Sharing and gig economies are changing how people make money. It’s easier than ever to take on a side hustle and make a little cash – even if you don’t have a skill specialty.
You could work as a ridesharing driver for Uber or Lyft. DoorDash and Postmates always need delivery drivers. Or, you can rent out your home through Airbnb or your car through Turo. But if you don’t want to deal with people or their messes, there are other opportunities.
Bird electric scooters and similar scooter companies like Lime have created a whole new way to make money that is vastly different than any of the above examples.
The dockless electric scooter is the latest craze in the rideshare economy, with lots of other scooter startups popping up as more investors realize the potential of the business model. Under the leadership of people like Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden, the number of scooters (and scooter riders) has increased massively. Some tech journalists are even dubbing it the “Silicon Valley scooter wars,” and Bird is at the forefront.
E-scooters are for those moments when you don’t have far to go but it’s too far to walk. You’ll find them in public places where people need a ride, such as city centers, outside public parks, shopping districts, or college campuses.
With all these new scooters, there’s also an increased demand for people to charge them. This is where you can make a nice side income. Read on to get the scoop on how electric scooter charging works, how to get started, and how much money you can make.
- How Does Bird Charging Work?
- How Much Does a Bird Charger Make?
- Becoming a Bird Charger
- Finding Bird Scooters to Charge
- Charging Bird Scooters
- Deploying Birds
- Ways to Increase Bird Charger Earnings
How Does Bird Charging Work?
The process is simple. It all starts with the Bird mobile app.
Birds work by QR code. A rider finds a Bird, opens the app on their device, and then scans the QR code to “unlock” the scooter and ride it. Bird Chargers use the same app and process to “capture” the Bird so that they can charge it and make money.
Chargers have their own version of the app. All users have a map that shows them where they can find a Bird to rent. Chargers have a similar map that shows them where to find Birds that need to be charged.
Each Bird shows up as a colored symbol on the Charger’s map. Each color indicates how much the Bird is worth, based on how difficult it is to capture. Birds behind fences or hidden away in the bushes on private property are worth more money than those that are easy to find.
All the Bird Charger has to do is to unlock the scooters, put them in the car, and drive them home. It helps to have a decent-sized car, pickup truck, van, or SUV.
Once home, they simply plug them in and charge them. The scooter chargers look similar to laptop chargers and plug into your home’s electrical outlets.
Chargers get a message in the morning telling them where to take the Birds. The drop-off locations are called “Bird Nests.” The Birds have to be in the Nest by 7:00 a.m. so that they’re ready for commuters.
When the Birds have been released into the Nest and the Charger has notified the app, the app pays per charge. You can leave the money in your account or get paid that day via direct deposit.
Related: Full Guide to Being a Bird Mechanic
You can become a Charger in any city where Bird scooters are available. Entertainingly, Bird scooters are banned in San Francisco, a place associated with so many similar technology innovations. Despite these setbacks, Bird is expanding rapidly into new markets across the United States and the world. Here are just a few of the markets where they’re currently available:
- Tuscaloosa, AL
- Scottsdale, AZ
- Tempe, AZ
- Fresno, CA
- Long Beach, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Oakland, CA
- San Diego, CA
- San Jose, CA
- Santa Monica, CA
- Denver, CO
- Washington, D.C.
- Athens, GA
- Atlanta, GA
- Louisville, KY
- Baltimore, MD
- Detroit, MI
- Minneapolis, MN
- St. Paul, MN
- Columbia, MO
- Kansas City, MO
- St. Louis, MO
- Chapel Hill, NC
- Charlotte, NC
- Greensboro, NC
- Raleigh, NC
- Cincinnati, OH
- Columbus, OH
- Norman, OK
- Oklahoma City, OK
- Stillwater, OK
- Portland, OR
- Nashville, TN
- Memphis, TN
- Abilene, TX
- Austin, TX
- Dallas, TX
- San Antonio, TX
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Arlington, VA
- Richmond, VA
How Much Does a Bird Charger Make?
It depends on the Charger. How much you make is determined by which ones you pick to capture and how many.
The base price for each Bird is $5.00. It goes up from there when the Birds are harder to capture. The Charger map on the app shows the value of each Bird that’s ready for a charge. A green icon indicates an easy-to-find scooter that pays around $5.00. A gold is somewhat harder to get to and pays a bit more. And a red icon is very difficult to capture and can pay as much as $25.00. Of course, to get a red scooter you might have to climb a fence, traverse a gully, or play hide-and-seek with it for an hour.
While Bird hunters in some cities can do well with a lot of effort, Chargers in other cities are having trouble just getting to the $5.00 mark. In Atlanta, they’re getting as little as $3.00 a capture. Some claim that it’s a glitch, but a glitch that pays only $3.00 isn’t worth the time to haggle over it with customer service.
Bird only provides three chargers per person to start. Over time, or if you pay for your own charging system, you can work up to charging 20 scooters at a time. You would need a van or truck to pick up that many Birds in one go, but you can get eight in the trunk of the average sedan.
So what are real people really making? One Reddit user says, “I’ll be close to $500 in earnings for 4 days total of work.” Another says that competing with other Bird hunters limited them to only $5–$25 a day for two weeks. Yet another person makes $60 a day easily.
For Chargers that have made a game out of hunting Birds (like Pokémon Go), the payout can be as much as $600 per night. One guy that reported making that much says he has a “whole system” for hunting. The Chargers that are making the most money are the ones that are most likely to take risks.
