If you’re a rideshare driver looking for a side gig that offers plenty of flexibility and you enjoy grocery shopping, Instacart may be a good option.
Instacart, which is valued at nearly $8 billion, is a same-day grocery delivery service that operates from a smartphone app or desktop computer. Customers can shop for groceries picked from over 300 national, regional, and local retail partners.
The gig works like this: Instacart shoppers make money by shopping for groceries and delivering the items to customers’ homes. The orders come through Instacart’s shopper app, and the hours shoppers work are flexible. Let’s dive into what working as an Instacart shopper is like.
Instacart currently operates in more than 1,200 cities in 38 states, as well as Washington, D.C. The company serves communities of all sizes, from large urban cities such as New York and Los Angeles to smaller cities like Chevy Chase, Maryland and Lannon, Wisconsin. This link shows the full list of communities where Instacart operates.
Instacart offers two options for workers: part-time employee or independent contractor. Let’s get into the details of what each status entails.
- Part-Time Employee
- Role: In-store shopper (fills orders only, so a vehicle is not required)
- Can work up to 29 hours per week
- Access to a 401(k) retirement account
- Commuter benefit, which offers pre-tax dollars to be used for public transit
- Independent Contractor
- Role: Full-service shopper (grocery shopping and delivering)
- Can work an unlimited number of hours per week
- Positions are always available anywhere Instacart operates
Note: If you see your city of residence listed on the Instacart site, there’s a good chance you can work as an independent contractor. To check for available part-time positions, start the sign-up process here.
How Does It Work?
If you’re an independent contractor, you can learn when gigs or shifts are available by checking the Instacart shopper app. Delivery windows typically begin at 9:00 a.m. and can run as late as midnight, depending on what city you’re working in. There is no minimum or maximum number of hours you need to hit as an independent contractor. You can choose your available time slots in the app, and update your availability as often as you’d like.
After indicating your available time slots, you’ll receive a notification via the app 30 minutes before your availability window opens. You can accept or reject the offer, but do it quickly–or the gig will go to another shopper.
Once you accept an order, you’ll go to the specified grocery store the customer chose and start shopping. Customers can track their orders through the app. During your shopping mission, you’ll be required to update the customer on your progress through the shopper, noting any changes and asking if they need anything else. To check out, you’ll use a preloaded debit card provided by Instacart and then you’ll be on your way to deliver the items to the customer.
There are some basic requirements you’ll need to meet in order to work as an Instacart shopper:
- Be at least 18 years of age. If you’d like to deliver alcohol (which usually results in higher tips), you need to be at least 21.
- Have the ability to lift 40+ pounds. Shoppers are expected to lift at least this much with or without assistance.
- Own a smartphone. You need to have an iPhone 4s or newer, or an Android 4.0 or newer.
- Pass a background check. According to Instacart, background checks are cleared within 72 hours of account activation, but this can vary by city.
- Two years of driving experience. This is only applicable to independent contractors, who need to pass a DMV or vehicle check to assess things like driving records and minimum insurance coverage.
How Do You Sign Up?
Getting started on Instacart is a fairly simple process that is done online and works as follows:
- Sign up for an account at shoppers.instacart.com. Fill out the requested information, including name, location, phone number, and so forth. This is also where you’ll grant Instacart permission to run a background check on you.
- Attend an in-person orientation (part-time workers only). This is where you’ll spend two hours learning about the responsibilities of the job and getting a feel for what it entails.
- Fill out the necessary paperwork. Part-time employees will sign a W-4 tax form and an offer letter. Independent contractors will sign a W-9 tax form and a contractor agreement.
- Download the shopper app on your smartphone. From the app, you’ll set your available time slots, pick up shopping gigs, communicate with Instacart support, and track your payments.
- Buy insulated food-delivery bags (independent contractors only). You can purchase bags from Instacart that cost $20 for 3 bags, or you can buy them elsewhere.
How Much Can You Make?
Part-time employees earn a fixed, hourly wage that varies by city. Independent contractors get paid on a commission basis that is dependent on the number of items in each grocery order and the number of deliveries completed. According to user-reported data on Glassdoor.com, full-service Instacart shoppers are currently making between $7 and $20 per hour, or an average of $11 per hour.
As previously started, independent contractors are paid on commission, so larger orders (which tend to be heavier) receive a higher commission. Commissions are typically larger when more customers than usual are placing orders. So working on weekends and during popular events such as the Super Bowl will yield more cash for a shopper. Shoppers also have the ability to earn tips.
Both part-time employees and independent contractors are paid via direct deposit on a weekly basis. Independent contractors be aware that they may have to make estimated quarterly tax payments.
Is Instacart Right for Me?
Shopping for groceries and delivering them to customer’s homes may be an acquired taste as far as side gigs go. The struggles are definitely real — substitutions do happen, and when a grocery store is out of a requested item, you’ll need to find a replacement, scan it, and send it to the customer for approval. You can also use the messaging feature on the app to talk to customers directly, but you still have to wait for a response. Time is money! If you get stuck in this situation, you’ll be losing money.
You’ll also have to scan every single item on the customer’s list to make sure you’re matching exactly what he or she asked for. In the app, a clock is ticking to compare how long you’ve been shopping with an estimate of how long Instacart thinks it should take you. This can be stressful if you get stuck replacing items — but it can feel great if you’re rushing through a list with no trouble!
Shopping for Instacart isn’t a bad idea for those days when rideshares are slow, or during a major holiday when most people stay home and want groceries delivered. Since you can work whenever you want with no minimums to complete, tacking this job onto your gig economy repertoire might be a good way for you to make some extra money.
Have you shopped for Instacart before? Tell us about your experience in the comments.