One of my favorite developments in recent years has been the rise of alternative transportation methods. I’ve written in the past about bikeshare systems and why I think they are an amazing form of what is essentially mass transit.
In the time since I wrote that post, bikeshare systems have started to go dockless and other forms of non-car-based transportation methods have also started to pop up. The latest innovations in this space are electric scooters made by companies like Bird and Lime. If you live in any decently sized city, you’ve probably seen these scooters around. They’ve even gone international (see my brother below, scooting around last summer on a Bird in Paris).
So, first things first, I am absolutely obsessed with these scooters – not just because they provide an alternative mode of transportation that I think is good for cities, but also because of what they present in the way of side hustle opportunities (more on that later). They’re also just plain fun to ride.
There are two big players in the scooter world – Bird and Lime, but there are other scooter companies out there, including Skip, Spin, and others too numerous to name (even Uber and Lyft have come out with their own brand of electric scooters).
Using the scooters is pretty simple – you find a scooter using each company’s respective app, activate the scooter using the camera on your phone, then ride the scooter around until you’re done with it. After that, just drop it off wherever you are. The cost is pretty affordable – generally, $1 to start the ride, plus 15 cents per minute (this might vary a little bit depending on your location and what season you’re in).
Breaking it down, this is how much it generally costs to ride a scooter for various lengths of time:
- 15-minute ride = $3.25
- 30-minute ride = $5.50
- 60-minute ride = $10.00
Riding these scooters is cool, but here on Financial Panther, what we care about is how we can make money from them. Since these scooters are electric, they need to be charged every day. Bird and Lime both utilize independent contractors – i.e. regular people like you and me – to pick these scooters up at night, charge them up in our homes, and put them back out on the street for the public to use. They call these people Bird Chargers and Lime Juicers.
For the past year, I’ve been going out and doing just that, side hustling as a Bird Charger and Lime Juicer. With a bunch of scooter charging experience under my belt, I’m thoroughly convinced that this is a side hustle tailor-made for the millennial, young professional.
If you live in the right place, this is something that you can easily do. And it can pay big dividends for you.
Signing Up To Be A Bird Charger and Lime Juicer
Like a lot of my side hustles, my brother was the one who first introduced me to these electric scooters. He told me about how these scooters were all over the city and that he was getting paid to charge them up at night. It was something I knew I had to do if the scooters ever made it to Minneapolis. And when I saw the below advertisement on my Facebook feed this past summer, I immediately signed up to be a Bird charger.
The signup process to become a Bird charger was pretty straightforward – I signed up through the Facebook ad, but most people will probably sign up to be a Bird charger directly in the Bird app. I don’t remember the questions exactly, but the signup process was pretty easy – similar to signing up for any other gig economy app. A few days later, three Bird scooter charging cables showed up in the mail.
Since I signed up before the official launch in Minneapolis, Bird held an in-person orientation session where they walked us through the app and showed us how the charging process worked. I took a bus over to the orientation session after I got off work and was surprised to see that they had free food and drinks for us. Score! I also had a nice surprise at the Bird charger orientation when I ran into my friend Krystel from AllSheSaves.com, who was also signing up to be a Bird charger. We hadn’t coordinated this, so it’s a good example here of great minds thinking alike!
After signing up to be a Bird charger, I then signed up to be a Lime charger (or Lime Juicer, as they call it) after I saw some Lime scooters sitting on a sidewalk on my way into work one morning. The process to sign up to be a Lime Juicer was basically the same as signing up to be a Bird charger – I signed up via the Lime website, was accepted a short while later, and then showed up to an orientation session that same day. At the orientation, Lime gave us four charging cables that we could use to charge up the scooters.
Now that I was signed up for both scooter companies, it was off to the races!
Note: I didn’t have to pay anything for the chargers when I signed up, but your experience may vary. It seems that as Bird and Lime grow, they may now be charging people to get the chargers. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth paying for the chargers. I think it is, especially if you live in an area with a lot of scooters.
How Charging Works
There are a few things that go into being a Bird Charger or Lime Juicer, but basically, the process of charging electric scooters can be boiled down to three steps:
- Go into charger mode and find scooters to charge.
- Capture the scooters and charge them up at your house, office, or wherever.
- Release the scooters at a Bird Nest or LimeHub once they are charged up.
I’ll go through each of these steps below:
1. Finding a Bird or Lime Scooter to Charge
Step one is finding a Bird or Lime Scooter you want to charge. When you sign up to be a Lime or Bird charger, you’ll get a new button in your Bird or Lime app that lets you toggle over to charger mode. Here’s what it looks like in Bird, for example:
In Lime, it’s the same thing. They just call it “Juicer” mode.
