Freelancers have long sought side gigs to generate extra income when work is slow. But taking on extra jobs always raises the risk of lost availability when the perfect project rolls along. If only there was a side gig completely controlled by the contractor.
In case you’ve been MIA over the past couple of years, that perfectly flexible side gig has arrived via ride-sharing and delivery services like Uber and Lyft.
As of June 2018, more than 75 million people have used Uber to catch a ride, and more than 3 million drivers have offered their services. With such demand, there are bound to be plenty of opportunities for freelancers to fill in throughout the near future.
Still considering whether driving for Uber is right for you? We’ve gathered some great reasons to moonlight as a driver, as well as a few challenges you might have to overcome.
Pros of Driving for Uber:
Becoming an Uber driver is quick and easy.
Driving for Uber, Lyft or another ride-sharing service doesn’t require any advanced training or planning – just a driver’s license and a vehicle. OK, that might be oversimplifying Uber’s minimum requirements… but not by much.
Any person at least 21 years old with at least once year of licensed driving experience can driver for Uber provided they hold a valid U.S. driver’s license. All they need is an eligible four-door vehicle and proof of insurance.
Granted, Uber will review every applicant’s driving record and criminal history, but that only takes a few minutes in most cases. Making deliveries with Uber is even simpler and can be done with as basic transportation as a bicycle.
So, find yourself with some extra time between freelance gigs? You could be earning extra money from Uber fees in minutes and getting paid the same day.
Uber drivers enjoy maximum flexibility.
Most freelance designers, developers and writers benefit from a variety of revenue streams. But by juggling multiple gigs, they can find themselves with odd segments of free time.
It’s not that they can’t earn more money by working extra hours, it’s that it can be difficult to fill those spots of a couple of hours or a single day with another job. It can also be difficult to forecast when free time will fall.
Driving for Uber completely solves the dilemma. Should a freelancer find him or herself finished with another gig a day or two early, they can hop in the car and spend some time picking up Uber riders.
Trying to juggle a freelance career with family responsibilities and demands? It’s easy to drive for Uber whenever it’s convenient without skipping out on shifts when it’s not.
Driving for Uber offers supplemental income in an immediate manner.
Many are the freelancers who have seen their work dwindle as they wonder how to pay next month’s bills. Driving for Uber, Lyft or another ride-sharing service provides the ultimate bridge across a worrisome pay gap.
Not only is it quick and easy to start driving for Uber, but the gig also provides almost immediate pay. As an Uber driver, you conduct your own real-time transactions with your passengers.
When exactly payments get processed into driver’s bank accounts varies by location. In some areas, they may be instant and in others daily or once a week.
So, whether a freelancer is looking to substantiate their overall income or make a few bucks in between gigs, driving for Uber can cushion the ol’ bank account when they need it most.
Uber drivers enjoy tax perks.
As independent contractors, Uber drivers in the United States will begin to enjoy tax benefits in 2018. Such “independent” workers can now deduct 20 percent of their income before paying the new, lower individual tax rates.
Therefore – for example – an Uber driver with a net income of $40,000 in 2018 can deduct 20 percent in addition to the standard personal deduction. The extra deduction would equal $960 less federal income tax owed compared to a wage-earning employee with the same income.
Cons of Driving for Uber:
Drivers have to cover plenty of overhead costs.
Earning money as an Uber driver doesn’t offer the direct profits one might initially imagine. After all, $100 earned from just a few customers’ fees has to first pay for the gas you used, and towards the cost of your car, insurance, and other maintenance costs that will accumulate over time.
In fact, according to a study from the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, the median Uber and Lyft driver generates about 59 cents per mile of driving, but incurs costs totaling 30 cents per mile – profiting only about $3.37 per hour.
Shockingly, almost a third of drivers surveyed incurred a net loss when comparing earnings generated to costs.
That’s not to say freelancers can’t earn extra money with an Uber side gig. But maximizing Uber earnings requires strategy and commitment.
Work can be inconsistent.
Just because a freelancer decides to spend a spare half day driving for Uber or Lyft, that doesn’t mean it will be a fruitful afternoon. What if there’s not much traffic that day? Or what if twice as many fellow Uber drivers decide to put in the same few hours?
It’s only natural that more passengers will be looking to ride share during rush hour than at 3 a.m., and drivers will pick up more riders in a large city than around a rural community.
Lack of schedule can subtly increase time demands.
Just as driving for Uber or Lyft can be an enticing side gig because of the autonomous schedule it allows. But that flexibility can easily turn into a drain on drivers.
Just as there’s no one telling you when to be at work, there’s also no one telling you when to stop and go home.
The urge to put in just a few more rides in order to cap out the days’ earnings can easily become overwhelmingly attractive – especially if it’s been a slow day. And Uber doesn’t make it any easier to go home.
According to the New York Times’ Naom Scheiber, Uber has employed hundreds of social and data scientists and “experimented with video game techniques, graphics and non-cash rewards of little value that can prod drivers into working longer and harder,” including at times and locations that are far less than lucrative.
And what happens when Uber drivers stay on the road longer than they intended? True, they might pick up a few extra passengers and pad their daily earnings just enough. But they can also avoid getting enough sleep to continue safely driving.