With the latest rounds of shutdowns in Alberta due to the pandemic, I lost my job for the third time. So I decided to take this opportunity to test out a number of gig economy apps, starting with Instacart. By doing this series I hope to bring a different light to the gig economy and give people a peek under the hood if it something they are considering.
What is Instacart?
Instacart is probably one of the less known gig economy apps, so a lot of people don’t know what it is. In short, Instacart is an app where similar to SkiptheDishes or Uber Eats you place an order and someone else working for the app picks it up and delivers it for you. But Instacart is for groceries. So if you don’t want to buy your own groceries you can simply download the app, place your order at whatever grocery store on the app strikes your fancy and get it delivered to your house, for a fee of course.
As a driver for this app, you will accept orders that come in, shop for them at the grocery store like usual, pay for them with the card provided to you, and then deliver it to the person’s house. For doing this the app pays you a certain amount (about 10% of the order cost), plus pays for mileage. Like many other apps, there is the possibility for customers to add tips, of which you keep all of it.
How Does Being an Instacart Shopper Work?
To begin you will sign up to be an Instacart shopper on their website, or through their app. This will give you access to a specific app for shoppers. After you sign up you will have to submit your ID, information, registration, etc. You’ll also have to agree to a police check and a driver’s abstract. As long as all of that comes back clean, you will be able to start working in a matter of days. For me, it took about two weeks. Mostly because they had an issue pulling my driver’s abstract so I had to go to the registry and request and pay for one myself to submit it. This came at a cost of $25 (I have a commercial license so it may be cheaper for a non-commercial). But once I submitted this I was accepted and good to go!
If you want to begin shopping for Instacart feel free to use this link to get started.
How Much Did Instacart Pay Me Over 1 Week?
In my first week on the platform, I worked 3 days out of the week, for a total of 15 hours and 57 minutes. For simplicity’s sake, I will just round this up to 16 hours. During this time I accepted 16 batches (orders) and made $279.80. This works out to a wage of approximately $17.48 per hour. I paid $2.40 in instant cashout fees (explained later) and spent $0 on gas as my car was full at the beginning of the week. Had I needed to buy gas it would have cost about $35.
This means that after expenses I made approximately $242.40.
This was accomplished by working three days a week, during off-peak hours, on 2 of the three slowest days for orders. Overall, quite respectable!
Is Instacart Worth Doing?
So, one of the main questions I set out to answer by doing Instacart was, is it worth it? And I think without a doubt the answer to that question is yes. If you have no job, or other means of income then I would recommend Instacart to anyone. It was easy to get started, it’s easy to learn, you can work when you want, and it is very forgiving when you first start out.
In addition to all of that, it pays more than minimum wage, reimburses you for vehicle expenses, and can work around your schedule without running the risk of getting deactivated. for all of those looking for work in the current economy, definitely consider Instacart as an option in the interim.
Pros vs. Cons
So far I have said a lot of good things about Instacart, but surely there are some bad things. So here are a couple of pros and cons about using the Instacart platform:
|Pays more than minimum wage||Almost every order requires changes|
|Flexible schedule||The delivery range can often be quite far|
|Easy to learn||You don’t get paid to sit in line|
|Everyone needs groceries||Not many people tip|
|You’re not hated by the companies||It is not well known about|
Overall there are a lot of pros to the platform. It is really well thought out and is one of the highest paying apps of its kind that I have found, or spoken with others about.
Pays More than Minimum Wage
As I’ve mentioned above the Instacart app is relatively well paying. I have only had to sit with no orders available twice since I began shopping. This low amount of downtime means that you are able to be constantly making money. Even when you aren’t that fast at shopping (you won’t be when you first start, trust me), you are able to take a fair amount of orders and get your skills up.
As a father and fiancee first and foremost having a schedule that allows me to spend time with my family is of the utmost importance to me. I don’t want to be away every single evening and weekend just so I can keep the lights on in the house. And Instacart allows me to work around my family’s schedule to make money, but also spend time with them. They genuinely do not care when you work, there is no minimum amount of hours, and there are no minimum or maximum orders you can grab during the day. this means that you can work when you want, and that flexibility is amazing.
Easy to Learn
Unlike a lot of apps that take time and patience to learn to a level where you can make money. Instacart it doesn’t. On the first order I ever took, where I was as slow as a snail shopping I felt the money I was getting made it worth it. And every order after that I got faster as it is simply learning the stores and their layouts, versus learning how to run the app, speak with customers, etc. the ability to learn while doing the job makes it a lot more appealing, and a lot more fun to actually learn.
Everyone Needs Groceries
Unlike a lot of apps (thinking food delivery especially), where they are dependent on the economy, Instacart is more economy-proof. Typically, as the economy improves and people have more money restaurants, and the apps that service those restaurants make more money. As the economy gets worse they make less. But groceries are one area of the economy where no matter how bad it is, and no matter how little people want to spend, they will always need groceries. They may spend less on those groceries (no name instead of brand name, etc.) but they will always buy them.
