10 Min Read – As COVID drones on, the wide variety of ways to entertain at home has run a little thin. TV, puzzles, Zooming, books, home projects etc…. Each has had their moment in the sun. We still appreciate each of these pastimes, but we needed to shake things up. That’s what led us to try side gigs for extra income. A side gig is a great way to make some extra income & introduce a new diversion to our weekly routine. After doing some research, our first experience landed us with Postmates. We’ll be reporting on additional side gigs in the coming months as well.
What kind of Side Gigs for extra income work for us?
Before starting a new side gig, it needed to meet certain criteria:
- A reasonably fun experience
- Some intellectual stimulation, by trying something new
- COVID conscience, limited human contact
- An outdoor activity
- Complete control of the hours
- An activity that we could work on together
- A non-strenuous gig. Not looking to grind out a paycheck
- Reasonable compensation. $20+ per hour would be our starting point
Using our parameters we quickly steered clear of Uber or Lyft ride services. While it might be fun to meet new people, COVID makes inviting people into the car less desirable right now.
The same was true for grocery shopping services, like Amazon Fresh or InstaCart. Spending a lot of time shopping inside the grocery store or lugging multiple bags of groceries wasn’t appealing.
We did, however, like the idea of making our car the office, & making “contactless deliveries.”
Contactless deliveries let you pick up pre-packaged goods & drive them to their ultimate destination. These deliveries involve little to no “indoors” time to pick up the order & no human interaction upon drop off. Fortunately, in the COVID economy there are numerous delivery service companies that do just that. So, we decided to focus on meal delivery services & Amazon Flex.
We are currently on the waitlist for Amazon Flex, so today’s article discusses food delivery in general and Postmates in detail.
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Picking the Right Food Delivery Service
Before we signed up with a specific company, we did some research. There are hundreds of youTube videos offering first hand accounts of what it’s like to work for the many delivery companies. Most of these videos include helpful tips & tricks explaining how to make more money while on the job. We’ll pass along some of our suggestions as well. We also found this article on food delivery services from “The Rideshare Guy” very helpful. It ranks & categorizes the 10 best delivery services to consider.
Who are the Big Side Gig Delivery Players in your Area?
Not all side gigs for extra income are equally represented across the county. You’ll want to choose a service that’s relatively popular in your area, to insure you’ll be busy. Postmates, DoorDash & GrubHub & UberEats are big in our county. In fact, we are still on the waitlist for GrubHub & Amazon Flex.
When choosing Food Delivery as a Side Gig also consider:
- How does the delivery service pay its contractors?
- Flexible hours?
- Is the delivery app easy to use? Is it helpful for directions?
- If you run into a problem, do you have quick access to user support?
- How strenuous is the job? Lifting packages, walking, fighting traffic etc…
- Are you COVID safe on the job?
- Does the company offer any additional benefits?
Applying to Postmates
The application process for Postmates is all driven from its free, downloadable App. Once you’ve loaded the App onto your phone, you supply your name, address, drivers license, Social Security number and a photo. Then, you give Postmates permission to run a background check. The license and background check happen in real time. My approval came back in about 10 minutes.
Next, you add your bank account information for direct deposit, then the make and model of the vehicle you’ll be using to make deliveries (car, bike, scooter, motorcycle). The entire process took about 20 minutes.
The Tools of the Trade
The right tools will make the job go smoothly and safely!
Your vehicle – car, scooter, bike, motorcycle. Whichever you prefer.
A Smartphone – your smartphone is your lifeline for App based delivery. Accepting deliveries, getting directions, communication with your customer & user support are all accessed from your smartphone.
A Smartphone stand – as the cell is your lifeline, easy access and a clear view of your cell is a must. WeatherTech’s Cell phone stand, with built in Sanitizer holster, is a great addition to any car. It adapts to any cup holder, for a perfect fit!
Insulated hot /cold food bag – Keeping your customers food and drinks the right temperature is just good customer service. An insulated bag also limits the food aroma in your car. The BelleFord food delivery bag works great for picnics or a trip to the beach too!
Drink holder – If your delivering more than a few drinks, a drink holder makes life easier. Rubbermaid’s drink holder totes 6 beverages and is easy to clean
Gloves – disposable gloves when handling the food bags offers an extra layer of protection. Medpride gloves are easy to slip on and dispense gloves quickly.
Hand Sanitizer – In lieu of gloves, a handy sanitizer pump cleanses your hands after a pickup or delivery.