Once in charger mode, you’ll be able to see all of the scooters in the area that need to be charged. In the Bird app, it’ll look something like this.
And here’s what it looks like in the Lime app:
As you can see, the scooters pay different amounts based on how long it’s been since the scooter was last charged. Generally, the longer it’s been since the scooter was charged, the higher the pay will be (I’ll go into more detail about how pay works later in this post).
Depending on where you live, scooters will pop up either all at once during the night, or they’ll pop up as they run low on battery. Here in Minneapolis, Lime scooters pop up as they get low on battery, and they all pop up at about 10 pm.
2. Capturing and Charging a Bird or Lime Scooter
Step two of charging scooters involves capturing the scooter, bringing it home with you, and charging it to full battery. To do this, find a scooter that’s available for capture using your Bird or Lime app, go up to the scooter, then scan it using your app. This will unlock the scooter. At this point, you can ride the scooter or just wheel it along with you. Note that since the scooter battery should be pretty low at this point, you usually won’t be able to ride it very far before the scooter dies on you. If that happens, you can then kick the scooter along like a normal, kick scooter.
Also, another thing to note is that Bird now limits the speed of captured scooters to 5mph. This makes it super annoying to ride them home. Lime scooters aren’t speed capped, so it’s easy to ride them back.
Charging the scooters is also straightforward – you charge them up in a standard outlet using the chargers that Bird and Lime gave you. They basically look like laptop chargers. It takes about 4 to 5 hours to charge a scooter from 0% to 100% battery. One nice thing is that the chargers for Bird and Lime work on each other, so you can use them interchangeably between each brand of scooter. If you sign to be a charger for both companies, you’ll have a good amount of chargers to use.
As an aside, you can get creative with where you charge your scooters – it doesn’t have to just be at your house. Along with charging scooters at my house, I also charge scooters in the bike room at my office. When I see a scooter near me during work, I’ll usually run out and grab it, charge it up during the day, then either ride it home after work or drop it off and get paid for it on my way home from work. I’ve also charged up scooters in public places. For example, on one weekend afternoon, I charged up some scooters at an outside outlet while I sat at a nearby table drinking coffee and doing blog work.
If you’re wondering, the electricity cost to charge a scooter is pretty minimal. At my orientation sessions, the Bird and Lime reps both estimated that it costs somewhere between 25 and 40 cents to charge a scooter from 0% to 100%. I’ve found sources saying that it really costs 10 cents to charge up a scooter. In my own experience, I haven’t noticed any changes in my electricity bill, so I think that the 25 to 40 cent mark is way overstated and that it’s really more like 5 cents of electricity to charge a scooter (these aren’t big batteries).
In any event, I don’t think it’s particularly expensive to charge a scooter – it seems like it’s the same as charging up any other large electronic device.
3. Releasing Your Bird or Lime Scooters
The final step in the charging process is releasing your Bird or Lime scooters. After you charge up your scooters, you have to release them in designated spots, called Bird Nests or LimeHubs. These spots tend to be clustered in high-density areas near offices and luxury apartments. Think cool, hip neighborhoods that young professionals live in.
The app for both Bird and Lime shows you how to release your captured scooters. It looks like this in the Bird app:
And here’s what it looks like in the Lime app:
To release your scooters, you first claim or reserve your Bird Nest or LimeHub. Once reserved, just bring the scooters over to the nest or hub, follow the prompts in the app, and then release them.
Below is one of the first Bird Nests I set up. Looks pretty nice!
Note that releasing scooters does require you to be an early riser. Bird says that you’re supposed to release scooters between 4 am and 7 am to receive a full payout for the scooter. If you release them late, you’re supposed to get a reduced payout. At the moment though, this policy doesn’t seem to be enforced at all, and I still get my full payout regardless of when I release them. I release birds after 7 am basically every day. When I was in DC, the release time was 10 am, which makes it way easier!
The other thing to know is that the nests and hubs sometimes fill up with other chargers using them (there’s a limit to how many scooters can go into each nest or hub). If you’re in an area with a lot of nests and hubs, this won’t matter, as you’ll have plenty of them to choose from. But if you’re looking for a specific nest or hub, you might not always be able to grab it. So plan accordingly.
The early release time can work out for a lot of side hustlers since this allows you to charge them up overnight and drop them off on your way into work in the morning. At the same time, Lime can work out pretty well too since you can charge them up during the day or after work, then drop them off in the night before you go to sleep.
How Much Can You Make As A Bird Charger And Lime Juicer?
