Get Paid to Shop For Others: How Instacart Shoppers Surf the Gig Economy Wave


Side hustles are the lifeblood of so many in today’s world. According to Fortunly, more than one-third or 36% of the U.S. workforce participates in the gig economy either as their primary or secondary jobs. Harnessing the power of the gig economy and gig work is one of the SMARTEST decisions anyone can make to earn extra money with flexible work arrangements, allowing for work on your own schedule.

The pandemic has shifted the U.S. workforce in a new direction with a growing demand for gig workers and customer service staff alike. So, what does that mean for go-getters like you? Well, it means more ways to get in on the gig workforce and to get ahead in today’s economy.

One way is to go grocery shopping. (Yes, we’re serious!) With the rise in popularity of grocery delivery services, now you can make money part-time or full-time by getting PAID to shop…for other people that is!

What is Instacart? 🛒

Instacart is the leading grocery delivery service in North America. Established in June 2012, the app-based online grocery platform has exploded in popularity, especially from the onset of the pandemic. Consumers turned to Instacart to get their groceries delivered to their doorstep, a safer alternative than venturing out to the grocery store. Many have adopted the platform and continue to use the service, so this is certainly a trend that’s here to stay.

Customers order groceries on the Instacart app from popular retailers like Costco, BJs, Aldi, ShopRite, and CVS (the list goes on…), and then “Shoppers” receive the “batches” (or orders) via the Shopper app. Shoppers go to the store, shop the customers’ order, and hand-deliver it to their doorstep. Click, shop, and deliver: who knew getting your groceries could be such a breeze! 😎

Working as an Instacart shopper allows you to shop for groceries at the stores you already know and love while earning money on your own time, with no set hours and no set schedule. I mean, what could be easier money? 🤷

Becoming an Instacart Shopper 🛍

Signing up to become an Instacart shopper is a pretty seamless process: Sign up at the link here and then download the Shopper app. You’ll have to pass a quick background check and fill out a 1099 independent contractor form to get started. Once your background check clears, you’ll be sent an app-connected, Instacart shopper debit card which you’ll use to pay for the grocery orders in-store.

@TonyTheTigersSon | Twenty20

You’ll also have to verify that you have insulated shopping bags to use when picking all of the items in a customer’s batch. A great economical option like these large insulated bags on Amazon (affiliate) for about $12.99 will certainly meet Instacart’s requirements. Oh, and don’t worry: completing your first batch will more than pay for the cost of the bags. These will come in handy when picking frozen or perishable items that you’ll want to make sure STAY that way until you deliver them to the customer.

Then, simply open the Shopper app and see what “On Demand” orders are available near you. You can choose the orders you want to shop, based on payout and location. Slide to accept, get in your car, and head to the store: you’re ready to earn!… Can you tell me about a more flexible side hustle? I think NOT!

How To Make The Most Money with Instacart 💰

The amount of money you can earn depends on several factors. The batch size, location, and time of day can all make a difference as to how much an order pays. Experience and skill level gained through repetition can also increase your earning potential. Batch sizes can range from just a few items to TONS of items. The more batches you complete, the easier it becomes to shop more orders faster and more efficiently, which in turn increases your overall earning potential.

Take a look at some available orders you could be shopping for:

Adam Palasciano | View of Instacart Dashboard with available Batches to accept as a Shopper in the NYC metro area

Now, let’s talk about tips, one of the most important parts of earning money as an Instacart shopper! Customers can preselect a tip when they place their order, but they can also modify the tip up to 24 hours after they receive their delivery. Because tips can make up between 19-27% of your weekly earnings, it’s very important to provide high-quality service to your customers. The best part? You keep 100% of the tips that you receive for each and every batch. Now that’s something to celebrate! 🎉

Check out my personal Shopper earning breakdown below:

Adam Palasciano | View of Weekly Earnings Dashboard

Based on my personal experience as a Shopper, I was able to make between $27-31 per hour part-time, netting me $700-800 per week as a college student. NOT too shabby while you’re still in school! Two additional points to note: adjustments can occur if you accept an order, head to the store, and then the customer cancels the order right before you start shopping. In this case, Instacart credits you $5-10 as the Shopper to compensate you for your time. Additionally, months with holidays, such as December, can be very lucrative times for Shoppers as customers tend to place more and larger orders for their holiday gatherings.

According to The Rideshare Guy, the most efficient and experienced shoppers can earn up to $45 per hour, and sometimes more. There are even experienced shoppers who manage to earn as much as $4,000 per month. Check out this Reddit thread of U.S. based Shoppers sharing their insights on how much they’ve been able to earn:

Consider this formula which I use for my own maximum earning success: Larger orders + locations with a high volume of orders + peak times of the day such as morning or evening = $$$

Now let’s walk through some requirements and tips so you can shop with success in your new gig:

Basic Requirements ☝️

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be eligible to work in the United States
  • Have consistent access to a vehicle
    Have consistent access to and be able to effectively use a recent smartphone (iPhone 6s / Android 5.0 or newer)
  • Be able to lift at least 30 pounds. Some common items that fall into this category are 20 dozen eggs 🥚, 4 gallons of water 🚰, or 30 boxes of butter 🧈!

Some Tips for Success ✅

  • ALWAYS come prepared with PPE (masks, hand sanitizer, etc.) to ensure your safety and the safety of others, both in-store and upon delivery to the customer.
  • USE the messaging feature to communicate with your customer through the order (this usually leads to a higher rating and a better tip!). Starting with a personal greeting message once you start the batch can sometimes make the difference between no tip or a really big tip!
  • NEVER substitute an out-of-stock grocery item with a close or similar alternative unless you message the customer for approval first.

Take a look at How I Get Paid to Shop Plus Learn My Instacart Tips to learn even more tips and tricks!

With the help of Instacart Shopper Steph on the Pedal, find out some additional tips and tricks to optimize your success:

To Sum It Up 🙌

Instacart can be a lucrative side hustle for anyone looking to get ahead, make some extra cash on the side, or simply just be your own boss and earn money on your own time. Once you learn the ropes and process from initial order notification to delivery to the customer’s doorstep, it becomes even easier to shop more orders quickly and efficiently, leading to more profit for you.

So, what are you waiting for? Download the Shopper app today and get started!

Read more: How to Get Paid $22/hr Being a Shipt Shopper