If you're reading this, I'm guessing you're thinking about signing on for one of the third party delivery services like Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, Instacart and others. But you're not sure, are you?
Is being a food delivery driver worth it? Or is it a mistake? Maybe you heard some great things. Or perhaps you heard the horror stories? Which one will it be for you?
Obviously I cannot tell you if it's the right thing for you. It may or may not be. However, as someone who has delivered full-time for several of these companies for several years, I can tell you I've loved it. I mean, I even have a website about it all, right? I know the good, the bad and the ugly and I want to help you see all sides of it.
That doesn't mean I'll sit here and tell you it's perfect. There can be some traps as a gig economy independent contractor. It's important you understand the challenges as well as the good things about delivery.
However, understanding all sides of it, for me it has definitely been worth it. In fact I think it's one of the best decisions I ever made. I share the reasons you should think twice in another article, but for this one I want to share why, for me, it was very definitely worth it.
In this article, I'll share:
Before I go further
I did want to make clear that I'm writing about being a delivery driver in the United States. A lot of the things I love about delivery are things that translate to a lot of places. But there are nuances and differences with independent contractor gigs in other countries.
Also, I want to be clear that I am talking about independent contractor gigs. We'll talk about this with the three questions, but it's really important that you understand the difference between the two.
Things are very different for pizza delivery drivers for companies like Pizza Hut and Domino's than they are as Uber Eats, Grubhub and Doordash drivers.
It's really important that you know what it is you want. There's safety and security in a W2 job such as hourly pay, minimum hourly wage, insurance, etc. There's a lot more freedom and the ability to control your own work as an independent contractor.
There are trade offs. Which is important to you?
Delivering for Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub and some others was one of the best career decisions I could have made.
Don't get me wrong.
I don't see delivery for these companies as a career.
In fact, if you're not already, you MUST be aware that it's not even a job. These companies hire us as independent contractors, meaning we're doing these deliveries as businesses and not as employees. It's extremely important you understand that.
The thing is, the delivery part is not really the thing that made it the best choice for me. For me, it was more about what it allowed me to do.
I've had a number of jobs that many would consider ‘more legitimate' than doing food delivery. I've been a business manager, and I've been sales manager and company president in technology and telecommunications.
And I've never enjoyed what I've done as much as I have since taking on these delivery gigs.
The crazy thing about it all? I never expected this one: I've made as much for my time in delivery as I have in just about any job I've taken on (and more than many).
How can you enjoy something like food delivery?
You know how as a kid you think of what you want to be when you grow up? A firefighter or astronaut or doctor.
I'm not sure many aspire to be a Doordash driver, right?
What I'm getting at here is that it's not like delivery in and of itself is a dream job.
While I won't tell you it's the best thing you could ever do, for me it was a fantastic way to pursue my dreams while paying the bills along the way.
And the thing is, I didn't hate it.
Maybe I'm just weird, but something about it is kind of fun.
For me, food delivery was the perfect thing to help me go where I want to go with my life.
I'll get into the things that made it perfect for me in a bit.
But the thing about all the business stuff I've done in the past, I got to the point where I just thought there's more to life than this. I started thinking about the things where I want to make a difference. In fact, I knew the things I wanted to do.
Delivery was what allowed me to make those changes in my life and to accomplish my goals. It did so in a much greater way than I anticipated.
Three Questions to ask Yourself About Delivery Driving
Because it worked for me doesn't mean it will for you.
So how do you apply any of this to your life? How can you tell if it makes sense to do something like this based on someone else's story?
But the thing is, the fact that you're reading this tells me that you're thinking about picking up this delivery gig, right? And I'm pretty sure that it's not the delivery part itself that has you thinking that.
You want to accomplish something. Like it was for me, I'm guessing that this whole idea is a means to an end. So how do you decide if this is the right means to that end for you?
I think it's worth asking these three questions:
1. What are you trying to accomplish?
Are you trying to dig your way out of debt? As Dave Ramsey says:
“You need a bigger shovel to dig your way out of that debt. (Psst… the shovel is your income).” Dave Ramsey
Maybe you just need the income to make ends meet. Perhaps you're wanting to save up for something. There's some reason you're thinking about this.
