As an independent contractor delivering for Doordash you can put as many or as few hours into it as you want. You have the freedom to make it a full time gig if you want to.
Whether you should or not, that's a different question.
Don't listen to those who tell you it was never designed to be a full time gig. That's hogwash. No one designed it to be full time OR part time, and no one can tell you what it's meant to be. I've been full-time going back to 2018 and it was one of the best decisions I could make.
However, going full time could be a complete disaster. I estimate that more people crash and burn trying it full time than those who make it.
There's a lot of difference between dashing full-time and doing it as a side gig. It's one thing when you're doing it to get some extra cash, and something completely different when you depend fully on your delivery income.
Why is it a great thing for some and not so good for a lot more? How do you decide if it's a good move for you?
I'll share my experiences, and how I was able to make it work. We'll also look at the pitfalls, then talk about things that can help you determine whether Doordashing full-time is a good choice for you. Finally we'll top it off discussing some keys to success. Let's take a look at:
Is delivering for Doordash a legitimate fulltime job?
Delivering for gig economy food delivery platforms can be a legitimate full time business.
But it's not a job.
This is because as an independent contractor you are self-employed. You are not an employee of Doordash but instead are providing your delivery services as a business.
Can it be a full-time business? Absolutely. A lot of delivery drivers make it and do well full-time. Myself included.
But here's the reality of it not actually being a job: There are no guarantees. Dashing has no safety net. You don't get a minimum wage. You're not insured like an employee. There's no overtime or holiday pay. None of that.
You're on your own.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. The freedom can raise the ceiling of what you can make. You can make decisions for your business such as whether it makes sense to deliver when there's peak pay or which days and time periods work best, and whether delivery orders being offered to you via the Doordash driver app make sense or not.
It's just that you can make bad decisions as well.
I learned how to make it work so that I was earning more than my previous position as a business manager for a nonprofit organization. Usually I was working 45 hours or less per week. And those better earnings? That was AFTER taking out expenses and setting money aside to give myself some paid time off.
That's not a flex. There's nothing special about me. That's just to say it's very possible. But don't mistake this for a job. Thinking of it as a job can be the worst mistake and can short circuit your potential.
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Pros and Cons of full time delivery
Does it make sense to go full time? Should you quit your job and do nothing but delivery? The first part of deciding is to consider the pros and cons of delivering full time. Let's talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all.
The best things about full-time Doordash delivery:
Freedom. Gig economy work allows you to deliver whenever you want. It makes it much better for trying to fit your work around your life.
No boss looking over your shoulders. If you've ever had that micro-managing type of boss, you know how sweet this is.
You have more control over your earnings. You get to make all the business decisions: when to work, where to work, what deliveries to accept. This allows you to craft your own strategy, which raises the ceiling. You're not stuck at a fixed wage, hourly pay or salary.
The freedom to earn more when you need it. Need to make some extra money? You don't need to ask permission to work extra hours. You just go do it.
It's a great training ground for running your own business. The reality is, you ARE running a business. You agreed to that when you accepted the terms. This is a great low-investment way to find out if you're cut out for a more full-blown entrepreneurial life. I call it a gateway drug, as a lot of people figure out they love the freedom of being their own boss, and now they can use some of what they've learned to take the next step.
It's easy to move on if you don't like it. You don't need to give anyone a two week notice. You can quit at any time without repercussions. In fact, you don't have to quit. If you find something else you prefer to do, you can always hang on to this as a side hustle. It's the perfect no-commitment gig.
Cons of doing Door Dash full time.
There's no guarantee. There's no minimum wage. It's possible that you can lose money Dashing if your cost of driving is more than what you earn.
You're on your own for taxes. Doordash doesn't withhold taxes for you. You have to set aside your own money for income, Social Security and Medicare taxes, and pay it yourself. If you're not disciplined at that, you could have big tax troubles
You're not making as much as you think you are. You can't compare the money you just got from Doordash to a paycheck. It's apples and oranges. A paycheck is your actual earnings. Doordash pay is only the beginning before taxes and expenses come out.
You WILL wear your car out. Full time drivers put tens of thousands of miles on their car each year. That means major repair and maintenance items happen much faster. It also means you get a lot less for your car later when you trade it or sell it.
There are no benefits. Doordash won't give you any paid time off. There's no such thing as sick pay. You have to figure out how to make up for lost paid time off, health insurance, 401K you would have received from a traditional job.
