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How to Become an Instacart Shopper: A Step-By-Step Guide

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There was a time when driving for a rideshare service like Uber and Lyft was one of the only options gig workers had to choose from.

Nowadays, side hustlers like yourself have the pick of the litter when it comes to which gig service you want to work for.

The variety of opportunities you can choose from seem to increase every day.

There are rideshare companies, restaurant delivery services, pet and human care opportunities, and nearly everything in between.

You can even shop for groceries from your favorite local stores and deliver them to customers if you’d like.

In this article, we’re going to talk about becoming an Instacart shopper, the difference between a full-service and in-store shopper, and how you can sign up to start working.

Sign up to shop or drive with Instacart and break out of the food delivery business and into grocery delivery. It's a great way to switch things up

Perfect for: Gig workers who want the option of delivering groceries or working as an in-store shopper

Minimum age: 18 for full-service shoppers, 17 for in-store shoppers

What is an Instacart Shopper?

An Instacart Shopper is the gig worker that shops for orders when a customer places them on the Instacart app.

There are two types of Shoppers: In-Store Shoppers and Full-Service Shoppers.

Each type of shopper has their own duties and level of responsibility, which we will break these down in detail later in this article.

Benefits of Working for Instacart

From a shopper’s standpoint, Instacart provides you with a flexible employment option that allows you to choose your own hours, be your own boss, and make money on the side whenever you please.

The nice part about being an Instacart worker is that you’re able to set your own work hours that fit into your schedule.

If you’re busy during the week and want to pick up a few extra hours on the weekend, you can do so.

Likewise, if you’d rather work all week long and have your weekends off, you can also take that route.

It’s all up to you.

You also have the option of picking which type of job you’d like to have — a full-service shopper or an in-store shopper.

The Difference Between In-Store and Full-Service Instacart Shoppers

As mentioned above, there are two types of Instacart shoppers.

Each of these roles is similar, yet very different at the same time.

You can usually choose one or the other, so when signing up, make sure to understand which one you’re choosing.

Full-Service Shopper

The first employment option of Instacart is a full-service shopper.

A full-service shopper will shop for items in the grocery store and deliver them to Instacart customers.

In some cases, you’ll only be required to deliver orders.

As a full-service shopper, you’ll be considered an independent contractor rather than a part-time employee.

You’ll be able to set your own schedule, work whenever is convenient for you, and work as many hours as you’d like.

If you have access to a vehicle, this is a great option to make some extra cash on the side.

Full-Service Shopper Requirements

In order to become an Instacart shopper, you must pass a few basic requirements and have access to a vehicle to deliver orders.

Here are the requirements to become a full-service shopper:

  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Eligible to work in the United States
  • Consistent access to a vehicle with insurance
  • Own an iPhone 5 or Android 5.0 or newer
  • Able to lift 30–40 pounds with or without accommodation

In-Store Shopper

If you don’t have access to a vehicle or would rather not drive around town delivering orders, being an in-store shopper is a great option.

In-store shoppers fill customer orders in the store and prepare them for pick-up.

As an in-store shopper, you’re considered a part-time employee and can only work 29 hours per week.

However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be guaranteed 29 hours every week.

The number of hours you’ll work will depend on the demand of shoppers throughout the week.

In-store shoppers will be assigned a grocery store for each shift they work.

During their shift, they’ll fill customer orders that they receive through the app and prepare them to be picked up by a full-service shopper.

In-Store Shopper Requirements

There are fewer requirements to become an in-store shopper than a full-service shopper.

The major difference is that in-store shoppers aren’t required to have access to a vehicle.

Beyond that, the requirements are nearly the same and are as follows:

  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Eligible to work in the United States
  • Own an iPhone 5 or Android 5.0 or newer
  • Able to lift 30–40 pounds with or without accommodation
  • Pass a routine employment background check

Instacart Pay Structure

Instacart’s payment structure seems to change quite a bit and the company is careful to not provide any concrete payment figures to potential employees.

Instacart’s latest payment iteration rewards shoppers for the miles they drive and the number of items in the order, and they give bonuses for working during peak hours.

