The gig economy is here to stay, as more and more workers turn to the flexibility of contract work to help fill in the gaps or to earn their entire income.
Instacart is one of the most popular gigs out there, with hundreds of thousands of shoppers all over North America. It’s easy to get started, but going into it cold can be surprising.
Don’t be surprised! Here are 15 things to know before becoming an Instacart shopper; keep these in mind, and you should be on your way to earning in no time.
15 Things To Know Before Becoming An Instacart Shopper In 2023
1. There Are Two Types Of Instacart Shoppers
The first thing you should be aware of before becoming an Instacart shopper is that there are two types of shoppers, and one is more prevalent than the other.
The full-service shopper shops and delivers batches (“batches” being the term shoppers use to describe orders).
They are not considered employees and are instead independent contractors (more about that below).
While they receive pay once a week, they are also able to use the Instant Cashout feature on the Shopper app and pay themselves as often as they like.
On the other hand, in-store shoppers only shop the batches for pick-up. They bag the items and then place them in the appropriate areas/coolers.
They are considered employees, make an hourly wage, get paid weekly and do not have access to the Instant Cashout feature.
My understanding of the two roles is that the in-store shoppers appear to be phasing out.
Instacart has started offering shop-only batches to full-service shoppers, so they might be moving toward ending the in-store shopper role.
2. You Must Be 18 Before Becoming An Instacart Shopper
There aren’t a lot of qualifications needed to become an Instacart shopper, but the age minimum is significant.
Unfortunately, most high schoolers aren’t able to make gig work their after-school job, because the age minimum is 18.
You must be a legal adult in order to shop for Instacart, and it also makes sense when you consider that in some states, shoppers handle alcohol.
3. Instacart Shoppers Need Special Car Insurance
If you want to do things right when you start shopping for Instacart, you should level-up your car insurance.
It’s not illegal to use your vehicle for ridesharing purposes without having the specific coverage for it, but your claim could be wholly denied – meaning you’re on the hook financially.
If your current insurer doesn’t offer this type of coverage, you may have to switch to a company that does.
And if in accident occurs while you are driving for Instacart and you don’t have ridesharing coverage and you try to lie about the circumstances, you’re committing insurance fraud.
4. You Will Most Likely Not Be An Employee As An Instacart Shopper
As I mentioned further up, the vast majority of Instacart shoppers are full-service, meaning that they are independent contractors.
With Instacart cutting nearly in-store shopping positions in 2021, it looks like a slight shift toward full-service only positions could be occurring.
Thus, if you’re starting with Instacart post-2021, you will have to learn how to manage your time and finances as a gig worker and not a company employee.
5. Instacart Shopper Hours Are Flexible
Instacart shopping positions have always had traditional 9-5s beat.
Whether you’re looking for something to fill in the gaps in your income, need to make a quick buck or want to try a different rideshare gig, Instacart shopping allows for it.
There is no minimum quota to meet time-wise each day or week; you can sign in and out as you please.
You can also shop in spurts, take time off from it and then go back to it, provided you keep your Shopper card intact.
6. Keep Track Of Your Instacart Shopper Earnings For Taxes
I mentioned earlier that Instacart’s full-service shoppers are contract workers.
Contract workers/independent contractors/gig workers pay taxes differently than the fully-employed.
Nothing gets taken out of their pay; so come tax season, gig workers owe the full amount of federal, state and local taxes.
That’s why it’s important, especially if you plan on shopping for Instacart a lot, to at least have a ballpark idea of how much you are going to owe the following year.
If you don’t keep track (and, best case scenario, put money aside), you might end up with a shocking tax bill – in the thousands of dollars, if you were a successful shopper!
7. You Don’t Really Have A Uniform As An Instacart Shopper
From what I can glean from real, actual Instacart shoppers, there isn’t much of a dress code – you can wear pretty much whatever you want!
Some people received a t-shirt during onboarding, but some did not; more reliably, Instacart welcomes new hires with a branded lanyard.
Even if you eschew the t-shirt (I hear it’s a pretty obnoxious shade of green), the lanyard is a great idea, especially if you attach a keychain wallet with your Shopper card.
8. But Instacart Shoppers Do Need Insulated Bags
One must-have when Instacart shopping is insulated bags.
You can purchase them from Instacart for $20-30; rather than collect payment upfront, Instacart ships them to you first.
When you hit $30 in earnings from batches, the company then withdraws the money from your account to cover the price of the bags.
You don’t have to buy the Instacart bags, though; if you already have insulated bags, use them! If you can find them cheaper (Target, Walmart, Costco, etc.) buy them!
9. Instacart Shoppers Get To Skip The Lines
If you’re worried about shopping during peak hours and making your delivery on time, don’t panic.
Instacart shoppers get to skip waiting in the lines for the most part.
Some stores have dedicated lanes where they can check out faster, while others even let the shoppers come early or stay late.
10. Your Instacart Shopper Rating Is Super Important For Success
At the end of every Instacart batch is a rating/review, and when you’re the customer, you might not realize how important that is.
Shoppers do, though. That’s because the rating can have a direct effect on your success as a shopper.
How does that work?
Simply, the higher your rating, the earlier your access to new batches when they roll in.
If you have a lower rating, you’re only getting the batches that haven’t been picked by the better-rated shoppers.
And you can bet they’re not turning down the batches with major earning potential.
Good customer service, then, is an absolute must when shopping with Instacart. Next up is one way you can improve your rating.
11. Opening With An Instacart Shopper Greeting Is A Plus
Just a simple greeting can make all the difference when you’re shopping for Instacart.
When you accept a batch, many shoppers find that the best thing to do first is say hello, introduce yourself and let them know you want to make them happy with their order.
That might include telling them you’re happy to consult with them on replacements or reminding them to be sure and rate the order after you’re done.
If they don’t respond, no biggie; they’re just not interested in communicating. The important thing is that you reached out and let them know you are there for them.
12. Instacart Shoppers Can See Tips Before Accepting Batches
You don’t have to accept every batch that comes your way; rather, you can choose which ones make the most sense for you, especially when it comes to distance.
But aside from distance, a major factor in deciding which batches to accept will always be the tips.
Luckily, you can see them, along with all your potential earnings for that order, before accepting.
13. You Can Reset Your Instacart Shopper Location As Needed
One of the best things about Instacart’ apps, both for shoppers and customers, is that your location isn’t fixed.
As a customer, you can add addresses, and as a shopper, you can change your ZIP.
You may find that you need to this because the batches in your immediate area have been slower to come in.
Shoppers are fully able to branch out; for example, if you normally shop the suburbs, you can try switching to a city ZIP and seeing if there are more batches that way.
14. Instacart Shoppers Should Never Give Out Personal Info To Customers
The Instacart Shopper app makes it possible to text and call without giving customers your personal information.
Stick to the app; there are scams that make it possible for criminals to get access to your Shopper account and wipe out your funds, but only if they have your real phone number.
If your customer comes up with a flimsy excuse or is weirdly persistent about you texting or calling them off the app, that’s a big red flag.
15. Leave Your Partners, Friends and Kids At Home As An Instacart Shopper
Unfortunately, unlike some of the other rideshare gigs, Instacart does not allow their shoppers to have people tagging along, whether it’s a friend or a relative.
I would venture that this is mainly this is for safety and liability reasons.
After all, an extra body in the vehicle that you are driving for work-related purposes could amount to an extra lawsuit on Instacart’s hands if something were to happen.
Becoming an Instacart shopper means committing a lot of new information to memory, but if you keep at it, before long it’ll become second nature.
The faster you learn the ins and outs of shopping for Instacart, the better your chances of earning money every single day that you “punch in.”