One of the greatest things about Uber is that it is a ready made, business-in-a-box. What do you need to get started? Well, you need a decent car, a smart phone and a desire to earn. Pretty low barriers to entry, right? So, as we wrap up 2015, let's take a look at whether or not becoming a driver for Uber, Lyft or something similar is going to be worth it to you.
To preface this discussion, let me explain my own situation. I was laid off during the Great Recession by a boss that, it's safe to say, I really loathed. Charlie was arrogant, pompous, a real tool! He was a hard charging, aggressive, and vengeful sales V.P. that was hired to turn around our ailing sales team.
It wasn't that our sales team didn't have talent. We actually had an incredible amount. It's just that we were in the midst of a big economic slowdown, the competition was getting stiff as hell, and we needed a shot in the arm. After working me over for a couple of months about my low sales numbers, he finally decided to lay me off and clear out some dead wood, so to speak.
When he took me into a small conference room and axed me, my very first reaction was "That's great!". I actually said that out loud to him. I got home that day - early of course - and thought to myself that I never wanted to be put in a situation where my economic fate was controlled by someone else again. Especially someone as arrogant as Charlie.
I drove a cab for a few months. My boss was another tool, albeit a bit nicer, but a tool nonetheless. Why is it that bosses have to be that way?
Eventually I signed up with SideCar. Things were extremely quiet. I drove it once in a while on weekends, but really didn't make anything. They had no clients at all. So I continued with the cab driving. It was about 6 months later that I actually went out on my own. At that time, I took a leap of faith. I had a big mortgage, a lot of debt, and it seemed almost preposterous that I would be able to support myself by doing rideshare. But fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and the next thing you know I quit the taxi company and was a full time Sidecar Driver.. This was in Fall 2012. At that time, you needed a year 2000 car for Lyft, which had just launched a couple of months earlier and Uber X was for late model hybrids only with a state limo license, so it was SideCar only for me and my 1997 Nissan.
In the last 3 years, I've made a lot of changes to my work style. I still have an account with Sidecar, which is only a footnote in the rideshare industry. But I've added Lyft, Uber Black and iCars, to name a few. I also farm in work as an affiliate from several other limo companies. I also have my own private label, Smartrip Limo, and have seen that income rise quite a bit over the last year and a half. I upgraded my vehicle twice, and in the last 3 years have put in over 120,000 miles on Bay Area streets while doing thousands of rides.
I've written an article about making $10,000 in one month as a rideshare driver, was interviewed by NPR, booked a trip from San Francisco to Denver for a client, and spent countless hours cruising the beautiful streets of San Francisco meeting people from every walk of life imaginable, I've met thousands of people and had incredible conversations. Being a self employed driver started as a way to fill in the gaps and has grown into a cool career. I am now officially an entrepreneur.
Through it all, Uber has been the glue that has held the enterprise together; it's been the core of my business. I picked up an Uber account in early 2013, started with Uber X. This was right about the time that Lyft was beginning to pose a serious challenge to Uber and so they opened it up to non professionally licensed drivers to fight back. Right from the get-go I was pulling down about $1500 or more a week. Now it's a little tougher to make that as a rideshare driver, but if you are willing to put in the hours, it can still be done. Over time, rates have dropped, and you're more likely to pull down about a thousand a week for a 40 hour work week, but if you are entrepreneurial, you can make money in lots of different ways. You're never limited to just one thing as a rideshare driver. You can pick up delivery apps, like Door Dash or Eat 24, use Uber, Lyft and SideCar simultaneously, and work the surge to maximize your income. You can get driver referral bonuses for referring friends, and use social media to expand your reach. If you are like me and want to get your livery license, there are even more opportunities. You can affiliate with other livery companies, farm work in, farm work out and take commissions, build an airport business, build a tour business, buy stretch limos and charge from $100 - $200 per hour, etc. There are so many ways to play this game. But it helps to have a core business that you can simply plug and play 24/7. Uber has been that core for me. You can apply for an account here, if you want to learn more.
Through it all, though, you have to be able to do two things. You need to be able to spot opportunities, and you need to be able to capitalize on them. The great thing is that having a Uber account gives you the freedom to work when you want, generally during the surge, and then the rest of the time, you can work on promoting your other businesses, and doing sales, research, marketing, and the actual work. This is really is an excellent opportunity in terms of the flexibility aspect. You work when and where you want, for a core client, to make the bread and butter. Then, during your down time, you can take classes if you're a student, pick up your own kids from school if you're a parent, do other things for your family or for yourself, and build up other businesses or do a full time or part time job. It's your call. You are in the driver's seat. (Pun intended.)
Start slowly, and build it up. That's the beauty of rideshare. So if you want to be an entrepreneur, what are you waiting for?
Isaac Alfandary is an entrepreneur and a limo service owner who also drives for Uber and Lyft. He blogs about the app based transportation industry in the blackcarguy.com He also is a raw food chef, workout enthusiast, husband and parent, and all around good guy. This article first appeared in www.theblackcarguy.com