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The Side-Hustle Guide to Working for Instacart

The Side-Hustle Guide to Working for Instacart

Last updated: April 19, 2020
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Shopping usually puts a dent in your bank account as opposed to adding to it. But when you’re an Instacart shopper, you get to combine two passions that normally don’t go hand-in-hand: Shopping and making money.

For those who enjoy making their way around a grocery store, who know the secrets to finding good produce, and who are looking for a job with flexible hours that allows you to set your own schedule, becoming an Instacart Shopper might be an employer to check out.

In this article we’ll give a brief guide to Instacart, discuss the requirements it takes to work for the company, talk about the two different types of employees they hire, guide you through the application process, and let you know the responsibilities that come when you are hired. By the end, you should get a feel for how to get a job at Instacart and what it’s like to work there.

A Brief Guide to Instacart

Instacart is a grocery delivery service that was founded by a former Amazon employee who wanted to take what Amazon was doing for books, electronics, and home goods and bring it to the world of grocery shopping.

Founded in 2012 in the Bay Area, the company used to have a pretty lean business model with almost no grocery store partners. Basically, they would have a shopper take someone’s grocery list, go buy the groceries and pay for them, and charge the client a markup based on what they bought. They made their money that way.

The company has since modernized and grown, and has partnerships with many major grocers and pharmacies, including Whole Foods, Costco, and CVS. This allows customers to pay retail price for their groceries, simply paying a delivery fee to complete the order, as opposed to paying a markup on every item and a service fee.

The company is still one of the few in the space. Amazon Prime Now offers some grocery items, though it’s not exactly what they’re known for. Uber Eats has gone the way of Seamless, and is focusing more on takeout food than delivering groceries.

Peapod and Shipt are two of the larger competitors in the grocery delivery space, but Peapod relies on scheduled deliveries, whereas Instacart will deliver food directly to a customer within a certain time period.

Employee Requirements for Instacart

There are two different types of employment for Instacart shoppers, and the differences between the two are important depending on whether or not you’re looking for full-time or part-time jobs, what resources you have at your disposal, and how committed you are to making this a primary income source.

The two types of jobs are in-store shopper and full-service shopper. In-store shoppers are those who spend time in a given store in an area, shop for items, pay for them, and then place them in a designated area at the front of the store. For Instacart customers who prefer to pick up their items, they will rely on an in-store shopper to find their items. In some markets, in-store shoppers can also work with delivery specialists who pick up the items and deliver them to the customer.

Full-service shoppers combine both aspects of the Instacart business model, not only shopping and paying for the food but then delivering it to the customer as well.

Both of these jobs have different requirements and details surrounding them.

In-Store Shoppers

  • Classified as part-time employees
  • Do not need to have a vehicle
  • Can pick a flexible schedule
  • In-store shopping only

– Sign up to become an In-Store Shopper –

Full-Service Shoppers

  • Classified as independent contractors
  • Access to a car required
  • Need an active driver’s license, could be asked to take a background check on driving history
  • Choice of shifts
  • In-store shopping as well as delivery

– Sign up to become a Full-Service Shopper –

All Instacart employees must:

  • Be 18 or older
  • Be eligible to work in the U.S.
  • Have access to a recent smartphone (iPhone 5 or Android 4.4 or newer)
  • Be able to lift 30–40 pounds with or without accommodation

Perks of Working for Instacart

There are perks to being a personal shopper beyond being paid to shop.

Instacart workers are paid weekly, and can start earning money quickly. The company allows you to select hours based on what your schedule allows. For full-service shoppers, this means selecting different shifts, which can be picked based on high-demand and high-earning times or whatever works for your schedule.

For in-store shoppers, you can really set your own schedule. Getting to set your own hours is great for flexibility, of course, but also can add or subtract enough hours to fit an earnings goal you set for yourself, or change it up based on the time frame you have available for that week.

