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My Postmates Side Hustle: Getting Paid To Bike Around Town

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.

king-size_homer
Are you this lazy?

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.

homer-bike
Homer doing the smart thing and biking to work.

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.

nice ride bike kiosk
I have an annual subscription to my city’s bikeshare system, so I’ll usually roll up to customers on one of these.

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.

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-11-24-16-am

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.

30 Comments

  1. Great post! I really enjoy reading about your side hustles. I’m thinking about starting up some side hustles of my own. I have a set of expensive golf clubs I have my eye on and like the idea of earning them through extra money made on the side. Your blog has definitely given me several good ideas!

    • If you’re looking to buy something that you know you want, you can definitely easily do that by just earning a bit more money through a quick side hustle. Personally, I prefer trying to save all of my side hustle income, if possible, but if you’re saving well already, you can definitely use your side hustle to buy things that bring you good value.

      • Agree with you. We have a pretty high saving rate already. For 2017 I’m projecting we’ll be able to save 40% of our after tax, after 401k income. That’s in addition to maxing out my 401k. I’m working to get that number up to 50% and have a pretty high earnings potential in my current job where I could get there in another year or two. With that, I like the idea of taking on side hustles to earn money for “wants” without taking away from my current savings.

        • That’s a really great savings rate. Definitely have no problem with doing side hustles for your wants if you’re already meeting your savings goals.

  2. Ha, this is awesome. I’ve never heard of postmates but i’m definitely looking into it now! You can never have too many side hustles when you are paying off $600k in debt 🙂

    • Totally take a look at it! I’ve been biking around town for a year now delivering food to people in my spare time. I think I like it alot because it feels like a game. Ms. FP just started Postmating with me as well (a subject for a future post). So now in our household, we have a lawyer and a dentist, occasionally moonlighting as delivery people…Yeah, we’re nuts!

  3. This is a great and very healthy side hustle. I just checked and we don’t have Postmates, but do have Uber Eats here. I might give it a try, just to see how it suits me 🙂

    • Definitely no harm in trying it out. If you try it out and don’t think its for you, just find something else. I know in my city, it takes no time at all to sign up for Postmates. Didn’t even have to attend an orientation session. We signed Ms. FP up to Postmate and it took us about 15 minutes all in to sign up.

      When I signed up last year, it took a bit longer. I had to spend a lunch break attending an informational session and have my picture taken.

  4. Very interesting…I think this will be in demand in my area since there are plenty of lazy people here in NYC who are probably willing to pay for this service. Can’t believe the guy didn’t even want to walk across the street! I rarely order deliver…I just pick it up. It’s faster and I could use the exercise. I wonder if I could do postmate deliveries by foot since I don’t have a bike (apartment is too small…stroller and toddler’s bike already clogging up space!) It’s too bad they don’t tell you the location for the delivery…makes it tough to decide whether it’s doable.

    • NYC is huge for the bike messenger delivery services. No harm in checking these out to see if they’re for you. I know for a fact that NYC allows walkers to do deliveries. My brother is out at a large East Coast city and didn’t feel like biking anymore, so he set himself up as a walker and walks or skateboards his deliveries whenever he feels like it. You’ll reduce what you can make obviously, but if its just for fun or to get a little exercise and fresh air, then it’s not a bad thing to do.

  5. Hey I bet there are a TON of people who could use an extra $2,500+ over the course of a year, so this is definitely a side hustle I think people should consider. I actually hadn’t heard of Postmates until this post, so thanks for sharing!

    • And it’s not just the $2500 they could make over the course of a year. Don’t forget, they also get a health benefit from biking. I can’t quantify the value of biking, but I’m guessing it saves even more than $2500 per year in health care costs in the future.

  6. Glad to see you wrote about this. My friend starting to do it just this weekend and is enjoying it. The money isn’t bad and he sees it more as getting paid to work out. I may check this out once I move back to the city.

    • That’s awesome. If you’re in a city where you can do this on a bike, you definitely should at least sign up. It takes very little time to get set up. Since most millennials are living in the city, its an easy thing to at least have in your pocket in case you want to do it.

