My First Week as a Female Lyft Driver (Part-time)
Below is a summary of what my personal experience has been like thus far as a female Lyft driver in northern Illinois. Please keep in mind all experiences are different, and that is just my personal account. You may experience an entirely different customer base, different cities, and therefore entirely different rides. With that being said, here we go.
Late February of 2021, I got an itch to go somewhere... anywhere. After a year of limited activity of any kind (thanks, global pandemic and a government that didn't take it seriously enough from the beginning), I needed to do something new. I often found myself just putzing around town with no real destination, wasting gas just so that I wasn't in my cubicle or in my apartment. Social interactions were limited to my "Quarantine bubble" people, and I was bored, and wasting time and money.
Then I read a report that said only 14% of rideshare drivers were women. That got me thinking about a few of my non-driving friends, and how (pre-Covid), they would often catch a rideshare from my place back to theirs...and they almost always had some random dude picking them up late at night. It wasn't my favorite thing, and while the apps track drivers & riders, it can only do so much in the moment of an emergency. I knew that the next time I sent them off in a rideshare car, I'd prefer them to be with a female driver.
So why not become that female driver? I could still putz around, but I'd be putzing with purpose. And all that gas I was using would be paid for, and so would my time! Add in the fact that business mileage is tax deductible, and I started researching the two most common rideshares in our area: Lyft & Uber. After several articles making it seem that Uber wasn't all that supportive of their drivers, I decided to apply for Lyft on a Tuesday. A few days and a background check later, I was approved & could start taking rides on Friday.
The first ride I accepted was a scheduled pickup near my office in Machesney Park that Friday night. Below, you can see what a scheduled pickup looks like in the Lyft app (this is not the pickup I confirmed, but one that's available as I'm writing this). I was familiar with the area, had a few small errands I could run before the scheduled pickup time, and could see the entire route the rider needed & the estimated earnings (this one in particular stated $7-9)... I just couldn't see who the rider was yet.
While that bothered me a little bit, I made sure that I chose a scheduled pickup that was most likely someone leaving work and going home. I would be on a business camera picking an employee up in case anything happened. Luckily, once I logged online in the app about 30 mins before the pickup, it told me my rider's name & rating (though he didn't have a photo uploaded).
When I pulled up to the strip mall parking lot, I saw a young kid, probably late teens/early twenties. Sure enough, he was just going home after work. He made a little bit of small talk, mostly about his mom's cooking, and we both awkwardly laughed when the Lo-Fi music I had on randomly had some small child talking in the middle of the song. The rest of the ride was quiet and easy, and I made $6.10 for less than 10 minutes of my time.
After that first ride, I decided that I liked this well enough to invest in it a bit so that I could really make it a solid part-time gig. Over the next week, I ordered some things for my car that I already needed, and some that would just benefit future riders. It took about a week to gather all my supplies, but an earlier post has a basic list of things I suggest having on hand if you plan to do any rideshare work.
When the next weekend rolled around, I decided to give the typical Lyft function a try: going "online" and being assigned riders fairly at random, loosely based on their proximity. In this case, you can see the rider's name, rating, and photo (if they have one), but not their complete route. You are told where you're picking them up, and that's it. After you pick up your rider, it will tell you where they're going, and give you directions via Google Maps. I've since found out that once you reach Gold Status as a driver, you are able to see complete routes before accepting rides. You gain statuses by earning points. I'm working on that by driving during Peak Hours (right after my full time job) for just a few hours a night, in order to earn points towards my Gold Status. Hopefully by the end of this weekend, I'll be Gold & will have the full route advantage.
Sometimes, if another rider is waiting close to your drop-off point, they'll be automatically added to your queue, and after you drop off Rider #1, it'll automatically start navigating you to Rider #2. This function is quite nice, as you won't be aimlessly driving waiting for a subsequent rider for very long, if at all.
My first rider was a middle aged gentleman on the west side of Rockford around 11:00 am Saturday morning. He needed to run over to a store about 5 mins away & then go right back home after grabbing a few things. This was when I learned that riders can request several quick stops on their rides, where you will wait for them outside, and they'll pop back in before moving on to the next stop. Pretty nice function for riders that I never even thought of needing to exist, but makes total sense. He was kind, and gave me a generous $3 tip for a ride that was just over $4 on its own.
