Gig-Economy Jobs: Driving for Uber After You’re Fired From the 9-5 Job

An Orlando client was fired from a very stressful job about three weeks ago and immediately began driving for Uber.  I asked her if I could question her about it and share her answers here.  She agreed.

I’m going to be writing more about “gig-economy” jobs.   This approach to earning a living is booming and can get you out and away from a bad boss or job.  By “gig economy” I’m referring to project work – work opportunities that pop up on a project-by-project basis.  This contrasts with more traditional 9-5 jobs with a traditional employer.  There are a huge number of workers now that essentially work for themselves, and an equally expanding universe of companies that are outsourcing work to freelancers.

It can be a very liberating experience.

Here’s my interview.

Thanks for talking to me.

No problem.

So you recently began driving for Uber in Orlando?

Yes.  And surrounding areas.

How did you wind up becoming an Uber driver? What was the situation? Did you have a job before that?

Yes.  I was the office manager for a small general contractor.   But the company’s workload varied and sometimes things were very slow.  So it was very stressful, and over time my boss and I literally came to verbal blows.  He was always under great stress and he would take that out on us (the office staff).  And we finally decided mutually it was time for me to go.  I couldn’t take it anymore.

How much were you making with the general contractor?

$14 an hour. There were no benefits. I was treated as a 1099 employee, or as a subcontractor.

Did you know on your way out the door what you were going to do next to pay the bills?

No I didn’t.  As it happens, I recently began driving for Uber just for fun, and I decided to give it a shot as a real job.

Did the thought of finding another 9-to-5 job cross your mind after being terminated from this one?

Well, my boss had already cut my hours back to about 20 hours a week.  So it wasn’t really 9-5 anymore.  But yes, I thought about it.  But the work environment had gotten so bad I didn’t really feel like I could trust another employer right now.

How many times had you driven for Uber before you decided to make that your new job?

Just a couple of times, just to see how it was going to work.  I thought I could do it for extra money. My daughter does it in the evenings when she gets off work from her regular job, and it sounded like something fun to do rather than me just sitting at home after I got off from my job.

How hard was it to get cleared to become an Uber driver?  What did you have to do?

You have to give them your Social Security number, and driver license number, and they do a background check.  I’ve had very few tickets, but I don’t think you have to have a perfect record. Just something reasonably clean. But I’m not sure about that.  But they just want to make sure you don’t have serious background issues that might be a threat to riders.

How quickly after being let go did you begin driving for Uber on a full-time basis?

I was let go on a Friday afternoon and I began driving full-time Monday morning.

So how did you feel when you got in the car Monday morning, realizing, “This is going to be my new line of work?”  Did that make you nervous?

Yes. It made me very nervous. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. But I had to have a new line of work and a new income so I decided to give it a shot.

How was your first day on the job?

It was pretty good. I think I got $55 for the first day. I started driving around 7:30 AM that morning and stopped around 4:30 in the afternoon.

And is that typical?

Hard to say. Sometimes I earn less. Sometimes more.  It depends on the time of day, whether it’s a weekend or weekday, and whether there are special events around Orlando that result in lots of riders.  I’ve earned as much as $100 in one day.

What happened on the day you made $100? Was that an especially busy day or holiday or what?

Not really. It just turned into a longer day.  I was driving further from home and so picked up more jobs and worked more hours that day.

So what’s possible here in terms of income for you?

If I worked 9-5 and maybe threw in a weekend day once in awhile, I think i could easily make $500 a week.

Are you limited by Uber to the Orlando area alone?

No.  I can really drive just about anywhere. I could go visit friends in Tampa, an hour away, and do some driving while I’m there for extra cash.  It’s pretty amazing.

Do you plan to stay with Uber as your chief job?

For now, yes I do. It seems to be working out good for me. I don’t have the stress I used to have and I can get up and get on the road when I want to. As early as I want to or as late as I want to. I can stop driving whenever I want and I can drive as late as I want.

How do you like not having a boss now?

I love it.

If you can send a message to your old boss in this column, what would what message would you have for him?

That I’m sorry he let me go, but that I don’t need him anymore.

Have you tried driving for any other service?

Yes. I just recently registered with Lyft. But I’ve only driven with them once.  Their program is a little more involved when you pick up a rider or drop one off. With Uber’s app, I just go online, as they call it, and I wait for it to flash. When it does, it tells me where the rider is and how far away. And I just touch the screen to accept that job.  When I do that, it tells me exactly how to get to the person. When I get to the person, I click the app to start the trip and start incurring charges. Then my phone displays another map to get to the destination. It’s very easy.  When I end the trip, I just swipe the screen again to end it and the app asks me to rate the customer between one and five stars. With Lyft, you go to their app first. It will flash you when there’s a rider and it then switches over to Waze.  It uses Waze’s navigation to get you to the customer. When I get to the customer, I then have to wait for the customer to put the destination in, so I don’t really know where I’m going to be taking the customer until the customer enters it once I’ve arrived. Then I have to answer questions asking me if the customer is in my car and things like that. When I end the trip, I basically have to go through the same kinds of questions, including asking me when the customer is out of the car and all that. It’s just a little more hassle.