  7. TJ TJ

    I will need to consider PostMates to make some extra cash during the road trip. Is there some sort of referral program for you to recruit new delivery people? I’d be happy to sign up under you if it benefits you in some way.

    • Hey TJ. Postmates is a great thing to do for your road trip! The great thing with Postmates is you can do it in any city that has the service. All you have to do is log in and wait for any orders to come in. One thing I wish someone would do is to do a cross country bike trip, doing Postmates in each city they come to. That’d be a decent story to share, in my opinion.

      There is a referral program, but I’m never quite sure what, if anything, they offer. I’ll shoot you an email with some details!

  8. What a great side hustle, FP! This would be great for anyone living in a city. Seems like a win-win: exercise + make money. I like TJ’s idea of doing it while you are traveling to make some extra cash. I’m guessing I live in an area with low demand, as I live outside of town on a gravel road, so I doubt it’s an option for me…

    • Yep, don’t think it’s an option for you unfortunately! These on-demand apps are really only available in large cities, just due to the supply and demand. Still, at least you know about it and it can get you thinking about weird ways you can make some extra cash!

  9. I had never considered Postmates as a potential side hustle before. This is a great idea, FP! As long as you’re able to do the deliveries by bike, I think it makes perfect sense to get in the exercise you probably should be doing anyway and make a bit of money at the same time.

    • That’s exactly right! We all need to do a little bit of exercise anyway. And I like to do it sometimes if I’m bored. I see making deliveries as sort of a little game.

  10. Nice review, FP! I have not used postmates delivery service. I don’t live in the city and I ‘m afraid this might not be an option, however, I am going to check it out anyways.

    • Thanks Michael! Postmates is really dependent on city, and unfortunately, isn’t for everyone. But always worth seeing if its out there.

      Really, my point with this post is just to show how many weird ways there are to make money, how to not be too “proud” to do work that you think might be beneath you, and how you can make money doing things you already do or should be doing. There’s a ton of ways out there to make money. Most people just won’t take any action.

  11. Wow, how cool! It just goes to show that anyone with the will can make some extra cash if they want to. Plus, you can stay in shape.

    • That’s exactly why I like doing this so much. It’s a pretty good way to get outside and get some exercise, while also making a little bit of dough. And honestly, I find it really fun too do. It’s like I get sent out on a little mission each time.

  12. Great review FP! Really enjoyed reading about your experience with Postmates. So many people talk about how they don’t have money to save or they have a ton of debt that they’re drowning in. A side hustle like this would be perfect for anyone looking to turn their free hours into extra money to improve their situation!

    • Thanks Matt! Totally right. Whenever I hear someone who just works a regular 9-5 job, I always wonder why they don’t just find a little side hustle like this. It takes no work to basically just sign up and try it out, and if it’s not fun, then you can just stop doing it! And honestly, biking around and getting paid? What’s better than that?

  13. I always enjoy reading your side hustle! It is kind of crazy how the society is pursuing convenience and willing to pay for it. On the flip side, there’s definitely money to be made there.

    • Totally right! It’s pretty awesome how you can do this stuff now on your own time. I hope people stay lazy forever because I have so much fun doing some bike messengering. (is messengering a word?)

  14. Curious Curious

    Great idea for getting paid to exercise!

    I’m just wondering how tips work? I assume the buyer does that when they place the order, but I’ve heard of stranger things (not) happening. I’d feel horrible especially considering the base wage for food service workers in some states is a bit over $2 per hour…

    • This the big problem with Postmates when it comes to tips. The customer can decide to tip after the delivery is complete. Since you’re not in front of them, some customers will leave you a zero dollar tip, probably either because they don’t care or don’t realize that I can see they didn’t tip.

      I’ve recently signed up with DoorDash and have had much greater success with tips on that platform. With DoorDash, when you place your order, you have to put the tip in beforehand. Most customers, when faced with an option to tip in advance, will give a tip because they’re afraid that I’ll see their tip and give them bad service.

      Uber Eats is the absolute worst. It has no tipping option at all and they actively tell customers that tip is part of the fee, when that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’m still experimenting with Uber Eats just for fun, but I’m really confused at how anyone can make money on it from my current experience.

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