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Five First-Hand Lessons Learned as a Transportation Service Provider in the Gig Economy

By October 30, 2019 News & Viewpoints

The launch of the gig economy brought fantastic new services to help people improve their lives – both the conveniences it’s afforded users and the jobs it’s created for service providers. Rideshare, food delivery and dog walking are just a few of the new services that have shaped our day-to-day routines.

As a communicator in the transportation sector, it is important to stay current with industry trends to remain credible experts in the field. I’m fascinated by ridesharing and how it’s transformed our lives in just the last two to three years. So fascinated, in fact, that I signed up to be a Lyft driver to gain experience from the other side. While I haven’t quit my day job, I have driven enough to understand what it’s like to be a rideshare driver. Here’s what I learned while driving for Lyft:

1. It’s sharpened my skills as a communicator

Every ride is different, which makes for an excellent opportunity to hone my interpersonal communications skills. Upon the start of the ride, a driver has just a few seconds to determine whether or not the rider(s) wants to engage in conversation. Some are extremely chatty and expect you to engage, while others want nothing more than a quiet ride. Some riders might just be shy and will talk if approached.

Figuring this out as efficiently as possible makes for a smooth ride and sometimes  improved compensation – tips! Without being able to see the riders face to face, it can really be a challenge to figure this out quickly. I find this to be incredibly helpful in helping me to read people’s tone and body language – and it’s a skill I can use with my ‘day job’ clients and colleagues.  

2. Company practices affect consumer choices

While savvy riders might compare rates between apps, many simply stick to one preferred app. As a Lyft driver exclusively, I received questions and feedback about Uber and how people disagree with its company policies and actions toward employees. This drives home the importance of corporate reputation management and its importance in future revenues.  

3. Interesting stories – company secrets spilled!

Having driven primarily at night, many of the riders I had were varying degrees of intoxicated. And with each level comes different side effects – the best being the chatty ones. From dating stories to family drama, people with a few drinks in them love to talk. And living in southeast Michigan, there are an abundance of automotive engineers living nearby. With so many young engineers working on exciting new projects, they are keen to share. With just a few dozen rides under my belt, I have been told confidential future product plans from several major automakers. While their secrets are safe with me, they never really know who is listening.

So, a word of caution to communications professionals. Reminders to your employees that they never know who might be within earshot of their conversation should be constant. It could be a journalist looking for their next story!  

For those wondering, no one has vomited in my car – yet.

4. Not a job for everyone

In my experiences – granted, they were mostly late nights – on the rare occasion, I did feel a little uneasy about the passengers in my vehicle. News reports were probably more to blame than anything. And while I do subscribe to the fact that people are inherently good, you just never know what or who you’re going to be giving a ride to. I feel confident about my ability to defend myself in most scenarios, but even the slim chance of something bad happening is enough for me to dissuade most people from taking on this job.

One thing to keep in mind, too, is that the best times to drive are when people are out and about – weekend nights. That alone will turn away many would-be drivers, but if you want to make it worth your while, you must drive at night. The best times for me were Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.

5. It’s a tough living

While I don’t currently rely on on-demand compensation, driving a few shifts helped me realize what it’s like to do so. My recommendation is to not rely on driving as a sole source of income. The ups and downs of rider demand is too unpredictable. Sometimes I would have back-to-back rides for hours on end, while other times it could be 30-45 minutes or more between rides. It is also rather tough on your vehicle, with all the starting, stopping and people getting in and out. Between fuel, tires and other maintenance, the costs to operate a vehicle severely diminish take-home pay.

Understanding the rideshare business from a driver’s perspective gives me an incredible amount of respect for them and a much better comprehension for this business model that is here to stay.

If you’re looking to make a few extra bucks on the side, sharpen your interpersonal communications skills, or just kill some time, driving rideshare might be the perfect side hustle for you.

Steve Diehlman is an account director in Stratacomm’s Detroit office. In case you missed it, Steve recently shared his advice for avoiding workplace burnout (even more important if you’re thinking about picking up a side gig!).