How to Thrive as an Instacart Shoppernrd 1169664 unsplash

Instacart employees work by taking an order from a customer, which is directly delivered to your Instacart Shopper app. Then it’s time to get to work. Seasoned pros can make the following look easy, but it will take some getting used to.

First you need to find the items listed. Having a working knowledge of the grocery store is a huge advantage because, like all things, time is money, and the more time spent looking for items is less time taking new orders. Speed and efficiency are the name of the game here.

You’ll make two scans to find and get your items. One is the scan in the app to confirm you found the right item, the second is the scan at the front of the grocery store to pay for the item. This is fine for general items with a barcode, but can get a bit tricky if you’re shopping for produce. There, you’ll have to find the weight and nail it exactly if you want to get the correct charge and avoid issues with the order.

If a shopper wants 1/4 pound of mushrooms, it’s best to find a scale to make sure that you’ve got 1/4 pound of mushrooms.

The only other big issue that can come with shopping is if the item the customer wants isn’t available. In that instance you can scan similar items and send them to the customer to review, or message them directly (and hope that they are near their phone). Customers will have the choice to go with your recommendation, ask for something different, or just cancel the item altogether.

Once you’ve found your items and paid for them (using the Instacart credit card, which is distributed to every shopper and loaded with the correct amount of money to pay for each order), it’s all about ensuring prompt delivery service. If you’re an in-store shopper, you just drop it off in the designated area at the front of the store and it’s on to the next. If you’re a full-service shopper, and if your customer has requested a two-hour delivery window, odds are you’ll need to hop in your car, get to the address, and deliver the food right away. Hand it off, and you’ve done it: You’ve made an Instacart delivery happen.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do Instacart shoppers make?

Shoppers can make as much as $25 an hour during busy times, though they can expect a base pay of minimum wage during slow or dead times. That varies by state, but most shoppers report earning between $10 and $25 an hour.

Does Instacart deduct taxes?

It depends on your classification. Independent contractors are responsible for filing their own taxes, and many choose to do so quarterly to prevent a big lump sum being owed at the end of the year. Part-time employees will have taxes withheld according to the employment laws of their state.

Where is Instacart located?

Instacart is available in over 1,200 cities in 25 states with tons of national chains and local stores available for shopping. Search their website to see if your city has Instacart.

Bring In Extra Cash With Instacart

Instacart workers bring in extra money while finding great food for customers at their local grocery store. For those looking for a side hustle with flexible hours, weekly pay, and the chance to get paid to shop, it may be a nice way to bring in some extra dough.

View All Comments (2) Add A Comment

  1. LaRona Son Says:

    I’ve been doing it and quit yesterday. Waste of time unless you are truly desperate. I got an order 29nitems. 2 cases water, 6 6 packs of cokes, 2 packs of teas and crazy miscellaneous hard to find stuff. All this lifting, carrying, and then my gas to get to the store then to the client all to make $10.35. No thanks.

  2. Matt Says:

    Curious why your article doesn’t describe how the shopping opportunities are manipulated by instacart? I started shopping in the past three weeks. The first week was great…lots of opportunities given the COVID-19 shutdown so lots of people requesting the service. Friends who use it locally tell me denand is so great there is a two-three week delivery back-log in my community. So my question is why has instacart throttled my shopping opportunities in the past week and more importantly why are the opportunities I am being presented are a 30-45 minute drive one way for less $ than the cost of gas? Reading this your first response might be my shopper rating but I’ve got a solid five stars from customers for my 44 shopping deliveries. Zero cancellation rate. And my shopping time avg. is 114 sec. per ire
    which when factoring how crazy inventory issues are in markets….not bad according to online reporting I’ve seen. So my question to instacart is why if you have orders backing up two-three weeks, have an able bodied and motivated shopper waiting to shop…you insist on not offering shopping opportunities in my local community? I’m sure if I was a shareholder that question would be front of my mind as well? I’ve tried reaching out to shopper support as well but curiously there isn’t one…or at least one that is functional. Curious how this works….?

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