You decided to give the gig economy a try.
Maybe you signed on with one or more of the many companies that use independent contractors to deliver food or goods for various restaurants and stores.
What's the most important key to success for delivery contractors with Doordash, Uber Eats, Instacart, Grubhub, Postmates or any of the other gigs? Let's talk about that.
Delivery apps have been booming lately, especially with more people sheltered up staying safe in their homes. They can be a great money making opportunity.
They can also be a struggle. You don't have to look far to find people feeling they're underpaid or taken advantage of by these companies.
Is it possible to earn a good living as an independent contractor courier? It it a profitable side hustle for someone trying to pay off debt or earn extra money for a vacation or dream purchase? Can you find success with delivery apps like Grubhub, Doordash, Uber Eats, Instacart and all the new startups and regional platforms?
Is it guaranteed? Absolutely not.
There are no guarantees.
I've made a good living as a full time delivery contractor for three years. This can be a lucrative side hustle. It's been an awesome fall back for a lot of people who lost their employment in the past year.
I'll tell you what, from my experience, has been the key to my success running a delivery business that contracts with Doordash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub:
Be The Boss.
Go back and read that last sentence. The one about “the key to my success running a delivery business…”
There's an incredibly important word in there.
You are running a business. Like it or not, aware of it or not, that's what you are doing.
The most important key to success when you are an independent contractor for these delivery companies like Doordash, Instacart, Uber Eats and Grubhub is to recognize that fact, and then embrace it.
And to be the boss.
Let me repeat that:
The key to delivery success with Doordash, Uber Eats, Instacart, Grubhub or any other gig economy company is to be the boss of your delivery business.
Let me repeat: You are running a business.
That's probably not what you planned when you signed on.
You maybe don't even care what it's called. A job, a business, whatever. You just want to make some money.
But here's the thing you have to understand about what you agreed to when you signed off on the independent contractor agreement with any of these companies.
There's something in there somewhere that says something like “I agree that I am an independent contractor and not an employee.” Chances are that “independent contractor” is in that contract several times.
Independent contractor isn't just another type of job.
Here's what you agreed to. You agreed that you are providing services for the delivery platform as a business, not as an individual.
And not as an employee.
Some will tell you they're taking advantage of you by doing this.
If you ask me, I would agree they're trying.
But I'd also tell you they're not taking advantage of me. And you don't have to be taken advantage of either.
It takes a lot of people power to get all the deliveries that need delivered completed. It's incredibly labor intensive.
But Uber Eats, Doordash, Instacart, Grubhub, and all these others don't want to commit to us in the way that an employer is required to commit to their employees.
They don't want to pay the insurance or taxes. They'd rather leave you completely on your own for those things. And they certainly don't care about covering your cost of doing business.
They want people to deliver for them. They just don't want to buck up for it.
And this is where I would say they try to take advantage of you:
They still want you to think like an employee. They want you to take everything they offer you, no questions asked. Do things their way.
They want the privilege of having employees without paying for that privilege.
It's not right. It's shady as all get out.
But here's the thing: They can only take advantage of you if you let them. As long as you act and think like an employee, they win.
But it's also a fantastic opportunity.
Taking them at their word and embracing the fact that you're running a business is your opportunity to win.
They're telling you that you're contracting with them as a business and not as an employee?
Okay then. Run a business.
And treat it like a business.
Doordash isn't allowed to treat you like an employee when you're running a business. Instacart can't manage you when you're running your own business.
The law says that if they're going to classify you as a business, they have to respect your right to be a business owner in the relationship.
That's why I tell you they haven't taken advantage of me. I decided to take control of the relationship. I make the decisions. If I make the wrong decision, that's my fault.
Embrace these keys to success as a delivery business owner.
Here's what it boils down to:
Be the boss of your own business.
Too many people sign up as a business but then just give the control back to Doordash, Instacart, Uber Eats, Grubhub and the others.
If you do that, you let them take advantage of you.
These keys will set you up for your greatest chance of success as an independent contractor with delivery apps like Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, Instacart and all those others.
Key #1: Think in terms of business decisions.
It's not about what Doordash wants you to do. This isn't about Uber Eats policies or Instacart procedures.
The things you do, the way you go about your business, it's all about you making business decisions.
What is going to work best for YOUR business?
People mistake this for “I can do what I want.” Doing what you want is crappy business.
When does it make sense for you to go out and deliver? What's the best way to do things that enables your continued and ongoing success?
Key #2: Understand the customer relationship.
If you're running a business, you've got customers, right?
Who is your customer?
Doordash. Instacart. Grubhub. Uber Eats. The delivery companies that you contract with and who are ultimately paying you or facilitating your pay are your customers.
That's important to recognize for two reasons:
It changes the balance of the relationship.
