Today's post comes to you from “Dash Bridges,” the pen name of someone I consider a “professional” Dasher. As a part-time Dasher, he has more than 5,600 deliveries under his belt over the last four years, and his experiences can help you maximize how much you earn.
If you use an online service to deliver food to your door, you're not alone.
Whether it's DoorDash, UberEATS, GrubHub or others, millions of Americans are using these services on a regular basis. This decade, the industry has grown exponentially as technology and cultural trends made food delivery an everyday option.
Ever wonder what it's like to be on the other side of that delivery? To be one of those folks who delivers your food and then disappears into the night?
Wonder no more, good readers!
In 2015, I separated from my wife and moved back into my parents' house. I quickly realized that if I didn't start making more money, I'd NEVER move back out!
So, in addition to my day job as Sales Operations & Program Manager, I decided to earn money on nights and weekends as a DoorDash Dasher (Dasher is the term for their drivers). I immediately noticed the refreshing differences from my office job. I enjoyed the motivation to hustle, knowing my paycheck was tied to the number of deliveries.
I also liked the face-to-face human interaction with restaurants and customers. After all, who isn't happy to see the guy delivering your dinner?
Like other gig economy workers, I tried a number of delivery platforms, but I made the most money and felt most comfortable with DoorDash.
My Dashing responsibilities are exactly what you'd expect. I receive orders. I pick up from restaurants. I deliver orders. I troubleshoot when there's a problem. I've done all these things for over 4 years and 5,600 deliveries.
(Note: My name isn't really Dash Bridges. I created this pen name when I started writing articles for The Rideshare Guy on the topic. I didn't want to get deactivated for writing something critical. Turns out, I'm exceedingly fair compared to a lot of people out there!)
You Can Schedule Your Dashing
As an independent contractor, I have full authority to schedule myself when I want, for however long I want, and in the location I want.
Here in Silicon Valley, we're broken up into several regions.
After you download the app and set everything up, you have to “sign into” DoorDash to get put into the delivery queue.
Dashers have the ability to sign into DoorDash right now or up to six days in advance (based on availability). When you open the app, the color-coded map shows immediate regional availability.
If regions are shaded pink, you can travel to that geographical area and sign in immediately.
If they're gray, Dasher capacity is full.
To avoid missing out on shifts, you can use the provided scheduler. You may receive an order that sends you outside your region, but generally, all your orders stay within a certain radius.
If I schedule myself for a particular shift, I have 30 minutes after the scheduled time to sign in within the region. So, If I'm supposed to start at 5:00 and I'm not signed in by 5:15, I'll typically get a text saying, “If you don't sign up soon your shift soon, you'll be signed out for another Dasher to join”. So, I get 30 minutes, but if I miss it and the shift gets canceled and there's no punishment.
There are five Dashing regions within 30 minutes of my condo. I tend to drive in just one or two of them because the familiarity of these locations helps me determine the Dashing reputation of the restaurant (well-organized or slow, etc), understand parking options and recognize various destinations. Large apartment complexes can be hugely frustrating and time-consuming if you've never been there, but if you have delivered several times in the past, you're going to know exactly what to do.
How to Maximize Your Order Earnings
Like my scheduling flexibility, I also have the option to accept or decline any order assignment. Smart acceptances and declines are key to making better money.
Upon receiving an assignment, you see several data points helping you determine if it's a worthwhile delivery. Sometimes the decision is easy.
Sometimes the decision isn't as obvious:
When an order like this pops up on my screen, here's what I take into consideration:
- I'm trying to earn $20 an hour. To keep that pace, I'd need to complete this $7.56 order in a little over 20 minutes.
- I know this restaurant is a standalone building. This minimizes traffic and parking delays.
- I'm not familiar with Fey Restaurant, so I don't know if they're organized or chronically behind schedule. Also, there five items in the order, which is higher than average. The more items in the order, the more likely something will hold it up.
- It's just under 4 miles through city streets. Midday on a weekday, traffic should be OK.
- I also consider whether my day is busy or quiet. If I've been idle 20 minutes, I'll accept a lot more orders. If I'm really busy, I'm more confident a better order will arrive shortly.
With a little experience and expertise in an area, Dashers can assess all these factors within a few seconds. If you're new, it'll take a little longer or you'll take a job that isn't as good. Dasher acceptance rates can vary widely, but mine is at the higher end of the range of around 73%.
There doesn't appear to be a penalty for declining “too many orders.” My best guess is that, as an independent contractor, you don't have a legal obligation to accept any work. Therefore, they can't punish you for declining orders. They DO show you your acceptance rate and have the same color-coding system as other metrics (green means good, yellow means moderate, and red means needs improvement).
That said, if you have acceptance rates over 70% then you qualify for a monthly Top Dasher status where you earn certain Dashing priorities.
They experimented with bonuses based on the number of deliveries a few years ago, but nothing lately. The only bonuses they have now are per-order bonuses during busy times. For instance, during Sunday football, rain, and a traditionally busy “coming home from vacation” type of day (Sunday after Thanksgiving), I enjoyed a $3.00 bonus on all completed orders. They just add it right into the compensation for a specific period, like 4:30 pm – 8:30 pm.
They also have the ability to raise it in real-time if they need to entice more Dashers during unexpectedly busy periods – essentially “Surge” pricing.
How to Become a Top Dasher
I mentioned Top Dasher earlier, to qualify you need:
- 4.70 star rating
- 95% completion rate
- 70% acceptance rate
- 100 deliveries completed last month
- 200 lifetime deliveries
It's strictly a statistics-based award and it's awarded on a monthly basis. So, you need to maintain that criterion during a month to retain the Top Dasher status.