He also warned, "...after noon? Don't be hanging out over here. A young white girl in a nice big truck like this doesn't belong here after noon. That's when the hooligans start waking up." And considering where he lived, I didn't question it; I'm familiar enough with the surrounding areas that I knew I wasn't in an area I'd be comfortable hanging out in for very long.
After that, most of my morning I was caught in a West Riverside Walmart loop, dropping folks off at Walmart & then bringing others home near Avon & School Street. Normally, not my favorite part of town (not just because of the crime rate, but the potholes too 😆), but since it was morning, I was a little less concerned. I figured I'd drive until I either A) had a bad experience or B) got hungry for lunch.
Option B came first and last, and I headed home a little before 1:00 pm to grab a bite & decide if I wanted to go back out. I hadn't had a single bad ride, and had made about $30 in just under 2 hours. I had no other plans for the day, so after about a 45 minute break, I headed back out.
(Breakdown of my Saturday morning trips)
I did a few more rides more on the east side of Rockford (no more Walmart loop!), made another $25 or so, and decided I'd accept my last rider sometime before 4:00 pm to give myself plenty of time to get home before some dinner plans we had. Lyft has a "Last Ride" function once you've accepted a ride you intend to sign off after. This option can be found once you've picked up/accepted your last ride in the top right hand drop down menu (you have to be stationary for a moment before this drop down will even appear, so give your app a minute to recognize you aren't driving). No more riders will be added to your queue, and you'll be logged off as soon as you drop your last rider off.
After accepting my last ride for the day, I discovered that when a rider is added to your queue, it will be categorized as a "standard ride" or a "longer ride (45+ minutes)." Unfortunately, I didn't hear my Lyft app say that my next ride was a longer ride, but before I navigated to her, I had already chosen to turn on "Last Ride," since her pickup request was at 3:41 pm. I figured another 20 minute drive or so, and I'd be headed home.
When I arrived, I discovered that I'd be driving to O'Hare from Rockford. There and back would be just about two hours, give or take, and I wouldn't be making any money on my way back since I'd deemed her my last ride.
A couple things compelled me to keep the ride despite the time/distance:
- Her pickup location was on a corner, and she was waiting in the window, so I knew she had seen me. I didn't want to look like a total jerk and just cancel on her after I'd already made eye contact. As a new driver, I'm still trying to build ratings, and I didn't want to affect my acceptance rate. She wouldn't have been able to rate me, but Lyft would judge me.
- She was a single younger female rider (no other passengers), and I figured the ride would be less awkward than if it was a man, or even just an older impatient woman. She even commented that she was excited that she got a female driver for the long drive, and no less, after three other drivers had cancelled on her after seeing her destination.
- After I confirmed that she was going to O'Hare, I immediately let her know I had been nowhere near an airport since I was last in a plane in 2000 (when I was in kindergarten), and that I had no idea what to expect for drop off. She assured me that O'Hare was probably one of the easiest airports she's ever gone through, and that it was just a big loop. She had entered the exact terminal she needed to be dropped off at, and reassured me that she had requested the Lyft early enough that if we got off course, we'd still make it in time, and we'd be alright. She was extremely easy going, and it made me feel much less stressed about the whole situation.
I was pleasantly surprised at how simple the drop off really was; she wasn't kidding when she said O'Hare was easy. Between her having her exact terminal loaded into Lyft as her drop off location, and the plethora of signage directing us to where we needed to go, finding where to park was extremely easy & painless. She thanked me and said, "this really was a good experience, thank you!" on her way out, left a $10 cash tip on my console, and unloaded her suitcase before waving goodbye. I listened to a podcast on my way home, made it there just as dinner was coming out, and woke up the next morning to an additional $11.67 in-app tip from her, putting the whole ride over at over $70 profit (including tolls).
I truly could not have asked for a better first airport experience, and I made sure to add a personal comment to my rider rating of an obvious 5 stars.