Owen Lindstrom knows all the ins and outs of being a driver for food delivery apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash after spending 100 straight days delivering food for 12 hours a day. The 22-year-old from the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, shared what he learned with TODAY after documenting every day of his journey on TikTok. He earned $20,012 in 100 days, averaging $20.09 an hour after driving an average of 136 miles per day. He took home $17,615 after subtracting expenses for gas and minor car repairs while also earning about $9,500 in tax deductions because of all his mileage. This is his story.
When I started my 100 days as a delivery driver, I knew I could make more money if I really went after it. My initial goal was $25,000, but I realized pretty quickly that wasn’t going to happen.
There’s definitely a learning curve. You don’t know what to do at first, and there’s nobody to tell you what to do because you don't have a manager like you would at a normal job.
The apps give you instructions. At first it's really weird, but then you’re three orders in and you're like, "I got this."
Here's what I learned.
Work in a heavily populated area
You have to live in or near a city to make enough money to make it work.
The Bay Area is one of the most profitable areas I’ve heard of. I've heard of people making $300 a day there, and I only had one or two $300 days. Your earnings are dependent on where you live. If you live in a small town, there's not as much order volume, and not as many orders to choose from, plus people probably aren’t throwing around money or tipping big. (Speaking of tipping — be aware of tip baiting, which I discuss here.)
Be kind to the employees working the front of restaurants
Delivery drivers are seen as taking tips away from the front-of-house workers like hostesses and servers. The customer is tipping the driver instead of them, and they can get frustrated with us. (The restaurants themselves are not mad because we’re providing a service.)
I've asked restaurant workers how it's been dealing with delivery drivers. Some say that drivers will shove their phones in their faces and take their tips. I was really friendly and built relationships with the people in the front of restaurants. They usually have no problems if you're polite, but they are bothered by the bad drivers.
You can get anxiety when you’re sitting there waiting for the food, and that anxiety is prevalent among every single driver. Some don’t know how to control their emotions and start yelling at the front-of-house staff. I think in the future there will be a better vetting process for drivers, but right now they just need drivers all over the place.
Most customers are nice!
In my area, people are so appreciative of drivers. I’ve had a handful of people set out snacks outside, say thank you and leave a huge tip.
I went to a Pizza Hut once to pick up an order and I forgot the wings. The woman had already tipped me really well, and when I realized my mistake, I went back to get the wings. She said, "You didn't have to do that," and gave me another $5 cash tip. She said, "Your time is worth something," and that was just so sweet to do that for a $20 order of pizza and wings.
The only nightmare customer I can think of was when I had a double order for two different people for DoorDash. I delivered the first one, and when I showed up to deliver the second order, it was this guy who had been watching the GPS and saw me go down the hill to drop the first order. He said, "I hope my crunchy tacos aren’t soft tacos!" He was so frustrated with me. I understand it, but there's only so much I can control.
Be aware of your surroundings
There were only a few instances where I was worried about my safety while delivering orders, and I think it was mostly in my head.
That said, someone commented on one of my videos and said she once left her car with the engine running to drop an order, which is something a lot of delivery people do, and somebody jacked her car with her right there.
It's definitely important to be vigilant — and maybe carry pepper spray.
The waiting is the hardest part
Working for delivery apps takes a lot of patience.
Waiting for orders really sucks because you have this looming anxiety of, "I need to get this order out now if I’m going to make any money today." At a sit-down restaurant, you're typically going to wait a little bit longer, but those jobs pay a little more.
It helps to be extroverted
Some drivers have massive social anxiety and don’t want to have to interact with people. They don’t have the bravado to say at a restaurant, "Where’s my food? Can you get it ready please?" I don’t have that problem — I’m extremely extroverted, which helps.
It can be intimidating to start this job. It takes a certain kind of person to stick it out.
Quick tips if you're ready to give it a shot
- Don't drive a brand-new car
I drove a 2008 Toyota Corolla with 240,000 miles on it. I suggest getting an old car with good gas mileage.
- Take the smaller orders that are a shorter distance away
Orders that are around $7 or $8 and take around 15 minutes — you can do three or four of those in an hour, compared to one large order that is farther away.
- Use a hot bag
They cost less than $15 and keep the food warm. You want to keep the satisfaction level high for customers or you could get deactivated by the apps.
- Don't drive tired — and keep weather in mind
It's just not worth the risk to drive when you're tired, especially if weather conditions aren't optimal.
I haven't delivered in snow before, but I have delivered in slick conditions and heavy rain. Be vigilant.
- Invest in a set of tools for small car repairs
When you're turning your car on and off 20 times a day, you may need to make some repairs.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. As told to Scott Stump.