As an independent contractor delivering for Uber Eats, 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 wish.
Whether you should or not, that's a different question. Full-time delivery is the right move for many, but for others a complete disaster. I estimate that more people crash and burn than those who make it.
Why is it a great thing for some and not so good for many others? How do you decide if it's a good move for you?
I'll share my experiences and how I made it work, look at the pitfalls, and then discuss factors to help you decide whether it's a good choice for you. Finally, let's top it off by discussing some keys to success.
- Is delivering for Uber Eats a legitimate full-time job?
- Pros and Cons of full-time delivery
- Factors to help you decide if Uber Eats full-time is a good idea
- Keys to success as a full-time Dasher
This is part of a larger series of articles about delivering for Uber Eats. We'll link to other articles throughout, or you can find a list of the entire series down below.
Is delivering for Uber Eats a legitimate fulltime job?
Delivering for gig economy food delivery platforms like Uber Eats and others can be a great way to go.
But it's not a job.
As an independent contractor for Uber Eats, you are self-employed. You are not an employee but instead provide 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.
Some will tell you it wasn't designed to be a full-time gig. That's hogwash. The nature of doing this as a business means you have the right to decide whether full-time or part-time make the most sense for you.
The more important question is not whether or not it should be full-time. Instead, it's whether doing this as a business instead of as a job makes sense for you. You must decide whether the lack of guarantees or employment protections is a deal breaker. Given the fact that there's no safety net for you, does it make sense to rely entirely on gig economy income?
From my perspective, doing this full-time was the best decision I could have made. That doesn't mean it will be for everyone. Delivering full-time for Uber Eats and others can be a great full-time business.
You just have to decide if that's the right path for you.
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 considering 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 Uber Eats delivery:
Freedom. Gig economy work allows you to deliver whenever you want. It makes it much better to try 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 Uber Eats earnings. You get to make all the business decisions: when to deliver, 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 that you ARE running a business. You agreed to that when you accepted the terms. This is a fantastic low-investment way to determine if you're cut out for a more full-blown entrepreneurial life. I call it a gateway drug, as many people figure out they love the freedom of being their own boss. 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 Uber Eats full time.
There's no guarantee. There's no minimum wage. You could potentially lose money on deliveries if your cost of driving is more than what you earn.
You're on your own for taxes. Uber Eats doesn't withhold taxes for you. You must set aside your money for income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. Then you have to pay your Uber Eats taxes yourself. If you're not disciplined at that, you could have significant tax troubles.
You're not making as much as you think you are. You can't compare the money you just got from Uber Eats to a paycheck, as it's an apples and oranges comparison. An employee's paycheck is their actual earnings, while money received from Uber is only the beginning.
You WILL wear your car out. Full-time drivers put tens of thousands of miles on their vehicles each year, making major repair and maintenance items happen much faster. It also means you get a lot less for your car when you trade or sell it.
There are no benefits. Uber won't give you any paid time off, with no such thing as sick pay. You have to figure out how to make up for lost paid time off, health insurance, and 401K you would have received from a traditional job.
Earnings aren't always consistent. Things slow down from time to time. What happens when the Uber driver app starts glitching? People don't order as much or tip less when the economy gets bad. Uber Eats doesn't regulate how many drivers can be logged in at a time, leading to long waits between deliveries.
There's no due process if Uber Eats 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 like being unemployed.
No insurance. Independent contractors get no worker's comp or unemployment insurance. Your car may not be insured while Dashing. You are on your own for all this.
Five factors to help you decide if Uber Eats full-time makes sense.
Do the pros outweigh the cons? For some, yes. For others, maybe not so much.
There are several things to consider before deciding to go all in. Here are some I recommend thinking deeply about:
- How much are you really earning?
- What else are you giving up that employment offers?
- How comfortable are you being a business owner?
- Do you enjoy the work enough to do it full time?
- Can you make enough in your area to support full-time?
1. How much money are you really making?
The first thing you need to do is get real about your actual earnings. An Uber Eats delivery driver too often makes a big decision thinking their Uber pay and tips are the same as a paycheck.
They're not the same thing. There are two significant differences:
- As a contractor, expenses come out of your pocket that are not part of an employee's paycheck.
- Taxes are taken out of your paycheck as an employee, where you have to do so yourself when self-employed.
Start with your total earnings from Uber Eats. Subtract the cost of using your car (I recommend using 40 cents per mile driven as a basis, chances are you'll fall within five or ten cents of that). Subtract other business expenses such as supplies. That give you your profit.
Now take out your taxes. That number will vary depending on your personal filing status, but 25% of profit is a good starting place. Now you have a better idea of your effective take-home pay.
2. What else are you giving up from your job?
Say you get three weeks of paid time off as an employee. 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 from your job? Is there a match on your 401K, or do you get health or life insurance? If you quit your job to go self-employed, can you pay for those out of pocket?
3. How do you feel about running a business?
By going full-time with Uber Eats, you're going all in on running a business.
It may not feel like you are. However, 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.
When you run a business, there's no guarantee. Are you okay with that?
How do you feel about the concept that it's all up to you? That it's your fault and not Uber's if you don't make enough money? If a business doesn't make it, it's not the customer's fault.
How comfortable are you with a business mindset, that you're entirely 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 are different from forty, fifty hours or more. Try to find an opportunity to test it out for an extended time before making the dive.
Do you enjoy the work? If you're always offended by the lowball offers, the customer tips being too little (or not at all), and all the other stuff, this kind of work could eat you up inside.