2. What is needed to make your solution fit with your life?
For example, in my situation I needed flexibility. I needed to be free to do things at different times of the day and so I needed something that could work around that schedule. Having time with family is incredibly important to me. Doing things on my own schedule was vital to me.
What are the important things to you? What are the non-negotiables?
3. How can whatever you're looking at help you meet your goals (#1) while still meeting your requirements (#2)?
I'm going to list some of the most common benefits to doing delivery work below. Do these benefits help you accomplish your goals while still meeting your requirements?
Delivering food does exactly that for me. What about you?
11 Reasons being a delivery driver can be worth it.
On demand delivery can be the ideal side hustle for earning some extra cash. It can be a great short term business opportunity. For nearly three years it was a great full time business for me.
Whether doing this full time or as a side gig, the following are reasons it can be ideal for you. Some may fit for you, or maybe not so much.
Before we dive in, I want to give this warning one more time: There are no guarantees. Remember that these gig companies contract with you and you are providing services to them as a business, not as an employee.
This opens up a whole world of issues you need to be aware of. Don't just read this and skip the article I just linked. It's important to know the good and bad and go in eyes wide open.
I'm not a fan of Doordash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, Instacart or any of these companies in how they treat their contractors. I don't trust a single one of them.
I know, that's not exactly the thing to say in an article why this is a great way to make some extra money. But that's why I say walk in with eyes wide open. Understand both the pros and cons and when you know what you're working with, you can do so much more.
For me, I found the positives far outweighed the negatives. You should look closely at both before making a decision. For today, we're going to look at the pro's.
1. Delivery contracting is a great way to earn money
After all, the bottom line is it's all about the bottom line. You're thinking of this for a reason, and it usually has something to do with money.
If the money's not worth it, none of the rest matters.
Is the money worth it? I can tell you that what I've been able to earn has surprised me quite a bit.
I'm hesitant to really throw out numbers, because things can vary so much. What one person earns has no bearing or is no guarantee of what another will earn.
Unfortunately as an independent contractor, there is no hourly guarantee or minimum wage. Even when they say you can make an hourly rate, it's not guaranteed.
The trade off with a lot of W-2 food delivery jobs there's also a lower ceiling. As my own boss, I get to make decisions that let me make more money (more on that in point #5)
How pay works for food delivery companies
And the pay model is usually pretty much the same thing:
- There's a base pay (delivery fees) paid by the delivery company.
- They may offer incentives and bonuses for working when there's high demand.
- The customer's tip is added to the pay.
You can read more here about what Doordash pays, how much Uber Eats pays, and about Grubhub driver pay.
You don't normally have an hourly pay rate but instead are paid on a delivery by delivery basis. Delivery drivers are paid separately for each delivery completed.
Sometimes bonuses and incentives like Doordash's peak pay make things even more profitable. Sometimes they require long hours in completing so many food orders in a week or a month. Other times the bonus is delivery by delivery.
The big thing is, when customers tip well, you make some good money. If they don't tip, the delivery rarely pays much for the time involved. The good news is you have the right to accept or reject.
Personally, over the past year or my average earnings were around $30 per hour in net earnings. I can't sat that's what everyone would make.
There was an Uber Eats driver who delivered 12 hours a day, every day for a month and brought in a total of $8,357 in a month's time. If he did that for a full year, that's a total of $100,284. I think that many hours is a recipe for burnout, but it does illustrate the amazing potential.
2. You can set your own schedule
What makes delivery perfect for a lot of people is the flexible schedule. You can go out whenever you want at whatever time makes sense to you.
If you are a student, you can work around your class and study schedule. As a parent, you can work around your family schedule.
It's a great side hustle. For me it was the perfect replacement for a full-time job.
The nature of these food delivery apps is that you choose your own hours. It can be as simple as tapping the “Go” button on the Uber Eats app, or scheduling yourself on the Doordash app.
A company can't control your work when you're an independent contractor. They cannot tell you when to work. This gives you the freedom to go out whenever it makes sense for you to go out.
