How to Become an Instacart Shopper (Earn $50 to $1,000+ Per Month)

One of the first side hustles I ever tried was driving for Uber.

As much as I enjoyed meeting new people and learning new areas in my city, there were many times I wished I could earn the same amount of money without having to drive strangers around in my car. After a long day of work, navigating small talk with strangers wasn’t always how I wanted to spend my evening.

If you can relate, then becoming an Instacart shopper might be a good side hustle for you.

What Is Instacart Shopping?









$11-$13/hour

Pay According to Glassdoor. Pay varies.










DollarSprout Rating Easy, flexible way to earn






Instacart is a grocery delivery service. Shoppers can work as independent contractors fulfilling orders and delivering them to customers or part-time employees preparing orders for customer pick-up. You can choose your own hours and work times that fit your schedule.



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Pros

  • You can sign up and get started quickly
  • Flexibility; work times that fit your schedule
  • Can work as an independent contractor or part-time employee
  • Full-service shoppers keep 100% of tips
  • Earn extra for referring friends
  • Weekly pay




Cons

  • Need access to your own car to be an independent contractor
  • Must be able to lift and carry heavy groceries
  • Must pass a background check











Founded in 2012, Instacart makes it easy for people to get groceries, personal care items, and even pet products delivered to their door. And Instacart shoppers make it possible.

In-store shoppers work as part-time employees of Instacart. They work in one store at a time to prepare and stage orders for pick-up. Shifts are scheduled in advance, and you can work up to 29 hours per week. Full-service shoppers work as independent contractors. In this flexible role, you choose the orders you take. You’ll shop for the orders and deliver them directly to the customer’s house.

How Does Instacart Work?

Whether you decide to work as an in-store or full-service shopper, you’ll start by downloading the Instacart shopper app. You’ll need to create a profile, confirm your cell phone number, pass a background check, and verify that you meet the app’s minimum requirements (18 or older, able to lift 40 pounds, and eligible to work in the U.S.).

After that, you’ll choose whether you want to work as a full-service or in-store shopper.

Full-service shopping

Requirements:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • Eligibility to work in the U.S. or Canada
  • A smartphone with Android 5.0 or later, iOS 9 or later
  • A functioning, registered vehicle
  • Vehicle insurance, in accordance with local laws
  • Can lift 30+ pounds
  • Following Instacart’s food safety policies

how much does instacart payAs a full-service shopper, you’ll take orders from customers via the app, go to the grocery store, find and purchase the products, and then deliver them to the customer’s home.

Instacart will give you an estimate of how much you can expect to earn from each order. They’ll also provide a projected estimate of what they think you’ll earn for the week. Earnings for each order depend on the number and types of items, distance you have to drive, and effort involved.

To be eligible, you must have your own car or reliable access to a vehicle. You’ll be paid for each order you deliver and, unlike in-store shoppers, you can receive tips from customers. You get to keep 100% of the tips you earn.

With the opportunity to earn tips, working as a full-service shopper can be more lucrative than in-store shopping, but the income potential depends on the number of orders available in your area. Since this is an independent contractor role, you’ll also need to set aside some of your earnings for taxes.

Paying for your orders

When you sign up to be a full-service shopper, Instacart will send you a company debit card. You’ll use this to pay for your orders. The company pre-approves an amount based on each batch you accept, so you don’t have to worry about running out of funds or having to pay for anything out of pocket.

In-store shopping

Requirements:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • Eligibility to work in the U.S. or Canada
  • A smartphone with Android 5.0 or later, iOS 9 or later
  • Can lift 30+ pounds
  • Following Instacart’s food safety policies

In-store shoppers receive customer orders, locate all the products in the store, and bag them for the customer to pick up. You don’t have to deliver the groceries to the customer’s home, so you don’t need access to a vehicle.

As an in-store shopper, you’ll be a part-time employee of Instacart. This position requires an interview, and you’ll need to attend training sessions before you can start scheduling shifts. You’ll also need to be available to work at least 15 to 20 hours per week. Schedules are set weekly based on your availability, and you’ll be paid at the end of each week.

One benefit of in-store shopping is that you can take advantage of Instacart’s retirement and commuting benefits. You’re also paid a set hourly rate, which makes it easier to predict your income.