Earnings aren't always consistent. Things slow down time to time. The Dasher app crashes. A lot. When the economy gets bad people don't order as much or tip less. Doordash often lets too many Dashers on for the number of deliveries available, which can lead to long waits between deliveries.
There's no due process if Doordash terminates your contract. There are a lot of things that can happen outside your control that can lead to deactivation. Now what? If this is your only source of income and something happens with your account, it's a lot like being unemployed.
No insurance. Independent contractors get no worker's comp. There's no unemployment insurance. Your car may not be insured while Dashing. You are on your own for all this.
Five things to think about before going full time
Do the pros outweigh the cons? For some, yes. For others, maybe not so much.
There are a number of things to consider before making the decision to go all in. Here are some I recommend thinking deeply about:
1. How much money are you really making?
The first thing you need to do is get real about your actual earnings. A Doordash delivery driver too often makes a big decision thinking their Doordash pay and tips are the same as a paycheck.
They're not the same thing. There are two major differences:
- You have costs that come out of your pocket to consider with your gig work income that aren't a factor in a paycheck.
- Taxes are taken out of your paycheck as an employee, where you have to do so yourself when self-employed.
One: Determine your profits. Subtract the cost of operating your business from your earnings. Most business expenses for Doordash are minimal but the big one is the use of your car. It costs a lot more than just gas to operate your vehicle. The IRS isn't just being nice when they let you write of 62.5 cents per mile (second half of 2022). Determine what it actually costs to run your car. A good rule of thumb is about 40 cents per mile, and higher if you have a new or valuable vehicle. Know how many miles you drive (you need that information for taxes). Multiply your miles times your cost per mile. Subtract that from your earnings and you have your profit.
Two: Subtract taxes. You have to pay 15.3% for self-employment tax (to cover your Social Security and Medicare taxes). Income tax varies, with the starting tax bracket being 10%. You can read further about what to save for taxes, but based on those numbers a good starting point is 25% of your profits. You can go higher or lower depending on your overall tax situation.
Your pay minus taxes and expenses gives you a better number to compare to your take home. All of a sudden those Doordash earnings don't seem so large.
2. What else are you giving up from your job?
Are you getting paid time off? Do you get sick time or vacation pay? You won't get that with Doordash. You have to factor all that into your decision.
Say you get three weeks paid time off. When you are self-employed, those are three weeks where you aren't making any money. What do you do if you want to take time off? What happens if you get sick and can't deliver?
Are you getting any other benefits with your job? Is there a match on your 401K? Do you get health or life insurance? If you quit your job to go self-employed, are you able to pay for those out of pocket?
Figuring out how much it costs to replace all of that gives you a better idea how Dashing compares to a job.
3. How do you feel about running a business?
If you decide to go full-time with Doordash, you are going all in on running a business.
It may not feel like it. But you agreed to a contract that said you're providing services as a business. The IRS sees you as a business and you pay taxes as one.
This means there's no safety net. When you decide to be self-employed, you give up any guarantees that go with being employed. There's no minimum hourly wage. Doordash doesn't pay overtime. FLSA and FMLA protections don't apply. You give up the right for fair employment because you agree that you aren't an employee.
The flip side is, you have more control. You can choose how to do business. You can take on other customers and other revenue streams. This means you don't have to be at the mercy of an employer, get permission to work more, and you have more control over what you earn.
It's a different mindset. It's not better or worse, just different.
How do you feel with the idea that, if you don't make enough money, it's your fault and not Doordash's? Because that's the reality when you decide to be self-employed. There's no one to blame but yourself.
How comfortable are you with a business mindset, of being completely on your own?
4. How do you feel about doing this kind of work full time?
Have you ever done more than fifteen or twenty hours of delivery in a week? A couple of nights and weekends is a lot different than forty, fifty hours or more. Try to find an opportunity to test it out for an extended period of time before making the dive.
How would you feel going all in on this kind of work?
Do you enjoy the work? If you're offended all the time by the lowball offers, the customer tips being too little (or not at all) and all the other stuff that goes on, this kind of work could eat you up inside. For me, I always saw it as very low stress often enjoyable work. Don't go full time if you already dread going out there to deliver.
What is the big picture for you? What is your ultimate goal? Do you have something you are working towards in the long run? Having a bigger “why” and a sense of purpose that your independent contractor work helps you maximize your business but also lets it become part of something that can be greater.
5. Does your market support full time delivery?
Some places are great for making a living delivering for Doordash. Others, not so much. A lot of it can depend on your particular market.
Do customers tip well?