You get to make your own decisions as to if it makes sense to deliver. Obviously the potential is higher during peak times that people are more likely to order restaurant meals (usually lunch and dinner, sometimes breakfast).
This was the main reason that I personally chose delivery. I needed the flexible hours to earn that extra income when it made sense for me, and to take time for family or for personal projects.
You don't need to ask permission to take time off. You simply work when it makes sense to you, and not work when life is happening in other ways for you.
3. I get paid much more quickly than starting a new job
The thing about a new job is you can plan on waiting a few weeks, maybe a month or more, before you get your first paycheck.
In contrast, I love how quickly the pay turns around when I deliver for these cmpanies.
With a lot of third party delivery services, the application process involves completing a background check, submitting your insurance and drivers license information, and then waiting for the approval. For me, that only took a couple days.
And then you can get started, whenever it makes sense for you.
All of the gig economy companies I know of pay on a weekly basis. I signed up for one gig on a Thursday, was had my first order on Saturday, and by Tuesday I already had money in my bank account.
Many of these companies have instant payment arrangements. Doordash has a DasherDirect debit card where the money is deposited onto your card the moment you complete a Dash.
4. There's no boss looking over your shoulder
If you've ever been micromanaged (and hated it) you'll love this for that very reason.
I mentioned this before: A company cannot control the work that you do when you're an independent contractor. That's a right they gave up when they chose to use contractors in lieu of employees.
There is no supervisor. There are no requirements that you do a certain amount of work. You don't have to deal with employee reviews or any of that. You are your own boss. That means you have the freedom to make your own choices.
5. You have more control over your earnings
While some say you have no guarantees, the flip side is there's a higher ceiling.
And because you can choose whether or not to accept deliveries, you can make decisions that control how much money you can make.
It's your right to choose the best times to deliver. You can determine which areas to work. And because delivery offers are nothing more than a bid for your services, you can choose which offers make sense and which ones don't pay enough.
And the beauty of the fact that Doordash, Uber Eats and others are your customers (not your employers) is this: If you're not earning enough with one company, you have the freedom to see if another company offers something better.
In other words you don't have to choose whoever is the best delivery service. A restaurant owner doesn't have to choose between customers. Why should you? You can work with them all.
Personally, this realization was a game changer for me. When things got slow with one company, I could just fire up the delivery apps from others and let them bid against one another for my services. Whoever offered the higher price won my services.
A business should never rely entirely on one customer. That's true of independent contractors. If one option isn't paying what you need, you have a good opportunity to find someone who will.
6. Minimum up front investment
Here's what it boils down to: You are starting a business without all the normal startup costs
Generally you can do this without much investment, if any at all. You just need a few essential tools and you're ready to go. None of them are expensive (assuming of course you already have your own car or transportation and a smart phone).
You don't need to buy inventory. You don't need to do a lot of advertising or marketing or product delivery. Instead, you're providing a service and the customers (Doordash, Grubhub, Uber Eats) are already out there for you.
This is one of the simplest ways to go into business for yourself without a huge initial investment.
7. Worktime stresses don't follow you home
Here's the thing about doing delivery work:
Your agreement with delivery platforms is on a delivery by delivery basis. It begins the moment you agree to complete a delivery, and it ends the moment you complete it.
In other words, as soon as you complete a delivery, you're done. You can choose to take another delivery or you can just walk away.
The hidden benefit in this that I found is, my stress level went down dramatically when I started delivering food.
I didn't have to worry about performance reviews, or what about that meeting coming up? There's no boss, no concern about what's coming up next time.
Instead, you just take a delivery, complete it, and move on.
I've talked with professionals who have taken on delivery. Almost unanimously, they prefer delivery because there's so much less stress.
In three years, I've never laid awake at night worrying about anything related to delivery. I'm not sure there's any job (or business) that I've had that I can say that about.
8. It's a low commitment gig
Let's say you give it a whirl. But maybe it just isn't a fit for you.
All you have to do is stop. There's no two week notice. You don't have to worry about ramping down or anything like that.
