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Working For Instacart: What To Expect As A Shopper Or Driver

Last updated: August 30, 2021
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vector graphic showing man working for instacart and shopping in a store

Are you considering a job as a shopper or driver with Instacart?

Applying for a part-time job with Instacart is a great way to earn extra income.

But before you do, you’ll need to understand what working for Instacart entails and how the process works.

In this article, we’ll discuss just that – how Instacart works for shoppers, so that you know everything needed to get started today.

Haven’t applied for Instacart yet? Learn how to become an Instacart Shopper.

Two Types of Shoppers

There are two types of shopper positions that you may consider: in-store shoppers and full-service shoppers.

These grocery delivery service options fit various schedules and make a great side gig or job if you want to make some extra money.

vector graphic showing the two types of instacart shoppers side by side

In-store Shopper

If you apply for an in-store shopper position, you’ll choose the items requested by the customer in-store only.

Full-service Shopper

In contrast to in-store shoppers, a full-service position requires choosing the requested items and then driving to deliver them to the address provided.

Full-service shoppers must pick up the grocery store items to fulfill the order batch as per the customer’s request on the Instacart shopper app.

How Does Instacart Work for In-store Shoppers?

If you are hired as an in-store shopper, you’ll be considered a part-time employee and assigned scheduled shifts, with the option of working up to 29 hours each week.

You don’t have to drive for this position, as a driver will handle the pickup and delivery of the grocery order.

In-store shoppers are paid an hourly wage, and they are only required to complete the grocery shopping part of the order.

Instacart employees must be eligible to work in the U.S. or Canada, at least 18 years of age, lift 30 lbs or more, and access a recent smartphone (Android or iPhone).

As a shopper, it’s important to choose fresh groceries and follow the food and safety policies of Instacart’s guidelines.

It’s essential to note everyday essentials and use shopping carts, making it easier to categorize items during shopping.

This position is ideal for some individuals with a disability or medical condition, as Instacart offers accommodations for employees who fit this criterion.

A background check is required for all employees.

How Does Instacart Work for Full-service Shoppers?

If you decide to work as a full-service shopper, your relationship with Instacart will be as an independent contractor.

Independent contractors regularly use the company’s app to shop and deliver orders placed by customers.

You’ll find this position offers greater flexibility so that you can choose how many shopping batches you want to take on without the need for fulfilling a certain quota or number of batches.

There are some essential requirements before you can be considered for a full-service shopper position.

You’ll need a recent smartphone, be 18 years of age or older, are able to work in the U.S. or Canada, and have the ability to lift a minimum of 30 lbs.

As a driver or a full-service shopper, you’ll need to have a well-functioning vehicle that is registered according to your region’s laws, insurance, and a valid license.

You’ll need to follow the company’s policies on safety and food handling.

Is Working for Instacart a Hard Job?

If you’re considering a job or contract position with Instacart, you’re likely curious about the difficulty level of the various tasks and requirements to fulfill each position.

It’s often compared to working similar jobs offered through other food delivery companies, including DoorDash and Uber Eats.

vector graphic showing the two types of instacart shoppers side by side

Is it Hard Mentally?

Working for Instacart is generally an easy and enjoyable job.

It’s ideal for people who need a flexible schedule to work around childcare, additional jobs, and other commitments.

It’s not too stressful for some people unless you have many other tasks and jobs to juggle.

Depending on where you live, you may not always have regular work, which can be stressful when you can’t predict the amount of income you’ll earn.

Shopping during peak hours can also be challenging, especially if line-ups are longer than expected and some items are sold out.

Is it Hard Physically?

When you work as an in-store or full-service shopper, you’ll be required to lift and carry at least 30 lbs.

While most people can handle this weight without effort, it can be a challenge if you have medical conditions or a disability that can impact your ability to lift and transport this weight.

Suppose you use Lyft or Uber to transport your groceries or arrange the delivery through these services.

In that case, it’s not as challenging, though convenient, especially for busy people making orders and expecting their delivery to arrive quickly.

Scheduling and Shifts

Once you are accepted as a shopper for Instacart, you’ll want to get familiar with the Instacart app and how to sign up for hours and shifts.

