Instacart has seen some rapid growth over the past few years. As one of the largest grocery delivery companies in the United States and Canada, more people are ordering their groceries through the Instacart app and website than ever before.
Thus, there is a need for more people to become Instacart Shoppers, or as some may call them “Instashoppers.” These are the people who use their own vehicles and smartphones to receive orders using the Shopper app, pick the orders from grocery stores and deliver them to customers.
I’ve written before about my experiences as an Instacart Shopper, as well as made some Youtube videos about it. Since several things have changed with Instacart over time, however, I felt a need to provide an update!
What is Instacart like in 2019? Read on to find out.
Interested in becoming an Instacart Shopper?
Feel free to use my referral code:
Sign up here
The basic structure of Instacart is similar to a lot of other “gigs” in the gig economy. Customers submit their orders through the app or website, and then someone delivers the food to them.
Customers can either pay for a single order with a delivery fee, or choose Instacart Express (where available) and receive unlimited orders for a recurring subscription fee.
As for the people who actually do the shopping and delivery for the customers, there are both “In-Store” Shoppers who work as part-time employees and shop orders within a store and “Full-Service Shoppers” that work as independent contractors who pick orders and then deliver them using their personal vehicle.
Shoppers use their smartphones to access the Shopper app, where they are notified of the “batches” (or orders). The app shows the list of items to pick up, as well as driving directions to both the grocery store and delivery drop-off locations.
What is the schedule like for Instacart Shoppers?
Full-Service Shoppers get to choose their own hours. It is a little bit different from other gigs like Postmates or Uber, in that you do have to select designated hours in order to be offered most batches. The hours are offered on a first come, first serve basis although Shoppers that work the most hours are offered “Early Access” status.
A relatively new feature is that some batches will become available (also on a first come, first serve basis) for Shoppers that are off shift. This can be a way to get some extra money when you missed signing up for the hours you wanted.
There is no minimum number of hours you must do each week as a Full-Service Shopper, although going several weeks without activity might result in being kicked out as a Shopper.
Another thing to note is that you are assigned to a specific region when you sign up for hours. Most metro areas are broken up into regions. Make sure to select the region you’d prefer to deliver in when signing up!
In-Store Shoppers get “flexible hours” but must work a set schedule.
What’s the workflow like?
Most of your tasks will operate with the help of the Shopper app, which is separate from the Instacart app that customers use to order.
When an order comes in, you’ll get a notification on your smartphone and a screen will pop up that shows key pieces of information about the available batch like: estimated earnings, the location of both the store and the customer, and what items are in the order including whether or not some of the items are heavy.
There’s a timer on this screen that shows how long you have to accept the batch. If you do nothing and the timer runs out, the batch will go on to another Shopper. While there technically is not a penalty to not accept batches, staying idle for too long can get you kicked off your shift.
Once you accept a batch, you’ll navigate to the store and can use optional GPS directions from the app. When you check in at the store, the list of items to pick up appear. Anything that has a barcode will have to be scanned using the Shopper app. Other items like produce or deli meat must be weighed.
If an item is unavailable or out of stock (which happens A LOT), you can either select a replacement or refund the item to the customer. Once you’ve picked up all of the items, you wait in the checkout line just like any other customer and pay for the order using an Instacart credit card that they provide to you after you sign up.
After you check out, the app will provide GPS directions so you can navigate to the customer. Drop it off, and then indicate that the order is done through the app and you’ll be ready to take a new order.
They provide Shopper support in the form of a phone line or chat line when you are delivering- a feature that is VERY helpful and not offered with other gig economy companies.
Most batches average 45 minutes to an hour from the time the order is accepted to when it is dropped off.
How much does Instacart Pay?
Now that IS the question. I will be frank with you- you aren’t going to become a millionaire by delivering groceries with Instacart, although the pay is comparable to other side gigs.