Both Bird and Lime have similar models where they pay you a base pay of $3 to $5 for charging and releasing each scooter. This pay will vary based on how long it’s been since the scooter was charged and when the scooter became available. Lime generally starts with a base pay of $4 or $5 per scooter, with little fluctuation in what they pay for each scooter.
Charging Birds and Limes initially didn’t work out well for me since the Bird nests and LimeHubs weren’t located on my route into work. That all changed a few months ago when Bird and Lime finally started putting nests near where I live. I’m now able to gather up scooters on my way home from work each day, charge them up overnight, then ride them into work in the morning, dropping them off along the way. The money adds up surprisingly fast. And it doesn’t take me very much time.
Just take a look at some of my recent earnings with Bird:
The beauty of this gig is that I’m able to earn this money during my commute to work. I can charge 4 to 5 scooters most nights, making somewhere between $15 and $25 on my way into work in the morning. I’m literally monetizing my commute! I’ve made a lot more on some trips too – I had one Sunday afternoon trip where I made $37 for what amounted to about 15 or 20 minutes of work.
One good thing about Bird is that they’ll still pay you a reduced payout if you release a Bird that isn’t at a 100% charge. Since I don’t drive, I’m always riding Bird scooters back to their nests, which means that by the time I get to the Bird nest, the battery on the scooter will have been used up a little bit. Bird reduces the payout in that situation, but still pays me at least 75% of the bounty.
Lime has worked out even better for me lately because the LimeHubs are now all near my house (and they don’t speed cap the scooters, so I’m able to ride them at full blast). Just this past month (September 2019), I earned over $1,000 charging up Lime scooters.
So how much have I made? Over the past few months, I’ve made anywhere between $150 and $1,000 each month charging scooters. That’s pretty crazy to think about. It’s relatively small amounts of money each day, but it adds up over time. And it’s literally money I’m making while I’m going to work in the morning.
Obviously, you can make a lot more if you’re using a car or truck to pick up scooters. That’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it. I personally never use my car for gig economy stuff and only pick up scooters on foot. It works out well for me, especially since I’ve gotten really good at stacking scooters and riding them (more on that later in this post).
My Experience Charging Scooters
Now that I’ve gone through the basic background with charging scooters, I think it’s best to walk you through a typical charging experience for me.
It was a Friday afternoon and as I left my office, I opened up my Bird app to see if there were any scooters I could grab on my way home. Since I use a bikeshare bike to get to work, it’s easy enough for me to just dock my bike and grab a scooter if I happen to see one. On this day, I grabbed a Bird scooter that I saw along my route, hidden away in a quiet office park.
Since I don’t use my car, my method of getting scooters home is to ride them back. Luckily, the scooter I found had a decent amount of charge left, so I was able to easily ride it home without having to do any kicking. I saw a few more scooters that were close to my house as well and grabbed those to charge also. By the end of the night, I had four scooters charging at my house.
The next morning, I gathered up my fully charged scooters and got ready to bring them to my closest nest. It’s about a 10-minute scooter ride for me and to get the scooters to the nest, I do a thing called stacking. Basically, this involves using one scooter as my base, then stacking the rest of the scooters on top of the one scooter. I then basically ride the scooter with all of the other scooters on top.
It’s definitely funny riding this big stack. Here’s what the stack looked like once I got it set up:
From there, I just stand on this big stack of scooters and basically ride it downtown. It looks crazy, but it’s actually a lot easier to do than you think, especially once you get the hang of it.
At the Bird nest, I laid out the scooters the way the app told me to do, and that was it. See below for a picture of my nice nest.
How You Can Make Being A Lime Juicer Or Bird Charger Work For You
One of the reasons I find charging scooters to be so exciting is because it seems like the perfect side hustle for young professionals. Scooters and their accompanying nests and hubs tend to be located in high-density, hip neighborhoods (basically, the kinds of neighborhoods that you would associate with young professionals).
For example, in Minneapolis, the Bird nests and LimeHubs are all located in the hip, North Loop area, as well as in the nearby downtown area, and all around the University of Minnesota campus. What this means is that for anyone who lives and works in these places, being a Lime or Bird charger is perfect. You can grab a scooter on your way home from work, charge it up overnight, ride it back to work in the morning, and then put it into a nest or hub and get paid while getting a free scooter ride.
Take my own example of putting this strategy into action. Each day, I grab a bunch of scooters on my way home from work and charge them up overnight. The next day, I bring all of those scooters out, stack them up (as I explained in the previous section), then ride them into work, dropping them off at Nests and Hubs along the way. I get funny looks from people (especially because I’m usually wearing my nice work clothes). But it’s a free ride into work and I get paid at the same time.