Do Instacart Shoppers Pick When They Work?

Shoppers have the option to pick the hours they want to work on the Instacart app by reviewing the shifts or “pickup hours” available.

As you review the calendar of options, you’ll find certain days are labeled as “unavailable” or “no hours available for pickup,” which means you can’t schedule hours during these times.

Shifts and availability for Instacart shoppers are shown every week, starting from Sunday until the following Saturday.

If you don’t find the desired times or shifts on the selected week, you can swipe to the next week to schedule your hours in advance.

It’s essential to select the relevant regions or areas where you want to work and keep track of which hours or days have available shifts, primarily if you work in more than one area.

Open hours are indicated in green, whereas unavailable shifts are shaded.

You’ll find the closest regions or default area at the top of your app.

How Often Do Instacart Shoppers Work?

Instacart shoppers and drivers can work as little or much as they like, depending on their position and the availability of hours and shifts.

Part-time in-store shoppers are permitted to work up to 29 hours each week.

How Long are Shifts?

At a minimum, you must select two consecutive hours to schedule a shift.

Since each hour is selected separately on the Instacart app, it’s essential to ensure that you can select at least two hours.

Blocks of three or four shifts allow for a 20-minutes break for shoppers.

Once your hours are scheduled for the week, you can view your shifts on the app’s dashboard, and you’ll receive reminders to give you time to prepare.

Payment and Earnings

Before you sign up for shifts with Instacart, you may want to learn more about the pay structure, the amount you’ll make, and pay frequency.

vector graphic showing an instacart refund - money going into a phone running the instacart app

How Much Do Instacart Shoppers Make?

Generally, the pay depends on how many batches and orders you receive during your schedule.

The company indicates that you can make up to $25 an hour, making it easy to earn roughly $100 in four hours.

On average, based on available shifts and orders for drivers and shoppers, the hourly rate can hover around $13.

Extra pay for mileage and bonuses may be available for certain types of workers.

How Do Instacart Shoppers Get Paid?

Instacart pays employees and contractors online with Stripe, which deposits funds directly into your bank account.

If you don’t have a bank account or cannot set up Stripe, Instacart will send you a check for payment.

Stripe may take a day or more to release funds into your bank account, which can be inconvenient for most people.

For this reason, you have the option of using Instant Cashout, which allows access to your pay immediately on payday.

All funds can be accessed through your debit card, much like you would transfer or withdraw funds from your bank account after a regular direct deposit from other types of work.

Instant Cashout is a great option, though it’s important to note a $0.50 fee for each transaction.

When Do Instacart Shoppers Get Paid?

Instacart shoppers are paid weekly on Wednesdays for the previous hours and orders processed between the previous week from Monday to Sunday.

This weekly structure also refers to how working hours are scheduled.

By reviewing the number of hours you work between Monday and Sunday of any given week, provide the amount you’ll get paid on the following Wednesday.

The pay usually appears in your account in the morning, though this may vary depending on your time zone and the financial institution where you have your bank account.

Does Instacart Reimburse Expenses?

There are no reimbursements for expenses for drivers and shoppers.

If you drive, it’s essential to keep track of mileage and gas prices so that you can keep your expenses as low and manageable as possible.

If you’re an independent contractor, you’ll have the option of applying shopping and driving-related expenses on your tax return.

However, it’s best to inquire with an accountant or tax specialist to confirm this option.

Fortunately, shoppers don’t typically pay out a lot in personal expenses, making it relatively easy to carry out tasks without barriers.

You’ll spend a lot of time shopping, and most driving trips are short and don’t require much fuel or mileage.

Pros and Cons of Working for Instacart

Are you ready to start working for Instacart?

You’ll want to review the pros and cons of working for this fast-growing company to ensure it’s a good fit for your lifestyle and schedule.

Pros of Working for Instacart

There are a lot of pros to working at Instacart.

For many people, the idea of working when it’s convenient and not having to report to a boss or manager is a great incentive.

