EDITED FOR 2020!
I mentioned the food delivery app Postmates in our 11 Side Hustles article. Go see that for more inspiration!
I really want to provide an in-depth perspective of the ups and downs of this app and how we’ve used it as we’ve traveled. So here we go!
Postmates is a gig economy app that is available almost everywhere in the U.S. now where the population exceeds 100,000. Any worker is free to go online and work in any of these markets. Just go online and the app will switch you to your current location and you can work there immediately.
The app can be turned on and off COMPLETELY AT YOUR WILL
No need to put yourself on a schedule, or commit to a minimum of hours per week. You can go months and not do this and it will be there waiting for you when you are ready. You can decide to do it one day, prepare for a 10 hour stint, but you get out there and just aren’t feeling it. No problem! Turn it off as soon as you finish the current delivery.
This option is so freeing and a dream find in a “job” for a traveler whose actual job is pursuing their passion. If you need a tank of gas or cart of groceries and some of your more unreliable income sources just haven’t been coming through…no worry, just deliver for a few hours or a few days. This is far and wide the main appeal of using this app, even if you aren’t a traveler and just want to do this in your home area.
It’s available in all states
You are allowed to work in all of them and switch markets at your whim. Can’t state enough how rare this is for gig economy apps. Other apps like Uber, Lyft, GrubHub, etc. do not have this feature. You don’t have to do anything to switch markets. Just turn the app on when you are in the city you wish to work in.
You will see where the locals eat on a massive scale
Discover food you never could with a Google or Yelp search.
You will know the city like a local
Every street of the new city will be your domain after just a few days of doing this. As a certain breed of traveler, I find this exhilarating!
You can occasionally get free food
This won’t happen often, but if someone cancels the order after you have already picked it up, the food is yours to do with as you please. This only happened once to us so far, and unfortunately it was some truly inedible Buffalo Wild Wings destined for a high school in Houston.
People generally appreciate your work
By the tips and thanks we have received all over the country, I think people really do realize what an ordeal getting food can be and they have often shown genuine appreciation. From forging through traffic to get to the restaurant location, going through the pick up process, then waiting, and then finally delivering the food. You can save someone a lot of time and effort to get their grub–and of course this is why the app exists!
Postmates is generally only available major cities
These cities will come with their share of hustle and bustle. Boundaries of a service area are clearly defined on a map, but will generally be centered in areas of dense population and of course access to food. If you can’t handle traffic this may not be for you, but if you love seeing a new city like a local it can be quite fun. Also if you are camping like we do, it can be hard to find accommodation in proximity to the zone you’d like to work in each day. In smaller towns, Doordash is still quite more active than Postmates.
The pay is relatively low
The app will promise up to $25/hour, but that only happens when you get a good tip. It does happen often that you get a decent tip, especially on Friday and Saturday night when the dinners you are delivering cost more, but the true average is somewhere between $12-15/hour for us. Some couriers may go crazy and rush and average more, but that really isn’t the point for us. We want to enjoy the experience of being in the city and seeing the sights.
The miles will add up on your car
A full day totals about 150-200 miles for us. This adds up. People who do this full time can easily exceed 1,000 miles per week. Keep track of your mileage, which leads me to the next drawback…
1099 at the end of the year
Postmates will tax you as a self-employed independent contractor. If you do this more than occasionally, the tax bill will come in. But 1,000 miles a week or 200/day in mileage deductions can add up, especially if you are doing a lot of other contract work in other forums and 1099’s are a major part of your yearly income.
Parking and general logistics
This doesn’t affect us as much because we do this as a couple, but for a single individual there is great concern over where to leave the car in a crowded downtown when picking up the food and even when delivering to high rise apartments and the like. There will be “no parking” signs at so many of the places you will be sent, and the streets will be jammed full. This is a very urban market Postmates caters to, and most of the deliveries are worth the fee to the customer because they literally can’t handle the ordeal it would take to get that food themselves.
Other facts to consider
The tendency to hustle hard
You will make more money the more deliveries you do. The app will even try to incentivize you to do a certain amount, like 30 in a day, for a guaranteed sum. The offers come in periodically and randomly, and differ from market to market. But don’t be baited into turning this into madness! Usually, with tips, the sum you will make anyway will be close to the guaranteed sum of money or even exceed it. Don’t worry, they will still pay you the amount you earned regardless of the incentive.
More facts about Postmates
You can see what restaurant the next delivery will come from and choose to accept it or not. For instance, you can see “Taco Bell” as the location and where it is on the map. There is no penalty for declining a certain opportunity. You cannot see however where the food will be going after you pick it up. You get paid by the mile, so it can actually be better if the drop off location is further away.
Some restaurants have the food pre-paid for and ready when you arrive and others require you to pay with the Postmates card and wait for the food to be prepared. A huge time-saver is to learn to predict which kinds of restaurant will be pre-paid, so you’ll be in and out and on the way to the customer’s home in no time. Thai restaurants are great at having pre-paid, as are some of the more expensive local joints. Fast food like Taco Bell and chain restaurants such as Wing Stop and Buffalo Wild Wings will never have this feature. Generally we avoid these at peak lunch and dinner hours, because better opportunities are sure to ring in only moments later. During lull times like 3:00 pm this may be all that’s available, so we’ll go ahead and take it then.
Payment occurs automatically weekly. You can request it instantly though, with a small percentage skimmed off.
Tips don’t show up for 24 hours, sometimes far longer. We’ve assumed people didn’t tip, only to find the amount coming in days later.
When you first sign up you will have to wait for the prepaid card to arrive in the mail and have a background check performed. This process can take 1-2 weeks.
So if you are interested in doing Postmates:
Use our referral code FL-vs9f to join!
You will help support this blog at no cost to you and be offered an incentive based on your market for your first deliveries.
Stay tuned as we will be documenting in video form some of the adventures on the job with Postmates!