Originally when I decided to do this job review blog & vlog, I was going to post the review after 2 weeks, but due to finances and available shifts, I end up writing this after 4 weeks. Read on to hear my experiences and what I’ve learned about working with Instacart as a 1099 independent contractor.
What is Instacart?
Instacart is an on demand grocery service provider, which is an awesome idea!! A customer can place a grocery order online or via an app, then in as little as an hour, or at the time of their choosing, someone shows up to deliver their groceries. In theory, this is a stellar concept and of course I love companies who bring 1099 jobs to the market.
There are a few different positions available from Instacart; the first two are the shopper and cashier positions; which I will only mention briefly because they are part-time employee positions. In these two positions you are either doing the shopping for a customer or just checking out orders. Instacart reports these jobs to be flexible, require no car, and you can only work up to 29 hours per week. I know some stores have shoppers and I have picked up deliveries from them, but I have yet to meet someone who is just a cashier; this position is probably only available in very busy markets.
The 1099 positions both require a vehicle; you sign-up to be either a driver/shopper or just a driver. In my initial training, the manager made mention that they intend to go toward the way of having less in store shoppers, so most driver positions they are filling will be driver/shopper- or “full service” as they call it. While working as an independent contractor through Instacart, the number of hours you can work is unlimited.
The application process is quick and does include a background check, paid for by the company. You will need to have a car, but unlike rideshare programs, there’s no 4-door, 5-seat requirement. If it rides, you drive. You must be 21 in most areas, be legally eligible to work in the United States, have a recent smartphone (Android or iPhone), and able to lift at least 30 lbs.; there are some instructions on the website if you need some accommodations due to disability.
After completing the application you will be invited to attend a training event where you will go and meet with a regional manager who will walk you and a group of others through the functions of the app and do a fake trial shopping trip, then meet back up and talk some more, maybe watch some videos, and be assigned to a debit card. You will have to go through a little more training within the app before you can start and occasionally additional training will come up.
The debit card is loaded only for the amount of the order placed by the customer and verified by your scans and refunds during the shopping. It cannot be used to make any other purchases besides your assigned and accepted batches. If you are doing two orders at the same time, you have to be careful to check them out in order… A then B, because even though both batches are assigned to you, the card is still set up to check out in order, set by amounts.
Working and Getting Paid
At my in-person orientation, we were offered to pick-up shifts for the very next day. I declined, but I did select hours right away when I got home that evening. In order to pick up “shifts”, you go into your app and select “pickup hours” from the dashboard. You click on days when hours are available and choose the times you are willing to work. This doesn’t mean you work whenever you want, unlike rideshare, this isn’t an on when you want and off when you want job. Instacart generates hours based on when they project to be the busiest and when the shifts available have been selected, they run out. First come, first serve and hours go fast. Initially your first few weeks allow you to be in the first pick group, over time the shifts open first to the workers doing the best job. There is a speed and reliability factor which will set who gets shifts opened up to them first
In my area the pay rates for full service are $8.15 per order and .40 per item and $5.20 for delivery only. On Sunday deliveries are $9.20 and .40 for full service and $6.65 for delivery… I’m not certain if Saturday is increased also, because Saturday has gone so fast every week that I have yet to even see hours open when I go to choose my hours. There are also some “bumps” in pay for certain things like a trip to Costco is an extra $3 and orders over $200 or a trip over 14 miles from store to customer gets you an extra $5, plus tips. The company has recently made it more difficult for the customers to add tips and yes I have seen that impact whether or not I receive them. Since the change, I have gotten exactly ONE tip. It was for $34 though 🙂
What I’ve Earned
My first shift was for only 2 hours, in Naperville IL. That was all that was available. I received one order. It paid $21.90 (a $10.90 tip was included, thank you customer.) The man was nice and a frequent user of the service, lived high up in an apartment building and was downstairs with a cart ready to pick up. Over all I had thought it was great!! Then I sat and waiting the rest of the “shift” and got nothing else. I was bummed.
The second week I worked 1 shift, in Central Chicago, on a Monday, a “double-flame” day – peak business. I made $54 something which with their hourly guarantee, I was brought to $78 for a total of 7 hours and 10 minutes; I selected 8, but was sent a message asking if it was ok to end my shift early. Yes… damn I had been sitting doing nothing for about an hour at that point.
The third week I worked 1 shift, in Central Chicago, a Tuesday, a “single-flame” day – peak business. I made again $54, in 6 hours and was given extra for an hourly guarantee… a whopping $66.
And the last shift I have worked to this point was my 1 shift for this week.. I was offered to work an extra hour and took it and a second time asked to work later, but someone got to it before me and it was not available by the time I clicked yes. I made over $100 in 5 hr and 34 min and worked over my shift by a little because I accepted a double delivery order near the end of shift. It was nice. From Instacart I made $69 and got $36 in total tips. $20 an hour IS THE MONEY I WANT.
What I’ve Learned
Getting started is not always easy. I had some hang ups. My initial 2 hour shift and that first $21 had me thinking no way is this worth it… But as I am getting better at it, I’m able to make a little more money.
My days in the city could have gone better with experience, for instance – knowing where the stores are and where to park. I’m so wet behind the ears for city life, I have never even ‘validated’ parking before; that was just a thing I saw on tv.
I did make the mistake of checking out a B order before the A order… and Instacart support fixed it fast.
Speed matters. The orders are sent out to someone near the store who isn’t already shopping or delivering, so the faster you get one done, the sooner you may be offered another.
I learned that you can go out of your way for someone and receive nothing more than a thank you for it or maybe you can get a big fat tip out of it. Most will, some won’t, don’t take it personally.
Going through forums and talking to other Instacart shoppers has proven a unanimous upset over the change in tipping on the app, although Instacart has increased what they pay to their shoppers and was making this change so that shoppers wouldn’t have to depend on receiving a tip to make any money… people still want to be able to receive tips. I feel that Instacart will revert to allowing it to be easier to tip, or at least they should. As long as it is optional, it’s better to include tipping.
Support is 98% good. I had several issues that required immediate assistance; all but one came through on the spot and fixed the situation immediately. The last time I was on hold for quite some time and still had not spoke to anyone by the time I figured it out myself and hung up.
My Final Thoughts
Instacart is an ok job, with a great potential. You’re not going to get rich here, but you’re going to make at least $11 an hour, minus your expenses and have days when you can make significantly more. If you want to work part time for that holiday shopping money, this is EXCELLENT – especially since you can expect Instacart to be busiest November through New Years. You could potentially make enough money to live off of doing just this job, but you’re going to have to get good at it and take a lot of hours. I still recommend diversifying your income streams and not relying solely on any one 1099 job.
In the long run Instacart should theoretically grow; it is a fabulous idea after all. They do however face this issue on making sure people who work with them are making enough money to become loyal to the company. Workers who make good money and feel they are being treated well, stay. This service certainly does require some workers of longevity to run well. The more experienced shoppers will know where the stores are and where the products are in that store and have less problems than those people who are just getting started.
If you want to give it a try START BY CLICKING HERE
This small investment will make the job easier – especially if you are going to work in bigger cities. Save your receipt for your taxes!