Their payment structure varies depending on which city you’re working in across the United States.

Each city and region has its own payment details that are outlined when you initially sign up to become a shopper.

To give you an idea, each of the following details are considered when you deliver an order:

  • Number of items: The more items there are in an order, the more you’ll be paid.
  • This rate varies from city to city.
    • Example: Shoppers receive $0.40 per unique item
  • Per mile rate: For each mile you drive from the store to the customer, you’re awarded a distance multiplier that varies from city to city.
    • Example: $0.60 per mile driven x 10 miles = $6.00
  • Peak boosts: These are bonuses shoppers receive for working during peak hours that will vary depending on how busy it is.
    • Example: $3 for each batch delivered during a period of high demand
  • Customer tips: Shoppers get to keep 100 percent of the tips they receive.

Instacart now allows shoppers to preview the order before accepting.

You’re able to see the earnings estimate before you take an order to determine if it’s worth your time.

Each Instacart shopper is informed of how their unique payment plan works in an outline provided initially in the offer letter or Independent Contractor Agreement.

Here are the key points regarding pay from the agreement (emphasis added):

  • 3.1 Instacart agrees to pay you for the Services within 30 days of performance. Instacart reserves the right to change the rates schedule at any time, and Instacart will provide you with notice of the changes in advance of your accepting a Delivery Opportunity through the Instacart Shopper App. Instacart does not pay earnings by salary or by an hourly rate.
  • 3.2 For a Delivery Opportunity that involves both personal shopping and delivery, you will be provided a payment for each delivery, plus a per item payment, and any applicable bump payment. Available payment rates are posted in the Shopper App, and you can review the applicable rate schedule prior to accepting or rejecting a Delivery Opportunity.
  • 3.3 For a Delivery Opportunity that involves delivery only, you will be provided a payment for each delivery. Available payment rates are posted in the Shopper App, and you can review the applicable rate schedule prior to accepting or rejecting a Delivery Opportunity.
  • 3.4 As a condition of receiving payment, you agree to provide Instacart with your taxpayer identification number and the requisite authorization for required background checks. You shall be responsible for all costs and expenses incurred or necessary in the performance of the Services, including but not limited to phone, parking, vehicle, insurance, and travel expenses.

How Much Does Instacart Pay?

Wages vary based on location and position.

Nevertheless, an average estimate was provided by Instacart on their website at one point in time.

Before taking down the reported average wage, Instacart stated that shoppers could earn up to $25 an hour.

Since then, other estimates have come to light.

Although Instacart independent contractors are not offered a guaranteed hourly wage, when business is slow shoppers earn about $10 an hour.

Sure, this amount is a far cry from $25 an hour, but there is a plus side.

Drivers have reported earning $350 within a timespan of three days, which averages out to about $117 each day rounded up.

Unfortunately, the driver did not disclose how many hours were put in to acquire this amount.

They did, however, reveal how important order completion is.

After racking up over $100 a day, the driver made the mistake of messing up an order.

Once this incident occurred, the shopper’s rating decreased thus damaging their ability to get high-price orders.

Another thing drivers should factor into their wage is gas.

Instacart does not reimburse Full-Service Shoppers for the gas they use while making deliveries.

According to the Independent Contractor Agreement (linked above), “You shall be responsible for all costs and expenses incurred or necessary in the performance of the Services, including but not limited to phone, parking, vehicle, insurance, and travel expenses.”

Having said that, it is worth mentioning that business expenses, such as gas and vehicle maintenance fees, are tax deductible, so be sure to keep track of that information.

As for the average wage for In-Store Shoppers, according to Quora, one In-Store Shopper received between $15 and $9 an hour without tips factored in.

For example, Amora Rei estimates the hourly rate to be about $11 with tips being approximately 20 percent on average.

Sign Up for Instacart

Sign up to shop or drive with Instacart and break out of the food delivery business and into grocery delivery. It's a great way to switch things up

Perfect for: Gig workers who want the option of delivering groceries or working as an in-store shopper

Minimum age: 18 for full-service shoppers, 17 for in-store shoppers

If you think you’d like to give Instacart a shot, you can take the first steps toward signing up today.