Becoming a Bird Charger
The Charger program sign-up process asks for your basic personal information like name, telephone number, and email. It will also ask you for your banking and tax information so you can get paid. That way they can set it up so that when you’re paid it goes directly into your preferred account.
It might take a while to hear back from Bird, but they should give you a phone call once you are approved. Charging is becoming a popular side gig and some areas are getting oversaturated. The company is holding back on hiring new Chargers in some places. There are also reports that the application processing is taking a very long time.
The next stop is a call from Bird. It’s like a casual phone interview. They’ll ask you a couple of easy questions about what kind of vehicle you have (for transporting scooters), how many you think you can charge a night, and what you like about Bird scooters. You’ll also get briefed on the details of Bird charging.
Finding Birds to Charge
The Bird hunt begins after peak usage hours — usually around 9:00 p.m. You can hunt any time of day, though. Some hard-to-find birds have been waiting to be picked up for more than 24 hours. They’re also worth more money.
To hunt for Birds, open the app and make sure you are in Charger mode. The map feature will show where the scooters are in your city and how much each one will net you for capturing it.
If the real-time map shows that you are close to a Bird but you can’t see it, there is a feature that causes the Bird to chirp so that you can follow the sound and find it.
You can also look at the ride data, which will help you pinpoint the scooter’s location more accurately. Ride data also gives you a clue about how available the scooter is. A scooter that shows up as having been ridden in the past few minutes is less likely to be locked away by a hoarder than one shows up as having been last used yesterday.
When you’ve found the Bird, you scan the QR code, just like you would if you were going to ride it. The Bird will show up in your app and then you can load it up and take it home.
There are reports of people hoarding scooters. Essentially people hide scooters inside their home until the bounty goes up to $20 or $25. Once they go up in payout (usually after four days), they “capture” the hoarded scooter and release it. This is not allowed and will get you kicked off the service. This is fraud and should not be tolerated. If you see this happening, report it to Bird ASAP.
Some scooters are in such difficult-to-access places that some Chargers have given up on trying to find lost Birds. They’ve been at the bottom of canyons, behind locked gates, and have even been used as bait by criminals to lure hunters into dangerous situations. There are Bird scooter Chargers that see these challenges as a game and others that say it’s just not worth it to try to capture scooters that aren’t easy to get.
To charge Bird scooters, you will need a special charger. When you are approved as a Bird Charger, they will send you three chargers. It might take a while to get them if there is a rush in applications. If you don’t want to wait, there may be an office in your area where you can pick them up in person.
A garage full of charging Birds in Ohio. Image by u/n8rates.
When you get home and unload the scooters, all you have to do is plug them in using the provided chargers. They’re a lot like a laptop charger. Charging time varies depending on the current battery life of the scooter, but the typical charge time is between four and seven hours.
To deploy the scooter and get paid, you have to recharge it up to at least 95 percent.
You will be responsible for deploying the Birds in the morning. That means dropping them off at their Bird’s Nest. The app will show you where the Nests are located.
A Nest is usually in an easy-to-find place and will hold around four scooters. So, if you have a dozen scooters to deploy, you’ll need to find three empty Bird’s Nests.
Not to worry, you claim a Nest before you even get there by using the app. Once you’ve claimed the Nest, it disappears from the map so there’s no competition from other Chargers.
Most Birds have to be deployed by 7:00 a.m. with a 95 percent charge. You will need to plan the night before exactly when you need to leave in the morning depending on the number of Birds. Some Chargers get up as early 5:00 a.m. to get a jump on releasing the Birds.
You can’t drop them off too early. Bird rules state that there are no drop-offs between 5:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m.
You can, however, capture Birds and release them in the same day. So, if a well-used Bird is showing up on the map at 10:00 a.m., you can take it home and charge it and get paid for it if you have back on the street by 5:00 p.m.
Ways to Increase Bird Charging Earnings
- First, you have to be consistent, and then you have to get more chargers. The more Birds you can plug in, the more money you can make at one time. In this Reddit thread, Chargers are reporting getting as many as 13 chargers from Bird. Bird gave them additional chargers because they consistently charged a lot of Birds.
- Pick up as many as possible. Use a vehicle that can fit a lot of scooters and then get as many as you can in one go. Start as early as you can to beat out other hunters. Even if you only have three chargers, you can charge six scooters in a night as long as you are willing to swap cables in the middle of the night.
- Create a strategy. Check the map a few times a day and pick up scooters that are in your path. Keep your gas mileage in mind when hunting so you don’t spend your profit on fuel.
- Live near a Nest. People who live near high-traffic areas have an advantage. If you live near a Nest you can quickly drop off scooters in the morning, saving a lot of time and money.
- Double up. As long as you’re picking up Birds, you might as well sign up to be a Lime Juicer and increase your odds of getting scooters to charge every night. The maps are virtually the same. Say your Bird app map shows two scooters in your neighborhood and four across town. If you had the Lime map open as well, you might see that there are Limes right next to those two Birds in your neighborhood. Having access to the Limes would save you in gas and effort.
Charging for Bird is a great side gig – especially if you live close to high scooter traffic areas or pass by them daily. But, don’t quit your day job. A few people have made a lot of money Bird hunting, but they also put in a lot of effort.
If you do want to drop your regular job, make Bird charging part of a diversified side-gig strategy.