Saturday, February 1, 2020

Door Dashery

If you can't tell by this blog being all over the place, I like a little variety in life. I definitely treat hobbies as though I were running between free samples at the grocery store. Working for a small business I tend to wear a lot of various "hats" from physicist and engineer to proposal writer and program manager to developing software to help expedite data analysis and report generation.

Over the last couple of years I have been fascinated by the concept of the side hustle. That side job you do to earn some extra fun money. Part of this has felt necessary as divorces, even somewhat amicable ones, are expensive and there's a little debt to pay down. Another part of it is pure curiosity and the entrepreneurial challenge.

An example of taking on such a challenge has to do with eBay. I had previously dabbled with selling on eBay, unloading an old stock of CDs and DVDs. Then one day my dad bought an overstock of nail gun parts and wondered if I could sell them. It turns out they sold rather well and with some additional research I found there was a niche for these parts and (actually a starter eBay store) was born. tipsnbits is still very much a micro-business, specializing in no-mar/safety pads for nail guns, but I have added to inventory and am actively looking for growth opportunities trying different products. Some sell well, some I'll probably end up donating or trying my luck at a flea market.

The nice part about is that it takes almost no time to run if I'm busy; maybe an hour or two per week. Occasionally, I go hunting for new items holding onto a few base criteria, but usually it's just shipping and the infrequent reorder. I'd like to see how well I can grow the business and perhaps sell it to add to someone else's store. Or perhaps it will be come a monster success and allow me to retire on easy street. Neither is in my sight yet, but is fun to think about how to get to either realization.

In addition to the adventure I look around for other opportunities. Ultimately, as my main career and supporting the kids and household are of prime importance, these "side gigs" need to have a lot of flexibility. I've been fascinated with Uber/Lyft and the contract carrier idea, but I don't really have the patience to haul people around town. Not to mention I think my brother tried being an Uber driver for a bit and didn't have the best experience. Thus, similar, but different opportunities look interesting; at least to try.

Enter DoorDash. For those who don't know, DoorDash is a meal delivery service run in much the same manner as a ride share service. There's a driver app that tells you where the busy parts of town are. A chunk of the time the area you/I are in isn't busy, but if it is and you have time to drive you select to "Dash", i.e. pick up and make deliveries. The app then directs you to the restaurants to pick up from and the homes to deliver to. If places are extra busy there is additional money to be made.

I thought I'd give DoorDash a try after work last night. I had nowhere to be and liked the idea of a little extra spending money. Also, the area I was working in was "hot" paying an extra $5 per run. I delivered from 6pm until around 7:30. This may seem like a lot of time to get a lot of runs in. I was surprised that by the time I went home I had only made three deliveries.

While my routes were paying decently, between $10 and $18 each, there were some "inefficiencies". First, I found I hurried (within the speed limit...mostly) to the restaurants only to have to wait for the orders to be made. Perhaps there's an art to declining orders for ones that are ready to go, or I'm just too prompt for the food prep. I figure there was 25 to 30 minutes spent waiting for meals to finish being prepared. The other inefficiency was the distance between the restaurant and the customer. Two of the three deliveries were over eight miles from the restaurants. I began to think there must be something special about the food at these places (namely the two Indian restaurants I ran for) that closer ones were being skipped over.

Despite these inconveniences, the driving wasn't bad for making roughly $40. This money is pretax, of course. I had to submit a W-9 as part of the registration. My goal was to cover a local ski lift ticket and I think I succeeded in that. Also, my car got to smell of awesome food. I'll have to make sure I have eaten before delivering next time as, especially the Indian food, made my mouth water. This may present another advantage in that I'll get to maybe learn about some hidden gem restaurants around town. Indeed, that would be handy for going on dates or trying something new with the kids.

I don't see myself Dashing terribly often as life is busy and there are many other things I'd like to try. It is nice to have a quick way to make a few extra dollars if I have some time to kill.

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