Instacart, like much other delivery and ride-sharing companies, offers a lot of flexibility, including other advantages:

  • Flexible working hours, and the ability to schedule shorter shifts anytime they are available, and you have free time to pick up work. Effectively, you can create your schedule.
  • The pay is generally considered good, and you can receive tips and bonuses.
  • Many people enjoy the idea of enjoying a bit of exercise and getting outside while earning extra money.
  • You can receive payment instantly if you use Instant Cash, which is paid weekly and makes it easy to pay bills and enjoy extra money more often.

Cons of Working for Instacart

You may find a few drawbacks to working for Instacart, which are crucial to consider before you sign up for work on the company’s app.

  • Shifts are not guaranteed, and you can only sign up for hours that are currently available. This situation makes the number of working hours and pays unpredictable and challenging to plan with expenses.
  • Shopping during peak hours can be frustrating, and there may be delays due to long line-ups and heavy traffic.

How has COVID-19 Impacted Working for Instacart?

Since Covid-19, Instacart has grown in popularity, as more people use grocery delivery services regularly.

Not only has grocery delivery become a regular service for most people, but it’s also provided more jobs for people in need of employment during the pandemic.

Working for Instacart vs. Competitors

When you consider working for Instacart, you may review other companies that provide similar services, including delivery, grocery shopping, and restaurant pickup services.

Working for Instacart vs. Shipt

Shipt is a growing company that offers more than grocery shopping services and delivery.

The company also features shopping for various products, including office supplies, electronics, and other items.

One of the best perks of working for this company is flexible hours.

As a bonus, Shipt Shopper pay is higher than Instacart.

Shipt requires a membership fee, which may be a deterrent for some customers and shoppers.

Working for Instacart vs. Peapod

Peapod is one of the top grocery delivery services in the U.S. and offers an easy interface for customers who can choose their items directly from the company.

Since Peapod acts as the grocer, storing all their products makes the process much easier for people who work for the company.

Generally, both companies pay relatively well, though some shoppers may receive slightly higher pay from Instacart.

Overall, both companies pay average rates.

Is Instacart Worth It?

For most people, Instacart is a great way to earn a few extra bucks if you’re looking to supplement a full-time job.

It has several part-time jobs or gigs.

There are no sign-up fees available, and the whole application process can be done on your mobile app, which makes it easy to start working right away.

Tips to Increase InstaCart Earnings

As you can see from the reviews and comments above, some people are doing very well delivering groceries for InstaCart.

$17 per hour is certainly nothing to sneeze at – but we’ve got four great tips that you can use to get your earnings closer to the $20/hour mark.

vector graphic showing instacart tipping - an instacart shopper delivering groceries to a woman standing inside a door and giving the driver cash for the order he is dropping off

1. Accept Every Delivery

Shoppers make more money on larger orders, so it’s easy to see why people are tempted to accept large orders and ignore the small ones.

But if you really want to maximize your earning potential, you’ve got to take every single order that comes your way.

Think of it the way you would any other job – if your boss gave you a list of ten things to do, you’d have to do them all.

You wouldn’t be able to just do the five that you like to do and reject the five that you don’t enjoy.

Every order means more money in your pocket. Ytffghuytf on Reddit says:

“I do 30 hrs a week. I average $12-$14 an hr. But I skip the batches that are 1-7 items. So that’s prolly why. I noticed that people that make $800 to $1,000 a week take everything they can get.”

Take every order that comes your way.

Remember, you get paid a flat fee for each delivery.

So even if it’s a small order where you won’t make much on the “per item” side, you’ll still get that flat rate for the small order delivery.

Not every order is going to be a big one.

When you’re slow, grab every one you can get.

It’s the best advice if you’re looking to make the most amount of money possible.

2. Set an Alarm to Schedule Your Hours

It can be a challenge to get your delivery hours scheduled.

There’s a lot of competition, so you’ve got to be on top of it if you want to secure yourself a good shift.

Typically, the new schedule becomes available every Sunday morning at 9:00 am.

If you want the first crack at the schedule, set an 8:58 am alarm to remind you to look at the new schedule.

Make it a recurring alarm that goes off every week at the same time and you’re sure to be able to get the schedule and hours you want.

The trick is to be one step ahead of your competition.

In certain markets, InstaCart can be quite competitive.