Getting Paid with Instacart

Instacart shoppers receive payment weekly via direct deposit. Full-service shoppers have the option to use Instant Cashout after completing their first five batches. Instant Cashout will transfer your earnings to a debit card so you don’t have to wait a week to receive payment. You need at least $5 in earnings to request Instant Cashout, and you can use it up to five times per day.

The amount you earn with Instacart depends on the role type you choose (in-store or full-service shopper), your location, and how many orders you complete.

In-store shoppers have a set hourly rate, which you’ll find in your offer letter when you first sign up. You’ll also have a set schedule each week based on your personal availability and can work up to 29 hours per week. According to Glassdoor, in-store shoppers make an average of $13 per hour.[1] Assuming a minimum of 15 hours per week, that’s $195 per week, pre-tax.

Full-service shopper pay is more difficult to predict. Instacart guarantees a minimum of $5 per delivery-only batch and $7 for shop and deliver batches. Glassdoor lists an average hourly pay of $11.[2] However, experienced shoppers suggest you can increase your Instacart earnings by working during peak hours and being selective about the batches you choose. One shopper used these tips to earn $4,500 in just two months of using the app.

What New Instacart Shoppers Should Know

Any side hustle can be shaky at the start. Instacart Shopper Brett Holzhauer, who’s used the app with his wife to make thousands per month, says to get the most out of shopping with Instacart, you have to communicate with your customers. 

“Be sure to be attentive and warm to the customer inside the app,” he said. “Some customers are very relaxed about their groceries, while others are very particular. For the ones that are particular, they will be more incentivized to tip with good customer service.”

Scott Henderson, Instacart shopper and owner of SimpliFinances, offers a financial tip: track your miles. As an independent contractor, you can deduct mileage expenses from your earnings to decrease your taxes.

Another strategy he uses is to pass up on smaller orders. “If an order is small, you don’t have to take it,” said Henderson. “If you’re busy with many orders, the smaller orders can get passed on to other shoppers, and you can get the bigger orders that come from Costco, for example. Bigger orders equal bigger tips.”

Downsides to Shopping with Instacart

Instacart receives largely positive reviews from shoppers. However, there are a few downsides to consider.

Limited direction for beginners. Some users report not knowing how to use the prepaid debit card for their first order. This may result in a lower hourly rate until you get used to the app and payment process.

Unrealistic customer expectations. As with any job that involves working with people, you will have the occasional difficult customer. Some Instacart shopper reviews note receiving negative feedback for things out of their control, like out of stock items. The app allows you to communicate with customers about substitutions, but not all users are responsive.

Holzhauer says this is the biggest drawback of shopping with Instacart. Shoppers message customers through the app to work out replacements if an item is out of stock. “This takes more time in the store, and working with the customer to ensure they get want they want or need,” said Holzhauer. “But good customer service can result in great tips.”

Low tips. According to some shoppers, Instacart’s suggested tip starts at 5%. So if you have a larger order of $100, you may only receive a $5 tip for shopping, bagging, and delivering that order unless the user chooses to increase the default amount. 

Some orders simply aren’t worth it. It’s important to do your due diligence before accepting a batch. A $20 order that requires you to drive 30 miles round-trip may not be worth the time and gas required.

Instacart Shopper Review in Summary

The number one question with any side hustle: Is Instacart worth your time?

“Absolutely,” Holzhauer said. “It’s hard to say [how much you can earn] as tipping, pricing, and markets vary. But I would estimate with part-time effort, you can make $1,000/month with no issue.”

Henderson agrees that it’s a worthwhile pursuit. “Depending on your area, you may have more orders than you can handle,” he said. However, what you earn isn’t necessarily what you get to keep. “You have to factor in the cost and the miles on your car,” said Henderson. “However, you can easily make ~$20 an hour even after you factor in costs.” 

With numbers like that, shopping for Instacart is a gig economy jobs worth trying.

Working as a full-service shopper is a great option if you want to earn some extra money, need the flexibility, and can’t dedicate a minimum of 15 hours each week to the role. If you’re looking for more steady work, then in-store shopping is probably your better option.

Either way, Instacart is a legitimate way to earn extra money to put toward your goals, whether you’re paying off debt, saving toward your emergency fund, or just looking for extra spending cash.

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