Is Door Dash busy enough to keep you moving? Have they avoided saturating the market with too many gig workers?
What are the deliveries like? Are there enough good delivery orders sprinkled in to make it worth delivering? Are you in a small area that has hardly anything but two to four dollar deliveries? Is the area more prone to a boom and bust, where sometimes you can do great and other times it's dead as a doornail?
Finally, have you had a chance to see what you can make during different times of day? It's easy to be enticed by what you are making a couple of evenings and on weekends. Those busy times are often the highest earning time periods. The additional hours you'd need to put in may not be at the best time period and thus average Dasher pay could drop quite a bit.
Eight Keys to success for the full time food delivery driver
Is it possible to do well delivering full time? Absolutely. Personally I have no regrets since starting out full-time in 2018.
Is success guaranteed? Absolutely not. In fact, I think failure is more of a guarantee if you don't go about it right. Too many drivers are losing money without realizing it, only to get a rude awakening when they owe a huge tax bill or when their car craps out.
A lot of that depends on you. It depends on your mindset, and it depends on you making the right steps to make sure you have taken care of yourself.
If you choose to deliver for Doordash full time, I recommend these eight steps to make sure you're successful:
1. Treat this like a business.
I can't stress this enough: You're providing delivery services as a business, NOT as a Doordash employee.
The moment you adopt an employee mentality, you set yourself up for failure. That's because that's the moment you have let Doordash control your destiny.
Think in terms of business decisions. Whether you accept a delivery order or not, where you choose to deliver, setting your own schedule for the best time of day to deliver Doordash, all those things play a role in how you can do. Take control for yourself.
That also means looking at Doordash as your customer. Every delivery offer that comes in on the Doordash app is a customer bidding for your services.
2. Measure your performance.
Keep track of everything: your miles, your expenses. You'll want that for tax season, but you'll also want it so you know what you're making.
Early on in the podcast, I talked about measuring your delivery performance in three ways: The number of deliveries per hour, income per mile, and profit per hour. The more you track and measure your performance, the more you can improve and grow.
I'm a big fan of tracking your hourly rate. That's because you only have a limited amount of time, and deliveries take time. An hourly rate (or better yet, profit per hour) helps you compare one hour to the next, or compare a day to the entire week, or even compare one delivery to another.
3. Get a separate bank account for your business.
This helps you build that business mindset. It also makes it easier to track what's going on with your business.
If your payments from Doordash are just sent by direct deposit into your checking account, (or by fast pay to a debit card) it's far easier to just spend the money before you've taken care of taxes or expenses.
It's easier to figure out your taxes when you don't have to sort through your personal bank account to find income and business expenses at tax time.
There are several options you can use. You can ask your financial institution if they can open an additional account for your business. Many credit unions and banks allow you to have multiple checking accounts that are linked together.
I prefer using a completely separate bank account. It just solidifies that break between personal and business for me. I use Novo, which has no minimum balance requirement and no hidden fees. Full disclosure: I do get a commission for new accounts as an affiliate.
4. Keep good records.
The bottom line is, when you make full-time money on Doordash, you can owe a LOT of money in taxes.
But taxes don't have to be that bad. Because you're self-employed, you can write off business expenses, and you can do that whether or not you itemize or take the standard personal tax deduction.
And the big one is your mileage expense. If you use your car for delivery, you can claim 62.5 cents per mile driven (for the second half of 2022, the standard mileage rate changes yearly).
This is because as a business, your true earnings are your profits. That means business expenses including mileage and other reasonable and necessary costs of doing business can be subtracted from your gross revenue (a fancy accounting term for the money you got from Doordash).
However, you have to have a record of it all.
Every dollar of expenses you fail to track means about 25 cents more on your tax bill than you should have to pay (based on 10% income tax, 15% FICA, your personal numbers may vary). Every mile that you fail to keep track of is about 16 cents more in taxes. When you drive tens of thousands of miles for delivery, that adds up.
Find a way to keep track of everything. A separate bank account is a great start. At the very least, jot down expenses and track your miles on a notepad or a spreadsheet. For some, a GPS mileage tracking app like Hurdlr works a lot better.
5. Give yourself a paycheck
I strongly believe the best way to handle your pay is to treat it like a business, and create a process where you are paying yourself in a systematic way.
Here's the process I use:
- All payments from Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, and the smaller food delivery apps are deposited in my business bank account.
- I set aside money for taxes and transfer that to a separate savings account where I'm less tempted to spend it.
- I save 35 cents a mile for car expenses. Gas, oil, maintenance and repairs come out of that fund.
