Delivering groceries with Instacart can be a source of decent income. But to make the most of this opportunity, you need to have a strategy – and to follow the smartest tips & tricks. Here we list some of the best ideas for making more money with Instacart.
This list is a summary of some of the best ideas gathered from Instacart drivers across Canada. We will continue to expand & refine this list as we receive new feedback from GigDrivers.ca participants. These strategies, tips & tricks assume you already understand how much Instacart drivers can earn, and that you know how to use Instacart’s app & algorithm to make money with Instacart.
By the way, the Gig Café (11 Facebook Groups) is a GREAT place to learn how other drivers across Canada make more money delivering groceries with Instacart – including a group specifically for Instacart drivers.
Strategies, Tips & Tricks
This summary list of strategies, tips & tricks assumes you are an Instacart “Full Service” Shopper (you pick groceries AND deliver them). Some Shoppers prefer to just pick, and let other Shoppers deliver. Either way, most of these suggestions apply to both parts of the total Cornershop gig.
Provide tip-worthy service. Most Instacart customers tip. Sometimes just a dollar. But sometimes a lot more – you’ll be surprised! Tips are an important factor in this gig, representing a helpful percentage of your total income. And customers tip better when they receive great service. It’s that simple. So this is the #1 rule of thumb: “Provide great service!” Convert your customers into tippers by offering outstanding service: Do your best to purchase exactly what they need. Follow carefully their instructions. Communicate well (send little notes). Clarify with them if you are not certain about something. Pack their items nicely in the bags. Deliver promptly. Be polite, respectful & friendly. Genuinely serve – making the customer’s priorities YOUR priorities. If you do, you will probably get more tips than you expect – even on the small orders!
Shop fast. In this gig, the faster you shop, the greater your income. Grocery shopping can be the most profitable gig of all – but only if you learn to be a rapid shopper. So this is the #2 rule of thumb: “Shop fast!” Know the stores, the layouts, the products, the flow. Quickly find everything on the customer’s list (and quickly identify good substitutes). The more you shop, the faster you will become. And when you are a fast shopper, you will feel more confident about accepting lucrative big orders.
Keep busy. Instacart Shoppers maximize their income by purchasing & delivering groceries – not by sitting (or driving around) waiting for pings. So this is the #3 rule of thumb: “As much as possible, try to keep busy!” Be willing to work at the busiest times and in the busiest places. Place yourself in strategic situations where back-to-back orders never stop (with new opportunities appearing on the app before you have even delivered your current order).
Work at busy times. Learn which times of the day people order more groceries. For example, on weekday mornings & evenings. Saturdays & Sundays. Perhaps in your situation, holidays bring extra opportunities. Concentrate more of your available hours working at busy times and less hours working at slower times.
Operate in busy places. Learn which Instacart stores are popular, and position yourself near as many of them as possible.
Join Costco. One of Instacart’s main partner stores is Costco. But you need to have your own personal Costco membership to shop there. So you might as well go ahead and join Costco. It’s an easy way to get more orders.
Love shopping. If you hate grocery shopping, you will not succeed in this gig! Make a decision that you are going to learn to love shopping – then become an expert. Educate yourself about all the different product varieties, learn about all the exotic international foods, take pride in being able to find strange things your customer has requested. Treat shopping as both a science and an art. It’s all about attitude. And once you train yourself to genuinely love grocery shopping, you will move rapidly & smoothly, earning good money and enjoying your work!
Know the stores. Take time to become very familiar with the most popular Instacart stores in your shopping area. Know the parking lot, the entrances & exits, the total inside layout, and the cash areas. Most of all, know the aisles – the exact locations of every product category (especially the weird items). Once you know the stores where you frequently shop, you will become a VERY fast shopper.
Know your city. Know the rules. The shortcuts. The rush hours. The construction obstacles. The best ways to navigate the malls and condominiums. The more you know your way around your city, the less time you will waste on the road.
Consider working downtown. The densely-populated areas of big cities are often the busiest and most profitable places to operate. Warning: You may find parking to be a big problem, especially in the downtown core and around high-rise condos. The never-ending struggle to find parking spaces may not be your cup of tea. However, the more time you spend operating downtown, the easier it gets – and the more money you will make.
Minimize dead driving time. Dead driving time occurs after dropping off deliveries, while waiting for new orders, when you are heading to your preferred base location, sitting in traffic jams, or driving home at the end of a shift. Develop strategies which minimize dead time. And for sure, avoid the habit of driving around aimlessly, hoping for new orders!
Look before you accept orders. When a new order comes in, the app displays useful information about the store and the scope of the order. Look very carefully at that information and do a quick analysis. Note: This can be difficult to do safely, if you are driving when you are pinged. And time is limited. But try. It takes discernment, and you’ll get better at this as time goes by. Then before you accept an order, just be sure it fits your personal strategy.
