Updated: Nov 7
Before we answer that question we first need to look at the job itself. First you need to understand what type of work it is, and if it’s right for you. Are you independent? Do you thrive around a structured work environment? Is it important to be around your friends, coworkers? Are you a self starter? Do you enjoy a desk job? Do you like the outdoors? Do you prefer a schedule? Are you an entrepreneur? Do you hate sitting still? Do you love your car? Do you hate traffic? Do you know how to drive for delivery?
Are You Independent Or Do You Thrive In A Structured Environment?
Are you independent. Everyone likes to think they are but many times when it comes to work they aren’t. In this type of job it's important you think on your feet. You need to make quick decisions while picking up and dropping off orders. And during each mile and block in-between.
In a structured restaurant environment you’re indoors. Your customers are 200 feet away sitting at a table. There’s a manager (or three) in house to solve any problem. There’s only so many things that can go wrong, under the cover of that roof where everything's controlled. In a delivery scenario the opposite is true. That 200 feet? It just became 20 miles. The controlled environment is now rain, traffic, accidents, potholes and road rage.
What if a restaurant runs out of an item? What if a restaurant's closed? What if the app you’re using goes down? What if there is no numerical customer address? What if the customer isn’t answering? What if you make a turn into gridlock traffic? What if there’s an accident? What if your car breaks down? What if the GPS dies? The what-ifs are endless because of all the variants and scenarios. You are server, manager and owner (of your delivery business).
So, I ask again. Are you independent? Think about it. Because this is anything but a structured environment.
Is It Important To Be Around Friends/Coworkers On The Job?
Don’t underestimate the importance of this question. Delivery work is often a lonely job. With no structured environment there also comes no people to relate to. Think about it. You’re out driving in your vehicle. You’re stopping off at various places, engaging other drivers for seconds, if at all. Your work environment only seats a table for one. The job requires limited or no contact to keep things running so you can make money. You don’t have time to meet other drivers. They’re under the same time constraints that you are - which makes it difficult. It’s like bad speed dating over soggy fries.
Are You A Self Starter?
This begs to ask if you have the initiative to get out of bed. You're responsible for managing everything in you life. Everything you do in this job is dependent on what you do, if you do it. You need to be able to develop a plan for how you're going to handle your business. And then you need to follow through with that plan. You'll have idle time on your hands at points during the day. How will you handle it? You gunna nap in your car during down time or will you learn a new language?
Do You Prefer Sitting At A Desk?
This one’s quick. If you answered yes you can quit reading now. This ain’t your cup of tea.
Do You Like The Outdoors?
You better, because 90% of your job is gunna be in your car. You’ll be an avid weather watcher due to a thing those in the business call liquid marketing. When it rains or snows it brings sales because people don’t want to go out. You’ll be out driving so you’re going to have to like, or at least be tolerant of, all kinds of weather. Keep a rain jacket in your car for when you get some of those popup storms.
Do You Prefer A Schedule?
All the gig apps except Uber Eats offer schedules as an option. Uber Eats doesn't offer schedules. It's click and drive. But by far, the best perk of these gig jobs is complete autonomy. It is the singular most popular trait of the job. It is the thing drivers covet. To make a schedule goes against the gig canon.
Are You An Entrepreneur?
If you’re already doing this job, then yes, you are an entrepreneur. You work on your own. You're responsible for your own taxes, expenses, vehicle upkeep, and health insurance. You own your business. You’re in the owners club. How does it feel? Some say it's lonely at the top. Decisions the gigs make, through action or inaction, will impact your business. But you're the one who has the greatest impact in the end. It is, by turns, both liberating and frightening when you realize this. Make good long-term decisions.
Do You Hate Sitting Still?
You'll get plenty of feedback from your smart-watch on this job. Even when you’re sitting, you're in motion via driving. It’s important to recognize that you're sitting in your car most of the time. Trying to get some exercise in? You might want to park farther away from your pick-ups and drop-offs and walk. Parking far away also saves your car from scratches and dings.
Do You Love Your Car?
If the answer to this is yes, this may not be your jam. There’s no reason to avoid the elephant in the room - this job is rough on a vehicle. If pothole diving while trying to read a pinging app... or having an apartment gate slam and scrape your vehicle isn’t your thing, you might want to read this post.
Unless you garage your car and only take it out for brief rides, it'll always be susceptible to dings, scratches or worse. When using your car for hours at a time, your chances of something happening grow greater. You park close to entrances. You go through drive-thrus. You double park. You're in a hurry. Adrenaline is pumping (if you’re doing it right) and mistakes happen. It’s part of the job.
Do You Hate Traffic?
If the answer is no, stop reading this and seek help. It’s a rhetorical question because it's right up there with having fingernails pulled out. Everyone hates it. Guess what. You’re either about to learn your capacity for malice...or the lotus position. For those of us who spend eight or more hours on the road it's particularly stressful. A pastime I find helpful is reading bumper stickers. Another is people watching.
Do You Know How To Drive For Delivery?
I was picking up an order the other day at a Taco Bell on a busy highway. On that road there is a miles-long cement divider that separates eastbound from westbound traffic offering no u-turn. There's a one-way exit out of the parking lot that travels east and you must fight traffic to exit on to that road. Then you fight traffic again to get into the far left lane to make a u-turn at the light a mile down. You then must wait for traffic on the other side to merge into it. It’s time consuming. And time is money.
I’m adept at what I do. I snake around pretty good through the shortcuts, but I had been overlooking a short cut with this store. As I was leaving, I noticed a UPS driver walking across the parking lot…only, I didn’t see his truck. I looked around and saw he had parked in the lot next door, on the other side of some bushes.
That lot joins a small side street that has a back alley to another lot that leads to a street with a traffic light, and a normal intersection. It sounds like a lot but it takes only seconds and I don’t have to enter the main road until I get to the light. It shaves 5-6 minutes off my time and when its busy it could be 10 minutes. This is how you drive for delivery. Every. Single. Run. This is the mindset you must have. I had been driving to this place with the mindset of a driver, not a delivery driver.
I had been avoiding this place at times because of that busy highway and the time suck. Learning this hack from the UPS guy enables me to now take more pick-ups from this location.
You'll be driving and earning the most in small windows of time in which most people eat. This is the time when the majority of orders come in. You want to be at the top of your game so you can maximize your earnings. Think fishing. You want to cast your net where the fish are, at the time of the day they eat. This increases your odds of catching more fish.
You can earn any time of day, but the orders will be sporadic. You'll wait longer at odd hours of the day for orders vs traditional times people eat. Think breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Driving for delivery entails knowing what traffic flow is like on a local level. You want to know which way traffic flows and what the busiest roads to avoid are. You want to know peak traffic times and days. I sometimes weave through traffic like I’m Ricky Bobby when I’m not thinking or I’m feeling rushed. This isn’t the way. Know short cuts and check opposite traffic flow…you may be using the same route upon your return. Knowing routes to avoid helps cut down on delivery times, thus making you available for more runs.
It’s not rocket science. But it’s not normal driving either. My recommendation is to drive only during the day to begin with. Day driving is good for new drivers. It’s easier to see in the day than at night. And you’re taking deliveries to businesses on main roads, not winding through neighborhoods. Night driving is very different, with the majority of deliveries going to residences. If you’re new to delivery, start off driving during daylight and give yourself time to learn the area.
I cover nuances of the job for new drivers in another post.