What will you say when someone asks what you do for a living? How do you feel about their potential reaction?
5. Does your market support full-time delivery?
Some places are great for making a living delivering for Uber Eats. 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 to allow you to consistently earn what you need to make it worthwhile? Are you in an area with hardly anything but $2 to $4 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?
Many drivers who are thinking of full-time only have experience delivering during peak hours such as evenings and weekends. What is the potential for mid-day earnings in your area? Can you sustain the kind of earnings on a full-time basis as you could part-time?
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 the potential for failure is greater than it is for success. 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 taking the proper steps to ensure you have taken care of yourself. If you choose to deliver for Uber Eats full-time, I recommend these eight steps to make sure you're successful:
1. Treat this like a business, not a job.
I can't stress this enough: You're providing delivery services as a business, NOT as an Uber employee.
You set yourself up for failure the moment you adopt an employee mentality. That's because that's when you've let Uber Eats control your destiny.
Think in terms of business decisions. Whether you accept a delivery order or not, where you choose to deliver and when you deliver all play a role in how well you do. Take control for yourself.
Look at Uber Eats as your customer. Every delivery offer on the Uber Eats app is a customer (Uber Eats) bidding for your services.
2. Measure your performance.
Keep track of everything: your miles and expenses. You'll want that for tax season, but also so you can know what you're making.
Early in my 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, 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 tracking what's going on with your business easier.
Suppose you get your payments from Uber Eats by direct deposit into your personal checking account or by fast pay to your debit card. In that case, 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.
I personally use Novo for my business banking account. (This is an affiliate link). 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 linked together.
4. Keep good records.
The bottom line is that when you make full-time money on Uber Eats, you can have a large tax bill.
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).
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 pay (based on 10% income tax and 15% FICA). Every mile you fail to track leads to about 16 cents more in additional taxes. That adds up when you drive tens of thousands of miles for delivery.
Find a way to keep track of all your income and expenses. 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 much better.
5. Give yourself a paycheck.
I firmly believe the best way to handle your pay is to treat it like a business and create a process where you are systematically paying yourself.
Here's the process I use:
- All payments from Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, etc. are deposited into my business bank account.
- Tax money is taken out and transferred to a separate savings account (where it's less tempting to spend)
- 35 cents per mile is set aside for car expenses. Gas, oil, maintenance and repairs come out of that fund.
- 6% of earnings go to a paid time off fund. When I take a vacation or am sick, I can use that money to make sure the bills are still paid.
- Only after all these other things are done is the remaining amount transferred to my personal checking account.
Uber Eats and most gig economy platforms pay weekly. Since I work with several delivery platforms, I wait until all the weekly payments have been deposited to follow this process.
When you give yourself a paycheck as a Uber Eats independent contractor, you have a great way to compare what you're making to a W-2 job.It also ensures you're not blindsided by taxes or significant car repairs related to wearing your car out.
6. Get other customers.
Remember that Uber Eats 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 Uber Eats full-time. They're too hit-or-miss in my area. 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 Doordash available? What about catering with DeliverThat, 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. Uber Eats should never be your only customer.
Remember that every delivery offer is a bid for your services. If more customers are willing to bid for your services, you'll have a better chance of finding more offers that make financial sense.
7. Set your price
Here's the thing: when you accept a $2.50 delivery that takes up a half hour and goes a long distance, you could lose money on that deal.
That's not a way to run a business.
The way that you set your price is by accepting and declining Uber Eats delivery offers. If the offer pays enough, take it. If it doesn't mean your price, say no.
Acceptance rate doesn't matter. Neither does any other number other than your bottom line. Uber decided to contract with you as a business. Claim your right as a business owner by setting your price. If Uber Eats doesn't meet your price, maybe another customer will.
8. Have an exit plan.
While I'm a big believer that it's very possible to make a decent living on Uber Eats and other delivery platforms full-time, I don't believe it's sustainable for the long term.
Gig economy delivery is not a successful or profitable business model. None of the big delivery companies have turned a profit doing this. At some point, something may have to change. What happens if their business model change no longer aligns 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?
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 significant changes happen. You also need to be prepared to do more for yourself.
I truly believe that gig economy work can be a great training ground for bigger and better things. The self-employment experience can be huge. The ability to make business decisions is a highly sought-after skill.
What do you want to do next? All that time behind the wheel between deliveries can be a great opportunity to listen to podcasts or audiobooks to help you get there.
What is life after Uber Eats going to be like? Think about that and make plans.
Does Uber Eats work make sense full-time? It depends on how you do things and where you are.
Should you quit your job to deliver for Uber Eats? That, too, depends on a lot of things.
These days, quality of life and work environment are becoming bigger factors for people figuring out how to make a living. Freedom and flexibility become more important. All of that can make full-time delivery more attractive.
At the same time, many contractors are making far less than they realize. The lack of guarantees or a safety net can be a bigger issue than you realize.
Don't write off the possibility of contracting full-time for Uber Eats and other gig companies just because of what other people say. There's no one-size-fits-all answer to whether fulltime Uber Eats delivery makes sense. Instead, think hard about all these factors and make the decision that makes the most sense for you.
For me, delivering full-time for Uber Eats and several apps was the best decision I could have made. The pay was surprisingly better than what I made as an employee. That's even after accounting for expenses. I also found it was more enjoyable and less stressful. In the end, the flexible schedule also allowed me to dive into passion projects and create content that can help other gig workers.
Full-time made sense for me. It may or may not be as great for you. Only you can really know.