Set that alarm so you’re ready when the new schedule comes out and be ready to grab your shifts ASAP.

If you wait until Sunday night or later in the week, you probably won’t be able to enjoy your ideal schedule.

3. Communicate With Customers

As with any job, when you work for InstaCart, communication is critical.

And that means communication from the time you shop for the order to the time you drop it off.

Sometimes customers place orders for items that are sold out or unavailable.

So when you’re doing the shopping and you see that an item isn’t available, what should you do?

In some cases, you may need to eliminate the sold-out item from the order.

But if that’s a key ingredient to a meal your customer plans to make that night, they’re not going to be too happy.

Rather than eliminate the item from the order, it’s best to replace it or find a viable substitute.

If you need to find a replacement item, it’s important to communicate properly with your customer.

You can call or text them to let them know an item is out of stock and suggest a substitution.

It’s important to have them confirm the replacement before you add it to their order.

Otherwise, they could end up paying for something that they don’t want.

In some cases, it might mean substituting one brand for another.

In other cases, it might be substituting a size or the type of item altogether.

Communicate the issue and your customers are sure to respond positively and appreciate your dedication to the job.

With honesty, integrity, and good communication, you can increase your chances of getting a tip.

And tips are one the best (and easiest) ways to increase your weekly and hourly earnings.

4. Offer to Bring Bags Into the Kitchen

When you arrive at a customer’s door, the first thing you should ask is “where would you like me to set your bags?”

Some customers don’t want unknown delivery people in their home.

That’s completely understandable – and most of those people will tell you to drop the order right by the door.

Other customers may prefer that you can carry their order through the home and place the bags in the kitchen.

In some cases, they might want the bags on the kitchen counter.

Others may tell you to put them on the kitchen floor.

It’s up to the customer – and it’s up to you to do what you need to do to please them and leave them with a good experience.

By asking that one simple question of “where do you want me to put your bags?” you significantly increase your chance to earn a tip.

Be polite. Do your job with a smile.

Take care with the bags – especially fragile items such as eggs and glass bottles.

And, above all else, put them exactly where the customer wants them.

With a pleasant attitude and the desire to be as helpful as possible, there’s a good chance you’ll get a tip.

And as we said before, tips are the best way to increase your hourly rate and put more money in your pocket.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have further questions about working for Instacart?

It’s essential to review all aspects of working as a shopper or driver before you decide to begin.

The more you know and understand how the company works, the easier it is to adapt and make money quickly.

Can Instacart Shoppers Listen to Music When Shopping?

Some shoppers enjoy listening to their favorite playlist or podcast during their shopping trips.

While this isn’t an issue overall, you may encounter issues with listening to your headphones if it slows your shopping and delivery speed down and impacts your ability to provide good service.

Can You Work for Instacart Without a Car?

Yes, in-store shoppers can work for Instacart without a car, as the drivers provide the delivery service, much like Lyft or Uber.

If you don’t have a vehicle and live in a densely populated urban area, you’ll find many close grocery stores and make shopping easy.

If you choose a driving position, it’s vital to ensure that your vehicle is in good condition, with complete registration, licensing, and insurance up to date.

Can You Work for Instacart with a Baby?

While some companies allow shoppers or delivery drivers to bring someone along for the ride, Instacart doesn’t permit their employees or contractors to shop or drive with others, as this can impact the speed and accuracy of their services.

Suppose you’re considering a shopping or delivery position that is more accommodating for bringing a family member or child.

In that case, you may want to consider DoorDash or inquire with other similar companies, which may offer more flexible options.

How Do I Quit Working for Instacart if I Don’t Like it?

If you’re not content working for Instacart or have a change in life circumstances that make it impossible to continue shopping and driving, you can contact the company’s team member service to deactivate your account.

This process is done for full-service shoppers, while in-store shoppers who want to quit will have their requests forwarded to the city or local team for review.

Wrapping Up

If you’re thinking about starting as either a driver or shopper, Instacart offers an excellent option for part-time work and flexible hours.

Whether you’re looking for extra income or an easy job, build a full-time job by picking up as many shifts and hours as possible.

Most people enjoy an average or slightly higher income, with the option for tips and bonuses.

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