When a friend mentioned that she was making $5,000 per month delivering groceries as an Instacart shopper, I had to try it out.
Getting paid to shop for groceries? Making money for doing something I already do for free? Who doesn’t love a great side hustle?
My friend mostly works a flexible schedule while her kids are in school and plans her shifts around her kids’ activities on the weekends.
Seeing as how I help people earn extra money, I decided to give it a try and see what it was all about.
This post is about my experience as an Instacart shopper and everything you need to get started to make an extra $1,000 doing Instacart this month!
Instacart Shopper Secrets To Earn $1000 A Month
What Is Instacart?
Instacart is an online grocery delivery service where customers order groceries online through an app by creating a grocery list and have them delivered to their home in about two hours.
In a separate Instacart Shoppers app, you can apply for work and, once accepted, sign up for shifts to shop for and deliver orders to customers in your area.
As an Instacart shopper, you will be shopping at the stores that Instacart has contracts with in your immediate area.
In Los Angeles, that’s your local Whole Foods, Aldi, Ralphs, Costco, BevMo and more.
If you live in other areas of the country, fear not.
You can become a personal shopper with Instacart in other stores too, like Kroger, Wegman’s, and other local grocery stores.
If you search online, many personal shoppers claim they make $20-25 per hour including tips!
Instacart Shopper Types
When a customer places their order it goes to a shopper like yourself.
You have the option to be an in store shopper or a full service shopper.
There are differences between two, which you can see in the chart below.
Instacart Shopper Types
|Part Time Employee
|Shopping and Delivery
|No Car Required
|Choose Your Own Hours
But mainly the in store shopper only does the shopping. The full service shopper does the shopping and delivers the groceries.
Since I tried out the full service shopper option, the rest of the information in this post is about this option.
Once you become a full service shopper, you use the Instacart app to find orders to fulfill.
You can choose to accept or pass on the incoming order.
If you accept, then you will drive to that store and either shop or pick up a pre-bagged order and deliver it to the customer.
When doing the grocery shopping, you may need to text or message a customer if their chosen item isn’t available or if you need to offer a substitute item for them before you check out.
You always want to look at quality and expiration dates so the customer is happy that everything they receive is fresh!
What Do You Need In Order To Be An Instacart Shopper?
To become a personal shopper, make sure Instacart is operating in your area (here is their service area).
Once you verify this, you need to go through the application process.
Luckily it is very simple. Just make sure you meet the below requirements before you apply.
- Be at least 21 years old
- Have a recent smartphone
- Be able to lift 25-30 pounds in grocery bags
- Ability to pass a background check
- Have a reliable vehicle, like a car, bike, or scooter
The application requires basic information, like your name, address, phone number and email address.
You then choose if you want to be a full service shopper or an in store shopper.
It will also ask you to verify if you have access to a reliable vehicle.
Finally, you will need to provide a payment method so you can get paid for the work hours you complete.
Instacart will run a basic background check on you and if you are selected, you will choose to attend an in-person hiring session that includes orientation and a skills test.
This hiring session usually lasts 2 hours.
Note that in some markets, this hiring session is waived and you can start scheduling your hours.
If you do get hired, understand you are considered an independent contractor.
This means you will receive a 1099 at the end of the year and you do not get any benefits, like health insurance coverage or access to retirement plans.
Also understand that the first 2 weeks are considered a trial period to see if you enjoy grocery shopping as a side hustle.
Choose When You Want To Work
You can sign up for Instacart shifts based on your schedule which is great! Your shift just needs to be a minimum of two hours.
The best or busiest work hours seem to be 7:00 am – 11:00 am or 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Once you’re ‘on shift,’ orders will come in via the app.
How Do You Make Money As An Instacart Shopper?
When you begin your shift, you go on the Shopper app to receive orders to shop for.
Once you receive an order, you will see the shopping list and can begin shopping.
When you complete a grocery list, you pay for the order using a company supplied credit card or debit card. Some shoppers call it a payment card, but it is the same thing.
You are paid a minimum wage of $8.25 for shopping and delivering the groceries and get an extra $0.40 per item. You also can receive tips from the customer.
The larger the order the more you earn. Plus there are bump ups in pay for shopping at Costco.
Note if you do take an order at Costco, you can complete the order even if you don’t have a Costco membership.
EXAMPLE: A full shopping order with 25 items. $8.25 + $10 (25 items x $0.40 each) = $18.25 and this will typically take you about 40 minutes from shopping to delivery depending on traffic in your area.
So, if you pick up 6 orders you could make about $109.00 in about four hours plus tips if you get them!
This comes down to an effective hourly rate of $27.25.
Work ten shifts per month and you could be making an extra $1,090 per month!
As you make more deliveries and maintain a good reliability rating, you will receive priority on orders that come in and may even qualify for their bonus structure which is a great way to earn more cash!
Safety should always be your top priority. There is no such thing as an Instacart speed bonus!
Please don’t speed and never go inside the house when you deliver the groceries.
Advantages And Drawbacks Being An Instacart Shopper
With all side hustles, there are advantages and drawbacks to them. Here are the biggest of each for Instacart.
- Flexibility. You choose your hours and how often you want to work.
- Quick start. The process of completing your application to shopping is usually under 1 week.
- Decent pay. On average, most people make between $15-$20 an hour.