Be selective – but not TOO selective. Sometimes you should decline an order which you feel will negatively affect your profits. For example, some shopping/deliveries take you far in a non-strategic direction. Also, some Shoppers turn down small orders or orders from undesirable stores. Think carefully about your criteria ahead of time, and plan which kind of orders you do NOT want to accept. Then when the ping comes, you can glance at it and quickly decide whether to accept or decline. However, try not to over-analyze and over-decline. Your goal is to keep busy, not to waste time sitting waiting for the “perfect order”. Sometimes you just have to accept the bad with the good. And there may be consequences for declining too many Instacart orders.
Consider delivering alcohol. To qualify for alcohol shopping, you need to obtain a provincial Alcohol Delivery Certification. Once you upload this, you can begin picking orders which include alcohol from certain stores. This not only gives you more opportunities, but these customers sometimes tend to tip better.
Plan your breaks (fuel, food, coffee, washroom). Make these stops when you’re not busy, or when it is most convenient. Be sure you don’t have to turn off the app at the busiest time of day and drive 5 kilometers to the nearest facility – just because you waited too long to fill up your tank or empty your bladder! At least many of the Instacart stores have washrooms you can use while shopping. Some stores have both washrooms AND coffee!
Buy cheaper gas. Though the Instacart gig does not require as much fuel overall as driving passengers or delivering meals, fuel is still a significant expense, especially if you do this full-time. You can save about 10 cents a liter by shopping around. Use an app like Gas Buddy to locate the best nearby price (which is often Costco), and plan your fill-ups accordingly. These gas savings really add up over the months.
Minimize fixed overhead expenses. Shop around for the best deals. With data plans and car insurance, for example, the savings can be substantial. Then the following year, shop around again. Constantly research ways to minimize all expenses (but without undermining your safety & efficiency). The more money you save, the more net income you get to keep.
Don’t get tickets. Don’t speed! Don’t park in No Parking zones! Don’t hold your phone while you’re driving! You’ll pay dearly every time you get caught. One ticket can wipe out 1-2 days of hard-earned income.
Don’t have accidents. Slow down! Look carefully all around you! Don’t tailgate! Keep your focus on the road! One accident can wipe out 1-2 weeks (or months) of hard-earned income.
Don’t let your car be stolen. You’ll be in and out of your car quite a few times on a full shift. If the car will be out of your sight for even a minute, you would be wise to turn off the engine and lock the doors.
Be smart with taxes. At tax time, don’t pay any more income tax to the government than required. Even if you need to hire an accountant to help you, be sure to deduct every legitimate business expense. If you are smart about this, you can significantly reduce your income tax payable. And paying less tax means you get to keep more of your hard-earned income. (Reminder: You should always track your mileage & expenses, because this information will be needed at tax time. Let the excellent QuickBooks for Self-Employed app help you with this. It tracks mileage & expenses automatically.)
Watch for bonuses, promotions, and guaranteed earnings. Check the app regularly. There might be a nearby place & time where Instacart will pay you extra money for doing the same amount of work.
Consider doing 2 gigs at the same time. Some Shoppers do Instacart and Cornershop simultaneously – accepting whichever order comes first (and switching off the other app until they have almost completed delivery).
Track & analyze your info. Take time to study your statistics. Look over each order and each week’s totals. Figure out where you did best, where you wasted time & fuel, and how you got the best tips. Identify where you can do better the following week. Plan new strategies or locations or times to try out. Then analyze again the following week. As the months go by, if you continually experiment & analyze, you will earn more money and have less expenses.
Work smarter, not harder. In gig work, it may NOT be true that working longer hours or rushing around all over the place automatically leads to more net income. Instead, focus on being SMART. Learn the strategies, tips & tricks. Know your city. Know the stores. Know the app. Analyze. Experiment. Analyze again. Spend time interacting with other Shoppers in the Gig Café. The more you learn and put into practice, the more money you will make from your diligent Instacart work.
Please remember that Instacart’s features vary slightly from one province to another, and even from one city to another. So it is important that you study the Instacart Website for specific information about the location where you plan to drive.
Ready to Start?
If you have not yet started making money with Instacart, then you might as well go ahead and take the next step: SIGN UP! It only takes a few minutes to set up your Instacart Account, providing basic information to establish your driver profile.
Don’t worry – Instacart does not require fees or deposits, and there are no binding obligations or legal traps. At any point along the way, you can pause to get answers to your questions. But if you’re ready to move forward, the sooner you sign up and launch the registration process, the sooner you’ll be out on the road earning money.
(Note: When you click the link to go to Instacart’s sign-up page, the sign-up address will automatically include a Referral Code NTHDD0BAD. This tells Instacart you were referred by Gig Drivers of Canada. We would be grateful if you will use that sign-up page (or enter the Referral Code in the sign-up box), so Gig Drivers can receive recognition and a small referral reward to help cover our expenses. Thank you very much!)
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