If you don't like it, you can just walk away. No harm, no foul. Since there was no real investment, nothing was lost. You don't have any repercussions for closing down shop.
All you do is walk away. It's as easy as that.
In fact, you don't HAVE to walk away. If you find something better, you still have the ability to turn the app on every once in awhile and make a little extra cash.
And if you don't want to, nothing is hurt.
9. Just the right amount of interaction with people
Personally, I enjoy the interaction with people along the way. I enjoy getting to know some of the people at the local restaurants where I pick up.
Interactions with the customers are short and sweet. Usually it's handing off the food, maybe a nod or “have a great one.” Sometimes you share a joke. I'm a dog lover, so I really enjoy the pooches who are excited that a new friend came, obviously just for them, or who think that food is for them.
And then I get to walk away. I don't have to carry on a conversation. There's no pressure to come up with something to say. It's hello, goodbye, and on the road again.
For me, that's perfect. I'm just extroverted enough that I enjoy meeting people.
At the same time, I'm just enough of an introvert that I'm happy to limit that to a few moments.
(In the past year I've been a little bummed because a lot of deliveries have gone no-contact, so those opportunities have been reduced).
This is why I chose delivery over rideshare. I don't have to worry about keeping up a conversation, or worry about a bad customer rating if the conversation wasn't exactly stellar.
10. It can be a gateway drug to becoming an entrepreneuer
The “Entre” in EntreCourier comes from Entrepreneur. It's about someone who's in business for themselves.
It's not full blown entrepreneurism, but it's one of the best ways to get started running your own business.
And it's cool to get a good taste of actually being a business owner.
You start to think, “I like being my own boss. I love making the decisions.” Maybe “I even enjoy the challenge of knowing that failure or success are all on me.”
Like I mentioned in #6, you can get into running a business without all the up front investment that most businesses require. It's a beautiful way of dipping your toe in the water.
And if you're like me, you might get hooked. It's a great way to discover what it's like to be on your own, make your own decisions, and fail or succeed on your own merit. Sometimes it's just the thing to make you say, I'm ready to take the next step.
11. You can learn while you earn
That's how EntreCourier got started.
After doing this for a long time, I realized a lot of people had questions about the business of delivery. Maybe they still thought this was a delivery job. Or they didn't understand taxes.
I realized I could help them, and that's how EntreCourier.com got started.
There's a lot to learn about how to create a website. In fact, it's become a business of its own.
The problem was, I didn't have time to learn how to do a website AND start a podcast AND have time with my family AND do other projects that were important to me AND still make enough money on delivery.
Or did I?
The thing about delivery is, you pick up the food from the restaurant, then take it to the customer, rinse and repeat.
And that left a lot of time in my car going from one place to the next.
THAT time became my learning time. It was perfect for listening to podcasts and audio books. I learned more than I thought I could about how to do all this.
Basically I was getting paid to learn. Seems like a good idea to me.
If you've been dying to find the time to learn how to do the next great thing in your life, drive time can be perfect for you. The opportunities and resources that you can listen to while out on deliveries are virtually endless.
For me, this is a perfect follow up to that gateway drug. In the end I can do a lot more than just make money on deliveries BECAUSE of my delivery work.
Is being a delivery driver worth it for you?
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It might be.
Maybe it isn't. Nothing is perfect for everyone.
In fact there are a lot of reasons you should think twice before going forward with delivery contracting. It's just as important that you understand those as it is to read the points above.
Being a Grubhub driver, Doordash Dasher or Uber Eats delivery pro is not a normal delivery driver job. It's running a business. That has pros and cons to it. I shared my pro's but you really need to also look at the cons (see the link in the above paragraph).
In my case, it was by far the best decision I could have made. To this day I'm blown away by how it's set me up for the things I want to do in life.
What would it be for you? Maybe it's only really about paying a few dollars off of your debts, or saving up however much money you can for that dream vacation or that new car. Nothing more, nothing less, just a handy side gig. And that's okay.
Possibly it's about broadening your horizons and seeing possibilities you never thought of with what you want to do with your own life.
In the long run, the only way to know at the end of the day is to give it a shot.