Mask – COVID standard issue, K95 or N95
Optional Logo’d hats & shirts – If you’d like you can order hats or shirts with logos, to identify you. This is completely optional and we’ve elected to forego the logo wear.
How Postmates works – It’s all about the App
1st – From your smartphone, launch the Postmates App, push the “go online” and get to work!
The Field of Play
2nd – When you open the app you’re shown a map of your area, which highlights the “hot zones.” Hot Zones are the areas where the most current delivery activity is taking place. Hot Zones are typically most active during lunch (11am to 2:30pm) & Dinner (4:30pm to 10PM). That doesn’t mean deliveries won’t occur over the rest of the day. They’re just more frequent during lunch & dinner. Driving into the hot zones in your area increases the likelihood of getting more delivery offers. Once you go online, you are ready to field deliveries.
Accepting a Delivery
3rd – Within a few minutes of being online, you’ll begin to receive “Accept delivery” offers. When an “Accept delivery” offer pops up, you have about 45 seconds to accept or decline the delivery. The little arrow represents your car.
Accept delivery – shows you what restaurant you’re picking up from, a map of where the restaurant is and where the food will be dropped off. At this point you can either accept or decline the delivery.
Navigating point to point
4th – Once you accept a delivery, the navigate button will pop up. Pressing the navigate button will direct you to the restaurant. After you’ve picked up the food, the navigate button reappears, to guide you to the customer location. Within the Postmates App, you can set it to default to either Waze or the Maps app.
Customer Order details
5th – The details of the customers order & any special instructions from the restaurant or the customer are available. Staying with the theme of contactless delivery this is extremely helpful. Restaurants often have special side door pick up or drive through options, which streamline your pickup and minimize your time in the restaurant itself.
The customer notes often include drop off instructions or more specific navigation details, which really speeds up delivery! Having the details of what the customer ordered also lets you compare it against the receipt, which is stapled to the front of the order. Every once in a while a drink or worse… fries might be forgotten! This lets you double check.
6th – Should there be a problem with the order or directions the app allows you to text or call the customer. The Postmates App acts as a third party, routing your text or call through their software. In this way, the customer doesn’t have your cell number nor do you have theirs. We also use texting to let the customer know their food is on the way and when they can expect it’s arrival.
7th – If there’s a big problem with the order, you can speak with the Postmates support team, via chat or live. One night we went to pick up an order and the restaurant was closed. Apparently their Chef went home ill… which meant the rest of the staff went home too; such a COVID story! Anyways, we contacted Postmates. They contacted the customer and cleared our app of the order. We’ve only had to contact Postmates support once so far.
Drop off and Close out the order
8th – Once you’ve dropped the order at the customer’s doorstep and completed any special instructions, you press the “confirm drop off” button. Within a few minutes, your Postmates delivery payment notice pops up. Customer tips will continue to roll in up to 24 hours after your delivery. The Hot Zone map reappears and the app begins to search for more deliveries near your current location.
How do I get paid?
When you provide Postmates with your bank account number, they transfer your earnings weekly. If you would prefer your earning be transferred instantly, they will accommodate you, using your debit card. A .50 cent fee is applied.
The delivery fee you receive is based on a calculation from the Postmates App. It factors in your pickup, delivery & drop off time, to arrive at the delivery fee. The customer tips are completely up to the customers discretion.. And not all customers tip. Fortunately, many do, making it a worthwhile endeavor.
Tips to Max your Income – Play the game & play it well!
It took us a couple of weeks to sort out some of these details. Here’s a couple of suggestions to reap more income:
Focus on an Area
Our first week with Postmates, we simply accepted orders as they came in. This led us all over the place, with longer drives to reach customers. While you get paid for longer drive times, you’re better off taking deliveries within the area that you think will have the most success. If you have a knowledge of an area that Postmates services, with lots of restaurants, that might be your best bet.
To Decline is just Fine
It’s perfectly OK to decline orders that are far outside your desired area. More orders will come along shortly. Another good idea might be to decline pickups that involve shopping. For example, you’ll see orders pop up for 7/11, which means you will likely be going into 7/11, picking out the items yourself, then paying for them (Postmates credit card). This can be time consuming and worthy of declining. There are also restaurants in your area that are notoriously slow, which also make them undesirable. We live near a store that makes Acai Bowls and they are fantastic…. Unless your picking them up for someone else! They make each one from scratch and it involves a 10-15 wait. That’s no bueno for the delivery game… decline!
