Imagine making your own hours and being your own boss. All it takes is a U.S. driver’s license and a mid-sized car to start making $18-25 an hour! Sound too good to be true? We have the good, the bad and the ugly to starting a side hustle with Amazon Flex.
The Current Job Market
While once upon a time you would start and end your career with the same company, research shows that the average American will hold 10 different jobs before the age of 40 and that number is projected to grow.
Job security is often hard to find in the U.S. labor market where more and more positions are being outsourced for cheap labor overseas. In 2017, The United States had 1.8 million people in the workforce earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 or less.
A New Labor Market
While many are earning a lower wage, the way that Americans want to spend their money is starting to change. Instead of preferring to shop in a brick and mortar store, many consumers are choosing to shop for their goods online.
While many consumers are preferring to buy items such as toys, games, and books online, big-ticket items such as automobiles and electronics are more often bought in-store.
Amazon boasted $177.9 Billion in sales in 2017, a 31 percent increase over 2016. Amazon has invested in its business, including an effort to streamline its warehouse distribution and was still able to increase their shares more than 70 percent.
That type of growth is ideal for anyone interested in working with the retail giant. U.S. residents with a valid license and midsize sedan have the ability to make up to four times the minimum wage while working around their schedule.
What is Amazon Flex?
Amazon Flex is an opportunity where individuals sign up as independent contractors to deliver for anything and everything Amazon sells. Similar to Uber, you will use your own car to operate your business through an app, but unlike Uber, you are delivering goods and not people for the world’s largest online store.
How Does it Work?
One of the best parts about Amazon Flex is the ability for almost anyone to find a position delivering for them. All you need to start working with Amazon is:
- A valid U.S. driver’s license.
- Must be at least 21 years old.
- Will need to complete a background check.
- You must have access to a vehicle that is a mid-sized sedan or larger. If you drive a truck, it must have an enclosed bed to protect the packages from the elements.
- Amazon Prime orders can be made in smaller cars.
- Some cities allow bicycles to be used for Flex delivery. In order to qualify the bike must be in good working condition with a basket and helmet.
The areas in which driving positions are available are constantly changing so check the Amazon Flex site often to see if there is availability in your area.
Once you determine if there are open positions in your area, you need to download the Amazon Flex app.
In order to download the app you need to have:
For Android users
- An Android 4.4 or newer
- 2 or more GB of RAM memory
- Camera with flash
- GPS location services
- Sim card
For iPhone Users
- iPhone 5 or newer
- IOS 10.3 or higher
Driving With Amazon Flex
Once you have downloaded the app, you can sign in with your Amazon account or create a new Amazon account to get started. Setting up your account will include a personal photo to identify yourself as an Amazon Flex delivery driver and a background check needs to be completed.
Amazon Flex: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
While Amazon Flex seems like an opportunity that is too good to miss, like any employment, there are pros and cons. Thoroughly researching the opportunity is the best way to determine if delivering for Amazon is the right position for you.
Let’s take a moment to break down all the benefits that come with this opportunity. While the biggest may just be the fact that you are your own boss, there are other positives to a job on the road.
An Opportunity for (almost) Everyone
There are many benefits to working for Amazon Flex. One of the biggest benefits is the fact that Amazon Flex is open to any licensed driver over the age of 21. That means that students or those who may have failed to finish school have the opportunity to work for the online retail giant. Getting a foot in the door with Amazon through this opportunity could also lead to others within the company. Amazon has recently upped their minimum wage to $15 for employees. So while this is a contractor position, it could potentially lead to open positions with a company that pays more than double the federal minimum wage.
Set Your Own Hours
Amazon Flex also allows its independent contractors to set their own hours and availability. Unlike many minimum wage positions where evening and weekend work is mandatory, you are able to work when and for how long you want.
Amazon Flex is ideal for students who want the ability to pick up extra money while away at school.
It is also ideal for those who may be unable to find full-time work and want to supplement part-time hours.
A Positive Work Environment
Working in your car also means that you are working in an environment where you are comfortable. You are able to select your music, eat or drink and dress any way you feel comfortable while working. Working alone means that don’t have to deal with annoying co-workers, distracting bosses or endless meetings. It’s up to you to set the mood for your workday.
Get to Know Your Neighbors
Delivering with Amazon Flex also allows you to get to know the areas around you. You will quickly learn your Flex delivery area to become more and more efficient (and make more deliveries faster) as time goes on.
Get a Workout In
While this job means lots of time driving your car, you also need to work! Lifting boxes and climbing stairs are wonderful exercises and a way to become more fit while earning extra money.
Amazon pays its Flex workers twice a week through direct deposit. You don’t have to worry about late paychecks or driving to the bank to deposit your money. Everything is done for you automatically.
You know the old saying, ‘when something sounds too good to be true it usually is?’ Well, while Amazon Flex sounds like an amazing opportunity, it is certainly not right for everyone. Here are all the points that make this position less than ideal.
Not Suitable for Stay at Home Moms
While this may initially sound like the perfect opportunity to make a little extra cash during nap time, Amazon discourages its Flex Drivers from bringing passengers along for the ride. Not only are drivers often away from the vehicle for long periods when picking up their packages from the pick-up depots, they are also not supposed to have any passengers speak to the customers. While this seems like it could be the ideal gig to marry work and family life, babies are definitely not to be on board.
