Mike is family man. So when his daughter started having anxiety as she transitioned into Middle School, he needed to be around more. And that meant his job in retail wasn’t working anymore.
“I would get a lot of flak from my bosses if something was going down and I had to be there,” he said. “I needed a job with complete schedule flexibility.”
So he decided to be his own boss and make a go of it as a rideshare driver. Within a week and a half of driving part-time to test the waters, he knew it was the job for him.
“Once I knew it was fun and that I liked it and could make money, it became, ‘OK, I’m going to do this fulltime. I’ve really got to dig in and see what works and what doesn’t,” he said.
Now Mike makes an average of $1000 per week, driving an average of 12 hours a day primarily in Washington D.C. And while he’s clearly found a rhythm that works for him, it took a while for him to really hit his stride.
Building a strategy
Mike lives right outside of Baltimore, so naturally that’s where he started driving. He was making decent money, he says, but it was “up and down.” It was once he started focusing on the airport that things turned around.
A big part of this was due to the fact that Uber and Lyft drivers were now given a designated staging area, so his pickups and drop-offs were quicker and his time more efficiently spent.
“My whole mentality changed. I went from quantity to quality, and I really liked the idea that at the airport you can do five trips a night and make the same $150-200 that takes 20-plus trips in the city,” he said.
But the major game-changer was actually the community he found amongst the drivers, and the advice they gave him.
“Promotions vary on the platform depending on what major city you pick. So I see these drivers at [the airport] that were D.C. drivers with Quest and Boost, very incentivized promotions to drive, and it started the wheels turning in my head,” he said. “If I’m already going to do roughly 100 trips a week, why do it in Baltimore and not get any bonus money for it when I can do 100 trips in D.C. and get bonus money? And that was an eye-opener. I want to work smart; I don’t want to work hard.”
Now Mike drives almost exclusively in D.C. where in his first week he pulled in $200 a night and hit his Quest goals.
Focusing on city driving
Mike might have known to go to D.C. had there been much information on the Internet about that market, but there wasn’t.
A few months before taking the leap into driving, Mike spent hours in chat forums, Facebook groups and on YouTube channels to try figure out what strategies worked and what didn’t. While he got good general information, he found that there was little content out there to help out drivers in Baltimore and D.C.
So in a pay-it-forward kind of way, Mike has started his vlogging his experience to try to help out newbies – or veteran drivers – perfect their methods.
Mike has a modest YouTube following, but his 10 to 15 minute videos, which he records on his drive home every night and uploads every morning, detail the highs and lows of his night.
He includes unexpected traffic jams at the airport, the race to meet a Quest, and ultimately how much money he managed to pull in. Plus, he gives insight into his general strategies.
Check out Mike’s Youtube Channel
Mikes D.C. strategy mostly revolves around the late-night scene, with some airport thrown in. His goal is to get to the city before rush hour, so he rolls in around 4pm. From there, he picks up the after-work rides and some airport rides, which, he says, is easier in D.C. than in Baltimore since Reagan National is centrally located enough that he can make a drop-off without losing too much time driving back to his top areas.
Mike uses Gridwise to check for peak airport hours
Additionally, with Boost and Surge, those short work-to-home rides that would usually be a $4-fare get bumped up to $8, $9 or even $10. Plus, it’s only a 15-minute investment in time, it gets him closer to his Quest goals, and he can quickly nab another fare.
Between 8pm and 9pm, Mike usually takes a break. That’s the “dead spot,” as he calls it, so he fuels up himself and his car and gets in position to take on the night.
Typically, Mike’s top hotspots are U Street, Georgetown University, George Washington University, H Street and Dupont Circle, and his bread and butter is the bar and restaurant scene. And while Boost is one of the reasons he chose to start driving in D.C., he’s found Surge a little harder to take advantage of.
“Surge is never predictable or reliable. It’s like chasing a ghost. It’s very allusive,” he says. “But when D.C. surges, it tends to surge in larger areas.”
In other words, when he catches a Surge, he can likely pull two rides out of it, because he doesn’t necessarily have to return to a small area to take advantage of it.
Boost, however, is more predictable.
“It’s not that I prefer Boost, but there’s a consistency there that I can control and manage,” he says. “If I know that the northern half of D.C. – which is U Street and Georgetown – is going to be 1.9 or 2.0 Boost from 11pm to 1am, that’s where I’m going to drive. Because even if it’s a short trip, it’s a double-fare short trip.”
On top of all these strategies, Mike also always makes sure he hits his Quest goals and unlocks his bonuses, and the way he does that by “breaking it down into bite-sized pieces.” His first week driving in D.C., he had taken the first three days of the week off. So when his first Quest was 65 rides for $110, it took discipline to get it done.
“If I can do roughly 17 rides a night, that’s going to be 65 over four nights. And wherever I ended up on Thursday, I knew I had to do that many more the next day to make up the difference,” he said. “So it’s just kind of a math game. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
But perhaps the biggest help – more than knowing where to go, what hours to avoid, or how to navigate unknown areas – is being a people person. Not only does that make it easier on him (i.e. he enjoys the 15-minute conversations and the diversity of people he meets) it also means that he has better ratings and gets better tips.
“People don’t want to give out five stars by default. I truly believe that,” he said. “And I think that they’re looking for a memorable experience. That doesn’t mean water and candy; that means, ‘this Uber driver was different than my prior experiences.’ And how you set yourself apart from that can be a lot of different things, but everyone likes to talk.”
Set goals for yourself
“If you want to make a couple hundred dollars a night, you need to manage yourself,” Mike says.
That means not just randomly jumping in the car and seeing what happens, you won’t maximize the potential of the job. And that also means checking your progress throughout the night (or day) and seeing if you’re doing well. If not, change your strategy.
Know your customer
“This is a customer service industry,” he says. “And their experience has to be positive.” If you’re not comfortable talking to people and engaging in conversation, Mike warns, you’ll struggle to get a good rating, which could come back to haunt you. If your ratings continue to drop, it’s going to be harder to be successful down the line.
“You have to drive in new areas, learn your town, learn what neighborhoods work for you, what times of day,” he says. And if you’re having trouble figuring it out, talk to some other drivers. Or, if you’re in D.C., watch Mike’s YouTube channel.
That’s Mike’s strategy, so what’s yours? Let us know how you’re crushing the rideshare business in the comments below!