The American economy has changed. While short-term work has always existed, it is not until recently that it has become a significant way for Americans to earn money. The proliferation of smartphones also makes it super easy to get work through an app. The Pew Research Group found that in 2021, 16 percent of American adults worked through an online gig platform, such as Uber, TaskRabbit, or Instacart. Furthermore, 31 percent of these adults consider this type of gig work to be their main job.
Among gig jobs, the most common involve the home delivery of groceries, prepared foods, and packages. These are convenient for the users—for a small surcharge, they can avoid chores like going to the grocery store or having to move and large or heavy items. And for those taking these jobs, the flexibility in scheduling and sense of entrepreneurship are big draws. However, not every delivery job is the same, and there are things one should consider before signing on to be a delivery driver.
Here are some pros and cons to working a gig job:
App-based delivery jobs are typically low-skill jobs. They do not require a minimum level of education, and the requirements to work are usually an up-to-date driver’s license with valid proof of insurance (if the job requires a car) and a compatible smartphone. Most gig delivery jobs offer de-facto average hourly pay rates that are competitive to other similarly skilled jobs.
While these types of jobs typically do not have a minimum wage or hourly guarantee, they do have set rates for deliveries. The more deliveries you make, the more you earn. With an average hourly rate of $15—or more for jobs that require more skill or physical effort—a delivery worker that maximizes their hours can theoretically earn lucrative pay.
While some platforms mandate a minimum number of hours worked per shift or per week, you decide what hours you work. This gives you the flexibility to balance work and home life. Additionally, you're an independent contractor, meaning there are no supervisors or bosses looking over your shoulder. You can do your job in peace, assuming you meet the platform’s minimum work requirements.
These requirements vary per job. It's important that workers ensure all safety precautions are met to protect both the delivery team and integrity of what is being delivered.
Finding a job as a gig worker is fairly easy—it is as simple as signing up for a new platform. There tends to be low turnaround time switching between platforms and depending on the company's policy, it could be possible to work with multiple platforms at the same time. Furthermore, a key component of gig jobs is that you are usually entitled to any tips offered from the customer. The customer tips you through the platform’s app, so no physical money changes hands. On top of this, workers may receive bonuses for working holidays, overtime, or during peak demand periods.
You might not receive delivery requests. It may be a slow day or there could be little business in your area. In this case, you receive no pay for the shift. As an independent contractor, you are not entitled to be paid for simply showing up. If you find yourself in such a situation and there are no minimum hours that must be worked per shift, you do have the opportunity to switch to another platform, if you are working more than one simultaneously.
You will be driving your own vehicle—whether a car, motor scooter, or bike. You are responsible for its upkeep, insurance, and fuel. These can be expensive and will eat into your earnings. You will also be responsible for your own smartphone, though depending on the platform, you may have one provided to you. Still, you are responsible for its safety.
As “no contact” policies have become the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic, your job might require you to interact with your customers directly, via phone call or text. Delivery people are the face of the company and are brand representatives. Offering excellent customer service is imperative, and not just because it impacts your tips or ratings. Your behavior and service also reflect on the company you're working for. Even if you're having a bad day, you must be outgoing, courteous, and friendly.
Gig delivery jobs may not be for everyone. But if you decide to be a gig worker, you could find that it offers a unique way to be your own boss and make some money. Maybe your motivation for taking a gig delivery job is the money. Maybe it is exercise. Perhaps it is the potential of meeting new and interesting people. No matter your motivation, be sure to weigh the positives against the negatives.
Deep Grewal is VP of Operations at Dolly.