Signing up requires filling out an online form and completing an onboarding process that is either online or in person.

To start, you can head to the application page and fill out your personal information.

This step takes about five minutes.

Anticipate receiving additional information on how to proceed based on which type of shopper you aim to be.

Here is an overview of the sign-up process:

  • Enter in personal information (name, address, etc.)
  • Select Full-Service or In-Store Shopper
  • Fill out a brief questionnaire (this basically ensures you meet the requirements)
  • They will send you an application download link — download it and fill it out
  • Answer questions or work preference (like the hours you would like to work)

After entering the initial information, you’ll then need to fill out a questionnaire confirming that you meet all of the requirements for becoming an Instacart employee.

This includes confirming whether or not you have access to a vehicle.

After that, you’ll be directed to download the Instacart shopper app and complete the application process.

Once the application is complete you’ll need to pass a background check and then wait to be approved as an employee before completing the onboarding process.

Once an application is accepted, potential Instacart shoppers are asked to schedule a one-on-one.

Bear in mind, with how popular Instacart is, it can be rather challenging to accomplish this since available slots are booked pretty fast.

After a spot has been reserved for you personally, the orientation typically takes around 2 hours.

During this time, shoppers will learn the ropes of what to do during the shopping portion of the job.

For example, shoppers will learn what to do if an item is out of stock or how to select fruits and vegetables.

They will also be informed of how to pay for the order, namely via a prepaid card.

All shoppers receive this financial item at orientation, so be sure to get yours.

Working for Instacart

Full-Service Shoppers

For drivers who are already working as a courier, the transition to becoming a Full-Service Shopper for Instacart is a piece of cake.

At the start of your desired shift, turn on the Instacart app.

While you are waiting for an order, be sure to position yourself near the local grocery store.

Once you receive an order, be sure to confirm the store listed.

To assure proper payment, drivers may need to visit a specific store based on that company’s pricing.

After a driver has determined which grocery store to shop at, they should head to the location.

Upon arriving, drivers should park as close as possible to the entrance to assure that the quality of the goods they are retrieving remains intact.

If there is an In-Store Shopper at this location, drivers will be able to pick up the order from them.

It is vital for drivers to double-check the order by reviewing each item and confirming it is in the bag.

Although this may be very time consuming due to the quantity requested, the driver’s livelihood is on the line.

If an order is wrong, drivers are given a poor rating, which will lead to smaller orders and thus earning less money in the future.

If there is not an In-Store Shopper waiting, Full-Service Shoppers will need to pick up all of the items on the shopping list.

Upon completion, drivers should head for the checkout and use the prepaid card.

When loading up the goods into your vehicle, take the time to make sure that items are secure and safe.

For example, refrain from putting fresh meat in front of your floor heater and be sure that carbonated drinks are not going to tip over during the trip.

Doing so will assure that the food remains intact which improves the odds of being tipped by the recipient.

With this all squared away and ready to go, the last leg of the delivery is to give the requested items to the customer.

In-Store Shopper

As for the In-Store Shopper, there is less to worry about.

Leave your Instacart app open and wait for an order.

Once you receive the shopping list, head out to the aisles.

Depending on signage and your familiarity with the store’s organization, you may be able to head directly to an item’s location.

Be sure to follow all of the recommended guidelines you reviewed during orientation.

Once these items are accounted for, head to the checkout area.

While scanning each item, be sure to double check that each item is being loaded up.

Upon completion, use the prepaid card to complete the customer’s transaction on their behalf.

From there, In-Store Shoppers should pack the items into the designated storage area.

Or, if the Full-Service Shopper has arrived, hand off the order to them.

Give It a Shot

Working for Instacart is an excellent way to make some extra cash in your free time.

Many employees treat Instacart as a full-time job.

Others consider Instacart their part-time job and just pick up extra hours on the side.

Whatever you decide, it wouldn’t hurt to give Instacart a shot.

If you’ve been driving for rideshare companies or other gig services, Instacart may be a great addition to your side hustle game.

Best of luck and maybe we’ll see you in the grocery aisles next time we’re out shopping!

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