One of the things I was looking into between jobs was being a Doordash Dasher to get some money to soften the job gap. I had tried it for a few evenings here and there, but I really got the chance to test it out during a couple weeks in which I was transitioning between jobs. This post is not sponsored, and I only say that because it might otherwise seem like it at a couple points.

The main screen of the Dasher app, before a dash is started. Note how the city is divided into multiple areas.

Delivery in DoorDash works generally like this: Dashers have an app (separate from the consumer DoorDash app for ordering food) they will have turned on whenever they are working, which will continuously search for orders. If DoorDash recognizes you as the closest person to a restaurant that just had an order placed, you will receive a popup with some order details, such as the total distance to drive, the restaurant you’re going to, and the money that you stand to make. You also receive a text message with some of the same info.

As a Dasher, you have the freedom to accept or decline any order. There are a few different key performance-related stats to pay attention to, but you won’t be booted off the platform for a low acceptance rate. It is nice to accept all that you can, but sometimes it’s just not favorable or even possible for one reason or another. In that case, the order will just go to the next eligible Dasher.

The payment for accepting a delivery may change – it may go up (I don’t think I’ve ever seen it go down, nor do I know that it’s possible). The payment consists of base pay from DoorDash (about $3-8 depending on distance) plus the tip from the customer. If you get an order that seems like it’s low… it might be that the customer didn’t tip!

Given the above, you can pretty quickly learn that some deliveries are less ‘worth it’ than others. While customers can tip after delivery, I have not noticed it happen yet. If you decline a delivery, it will be passed on to the next closest dasher. If you let the offer sit for 45 seconds without accepting, it will also be declined.

There are also a couple alternative types of deliveries you can get. Sometimes you can get a double order, where you pick up from one or two different restaurants near each other for two people who are more or less in the same general direction. Combining deliveries is usually a good idea, if you can handle it. You’ll typically earn more in less time. Sometimes Order #2 will come in when you are en route to the first restaurant, instead of when you accept the first order.

There are also offers for grocery delivery, where you pick up a number of orders from a location (like Walmart) and drop them off at customer’s houses. And just today, I got an email introducing shopping orders at CVS and Walgreens – you go and buy a list of items yourself, then deliver them.

Once you accept the delivery, you’ll head to the restaurant to pick it up. You’ll head in and follow the restaurant’s instructions (if present in the app) to claim the food. Usually you won’t have to pay, but for those rare cases that you do, DoorDash provides you with a ‘red card’, a special debit card mailed to you after your first delivery which is basically DoorDash paying on your behalf. I have used this exactly once in my 66 deliveries to date. In any case, the app will ask you to confirm that all the items are present in the order. Many restaurants are sealing their bags with stickers in the current COVID situation, so you might only be able to use your best guess. If there is a receipt attached to the bag, use that to verify contents – I have caught a couple of discrepancies thanks to the receipt.

After pickup, it’s delivery time! You’ll now be shown the customer’s address, so head there. You can open up directions in Google Maps or Waze (on Android), whichever you prefer. Make sure to read the instructions from the customer about delivery. Some might want you to ring the doorbell, others will have you avoid the doorbell, etc. Or maybe you need a gate code for an apartment complex. If you’re in doubt, you can contact the customer for clarifications, or keep them in the loop about any delays.

Usually you would leave the food at the door and take a picture that will be sent to the customer – a contact-free delivery. Then, you’ll see how much you earned for the delivery, but this time you’ll also see the breakdown of what was the base pay and what was the customer tip. Over time, I noticed the amount of money I made from base pay and the tip amount is just about the same.

In a dash, you can make as many deliveries as you have time for. You will have a end time that you specify, but if you want to go longer, you can extend the time in the app at any point.

Sometimes there will be bonuses in the form of either peak pay times or challenges. In peak pay times, which may be known beforehand or happen out of the blue, all deliveries made during specified times and areas will have a bonus added to it ($1 to $3, in my experience). This usually happens during busy periods such as Friday nights.

Challenges seem to be newer. They give you a bonus if you make a certain number of deliveries in a certain timeframe. I have seen morning challenges where you make 4-5 deliveries in a neighborhood for a $15 bonus, and I’ve also seen whole-week challenges, active for the entire city, challenging you to REALLY commit with 90 deliveries (again, in one week, which would amount to a full-time job) for a $120 bonus.

So what do I like about DoorDash? The simple premise of being a deliveryman that sets my own rules. Thanks to DoorDash, I’m able to make a bit of money between jobs with very little fuss. Signup is simple, and you can be up and running in as little as maybe fifteen minutes. I get to drive around town and see places I don’t get to see, and learn more about the area I live. Maybe find a new restaurant or two to try myself! At peak periods (mealtimes, of course) you can get $20 an hour or maybe even more if things go favorably. Again, stick to busy restaurant areas when finding deliveries, and if you can schedule your workday to be active during breakfast, lunch, and dinner/late evening (taking breaks in between), you can maximize your earnings.

Ratings screen for a Dasher. The top four ratings are based only on your last 100 deliveries.

As for things I don’t like: sometimes you just have deliveries that will not be delivered on time, and it isn’t your fault. Sometimes the restaurant runs late, or there’s traffic, and there’s no way you could have been better. Early on, this would be a source of stress for me. But over time, I’ve learned to give less attention to the ‘deliver/pickup by’ times, and my DoorDashing experience has improved significantly. Also, the Dasher app for me has several problems or places to improve. For one, since this is something you’ll operate in your car, it can benefit from mobile optimization (larger buttons, think Android Auto phone app), automatic voice readout of delivery info, voice commands like accept/decline, things like that. For me, choosing to text a customer does not work and freezes the app, which seems like something that should be fixed stat.

Overall though, DoorDash is a good way to sneak in some extra revenue in a nice way. Food/grocery delivery buisness is growing as lives get busier, so it’s not a bad gig. I’d definitely consider doing it again if I find myself with time to spare.