- Customer Tips. Do a good job and fulfill orders on time and you can earn tips from customers.
- Smarter shopping. As you become familiar with your local grocery stores, you will learn which ones have the best prices, helping you to be a smarter shopper.
- Physically demanding. You are grocery shopping for hours, so it is a lot of walking and carrying grocery bags.
- Varying income. You never know how much you will make on a given day.
- No benefits. As an independent contractor, you are not able to get benefits like health insurance or retirement plans from Instacart.
My Personal Experience
I drove Instacart for two days. I had a blast and while it was work, it was also fun.
I felt a little bit like I was in a video or on a game show like Supermarket Sweep.
It was a challenge to find the exact products for each customer. Some orders were funny, like 16 packages of the same flavored beef jerky!
At first I was trying to work fast and the app kept sending me small orders and I kept taking them!
But I quickly learned that if I slowed down and held out for the bigger orders that I could make more money.
This isn’t to say I spent hours completing a 5 item order. Doing this will only hurt you.
This is because the app has a timer. As you are shopping, you see how long it is taking you to complete the order and how long Instacart thinks it should take you.
You want to complete an order just under the estimated time to complete.
I also learned how the app’s algorithm works and I stopped accepting the delivery only orders as they paid very little. I also liked that I was able to go from application to actually working and earning money in about a week!
In my first two days I ended up making $185 extra cash plus a $20 cash tip someone handed me!
This comes to an hourly rate of a little more than $20.
Not bad and I know that my hourly rate was lower because I was accepting all those delivery only and the smaller full shopping orders. I won’t make that mistake again.
While my friend and my experience working as a personal shopper were positive, I wanted to include some real life reviews from Glassdoor.com as well.
I took the most recent independent contractor reviews as of this writing.
This will give you a better idea of how much people like and dislike working for the grocery delivery service.
As you can see, most recommend working as store shoppers.
Tips To Boost Your Earnings
I learned a lot as an Instacart shopper.
And I learned a handful of tricks from others who were shopping the stores I was.
Here are the biggest tips I have for making money with Instacart.
Go above and beyond.
This is to help you get larger customer tips.
Remember, if you earn a tip, it is 100% yours. So it makes sense to go above and beyond to get a tip.
To do this, message the buyer when you are leaving the store and tell them you are on your way.
When you get to their residence, smile and be friendly with them.
When shopping, reach out if you have questions.
For example, if they want avocados, do they want ripe ones or not ripe ones?
It sounds silly but you don’t know if they need ripe ones for a party today or want to use them later in the week.
If you can’t find a certain item, message the customer to let them know. Maybe they will ask for something different.
And when it comes to bagging, be smart about it.
Don’t fill a bag to the top. You might be able to lift it, but you might be shopping for someone who cannot lift a lot of weight.
Your better option is to put less in a bag.
While there is a set payment structure to Instacart, you can level up after a period of good performance. In other words, it pays to do a good job.
Be smart about your hours.
While you can choose the hours you work, it makes sense to pick hours that are in demand.
For example, the more orders that are placed during a given time, the more Instacart pays its shoppers.
So, around the holidays, there is going to be higher demand. To make the most money, you want to work during this time.
Another good time to work is on the weekends. This is when most people put in orders for groceries.
This isn’t to say it doesn’t make sense to work other times. Remember, that the more Instacart shoppers working, the harder it is to get an order in the first place.
Buy a phone charger.
You are on your phone the entire time you are shopping.
You use it to see what you need to buy, check off items you put in your cart, and even messaging the buyer if there is a problem.
The last thing you want is to have your phone die in the middle of a shopping trip.
Buy freezer bags.
You need these to deliver cold or frozen items. You don’t want to pick up a carton of ice cream and then get suck in traffic and have it melt.
Since you are earning an income, you need to report this on your taxes. But you get to write off your expenses, lowering your taxable income.
So anything you buy for your job, like the freezer bags, the phone battery, and others, should be expensed.
Also, keep track of the miles you drive, the gas you buy, and any vehicle maintenance too.
Finally, remember that you are using your phone for business, so a portion of your monthly phone bill can be expensed as well.
Alternatives To Instacart Shopper
Grocery delivery service isn’t limited to Instacart.
There are are other players out there that you should consider.
Here are the biggest competitors.
- PeaPod: A grocery delivery service that has workers as employees as opposed to independent contractors. PeaPod mainly operates on the East Coast and the Midwest.
- Shipt: This company was acquired by Target in 2017 and is growing by leaps and bounds. Compared to the other options, this one most closely resembles Instacart.
- Postmates: This is a delivery service in general. This means you can deliver food, groceries, and other items using this service.
- Deliv: This was a company much like Postmates. But Target bought Deliv recently and will be using it for their back end technology and not for drivers.
I never would have thought of grocery delivery as a way to make extra money.
But it is.
I can recommend Instacart as it is a pretty simple way to make an extra $1,000 every month.
Just click on the link below to start the application process to earn extra cash and join the list of store shoppers.
You can even do it while your kids are in school!
Just be sure to treat it like a real job.
The more you go out of your way to do a good job, the more money you will make.
And make sure you keep records of your job related expenses, so you can claim them on your tax return.
The last thing you want to be doing is paying more in taxes than you should be!