivery. Otherwise they don't know if you're there to place an order or what. More often than not they see the bag and they're asking, who are you here for? That can save several seconds and often several minutes.

Second, I think it makes them more likely to want to work with you. It communicates that you take the idea of protecting that food seriously, and that's huge to a restaurant.

I have purchased larger delivery bags. I carry around a large pizza bag. I bought some bags for one reason: They had a velcro lid – I could open them and close them quickly and get food in and out quickly.

Below are some of the bags you can consider:

I use the red version of this all the time from Servit. The velcro lid opens and closes quickly and easily, sides are firm enough to get food in and out of quickly. It has side pockets that work well often for drinks.

I prefer the red, it stands out more in my opinion. You can get them at the Webstaurant Store. The cost is lower there but you pay extra for shipping. They also have a larger version which is great for double orders.

The PBSB1512 sandwich bag is similar. It's lighter but less insulated.

I also picked up this extra large pizza bag. We have a couple places that sell those monster 20 inch pizzas and this lets me fit a couple of them in. I don't have a preference for a brand but I recommend 20×20 or larger.

I do carry some bags with the independent delivery contractor logo that I sell on eBay. They're the equivalent of the cheap bags that Doordash and Postmates give out. I like them because they don't have a particluar logo. Contact me if you want one, I'll send it to you for what my cost was plus shipping.

Phone holders

Because of how much goes on with the phone when you're on deliveries, if you can find a good phone holder, it will help you get around faster.

I'm a big fan of the magnetic kind. You put a metal plate on the back of your phone case and it sticks to a magnet on your carrier. Why? Because I'm in and out of the car so fast and so often that just slapping it on the holder and taking it off is huge.

This is the phone holder I have been using. The magnet makes adding and removing the phone to and from the holder quick and easy. I found this mounts better to my windshield than my dashboard.

I did just order a $90 phone holder. It's a bit steep but there's a couple of reasons. I jsut got a Quad Lock phone holder for my bike – it has a bracket in the phone case, and you just twist it on and off the phone holder. It's quick AND it's secure, which is huge. They have a car mount as well which has a magnetic charger to it. If it's as quick getting in and out I think it will save me money for one reason – I'm ALWAYS plugging my phone in and out and that many times can mess with the charger port. I had a phone go bad for that reason.

This is the Quad Lock bike mount and one of the cases available. The case will twist and lock your phone into place.

They also have a car mount that will attach to your dash or windshield. At this moment they do not have a reasonably priced version on Amazon but you can search for them at their website with my referral link. I JUST NOW received mine today and have it hooked up – so far I like it. Especially if I want to take my bike along and switch back and forth, I can use the same mount and case.

A Uniform???

I won't wear the logo of any of these companies. Grubhub gave me some free polo shirts and they were actually pretty nice, but I won't wear them.

Independent Delivery Pro polo shirt

Remember this? This is the shirt we're giving away for those who stay with us through the course.

Independent Delivery Pro cap available at the EntreCourier Gear Shop

If you saw the caps and different logo'd shirts I wear on the videos, I got them done at the EntreCourier Gear Shop I have the polo shirts in stock here that I'll send to folks, but if you want more shirts or different styles or colors, there's a wide variety available.

However, I do dress intentionally. You've seen me wearing the Independent Delivery Pro hats and shirts – and before I got those, I wore a red dress shirt and my fedora. Sometimes a bow tie to go with it.


It makes me stand out. It gets me in and out of the restaurant faster. It allows me to drop off the food faster because it's pretty obvious who it is coming up to give them their food.

Someone commented that their hair style and the particular shirt they wear is branding. He gets it. People at the restaurants know him. It seriously makes a difference.

I initially chose red because it does stand out. Because of the first choice of colors by Grubhub and Doordash, I think red is also more readily associated with delivery. Some studies show that people tip more when you wear red (but see my note above on tipping).

My experience has been, I do feel like I get more cooperation at restaurants because of what I wear.

Your phone (and the service provider)

The more you do this, the more you want to make sure what you use works.

You want to make sure you've got a phone that can handle the demands from these apps. I think that's especially true with Doordash – the app is poorly designed. That's not a secret, but it just has some real flaws that can impact how your phone is working. I prefer something with a big screen – just that it's more information. Personally, I would get an older version of a premium phone before I got a new cheaper phone.

But the big one is, don't go cut rate on your phone service. The cheapest plan can be the most expensive. If you have a lot of down spots, you can't get orders. You can't complete orders. I've had dead spots cost me an hour of time because it wouldn't let me mark an order as delivered, and I couldn't get any new orders until that was done.

Make your decision based on coverage in your area, not on price. Not being able to get orders or delays in getting orders completed will cost you far more than what you save with a cut rate provider.

One thing I've done is carry around a wifi hotspot from Smart Talk. It's a few bucks a month but if I get in a dead zone, I can kick onto that because it's with a different carrier.

You'll eventually start thinking of other tools that can help you.

Here's the point of it all: It's to think about whether someone can help you get things done more quickly or if it can reduce costs. I seriously never would have considered a $90 phone holder until I realized the toll that plugging and unplugging the charger was taking on my phone.

But here's where you know you're starting to get more of a business attitude. You know you're on your way when you see this stuff as an investment. When you see them as tools that actually help you. A lot of people squawk that these delivery companies should be providing all this stuff – they're still thinking like employees.

You don't have to get any of this. There's a lot of stuff that you can get done without any of these things. The question is: which way will you ultimately end up making more money from your business?

Could this help someone else? Please share it.