Multiple Orders? You Bet!
It’s not uncommon to see another delivery pop up while you’re en route to a delivery. The Postmates App is smart enough to recognize that you are or will be near a 2nd pick up, close to the one you’ve already accepted. Take it!
The App will put the deliveries in the proper order, making it convenient for you and still getting the customers food to them on time. If there is a problem with one of the orders, Postmates will automatically reassign the order to another driver. This is a great way to maximize your income!
Communicate with your Customer
Using the text feature, let your customer know you’ve picked up the order, that it’s on the way and when you believe you’ll arrive. They are pumped to get their food and will appreciate the update. Also, if there is a problem or the restaurant is running behind, let the customer know what’s happening. Letting them know the restaurants running a little behind is more desirable than having them think YOUR running behind!
Make sure to Read the Customer Notes
Customer notes give drop off details that are important to the customer and will likely save you time. Following the customer drop instructions makes the customer happy and often fills in delivery information that waze can’t supply.
Get a Postmates Credit Card
After you’ve completed some deliveries for Postmates, you have the option of getting a Postmates credit card, at no cost to you. The purpose of the card is to pay for some customer orders. Some restaurants & stores prefer the transaction is paid on the spot. So, postmates charges the customer in advance, then the Postmates credit card completes the transaction at the restaurant. Having the Posmates card simply opens you up to more potential deliveries to you.
The Pros of Postmates
- The Postmates App is fairly straightforward to use. You can master it quickly
- Work whenever & wherever you like.
- You can work as long as you like. We’re averaging about 8 hours a week, for our experiment.
- App support from Postmates does an adequate job of fixing problems, in a timely fashion
- In less than two weeks, we were averaging about $24 per hour for our time. This seems like a reasonable return.
- The App is smart enough to recognize and offer more deliveries, near the delivery you’ve already accepted. This lets you grab multiple deliveries at once, knowing they are on the way.
California & Prop 22 offers added Benefits
Last year California passed a law requiring a minimum of benefits for sub-contracted delivery services, like Postmates, Uber & Lyft. I can’t speak for Postmates outside of California but:
- During active deliveries Postmates guarantees drivers 120% of the prevailing minimum wage
- Every two weeks, Postmates “tops off” your payment if you don’t reach the 120% minimum wage guarantee
- Postmates pays drivers .30 cent per mile to offset fuel expenses
- If you work 15 hours a week, Postmates will also pay a stipend to help cover your healthcare Insurance costs
- All of this is tracked through the Postmates App & an email statement is emailed every two weeks
The Cons of Postmates
When a delivery opportunity comes up, the map displayed inside of the App is more of a “as the crow flies” perspective. It doesn’t really factor in the true length of the commute to deliver the food. Knowing the area you’re working in will help you determine if the delivery is worth the commute.
Postmates includes a lot of fast food options, which means the dollar value on some deliveries could be lower. We’ve often been surprised at how well someone receiving a Chick Fil A or Taco Bell order is willing to tip. But, it’s generally more profitable when you’re delivering from a sit down restaurant. We believe other services, like GrubHub, might offer a higher end on restaurants. We’ll save that debate for our GrubHub article!
Full Disclosure – We are Working as a Team… which is Easier
Since Bev & I worked together for this story, it’s important to note that we could cover more ground than someone working solo. If we needed to get to a restaurant in a crowded area, Bev would drop me off and then look for parking. Or Bev might be driving as I’m texting to the customer or evaluating a new delivery opportunity. Working as a team definitely saves time, which means we likely got a few extra orders completed, in the time we were working.
To Sum it up
On the whole, Postamtes deliveries have been a fun distraction, and does offer a reasonable return on your time. As a side gig for extra income, $24+ per hour seems very reasonable, considering the minimum of effort we are putting in.
While we are far from logging lots of hours, it does seem as though even those working a minimal amount of hours are given a fair shot at getting plenty of deliveries.
Under California’s agreement with the delivery companies 120% guaranteed minimum wage and help with fuel costs & healthcare also seems fair.
As COVID impacts most things, getting out and engaging in a new activity (for profit) is a welcome distraction. Contactless pickup and delivery provides a more safe and secure means of interaction with the outside world too.
The IOttie Phone holder; for a sanitizer-less version to put your phone in plain site.
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