What does it mean to be a Top Dasher? It varies from region to region but in my region, it means:
“The Dasher app will now allow you to dash in your zone or schedule a dash at all times. Please note that just because you are able to dash / schedule at your convenience, this does not mean that it will always be busy. We still recommend dashing in areas that are red on the map, and scheduling dashes when you know you want to dash ahead of time in order to avoid having too many Dashers on the road!”
This is a nice perk in case you find yourself with some downtime and want to dash right now.
“When things are slower, you will be prioritized for new orders. This means that if we have two nearby Dashers who can take on an order, we will break the tie in your favor.”
I think the goal is to give the dedicated (and less picky) Dashers an opportunity to consistently earn money for more hours of the day. The requirements aren't particularly difficult to attain, but you need a certain level of effort to qualify. No poachers!
Does It Matter Which Restaurants You Pick?
I travel to a ton of restaurants.
Of my 100 most recent deliveries, I went to sixty-nine different restaurants. As you'd expect, the most popular ones were chain restaurants like Chipotle (seven times) and Asian Box (four times, a West Coast Asian Street Food Chain).
There are no specific rules about which types of restaurants are good or bad. Many times, even different locations within the same chain can have different reputations. As food delivery apps get more popular, restaurants are becoming better prepared for online orders than when I started four years ago. I rarely wait more than a few minutes to get my food.
How to Maximize Tips & Ratings
My interaction with customers is almost always positive. Part of that success is because I enjoy providing good customer service.
Compared to other Dashers, my professionalism is pretty strong. While many Dashers are perky, with their red lanyards and warming bags, some can be disheveled and disinterested in performing well. With these three minimal-effort customer service tips, you can vault yourself into the upper echelon of Dashers.
1. Be presentable. You don't need to wear DoorDash gear or a cardigan, but you should look professional. Make sure you are wearing something CLEAN and non-wrinkled at a bare minimum.
2. Communication is key! Every time I arrive at a restaurant for an order, I copy-paste the most relevant text message to the customer (I save them in Notes on my phone):
Here they are in text form so you can copy and paste them:
Hi, I'm Dash, your DoorDash driver. I have your food and an ETA of _______. See you soon!
(Waiting at the restaurant)
Hi, I'm Dash, your DoorDash driver. I'm waiting for your food and will provide an ETA when I have it. See you soon!
Hi, I'm Dash, your DoorDash driver. As soon as I'm en route to your location, I'll update you with an ETA. See you soon!
If I wait longer than 10 minutes, I typically send a quick note, “Still waiting (sleeping emoji)”. Once I have the food and put the address in Google Maps, I add a text, “ETA 7:50”. That modest level of personalized service goes a very long way.
People understand that delays happen but if you keep them in the know, they will usually not hold it against you. If you don't say a word and are late, then they will be upset you didn't tell them anything.
3. Keep the order in a warming bag and present it like that upon delivery. No offense, but customers don't want to think about your grimy hands all over their food. Taking the food out of the bag shows them it was well-cared for during transport.
How Much Does Door Dash Pay?
“Just get to it, Dash! How much do you make?”
I quickly learned that my earnings potential varied depending on the day, location, and other circumstances. How much you make really depends on a lot of different factors.
Some days I earned $14 per hour. Other days I made over $22 per hour.
To maximize my earnings, I created a spreadsheet and entered information about all the relevant aspects of my shift. (This is not a job requirement. I'm a stats-loving dork.)
As my database expanded, I was able to confirm some assumptions:
- Areas with lots of corporate office parks pay well during lunch. Suburbs are busy during dinner.
- The best night of the week is Sunday, followed by Saturday and Monday.
- There were also some more subtle factors that led to maximizing earnings. I'm very busy during rain and cold weather.
- Live television, particularly awards shows and sports (particularly football) are noticeably better as well.
- Seasonality also comes into play. Summer is poor as customers are both on vacation and going out more often.
- College students come home and Dash for a few months before returning to classes. The invisible hand of supply and demand is present on a daily basis.
- Sometimes they run promotional offers, so take advantage of those.
All that said, my daily dashing goal is $20.00 per hour. That's almost exactly what I've averaged over my years on the job. As of this writing, with over 5627 deliveries, I've averaged $19.97 on 1.8 deliveries per hour.
As you can see, how much I make on Door Dash jumps around, but I always tried to keep the average around $20 an hour.
My daily earnings look like this:
On a weekly basis, they look like this:
Those gross earnings are quickly turned around and deposited on the Tuesday following the Monday through Sunday Dashing week.
Of course, that's topline revenue.
Remember that you're using your own car, your own gasoline, and you need to pay self-employment taxes on this money at tax time. Some (though not all) of those expenses are balanced out when you deduct mileage expenses on your IRS Schedule A.
Regardless, your net take-home is demonstrably lower than what the app declares you earned on a particular day.
I've thought a lot about what Dashing has done for me. The convenience of working when you want and for how long is exceptionally convenient, especially if you're saving for a particular goal.
Finding fifteen lucrative Dashing hours each week is pretty easy. Finding thirty-five hours a week is a grind.
The more hours you work, the harder it is to maintain a high hourly earnings rate.
Furthermore, there is very little room for advancement or a career path as a Dasher. It's great as a side hustle but there's no “next step.”
It's easy to get sucked in to make an additional $60 on a particular night rather than study or look for a better full-time job. Heck, I'm as guilty of that as anyone else, even with it being a side hustle.
While these gig economy platforms are convenient and a quick way to earn some cash, DOORDASH IS NOT A CAREER! I can't emphasize that enough!
Dashers must place this opportunity in its proper perspective. My overall experience has been positive, but there's a fairly low ceiling to what you can accomplish as a Dasher.
If you want to earn some extra cash for doing something pretty easy, Door Dashing might be the perfect little side gig! It's free to sign up!