No matter how much we love to hate Uber, there’s no denying the fact that the company has been instrumental in providing a source of income to millions of people around the world who could have been otherwise unemployed. Uber’s key offering – matching people who need taxis to people who want to taxi – is a big deal. This simple innovation has changed the way we book taxis from both parties standing in the street, calling out “Drop?” to just pushing a button on your phone and having a taxi come to you. So what’s the problem? Why is there so much bad press with Uber, and is it still possible to make money on the platform?
Uber’s problems began with its global expansion as the company struggled to adapt to the local conditions in each market. French taxis protested Uber’s non-participation in the French social system. In South Africa, Uber was branded as operating illegal services, and hundreds more similar protests have cropped up in cities around the world. If Uber is still in business, what does this mean for their driving partners? Is it still possible to make money on the platform or is Uber dead?
Well, here are a few recent earnings from drivers on the platform for you to decide yourself.
Even with the increased competition, drivers who understand the system and know how to use it to their advantage can still make a decent living on the platform. As a partner, I’ve decided to share some of the tips I use to ensure that my investment on the platform pays, and that I can still turn a small profit. If you are not yet an Uber partner, start the process here by selecting whether you own a car and want to drive, own a car but will give it to someone to drive, or don’t own a car and want to drive.
- Preparation. Before you even start this business, put yourself in a position to make and not lose money. Your car could be your greatest money maker, or your greatest headache. You want the cheapest, compliant, and most fuel-efficient vehicle possible. If you can get a sound electric car (like a Toyota Prius), go for it. Once you have decided on a good car, you need to map out your strategy – after all, you came to make money. You need to find out when your best chances are of making money are, so study the app for a week to find any surge patterns in your area. Working in a surge means that you can double, triple or even quadruple your earnings for the same amount of petrol burnt. Some people I know understand the surge patterns so well that they only drive during surge periods, and earn the same as (or even more than) drivers who are out all day.
- Treat it like a business. Like any business, you will want to calculate your break-even analysis to help you calculate how much you need to be earning each week in order to pay for the cost of your car by X months. You also want a cost analysis to figure out how much you’re investing upfront, and how much you should expect to earn back after removing the cost of maintenance, petrol etc. There’s an excellent kit I use for this called Uberkit. The kit contains a pre-populated spreadsheet which you just enter your figures into, and it automatically calculates this all for you. The kit also comes with driving tips, a driver log, drivers agreement (if you are going to hire someone) and it only costs $47 – less than the cost of hiring someone to do all the work! You can get it by going to www.uberkit.net and there’s 20% off for my blog readers if you use the code: MRPEPEUBERX
- Structure your work day around surges. Use your destination trip to get there, and pick up any passengers on your way towards the surge. In Lagos, there’s a surge from around 4am to noon everyday around the Island/Lekki. Even if you get jobs that take you away from the surge, use the destination trip to take you back if you don’t get any trips in that direction.
- Don’t be an eagle, be a crocodile. Don’t drive around aimlessly looking for jobs. Instead, set your destination to the target surge area and just wait for it. You might want to switch your app off and monitor the map. Once it lights up, you know it’s time to go online. One trick you can employ is to log out of the driver app and log into the passenger app until you reach the surge area. Once you arrive, log out of the passenger app and back into the driver one. Uber calculates surge fares based on the ratio of people with the passenger app open to the driver app in an area at any given time. This lets the company think that you are a passenger looking for a ride instead of a driver ready to offer one (and works in your favour).
- Cancel. If you’re in a surge area and for some reason, you receive a non-surge job, cancel.
- Work nights, weekends and whenever it rains. You will almost always get a surge when it rains. If you did your research in step 1 properly and you understand your market, you would know what areas are hot (clubs, venues, hotels etc) and not waste your time waiting for low-paying jobs.
- Save. Save 2.5% of your weekly earnings for vehicle maintenance and servicing.
- Offline customers. If your rider is going to an area where Uber does not operate, politely ask that they book the trip offline.
- Monitor your competition using the passenger app. The passenger app helps you take advantage of some features not available on the driver app, such as seeing where other drivers are. If you are at a popular venue for example with two entrances, the passenger app can tell you which entrance has the most drivers waiting so that you can head for the entrance with the least competition.
- Communicate with your riders. Call after requests to check where your rider is going before you invest your time and petrol. Be careful though, as high cancellation rates might affect the number of rides you are matched to. If your rider wants you to stop somewhere along the way, politely ask them to try not to stay longer than 5 minutes, as you do not get paid for waiting. Most people are reasonable and will offer you a tip to say thanks.
- Look out for Uber promos and take advantage of them. Also read the small print, so that you fulfil the exact conditions required to earn bonuses. For example, when Uber slashed prices in Lagos, they offered a far guarantee of N1,500 per hour to drivers who accepted 90% of requests. This meant that as long as you accepted 90% of your requests, if you worked for 3 hours and only made N1,000, Uber would offer you a bonus of N3,500 to ensure that you do not earn anything less than N1,500 an hour.
- Be nice so you can earn tips
Go forth and make that money!