The basic pay structure is based on the Batch Payment or the base you get for the order, the tip (although I should mention the default tipping option for the customers is a measly 5%), a peak boost during busy times (usually an extra $1-$3), and if the customer gives you a five-star review a Quality Bonus of $3.
You can get more money from certain promotions (example- deliver 25 batches in the next week with an 80% acceptance rate and get a bonus of $55). There’s also the ability to earn money when you refer other Shoppers and they meet the criteria for a referral bonus in their city, such as delivering 45 batches in 30 days.
Instacart guarantees an amount per delivery that varies by city, but is between $7-$10. That guarantee ~isn’t great~ but most orders will end up being higher than the minimum with the tip and other bonuses factored in.
To break down my pay a little bit, a higher paying order I had got me $25 ($7 Batch Payment, $4 Peak Boost, $3 Quality Bonus, and an $11 tip). A lower paying batch got me $9.81 ($7 Batch Payment, $2.81 tip).
Needless to say the batch payments could be higher, and there has been considerable controversy amongst Shoppers when Instacart changed the pay structure of the Batch Payments last November- a move some Shoppers said resulted in lower pay.
Regardless of that, this past week I made $248 (before taxes and car expenses are factored in) from about 20 hours on shift. 13.5 hours included actively doing batches, the rest of the time I was on standby at home. Additionally, I got an extra $100 from a referral bonus for a total of $348- not too shabby!
Payments are made by direct deposit per week for the following week, although they are rolling out a new “Instant Cashout” feature that lets you transfer all of your earnings (except the tips) early to a debit card for a small transaction fee of $0.50.
What are the requirements to become an Instacart Shopper?
Per the Instacart website, the current requirements to become a Full-Service Shopper in the United States are:
- Be 18 or older
- Be eligible to work in the U.S.
- Have “consistent access” to a vehicle (no specific requirements on the type)
- Have an iPhone 5 or newer or Android 4.4 or newer
- Be able to lift 30-40 pounds (think heavy items from Costco orSam’s Club)
For In-Store Shoppers, the requirements are the same, minus the access to a vehicle. For requirements in Canada, contact Instacart.
How do I become an Instacart Shopper?
The process to sign up is fairly streamlined, although there are a few steps to take note of. First you’ll need to go on the Instacart website (link below) and answer a few screening questions.
Sign up here
Feel free to use my referral code: MATTHEWD551FA
Next, there is a background check form that you’ll fill out on the internet. This will check your driving history and your criminal record. For minor traffic violations, don’t worry too much. I’ve had a few speeding tickets and passed the background check myself.
There will be some paperwork to fill out like your W-9 for tax purposes and information for direct deposit. You’ll need to download the Shopper app using a special link they provide to you since it isn’t on the regular app stores and follow the instructions to give you phone permission to use the app.
They’ll send you the Instacart credit card in the mail. Once you activate it and your background check clears, you’ll be ready to start signing up for hours. Certain stores might require you to take extra training or provide evidence that you have insulated bags before you deliver there, but Instacart will guide you through that process.
What do I think about Instacart?
I’ve done various side gigs involving restaurant delivery and I prefer Instacart to the other side gigs I’ve done. There are certain things about it I’m not crazy about such as low minimum guarantees and the requirement to sign up for specific hours.
That being said, even if the pay could be slightly better, it has trended above some of the competitors. The clientele is skewed towards families in the suburbs as opposed to hipsters downtown and most people leave tips. Plus, the likelihood of getting some of the higher paying tippers is better when you have a $400 grocery order as opposed to a $12 restaurant delivery order.
Another thing I like is there’s less time driving and more time getting up and moving around. Since you’re on the hook for your gas expenses, I say the less time spent driving around the better!
All in all, I recommend becoming an Instacart Shopper because of the flexibility it offers. It’s great if you are a stay-at-home parent that only gets a babysitter on certain days, or a person that’s starting up a business and just needs some extra income to squeeze in during their free time.
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