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I remember when my brother first told me about a new app he’d found called Postmates. He’d just returned home to the US after living overseas for a few years and didn’t have a job. So, in order to make a bit of cash while he was job hunting, he picked up a side gig as a Postmates courier, delivering food for people around the city.
Here was my brother, a college educated, smart, hard working millennial…working as a delivery man. He was really putting that college degree to use.
We’re a pretty lazy society. And the rise of the on-demand economy might be one of the lazier things out there. Remember when you used to have to go outside in order to get the things you wanted? Now, all you have to do is tap a button on your phone and someone can come right to your door with anything you want. Everything in your city is available to you right from your phone – for a small fee, of course.
Using these on-demand services isn’t great for your wallet. But, the rise of the on-demand economy does bring with it the opportunity to engage in some good side hustling! And Postmates has probably been my favorite side hustle to date.
What Is Postmates?
As my brother described it to me, Postmates is an app for lazy people. One of the first deliveries he made was to a customer who had ordered coffee from Starbucks. My brother happened to be in the neighborhood, so he quickly accepted the order. Oddly, the Starbucks was across the street from the customer.
“Why’d this person pay someone to pick up a coffee if it was just across the street?” I asked.
“Because they lazy,” he replied.
And you thought your latte factor was bad.
Laziness aside, what really intrigued me was how Postmates worked on the courier side. The easiest way to think about Postmates is as an Uber for food delivery. Similar to Uber, my brother could log in and accept any orders that came in through the app. He was also free to reject any orders that he didn’t like and he didn’t have to follow any set schedule. And the best part – he could use any mode of transport he wanted. He didn’t have a car, so he opted to use his bike to make deliveries. Sometimes he’d use a skateboard. Other times, he’d walk his orders to the customer.
The concept seemed pretty great to me. I’m always on the lookout for side hustles that incorporate things I’m already doing. And like any true personal finance geek, I love biking. So when the wave of on-demand delivery services – such as Postmates – hit my city, I immediately signed up.
I was a big shot lawyer…and here I was signing up to work as a delivery man.
How Does Postmates Work?
Postmates is just one of the many on-demand food delivery apps that have hit the scene in the past few years. Besides Postmates, there’s also DoorDash, Caviar, Uber Eats, Favor, GoPuff, and a score of others that I probably can’t remember. The basic concept of all of these services is the same. On the customer side, you pull up the app, look for something you want, and then place an order. The app then pings a nearby delivery person who grabs the order for you and brings it to your door.
On the courier side, Postmates basically works like any other on-demand app. Couriers can log in at any time they want and accept or reject orders as they come in. When you become a Postmate, you aren’t an employee. Instead, you’re classified as an independent contractor. While there are numerous lawsuits challenging this classification, for someone like me, being classified as an independent contractor is great! I’ve already got a day job, so I don’t want a second “job.” I want a side hustle.
Why I Think You Should Be A Bike Messenger
If you’re thinking of becoming a delivery person, you’ll typically have two choices. You can drive your car or you can bike.
If you’re thinking of driving, I’d say that Postmates isn’t worth your time. Restaurants are typically located in high traffic areas. You’ll waste time, money, and gas trying to find parking. The costs to operate your car will also crush your earnings. And really, being a delivery person in a car isn’t very fun. When you’re driving and making deliveries, you’re just being a delivery person.
But doing deliveries on a bike – that’s a different story.
Most of us in the personal finance world are aware of the advantages of biking. It’s good for the environment. The costs to operate a bike are slim to none. And perhaps most important, biking has great health benefits.
There aren’t a lot of side gigs out there where you can make money while also being active. Most professional jobs these days are pretty sedentary. As a lawyer, I basically spend 8 hours a day sitting in front of a computer screen. Those of you who are bloggers probably spend much of your day sitting in front of a computer as well. Some people say sitting is as bad as smoking. Our jobs could be killing us!
But being a bike messenger…well, have you ever seen an out of shape biker? I know I haven’t. What do you think a couple hours a week of biking will do for you? Do you think you could improve your health by hopping on a bike more often?
How I’m Getting Paid To Bike
Since I enjoy biking, whenever I feel like getting a little bit of exercise in (or whenever I’m just feeling a bit antsy), I’ll turn on the Postmates app and wait for an order to come in. Fortunately for me, I live in a high demand area. When I want to make some deliveries, I don’t even have to leave my house while I wait for an order.
Once an order comes in, it’s off to the races. For most restaurants, Postmates places the order in advance for you. All I have to do is wait until the order is ready, and then I bike on over to the restaurant. Since I’m on a bike, I never have to worry about parking. I just leave it right on the sidewalk.
For some places – mainly fast food restaurants – you have to place the order yourself. As long as it’s a place that isn’t known for having a huge line, you won’t lose much time placing the order yourself. I’ve been doing Postmates for a year now, so I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out which type of orders to accept and which to reject. You’ll eventually figure this out as well with experience.
I have a road bike that I keep on my porch that I’ll use if I’m planning to do an extended period of deliveries. More often than not though, I actually end up making deliveries using my city’s bikeshare system. That means I usually don’t even use my own bike to make deliveries.
And I get a great workout from doing Postmates. The app adjusts the distances for orders based on the type of vehicle you use. Most bike orders won’t be more than a few miles away. Seems like a pretty good idea to get a few miles of biking in during your spare time and make a bit of cash as well. It’s a double benefit! There aren’t a lot of gigs out there that improve your health and allow you to get paid.
