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Top 5 Secrets to Earning More with Instacart

Harry Campbell The Rideshare Guy
March 31, 2022

Getting started with Instacart is easy to do, but if you want to really succeed, it pays to learn some secret Instacart success strategies. Follow these tips and you’ll get the most out of being an Instacart shopper.

Buckle has partnered with Harry Campbell, founder of TheRideshareGuy.com, to provide our Members with the very best tips, tricks, and news to help maximize their income as a rideshare and delivery driver.

With the incredible rise in the cost of gas, we need to keep more money in our pockets than ever before. Instacart is a great way to make that extra money and put fewer miles on your car.

However, you need to think about your Instacart shopping strategically. Here are 5 tips that help take you from a $12-15/hour Instacart shopper to a $20-30/hour shopper.

Treat Shopping Like a Job

The best part about gig work is that you don’t have to have a schedule and can do it whenever you have time. However, the worst part about gig work is that you don’t have a set schedule and can do it whenever you have time.

You absolutely can make money just by turning on the app when you feel like it, or when you have a free afternoon with nothing better to do. You can even get a few batches on your way to or from work.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that! However, in order to earn more, it’s best to treat Instacart shopping like a job. Drive during busy days and times, when others aren’t out. Set a schedule for yourself and stick to it as best you can.

You know your market best, so think about when you typically plan your shopping trips, or when you’ve noticed it’s busy in your city. In most cases, that’s weekends (Saturdays and Sundays in particular).

Along with that, you’ll want to drive before big events and holidays, when the big orders are going to come in, such as the week before Thanksgiving.

The best way to make more with Instacart is to treat it not like a side gig but as a job.

Specialize in Only a Few Stores

As you get more experience using the Instacart app, it’s best if you specialize in only a few stores so that you are the most comfortable and familiar with those stores. While it might sound counterintuitive, it actually makes the most sense for your efficiency rate.

By knowing which stores you're best shopping at, it makes it easier when looking at the batches. You can take a look at a request and say “great, that’s X grocery store I’m familiar with. I know where all of those items are and can get this done in about 30 minutes.” If the order request isn’t from one of the handful of stores you shop at, then you just move on right away.

In addition to specializing in specific stores, specialize in specific items. I know some Instacart shoppers will not pick up alcohol orders. They just don’t like dealing with those orders.

Personally, I love alcohol orders because they are typically small batches, sometimes one or two items, and are $10 to $20 for doing very little work. However, if I get an order with even one cosmetic item, I’m out. It would take me 3 days and a miracle to find the right shade of lipstick the customer is ordering.

Start Early

In line with treating this like a job, there is the saying “the early bird gets the worm”. In my area, stores start opening around 7-8 AM, and I can start seeing batches around 6:30 AM.

A lot of Instacart shoppers don’t want to get up early. Instead, they like sleeping in and working longer and later to make money. Personally, I’d rather get up early, make more money in fewer hours, and be home relaxing while everyone else is fighting over batches.

Not only are there typically fewer shoppers out at that time, but a lot of larger orders come in at that time. In my area, older retired people order in the morning, and they typically are easy to communicate with, and are very grateful for the service you’re providing.

Communicate!

The absolute worst thing is when you’re an Instacart customer and all you need are eggs, pancake mix, and syrup, and your shopper only gets the syrup. Some Instacart shoppers are quick to refund an item if the store doesn't have it, and at times that is all you can do.

However, before you press the refund button, try to message the customer and see if there is something else you can get for them in place of the missing item. Maybe it’s a specific flavor they are after, and the other one is “close enough”. Don’t assume. Do try to message the customer and offer solutions and options.

In addition, let them know that you’re working on things, even when you don’t need to. Simple messages like “Just got to the store and am working on your order, I’ll let you know if there are any items unavailable and try to substitute if I can” will go a long way.

Communicating regularly keeps customers happy, and in turn, may increase your tips.

Ask for Help

If you need help, ask for it. If you can’t find an item right away, find someone who works at the store and ask them for help. One time I asked an employee to find one item, and they did half the shopping for me, and in way less time than it would have taken me to do it.

In addition, find groups on social media of other Instacart shoppers and ask what they do to make the gig more efficient and worth your time. Finding others in your area can give you the best tips specific to where you shop to make the most money.

Once you get the hang of Instacart shopping, it could be your new favorite gig! Once you get the hang of a few of your favorite/more popular grocery stores, it’s easy to be in and out quickly and on to earning more money throughout the days and weeks. Use the tips listed above to make shopping easy - and profitable!

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Harry Campbell is a former Boeing Aerospace Engineer and founder of TheRideshareGuy.com, a blog, podcast and Youtube channel for ridehail drivers and other gig workers and author of, The Rideshare Guide. Over the years, Harry has covered the gig economy industry closely and talked to tens of thousands of drivers and gig workers about their experience on the road.

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