You need a gig that accommodates your schedule, and you like the idea of using your car to make some extra dough. But inviting strangers, who may or may not be intoxicated, into your vehicle doesn’t sit well.
Does this sound like you?
Here’s an alternative side hustle: Deliver packages for Amazon Flex. (Fun fact: Boxes are much less likely to throw up in your back seat.)
In the past, Amazon relied on delivery partners like FedEx, UPS and the USPS to transport a fair share of its packages, with the Post Office dedicating every Sunday to Amazon deliveries. Now, the e-commerce giant is leaning more on independent contractors across the country through Amazon Flex.
Before you hit the road, let’s review the basics to see if Amazon Flex is a good fit for you.
How Much Money Can I Make?
Let’s cut right to it: You’re here for the money. The Amazon Flex website boasts that drivers make $18 to $25 an hour, but that’s an estimate of gross pay that includes tips and bonuses. The good news is that Flex is one of the only gig apps that guarantees wages between $15 and $19 — also a gross amount — depending on location.
Not all orders have a tipping component to them, but if you are tipped, you get to keep 100% of it.
Another perk: Amazon Flex deliveries are based on scheduled shifts, up to four hours in length. That makes earnings more predictable than other app-based work.
Where Is Amazon Flex Available?
Amazon Flex launched in 2015 in Seattle only. It has slowly expanded across the U.S. into high-demand areas and is currently available in an estimated 50 major cities including:
- Austin, Texas
- Los Angeles
- New York
- San Antonio
- San Francisco
Amazon doesn’t provide a comprehensive list of all the locations where it operates. In-demand locations are frequently posted on its Get Started page.
What Are the Requirements?
Becoming an Amazon Flex driver doesn’t require any prior delivery experience. The biggest qualifiers are a valid driver’s license and the ability to pass a background check (more on that later). Here’s a rundown of the requirements beyond that.
- Vehicle: Requirements vary based on the type of delivery. For Prime Now orders, any reliable car will do. For Amazon.com orders, a mid-size sedan, SUV, van or pickup truck with a covered bed is required. Motorcycles, mopeds and motorized bicycles aren’t allowed.
- Smart Phone: Only Android and iOS devices – running Android 6.0 and iOS 11 (or higher) – are accepted.
- Auto Insurance: Amazon provides additional delivery insurance, but drivers must have a separate, valid auto insurance plan.
How Do I Apply?
To sign up, you’ll need to create an Amazon account if you don’t already have one. Then download the app to start the job application.
iPhone users can download Amazon Flex from the App Store. The process is a little different if you’re using an Android device, as the app isn’t currently listed on the Play Store. In that case, follow separate Android instructions that include downloading the app directly from Amazon Logistics. You may need to disable your phone’s security settings that block third-party apps for it to install properly.
Once the app is installed, follow the prompts about location and scheduling availability. You’ll be able to specify what days and time frames you prefer. If your area is in high demand, you may be able to proceed. If not, you’ll have to join a waitlist.
Before accepting jobs, you’ll need to submit additional info including a photo, copy of your driver’s license, tax and bank account information and your Social Security number.
After you submit that information, sit tight while the background check is processed. Amazon Flex says it may take up to 10 business days. Several drivers have reported that the process could take longer.
What Will I Deliver?
Amazon Prime isn’t all smiley brown boxes. Your load could include groceries from Whole Foods or random convenience goods from local stores – it all depends on what services are available in your area and what types of orders you accept.
- Amazon.com: This is the standard package delivery service. Pick up packages at a nearby distribution center.
- Amazon Fresh and Prime Now: These are same-day-deliveries — a mixture of packages and groceries — available at Prime Now hubs or Whole Foods stores.
- Store Orders: Amazon centers may not have every item. In this case, you will drop by local stores for requested goods in select areas.
- Instant Offers: These gigs are based on your current location. Amazon routes you to the nearest pickup location for speedy deliveries.
How Do Shifts Work?
Shifts or “blocks” with Amazon Flex work differently than most gig apps. Unless you’re doing Instant Offer orders, you don’t just log on and start driving. For most orders, you can plan out when and how much work you want to do.
The “Upcoming Offers” list suggests blocks based on the schedule you submitted when you signed up. If you want to work outside those parameters, you can see all blocks by changing your “Filter” settings.
Deliver as little as you like. There’s no minimum order requirement for drivers. (You’re capped at 40 hours a week, though.)
Blocks run between two to four hours, and you’ll see how much money they’re worth before accepting the job. Keep in mind: The blocks are suggested times. Several drivers reported that some blocks take much less time — and the drivers got paid for the entire block regardless. The opposite is also true. Some deliveries may take longer than four hours if the instructions or locations are difficult, but you won’t earn more money for that extra time.
If you accepted a block you don’t want, cancel it at least 45 minutes before the start time. If it’s an Instant Offer order, you can cancel it within 5 minutes of accepting the delivery. Late cancelations will incur warnings. After three warnings, you risk getting fired.
What’s the Work Like?
Let’s not sugar coat it: Delivery work can be tough. Packages are heavy. Instructions are often vague. You’re on a pretty tight time-frame. But the reward is higher than most gig work. The guaranteed wages paired with an occasional light delivery load make it worthwhile for many drivers.
One great way to get a clear sense of what the work is like is to browse Reddit’s subforum dedicated to Flex workers: r/AmazonFlexDrivers. Users share the highs and the lows of what it’s like to be an Amazon Flex Driver, no holds barred.
Some days, customers leave treats outside for delivery people to grab. Other days, drivers get lost in labyrinthine apartment complexes for hours, looking for the right unit numbers.
Tips for Amazon Flex Drivers
Delivering for Amazon Flex is a little more involved than other app-based gigs. Use these tips to help lessen the learning curve.
Don’t Skimp on the Training Materials
While you’re waiting for your background check to process, it’s a good idea to review the training materials. Don’t just blow through them. Take the time to get accustomed with the app and know how to photograph the packages properly — or you could rack up warnings (even termination) fast.
Learn Packing and Organization Techniques
One common refrain among beginning drivers: They were woefully unprepared for their first delivery. After you pick up your order from the delivery center, pay close attention to the addresses and organize the packages based on your route. Many drivers benefit from YouTube tutorials that demonstrate effective ways to load up your orders.
Track Your Mileage and Expenses
While Amazon boasts wages up to $25 an hour, your take-home pay is likely to be much less. That figure is gross pay. Gig workers often overlook costs like gas, car maintenance and tolls. When you’re driving potentially hundreds of miles a day, those expenses add up. Be sure to record them to get a better idea of your real earnings — and to lessen your burden come tax time. Many drivers make do with a spreadsheet. If that’s too old school, try using expense-tracking software like Everlance, MileIQ or Quickbooks.
Get a Lay of the Land
Based on driver reviews from Glassdoor, Indeed and Reddit, one big pain point is Amazon Flex’s imprecise GPS. It will get you to a general location, but after that, you may be on your own to find the right doorstep. It helps if you know your locale well. Many drivers lament large apartment complexes specifically. If you find yourself delivering to one, take notes on how the unit numbers and buildings are organized. (Does unit 2302 mean it’s on the second floor?) Snap a pic of the community map. Ask neighbors for directions. It’ll save you a lot of time in the long run.
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at Codetic. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.