You’re Not Hated by the Companies
A lot of companies that participate in SkiptheDishes and similar apps hate that they have to. These companies take a share of the restaurant’s revenue as their fee. But they feel that they have to be on the app because they want to serve as many people as possible and people use the app. This can lead to a lot of hatred and animosity between the restaurant owners and the food delivery drivers. But with Instacart you don’t feel that animosity.
Because the shoppers buy the groceries at full price instead of the groceries taking a cut they are very happy to help you. They lose no revenue by allowing you to shop there and have more customers, all without having to pay the fees and costs associated with delivery. This leads to a very friendly relationship between the staff at stores and Instacart shoppers.
Instant cashout is an extremely handy feature offered by Instacart that lets you get the amount of money you earned in the day (minus tips) immediately instead of having to wait for a week. It does cost $0.60 every time you do it but if you are wanting the cash immediately, and don’t want to wait it can be a game-changer. Every day when you check your payouts it will give you the option to cash out the Instacart payment for any order you had that day, as well as the tips from the day before. Then within a matter of minutes, it will show up in your account as a debit.
This feature is optional and you can just wait until Friday when it will automatically deposit everything you had made that week if you want to save the $0.60.
With every pro there are cons. Not every app is perfect, and Instacart is no exception. If you are considering shopping on the platform there are some cons you should note.
Almost Every Order Requires Changes
When you first start on the platform you think it will be easy. Simply look at what the customer ordered, throw it all in your cart, checkout, deliver, move on. But it is never that easy. Almost every single order will have items that were sold that were either out of stock or need to be substituted. Along with this most customers will make changes or special requests after you receive the order. This not only can eat into your time but can also be very frustrating when the app sells something that isn’t even available at that store.
The Delivery Range Can be Quite Far
I am fortunate in that everything is 10 minutes or less of driving away from the store they order from. But for a lot of larger cities, or locations like Costco that aren’t very common the delivery range can sometimes take you up to 30 minutes away from your store. This can be very frustrating when you have to drive all the way back immediately after to pick up another order. so when accepting orders in these areas you have to be extremely careful to not take an order that is too far away.
You Don’t Get Paid to Sit in Line
While this issue is largely centred around capacity lines as a result of COVID restrictions it is still something to keep in mind. If you are shopping at peak grocery time, or at a large store like Costco you may have to wait in a max capacity line. This is the line that forms outside when the store isn’t allowed any more people inside and can sometimes be up to an hour-long. Depending on the size of the order it is often not worth it to wait in this line as it will result in you making less than minimum wage for a lot of unnecessary work.
To avoid this it is important that you stay primarily in your local area. You can tell when lines are long. You know the best ways to avoid them. And you know the approximate driving distance to figure out if the drive will be worth it.
Not Many People Tip
Unlike a lot of other gig economy apps, Instacart is not extremely reliant on customer tips for you to make money. Which is a good thing, because not very many customers tip. Additionally, because the tip amount is based on a percentage of the purchase price of the order any changes you make, or any items that are out of stock will decrease your tip amount. While there are some people who tip quite well, especially on small orders, you will need to get used to 80% of your income coming from the Instacart fee alone.
It’s Not Well Known about
The best way for apps like these to survive is by mass adoption. If everyone is using them then they thrive. This is how all of the food delivery apps grew from “cool to have” to “must-haves” for a lot of businesses and people. Instacart doesn’t share that same following and is relatively unknown. When you tell people about it and help grow the platform it can help, and there is constant work. But unlike the other gig apps, you’ll find that only a small amount of people know about Instacart.
This lack of knowledge can lead to less adoption in your area overall. At least until people start using it.
Who is Instacart For?
The main goal of this article was to figure out who Instacart was best for. This is a hard question to answer as it has a large base and would really be good for anyone. But one group in particular that would benefit the most from using the app is recently unemployed. In today’s post-COVID economy it can be nearly impossible to find a job after you lose yours and Instacart is a great job to hold while you wait. You can get money every day, you can work your schedule however you need to accommodate interviews, and the wage is liveable.
Ideal Times to Work Instacart
working on the platform for several weeks now ti is very apparent when the peak times are. In my area, the peak times are 11:30 AM – 1 PM and 4:30 PM – 7 PM. The peak times are even more pronounced on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Because of these somewhat intrusive peak times, I would recommend working Instacart if you are single and don’t have a family that you would like to see at night if you want to maximize your earnings.
While it is possible to only work Monday through Friday, during the day and make a living (see myself) you are handicapping your earnings before you even start by doing so.
Part-Time vs. Full-Time
How often should you work for Instacart? In short, as often as you can. Similar to other jobs you only make money while you’re working and on the clock. So if you have the time to spare and enjoy the work then I would work every single day. The app doesn’t cap you on the amount of time you can work, so to maximize your earnings work as many hours as often as possible.
How Do You Make More Money on Instacart?
Next week I will be posting a follow-up article to this one about 41 Tips to Make More Money on Instacart. In it, you can expect to learn techniques to help you maximize your earnings. Every area is different but there are a number of techniques that will be universal across every area.
So make sure to check back next week and read that article to maximize your Instacart earnings!