My brother does the same strategy in Washington DC. He lives in a hip neighborhood that’s filled with scooters and nests/hubs. For example, you can see just how many LimeHubs he has in his neighborhood in the screenshot below:
He also works at a nearby co-working space, which means that he usually rides scooters into work and gets paid to do it. Like me, my brother isn’t shy about side hustling, and during the day, he’ll often grab scooters that he sees near his office and actually bring them inside the co-working space and charge them. It’s something that draws funny looks from other people in the office.
Update: My brother’s coworking space finally told him that he had to stop charging scooters inside the building. He needs to find a spot that has a bike room with an outlet where he can plug in the scooters during the day.
The Financial and FIRE Benefits of Charging Bird and Lime Scooters
It might not seem like that big a deal, but scooter charging money adds up and can be especially huge for someone pursuing FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early). There’s a tendency to underestimate the impact small amounts have over time – and I think that’s a mistake. Just look at Bird or Lime charging and how big of an impact it can have over the course of a year.
Almost everyone can make somewhere between $5 and $25 every day from charging up scooters. That’s not an outlandish sum – requiring somewhere between 1 or 5 scooters each day. I’m personally averaging around $15 per day at this point.
To put that in perspective, someone earning $15 per day charging up scooters would require a portfolio of a little over $136,000 to generate the same amount of income, assuming you’re using the traditional 4% safe withdrawal rate. That’s pretty astounding when you think about it. What’s easier to do? Save $136,000 or earn $15 per day charging scooters?
And if you can invest that income, it adds up even more. $15 invested per day over 30 years comes out to over $500,000! The point isn’t that you can charge Birds and Limes for the next 30 years. It’s that these small amounts mean something, even if it doesn’t seem like it.
Scooter Charging Strategies and Takeaways
So, I’ve already said it, but I’m obsessed with these scooters (my wife can attest to that because she’s getting super annoyed at how much I talk about them and about how often I’m dragging scooters into the house). I think my obsession with these scooters is well-founded though – there are just a lot of reasons why I think electric scooters are good and the scooter market, I think, is only going to get bigger.
I’ve got a few takeaways and strategies to think about as I close out this post:
Be a Bird Charger or Lime Juicer and Get Paid to Scooter to Work. I’m convinced that for most young professionals, signing up to be a Bird charger or Lime Juicer is well worth it. If you live in a neighborhood that has a lot of scooters and you work somewhere that has a lot of nests and hubs nearby, then you should definitely sign up to be a Bird charger or Lime Juicer. Incorporate charging into your routine, and you’ll basically get paid to ride into work in the morning. That’s what I’ve been doing.
Stacking Scooters. I hate driving, so I’m never going to go around picking up scooters in my car. If you absolutely need the money, then obviously, you’ll need to use a big car to collect the most scooters. For the non-car folks out there like myself, stacking the scooters and riding them as a big stack is key. Bird scooters stack well, and I can basically ride a stack of 4 scooters with no problem at all. My record stack for Bird scooters is 7. I’ll typically stack about 3 or 4 Lime scooters.
Free Scooter Rides. An unadvertised benefit of charging scooters is that it basically lets you ride scooters around for free. You’re probably not supposed to do this, but still…what’s stopping you? I rarely ever pay to scooter around.
Don’t Underestimate The Impact Of Small Amounts. I mentioned it in the prior section, but I think it’s worth repeating. Small amounts add up over time. $10 per day worth of scooters doesn’t seem like a lot, but it adds up to $300 per month or $3,650 over the course of a year. If you invest that income, it adds up to even more – $3,650 per year invested over 30 years would come out to over $350,00. That’s all from $10 per day!
Being a Bird Charger or Lime Juicer is definitely one of the more interesting side hustles I’ve tried, and with this scooter market continuing to grow, I have a feeling that more and more people are going to be looking into this as a thing to do. For the side hustler out there, it’s a nice way to start your day – there aren’t tons of gigs out there where you can get your money-making day started so early.
If you feel like signing up to be a Bird Charger or Lime Juicer, you can do so using the links in this post. You can also use my referral codes if you want to get your first ride as a customer for free. They are below:
- Bird: Click here to download the Bird app and get your first ride free. Or sign up and use code YJOVBZ to get your free ride
- Lime: Click here to download the Lime app and get $3 in ride credits. Or use code RXA5YV5 and get $3 in ride credits.
- Spin: For Spin, use promo code KEVINHA6 to get some ride credits.
Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section. I’d love to hear if others are having success charging Birds and Limes.