When Doordash is your customer, they're no longer your boss.
When Uber Eats is your customer, you're working with them in a business to business relationship.
Your relationship with Instacart and Grubhub is a relationship of equals.
This attitude changes everything. You're no longer slaving for the boss, you are serving these companies as your customers. You get to make the decisions as to when and whether you do so.
It's now your choice. You're the boss of your own business and all these gig companies are your customers. That changes the playing field dramatically.
You still have to think in terms of customer service.
As long as you consider the customer your enemy, you're in trouble.
Customer service is still a thing.
And here's another thing: Your customer can leave you. There are no guarantees in the relationship. In any kind of business your customers can just walk away. Nothing says they have to always be your customer.
This goes back to that thing about business decisions. The choices you make and interactions you take with your customer can have ramifications.
But the thing is, YOU get to make those choices.
Key #3: Set your prices to be profitable
A cafe opened up in my neighborhood, offering great prices and huge portions. I loved that place. I told them they need to increase their prices. They laughed bu I wasn't joking, I wanted them to stick around.
They didn't survive. The food was great, the people were awesome but they weren't bringing in enough money because they set their prices too low.
Don't be that delivery business that does the same thing.
You have the right to set your price. While you can't dictate the pricing structure, you can choose which deliveries work for you and which ones don't.
Key #4: Don't tie yourself to one customer.
Another way to put it is, don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Ever hear of Murphy? He's that guy from Murphy's Law (if anything can go wrong, it will). When all of your money comes from one source, there's too much opportunity for Murphy to step in and ruin it all.
When the app crashes for Grubhub, do you have alternatives? If Ubereats decides to suspend your account for something that wasn't your fault, are you screwed?
If Doordash brings in more drivers than there are orders and you're waiting a half hour between deliveries, does that create a crisis for you?
When Uber Eats buys out Postmates but when they merge delivery fleets, they don't accept you because your car is too old, what do you do?
It's okay to have a favored app, but relying strictly on one provider is an invitation for disaster.
Key #5: Think profit and loss.
Don't think of the money you get in as pay.
Your car costs you more than you realize to operate. You're on your own as a business owner with your taxes.
What you make as a business owner is your profits – what's left over after your expenses. It's not the money that Doordash and Uber Eats and Instacart send you.
Think of your driving as an expense. Keep in mind your true profits. Be aware of what you're really making.
Key #6: Do your market research
Some businesses work better in certain areas than in others. A high end retailer is more likely to be successful in an affluent neighborhood than in a lower income area.
Large retailers and restaurants spend tremendous amounts of money and time researching demographics and spending patterns when determining whether to locate in a certain location.
Because someone is successful in Denver or San Francisco does not mean they will be successful in Omaha. Pay attention to what your market is like, and which companies are doing well in those markets.
Keep track of what times and locations are more profitable. You might have less parking trouble in the suburbs than downtown, but you may be driving significantly further.
Your most convenient times to deliver might be between 1 and 4, but if people aren't ordering food then, that may not be a good choice. You may have only one delivery option and too often it's slow.
Knowing your market helps you know the best and most profitable times and places to deliver.
It also helps you know if the time has come when it's no longer a sustainable business model. Just because you set up a surf shop in Denver doesn't mean it has to survive.
Know your market, understand the trends. React accordingly.
Now: Go Take Control, Like a Boss!
This isn't an exhaustive list, but these are some key concepts. I didn't get into all the minutia of how to communicate or what steps to take.
That's because if you don't grasp the bigger picture that you're running a business, I don't think the other stuff will matter as much.
The main thing here is to understand that your best chance for success is to understand that you are the one that makes the decisions.
You do not need to be at the mercy of one company. You do not need to ask “how high?” when they say jump. You have the power to look at what works best in your market and to make your decisions accordingly.
You are the Boss. Not Doordash. Neither is Ubereats. Nor is Instacart or Grubhub or Postmates or Caviar or Bitesquad or Amazon Flex or any of those other.
- Make business decisions. Don't think in terms of what the gig companies want you to do. They're not your bosses. Make decisions based on what's best for your business.
- Understand the customer relationship. When you think of Doordash, Uber Eats, Instacart, Grubhub and others as your customers, that changes the relationship dramatically.
- Set your prices to be profitable. You do get to set your price. You set your price by deciding which delivery offers are worth taking. If it meets your price, great. If it doesn't, you have no obligation.
- Don't tie yourself to one customer. There are too many things that can go wrong when you rely on only one gig delivery company. Keep your options open.
- Think profit and loss, not paycheck. You have to remember your expenses and taxes. Know what it costs to use your car for deliveries. Remember that your earnings are your profits - what's left over after expenses.
- Do your market research. Know when it's profitable and where it's profitable to deliver. Understand when and where delivery is a good business model (and when it isn't).