“I don’t even need a gym membership anymore.”
That’s what my brother told me when he started Postmating.
How Much Can You Make?
You’re not going to get rich off Postmates. But, you also shouldn’t underestimate the impact of this type of side hustle over time. Every dollar you earn doing bike deliveries is a dollar you can save away. It really adds up.
As of the date of this post, I’ve been doing Postmates for about a year. Here’s a look at what I’ve pulled in during that span.
Being able to bring in around $200 per month from biking around town and getting exercise isn’t so bad. It’s way better than paying to go to the gym. From an hourly wage standpoint, I’d say I bring in around $12 to $15 per hour. It’s not a lot of money. But if you’re already planning to exercise, then this is just a way to get a bit of extra money from your exercise time. And if you add in the cost benefit of exercising, then your hourly wage is actually much higher. No negative externalities from sitting in front of a computer screen.
You might also notice the small payouts I get. I typically don’t do more than 1 or 2 deliveries a day, so my payouts are often pretty meager. A few bucks here, a few bucks there. But these payouts add up. And I’m sure my health has improved as well. Just a few hours of biking per week adds up too.
My earnings this year are actually more than what I have included in the above screenshot. In addition to Postmates, I also worked for a service called Caviar. By platform stacking the two apps together, I was able to keep myself extra busy, whenever I wanted. Unfortunately, Caviar shut down in my city, so now I’m just left with Postmates to satisfy my delivery man urges. I’ve heard rumors that Uber Eats might be starting up in my city though.
The Negatives Of Doing Postmates
Not everything is perfect, of course. Here’s some reasons it might not be for you.
Pretty Low Paying. Admittedly, you’re not going to make a ton of money being a bike messenger. If you look at my stats, you’ll see that I’m averaging around $8 per delivery. Assuming I can pull in about 2 deliveries per hour, that’s a mere $16 per hour. If something happens that slows down my delivery time, such as slow order or a really long line at some place, I’m looking at making minimum wage or worse.
Heavily Tip Reliant. One thing I’ve learned about being a bike messenger is the heavy reliance on tips. Most of the orders I take pay as little as $4 per delivery. The pay on these type of apps is typically based on distance, so when you’re delivering by bike, your distances will naturally be shorter. That means half of my pay comes in the form of tips. If I’m not getting tips, I’m not making anything. I wrote a while back about how a rich guy stiffed me on a $438 steak dinner he ordered. With the tip, I likely would have made at least $50 on that order. Without the tip, I made $4. So, yeah, my pay is heavily tip reliant.
Time Intensive. Unlike Airbnb or my dog sitting side hustle, doing Postmates requires me to directly contribute my own time. Sure, I’m getting in exercise by biking, but when I’m Postmating, I can’t work on this blog or do any other work. The time I put into Postmates determines what I’m able to make. As a plus though, I listen to a ton of podcasts while I’m out making deliveries. It’s probably dangerous to listen to headphones while I bike, but I’ll take that chance.
You Might Not Live In A High Demand Area. One of the benefits for me in doing Postmates is that I don’t have to go anywhere if I want to grab an order. I live in an area with a lot of restaurants and a lot of young people ordering from the app, so all I have to do is turn on the app while I’m sitting on my couch. Those of you who have to actually travel into more high demand areas might find this not worth the time. If you have to commute somewhere to do this gig, then it’s going to feel more like a crappy job.
Postmates Doesn’t Tell You Where The Order Is Going Until You Accept It. This is one of the more annoying things about Postmates. Sometimes, I’m looking for orders going in a certain direction. But Postmates doesn’t like people rejecting orders because of where it’s going, so they hide the delivery location until you accept the order. While you can cancel the order if you don’t like where it’s going, they do claim that if you cancel too many orders, you’ll get suspended.
People Might Look Down Upon You. Being a delivery person isn’t considered a good job. So you get this funny sort of interaction sometimes where people think they’re better than you or that you must be struggling if you have to work this type of gig. I rarely tell fellow lawyers that I work as a bike messenger on the side. There’s something about it that seems embarrassing to me, as if I’m doing work that’s beneath me. If you’re the type of person who cares about what people think about you, this gig isn’t for you.
Not Every Location Allows Bikes. Depending on your location, you might not be able to make deliveries using a bike. If you have to drive, I don’t think Postmates is worth your time.
Everyone Should Try Doing Bike Deliveries
I really do think everyone should try their hand at being a bike messenger. It’s a great way to get paid to exercise. Really, it might be the only way to get paid to exercise unless you’re a trainer or run some sort of health class. Plus. being a bike messenger is a great way to keep yourself humble. It’s hard to get a big head when you’re a “lowly” delivery man.
If you’re interested in becoming a Postmate, take a look to see if they operate in your city. If you live in a decently sized city, the chances are that Postmates or other similar services are available. Find out if they allow bikers to make deliveries. If they do, why not sign up for it and see what its like? Make sure to check if other delivery services are available in your city as well. It’s easier to find deliveries when you’re working on multiple platforms.
And, if you find out that being a bike messenger isn’t for you, then you can simply stop doing it. That’s the beauty of these new technology apps! The barrier to entry is low and there isn’t very much of a consequence for quitting if you don’t like it.
Interested in being a Postmate? Sign up using my affiliate link.
And if you’ve never used Postmates before and you feel like you need some food delivered to you, download the Postmates app and use code ctfk for free delivery of up to $10 on your first order.