Unless you live in rural Kansas, you’ve probably heard of Uber, Lyft and/or Sidecar. Through these services, “ridesharing” has become the norm in busy cities, allowing (mostly) nonprofessional drivers to shuttle around thousands of people a day at the whim of a few quick keystrokes and a GPS location from their mobile phones.
For those of us who own and operate our own business and need a little extra cash, these platforms can be a godsend for earning more money in your spare time. Sure, they have their own cons, but in my opinion, they’re far outweighed by the pros. Sure, you’re putting more miles on your car than you usually would or,you need to pay out-of-pocket for gas and have to deal with the occasional car wash. But for me, having that ability to create my own hours and not having a boss to answer to is worth its weight in gold.
I guess you can call me a serial entrepreneur. When I was 18 years-old, I started a web-based coupon clipping business at the University of Arizona with my college roommate. Three years ago, I started a business called BeersandCareers.com. Three weeks ago, I officially became an Uberpreneur.
I launched BeersandCareers.com in Washington, D.C. with the hope of helping people find a job by connecting them with recruiters in a more informal setting. The first version of our website cost a measly $300 to create. It did the trick during that time, as our business was focused on job recruiting and business networking events in six cities across the country – D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Miami and Phoenix. The website wasn’t very functional other than RSVP capabilities and, for the time, that’s all we needed.
We’ve grown a lot in three years. As the demand for a fully robust website now looms on the horizon, I finally felt the need to rebrand the business and create a more functional, all-inclusive career website. Not all dreams come with a cheap price, though. When I got the website revision invoice, my heart almost sank.
I knew that I needed this change, but I also knew that I needed supplemental income and there was only one place to look – or so I thought. After trying the usual routes, not wanting to find a part-time gig online, working from home or as a valet at a nearby hotel, I decided to give UberX a try for a week. I’m now in week three of driving for the service.
I love it.
I get to interact every day with potential customers and share my passion for my business. In that time, I’ve given 200 rides to people of all walks of life, averaging 15 rides per day and taking off time whenever I need. Some passengers decide to relax and stay quiet, but most people actually want to interact with their driver – truly one of the goals behind the original idea of “ridesharing.” People will ask how long I’ve been driving, whether I do it full-time or part-time, why I actually started driving and, most importantly, if I like it or not.
Once they show interest in my seemingly odd selection of part-time jobs, my elevator pitch kicks in and I hand them a business card. Most passengers love the idea of a social job fair and the opportunity to network, and they agree to at least check out the website or refer friends who are looking for new jobs.
Aside from advertising my business and the tasks inherent in being your own boss, I get to set my own hours. I’ve been waking up at 4:30am on Mondays, taking early airport passengers to the terminal during surge pricing. During regular hours, I’ll usually drive a few hours during rush hour in the mornings and evenings, and I’ll rarely drive for long periods of time during non-surge pricing. During the middle of the work day, I’ll work on the rebranding strategies of my business and hold sporadic meetings. I refuse to drive late at night on the weekends even though prices are high, mainly because I don’t need nor want to deal with the problems caused by over-inebriated passengers — or clean up the effects of their downing Fireball shots that wind up on my seats.
The beauty of the Uber business model from a driver’s perspective is that I get to shut my Uber phone off when I walk into a meeting and turn it back on to start working again when I’m done. What other part-time job provides me $25-$30/hour gross commission, an ability to advertise to my demographic and, most importantly, provide the flexibility that I need to run a small business?
I use the ridesharing platform to promote my networking business while it’s being rebranded, and I’m proud to say that I’m a proud supporter of the so-called Uber economy.
Interested in learning more about the sharing economy? Leave a comment below or come out to our event, “How the Sharing Economy is Changing The World” at Florida State University on February 28. Click here for more information.