Getting your business off the ground may require some side hustle and driving Lyft is one of them.
Driving for a ride-hailing company is not without some of its caveats. At least when driving in the Bay Area and parts of Northern California, here are 10 things I've learned throughout the last few months.
1. Get a driver referral code
Before you even begin the sign-up process, make sure you get a referral code from an existing Lyft driver for a sign-up bonus. As of this writing, bonuses range from two hundred to one thousand.
The finer print is that you must reach a number of rides to get that bonus. That means your refferal bonus (say $500) kicks in when you reach 60 rides within 30 days - a typical requirement. 60 rides gets you very roughly around $400. Add $500 if you reached this milestone before the 30 day mark and you get around $900.
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2. Maximize gas through driving technique and car adjustments
Photo by Steinar Engeland
If you're driving a hybrid, you're in good shape. Electric? Even better. Even if your car is not either of those, you can still do things like:
Check the Gas Cap - Make sure your car's gas cap does not have cracks or gaps. A faulty cap lets gas evaporate. Head to a shop to get it checked. Some even do it for free.
Stick to the speed limit - Going faster and accellerating often uses more fuel. No need to race to your passenger. Your rating is based after the drop off.
Avoid using the A/C if possible - Naturally, you'll want to avoid using A/C unless a passenger calls for it. Roll down the window if you're not in the freeway.
Make sure tire pressure is good - The US Department of Energy says gas mileage can improve up to 3% just by keeping your tires properly inflated. Check your Owner's manual or the sticker typically found on the driver side door jamb.
3. Maximize your time
Photo by Harry Sandhu
Maximizing your gas includes how you manage your time. Don't start driving without a plan and do some research in your area.
Avoid driving between 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM - It's the slowest part of the day and is usually the bulk of everyone's work schedule. If you're driving an SUV, Lyft requests are lower as people tend to select a regular Lyft than a Lyft Plus (larger vehicles).
Know the pickup spots for city commuters - This helps you from just hitting the "Go Online" button and having some dead time in between. When you've found the right spots, a single ride could net you $60 or more depending on the distance.
Drive to conventions and sports events - Take a quick peek at Eventbrite or Stubhub to see the latest happenings around your area. This is especially helpful if your business is flexible enough for you to hit these spots.
Avoid getting stuck in traffic - Unless you have a full squad of passengers in your car, take a break during traffic time. You want to avoid this scenario as much as possible and just sit posted near a mall or store somewhere. Losing gas, wasting time and receiving a bunch of cancelled requests when a passenger is just three blocks away can be demoralizing.
4. Know what to do in case of accidents or citations
Preparing for emergencies is just something you have to do. Accidents, passengers fighting or having an intoxicated rider can freeze you in the heat of the moment. Write the following on a sticky note and put it on your dashboard:
- Get yourself and your passengers in a safe area -
- Call 911 - No matter what this should just be an instinct. Even with situations where it's not clearly an emergency, just dial 911. Operators will evaluate the situation accordingly.
- Call 855-865-9553 - This is Lyft's Critical Response Line. Save it to your phone's contact list and call it when things have settled a bit.
- Take notes, photos and videos - Assuming everyone is safe, this is what you do last. If you're in an accident, don't forget to trade contact info with your passengers as you'll likely need them as witnesses. Lastly, remind them to request another Lyft.
5. Pack a lunch and/or dinner - just in case
Photo by Asnim Asnim
If you're finding yourself driving more hours (or even a whole day), put something together that doesn't have to be refrigerated like a sandwich. I usually have that coupled with fruit and some snacks - all in a sealed container I stow under my seat. Bring a reusable water bottle or Thermos from home.
Just doing this will save you time, gas and sometimes a parking fee.
6. Keep your passengers comfortable
Photo by Jakub Gorajek
Yes. Some passengers do this. Short of allowing others to kick their feet outside your windows, let them feel at ease. Keeping a car clean, having cable chargers, barf bags, an aux cable, etc. let's your riders know you think about them.
You don't have to be a chatterbox either. Just match their energy. Some riders just want to get home after a long day at work while groups of friends want to celebrate birthdays. Be resourceful, if someone wants to know the best local eats in the city, don't say "you can just Google X". Drop a quick recommendation.
Ultimately, aside from keeping them safe, you want them to have a good experience riding with you. Ratings and tips go a long way.
7. Bring your business cards
Photo by imgix
This is one of the main reasons why I do Lyft. You never know who you're going to meet. While San Francisco has their own share of entrepreneurs and small business owners, it reaches a fever pitch when you drive around Palo Alto and Mountain View.
In all cases, you're bound to come across other entrepreneurs. Even when you're not in the city, you'll find some of the most fascinating people that you'll want to connect with. It's these little interactions that lead to open doors in the most interesting ways.
8. Setup your phone for optimized use
Photo by pexels
If you have a ton of apps, you'll want to turn off Automatic Downloads and the Backgrond App Refresh under the phone's settings. This is especially true for older phones like the iPhone 6S. Download Battery Master off the App Store and boost your memory. Reduce the notifications down to just the communication apps you need.
All of this helps the Lyft app. Less background processing is always better. This is especially true when Lyft needs to transition to Google Maps or Waze when navigating to your next pickup/dropoff.
9. Study the tutorials and blogs - especially the Lyft Line
Once you've signed up, you'll want to check out Lyft's tutorials - particularly the Lyft Line. It covers a bunch of crazy scenarios. While the tutorial makes the Lyft Line appear like a separate job, the Lyft Line can happen at anytime between rides.
How do you know when a Lyft Line begins? When you see this...
Once you see "Confirm #" a Lyft Line just started. That's when you immediately ask the passenger if a Line was requested. If the rider says "yes", you'll be possibly picking up people along the way.
When the Lyft app finds another passenger to add to the Lyft Line, the Lyft app will send upcoming passenger location info to Google Maps or Waze. Either navigation app will get a prompt to Cancel or Exit - one of the early what-the-hell quirks you'll come across when starting as a Lyft driver.
For this case, hit Exit. Your navigational app will then exit, reset itself and show you new directions. If navigation doesn't come back, switch back to the Lyft Driver app and hit the arrow at the top right of the map as shown below.
As you gain experience, you will get better managing the app and overall ridesharing.
10. Track your miles using a separate app for tax purposes (e.g. MileIQ)
The miles you drive the are miles you write off - me
While there are several apps that do this, I prefer MileIQ. It runs in the background and tracks every stop-and-go point. It also uses logic to differentiate between business and personal drives. Triplog is cheaper and has somewhat more features but MileIQ's interface is clean and seamless and handles all of my needs. If you're a subscriber to Office 365 Business Premium, MileIQ is included. Score!
Irregardless of which app you end up with, track your miles. The Lyft app by itself only tracks the distances between the riders and their destinations. But with a separate app you can give your CPA the nod on those tax savings.