No Pets Allowed
Even furry friends should not be along for the ride. Long absences from the vehicle make taking your pooch along for the ride a no-no. In fact, only service dogs are encouraged.
No Paid Training
Training to be an Amazon Flex driver is delivered through a series of videos available on the app which you will not be paid to watch. Despite the fact that you are expected to watch 17 videos online to prepare for your first day, many still find the process confusing and barcodes hard to read when they get started. There is no on the job training. Check out this real review from an Amazon Flex Driver on her first day.
Delivering to Bad Areas
While your customers are protected through a background check and photo identification, you have no such protections in place. Drivers are expected to deliver to any neighborhood regardless of whether you feel safe in that space. In addition, many deliveries require a signature so you are further opening yourself to potential danger by stepping inside an apartment building or on a porch or stoop in a potentially dangerous area.
While driving around in your car for a few hours may seem relaxing, Amazon Flex drivers are often operating under high stress. Drivers have reported short windows in which to complete their deliveries often in unfamiliar areas. Many employees have also commented that while they may be hired for a few hours to complete their deliveries, it often takes longer.
An Imperfect App
Work through Amazon Flex all happens on their online app. Once downloaded, drivers are able to set their ability and then look for available ‘blocks’ (a set number of hours to work) in their area. Once they have signed up for a block shift, they will receive instructions on their pick up point, and the route to take for deliveries. Unfortunately, many users have reported bugs with the app such as the app not working or having to reboot and incorrect directions from the GPS causing unnecessary turnarounds.
Competition for Assignments
Drivers must sign-up for blocks using their app. While the job is considered a part-time position, some independent contractors have reported being scheduled for a substantially higher workload than requested, while others maintain that the competition for blocks is so stiff that some go to insane lengths to get a leg up on the competition. Some reports indicate that drivers will try to book blocks in the middle of the night so there is less competition, while others will park outside the pick-up depot so their GPS will signal they are ready to start work immediately. Others rely on external devices that mimic the swiping of the fingers to get ahead of the competition without hurting their hands.
While Amazon Flex may be a great option for employment for some, others can find that they are actually making much less money than the promise hourly range. Let’s take a closer look at some of the reported ugly sides to this side gig.
No Money for Gas
Working with your vehicle means that for every mile you are driving, you are also paying money to be there. Many fail to consider the cost of operating their vehicle– from gas and tolls to wear and tear– before taking the open positions. Amazon does not pay for any of these expenses and they are the responsibility of the driver. Those with fully electric cars also need to consider the amount of time it will take to charge their vehicle and whether they will be able to complete a longer block shift without stopping to plug their vehicle in.
As an independent contractor, you are not considered an employee. Any benefit that a normal Amazon employee may be allowed, such as sick days or health benefits are not extended to you. In fact, failure to show up for work can result in termination and the inability to work for Amazon in any capacity ever again. Whether or not this position is right for you could blow your chances to ever work with the online retailer.
Unlike ride share jobs like Lyft and Uber, Amazon Flex drivers can spend up to an hour during a four-hour block driving back and forth to the warehouse to pick up more packages or drop off missed deliveries. In contrast, Uber and Lyft drivers are shown as ready to work as soon as they have dropped off their fare and can idle close to home waiting for their next assignment. Does it sound like you might prefer to pick up people instead of packages? Check out our Uber driver partner best practices.
Tax Time Crunch
While Amazon Flex offers online training to learn their delivery system, there is no support for their drivers to figure out how to budget for tax time or track their expenses. Drivers who fail to put aside money for taxes (it is the individual’s responsibility as they are a contractor and not an employee) can find themselves owing a large amount come tax time. If you are not tracking your expenses, the government will only see the amount that you are paid for each black worked, and not the amount you needed to spend in gas and tolls. Not keeping track of this can cost you big time.
No Guarantee for Hours
Hours and availability for work vary and this is not a position where you can count on a steady paycheck or income. While it can work as a side hustle, it can’t be counted on as regular income.
Less Pay than you Think
While $18-25 an hour sounds like a high paying position, many drivers found they were making less than minimum wage once they factored in their expenses. The high cost of gas, coupled with tolls, wear and tear on your vehicle and shifts that can often end before your deliveries do all add up to a lower bottom line. Tracking apps for Mileage such as MileIQ are necessary.
While Amazon Flex seems like the perfect opportunity, in reality, it is a job. Not only is it a job, but it is also one where you are not considered an employee. Instead, this is a position where you are classified as a contractor, which is a very important distinction. As a contractor, you have more responsibilities to keep track of your expenses and put aside money for your taxes. You can’t just show up and work, you need to track and save. You also are not guaranteed a set amount of hours or even a set hourly rate. Traffic, weather, and poor directions are all factors that can affect how much you will be paid.
While the Amazon Flex program may not be perfect, it could lead to other opportunities. Amazon is a fast growing retail giant who pays their employees a minimum of $15 an hour. Showing a good work ethic as a contractor could lead to a better position in the future. It could also lead to another opportunity as a delivery driver within a company that would offer benefits and full-time hours, such as the U.S. Postal Service.
All in all, it seems that the Amazon Flex program may be a good way to earn a little extra cash in the gig economy with a little flexibility. And we mean a little extra. Right now it seems that the program is highly competitive. You need to track your expenses to make sure the job is worth your time. It may be best to look at this as a short-term hustle or a stepping stone to a better position with Amazon.
Speaking of Amazon, check out our look into the best Amazon warehouse deals!