Can you have both Uber and Lyft’s apps open at the same time so you can take jobs from both of them?

Yes.

How is the rate of pay between the two jobs?

I’m not entirely sure. I just started with Lyft. But the rates seem pretty close.

How much do you get for each ride?  How do you charge customers?

Uber pays me $.75 a mile and $.11 a minute. I’m not quite sure how Lyft does it yet.   For Uber, here’s an example. I had a 30 minute trip traveling 26.1 miles. The total cost to the rider was $23.05.  Of that, Uber kept $5.76. My share was $17.29.  So I get to keep most of it.

How quickly do you get paid after you’ve dropped the customer off?

I can transfer the money to my account immediately.  I can do that up to five times a day, although it costs me $.50 each time I do it. Otherwise Uber totals up my earnings every Monday and deposits the money in my account on Wednesdays. If I wait to get paid once a week, there is no charge at all for the transfer.

How do you address the issue of taxes?

There’s actually another app called Stride. You can download it. It’s supposedly IRS approved.  It helps me keep track of mileage and other deductible expenses.

How do you pay your taxes? Are you setting money aside after each ride? 

I don’t have a plan for it yet.  But I will set money aside so that it is available at tax time.

Does Uber or Lyft give you any advice on how to plan for tax payments, such as paying them quarterly, or how much to set aside each week to make sure you have money to pay taxes at the end of the year?

No. I haven’t seen anything on that.

Was the process of getting qualified to be a Lyft driver about the same as it was for becoming an Uber driver?

Yes

Do you see any difference in the kinds of riders you get from one service to the other?

No.  I think most riders use both apps, so it’s really the same group of folks.

So how have riders been? Are they nice to you? Any problems at all so far?

Everyone has been very pleasant. They also have an opportunity to leave feedback for me. I’ve had a few people fuss at me for not knowing some of the routes. And I had one person fuss at me for my driving.   I was merging into traffic and one of the cars near me was honking and did not want to let me in. I think that freaked my passenger out a little bit.

Do you talk to most of the passengers? Do they seem interested in conversation, or do they mostly do their own thing?

Both. Some are very quiet and don’t talk much at all. Some talk a lot. Some will sit in the front seat beside me, but most will sit in the back seat.

Are there any rules about whether the passenger can sit in the front or back? Are you concerned about your safety if they want to sit next to you?

No specific rules that I know of. It’s just my personal preference as to whether I am comfortable with them sitting beside me.

Do you carry any kind of personal protective device, such as pepper spray?

No and I really have not thought about it.

Have you had any passengers say anything to you that you thought was inappropriate or encountered a situation where they were making advances toward you?

No. Not at all.  There have been some that I would like to make advances at. [Laughs].

Thanks for sharing that tidbit with me.

Ha. No problem.

Did Uber give you any instructions or guidance on how to protect yourself or how to make sure that you are generally safe when dealing with complete strangers?

No.  I don’t see much of a need for it.  It’s like being a taxi driver.  It’s been very safe.

Have you turned any jobs down or just driven past a potential customer because of safety concerns?

The only problem I’ve really had was actually today when I arrived at the destination and learned there were seven people who wanted to hop into my car. I just didn’t have the room. I could take four, but no more. They were a little disruptive and one of them started talking a little rough to me because I could not take all seven. It really wasn’t a big deal. I just left, and I sent a message to Uber to let them know.

Is there a limit on the number of people that can ride at one time?  Do riders tell you in advance how many people are going to be getting in the car?

You never really know how many people there are going to be there.

What sort of requirements did you have to meet? To become an Uber driver?

Apart from my background check, I just had to certify that I had a four-door car.  That’s mandatory for Uber.  You have to be able to seat at least four passengers.

It sounds like on balance, things have generally worked out very well for you in this new line of work. 

Yes it has, I feel.  It is very nice being able to work for myself and to be out and away from bosses who treat me like dirt and who act like they’re doing me a favor by letting me work there.  The job-related stress in my life has literally disappeared.

What would you tell people who are thinking about quitting their full-time job and trying something like this?

Well, if they are making something comparable to what I was making, which was $14 an hour, it would probably work out pretty well.  I have to pay for my own gas, but it really has not been much. It’s working out to about the same. I’m actually making a little bit more now than I was before.

And has this helped you in terms of stress?

Oh, absolutely. It has reduced my stress by 99.9%. The only person I have to answer to is myself. So if I don’t get up and drive, it’s my fault. No one else’s. And that is unbelievably nice.  I’m earning the same or a little better living now, and I have no one to hassle me.  Goodbye, bad bosses.

 

 

 



Categories: Gig Economy

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