- I save about 6% of my earnings for a paid time off fund. That's money that makes sure the bills are still paid when I take some vacation time or if I have to miss a few days of delivery.
- Only after all these other things are done, the amount that's left gets transferred to my personal checking account.
Doordash and most gig economy platforms pay on a weekly basis. Since I work with several platforms, I wait until all the payments for the week have been deposited, and then follow this process.
When you give yourself a paycheck as a Doordash independent contractor, you have a great way to compare what you're making to a W-2 full-time job (or part time, for that matter). It also makes sure you're not blindsided by taxes or major car repairs that come because you've worn your car out.
6. Get other customers.
Remember that Doordash is your customer. They're not your boss or your employer.
Here's the deal: I've delivered full time for years. I personally would NEVER try to do only Doordash full time. There are just too many times they don't pay enough to make it worth giving all my attention to.
But when mixed in with other package and food delivery services, it all pays much better.
What are the other delivery opportunities in your area? Is Grubhub or Uber Eats available? What about catering with DeliverThat, or shopping with Instacart or package delivery? Get to know all the opportunities and learn where they can work well for you.
No business should have only one customer. Doordash should never be your only customer.
Remember that every delivery offer is a bid for your services. That's all. If you have more customers willing to bid for your services, you'll have a better chance of finding more offers that make financial sense.
7. Set your price
Contractor understands … (ii)they are free to negotiate their compensation by among other things accepting or rejecting the opportunities transmitted through the Doordash platform by consumers, and can make such decisions to maximize their opportunity to profit.Doordash Independent Contractor Agreement, Recitals, Paragraph 2, as of August 2022
Doordash specifically says in the contract that you that you have the right to set your price by accepting and rejecting Doordash delivery offers.
Here's the thing: when you accept a $2.50 delivery that takes up a half hour, you could lose more than you make if you drive very far. On top of that, it kills your hourly rate.
That's not a way to run a business.
When you're using a business mindset, acceptance rate and reward programs like Top Dasher are not good reasons on their own for taking deliveries. It doesn't make business sense to take offers because Doordash recognizes you for it.
That's not to say Top Dasher is wrong. A high acceptance rate usually means a lower profit per hour, so you need to weigh the advantages against the cost. In the end though, it has to be a business decision and not something that comes from an employee mindset.
Develop a standard, set your price. If Doordash isn't meeting your price, maybe another customer will.
7. Have an exit plan.
While I'm a big believer that it's very possible to make a decent living on Doordash and other delivery platforms full time, I don't believe it's sustainable for the long term.
Gig economy delivery is not a successful and profitable business model. At some point something may have to change. What happens if their change in business model no longer lines up with yours?
There's also tremendous political pressure to force gig economy companies to switch to an employee model. What happens if legislation limiting the use of independent contractors passes?
Opportunities could go away for your personally. Delivery companies are continually lowering their delivery fee, which makes it harder to be profitable. There's always the threat of having your contract deactivated.
You need to be prepared for when big changes happen. You also need to be prepared to do more for yourself.
I truly believe that Dashing can be a great training grounds to bigger and better things. The self-employment experience can be huge. The ability to make business decisions is a highly sought after skill.
For me, the driving time gave me a lot of opportunities to listen to audio books and podcasts that helped me learn how to build my website and podcast.
What is life after Doordash going to be like? Think about that and make plans.
Does Doordash work make sense full time? It really depends on you, how you do things, and where you are.
Should you quit your job to deliver for Doordash? That too depends on a lot of things.
If your work conditions are bad, anything can be an improvement. If you don't have as much in the way of benefits, the gap between where you are and what you get from Doordash gets smaller.
However, if you figure out you're not making as much as you thought, or you really need those additional benefits, Dashing full time may not add up.
There's a lot of variety to how much Doordash drivers truly make, based on tings like:
- Their market
- Where and when they choose to Dash
- How much they include other gig opportunities
- How well they handle their business finances
Make sure you've thought about all these factors carefully before making drastic decisions. At the same time, don't write it off because some people tell you you can't make it. There's no one size fits all answer to this question of whether fulltime Dashing makes sense.
For me, delivering full-time for Doordash and several apps was the best decision I could have made. The pay was surprisingly better than what I was making before (even after expenses) and it was much more enjoyable. In the end, the flexible schedule also gave me the opportunity to dive into passion projects and to create content that can help other gig workers.
Full-time made sense for me. It might be great for you. It might not. Only you can really know.