Harry here. The life of a rideshare driver has a lot of ups and downs and unfortunately, December and January have always been slow. So today, RSG contributor Christian Perea gives you some tips on what to expect and how to make the most out of your down time this winter.
Every year around this time, it seems like business just dies off. After the first two weeks of December Christmas parties, we get two weeks of absolute slowness until New Years. Maybe some airport runs if we are lucky. Then we get about a month where it’s just dark and slow as everyone in the world seems to have made a resolution to never use Lyft or Uber again.
This is true until we get whatever email from Lyft or Uber about some special pricing promotion to bring in passengers, albeit at a “temporary” lower price. Once the slow volume combines with the anxiety of lower pricing, I begin to wonder how much longer I’ll be able to do this while making a living and if this whole decision to work for myself will pan out or fall flat on its face, and I’ll have to walk back into some office with my tail between my legs, defeated.
It doesn’t help that I drive in SF. If it’s this slow here, then it must be much worse back in San Diego or Santa Barbara, right? I imagine all of the drivers sitting in their cars waiting for calls for hours upon hours in hopes of making at least 100 bucks.
What Should We Be Prepared to See?
The TNC overlords might lower prices again as this is a time where it is slow and it will receive the least amount of pushback from drivers. Don’t be surprised if right now is the time they give the fares in your market the axe.
Last year, Uber put everyone on hourly guarantees and experimented with pushing fares lower (Winter Warm-up). We may see a repeat this year from either Lyft or Uber but who knows. Just be prepared for shenanigans and have a strategy to take advantage of them when it comes.
It will likely be pretty slow through January. The good news is that many drivers will stop driving during this time and move on to something else. In the meantime, expect to see a lot of mass saturation as the slowness bleeds them of their income until they slowly log-off, which may lead to some good nights towards the beginning of February as supply won’t be ready to meet sudden demand onslaughts.
A noticeable spike in fares occurs when college students return to school in January. I would figure out when the first day of class is for each of the major universities in your area and stake out the transit hubs the weekend before. This could be a train station, airport, etc.
When a semester/quarter begins, college students receive a large lump sum payment from their financial aid and student loans. This usually leads to a lot of partying the first week of school. You can get some business by running the college circuit appropriately in this time. Of course, that also comes with all of the pleasantries of dealing with drunk children and the loss in your faith of humanity that comes with it, but hey – money, right?
So What Should You Do When It’s Slow? (We got an article for that!)
One of the things that I have always found important is having other opportunities outside of driving to earn money. Multiple income streams, investing in new skills, or simply exploring opportunities in careers outside of whatever I am doing at the present time. If time is abundant, then there is a lower cost to experiment with it. It is also a refreshing mental break to do something new and provide value in the process.
Of course, that doesn’t answer the problem of being busy when we need to earn money right away, right? I don’t know what you should do, but right now might be the time to take a risk with all of that extra time and explore what you might be interested in.
I never thought I would be writing for this blog and doing Harry’s dirty work a year ago. I didn’t even know I was going to move to SF at the time. It seemed like volume was going to die and prices were going to get so low that this whole driving thing would become laughable.
Until Valentine’s Day. Something about that day makes people spend money and break the whole focus on not going out and spending money. Whereas NYE encouraged sensibility and logic in people’s finances, it seemed that Valentine’s Day reminded everybody that they would eventually like to get laid, and thus brought forth all of the impulsive spending behavior that gets people out of their houses and spending money. For once, that stupid holiday turned into something I looked forward to!
Either way, I figured I would write all of this to serve as a reminder for those of you on the road that depend on this job to pay your bills to plan accordingly. If there were a time to squirrel away your nut, now is that time.
Put it into a “Slow Time” fund to support yourself for when things slow down in the coming weeks. With luck, you will not need it, as this year there will be enough volume to get us all through the winter. However, I wouldn’t count on it.
Drivers, what do you think about the upcoming slow weeks? Do you notice that December and January tend to slow down around this time of year and what do you do about it?
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-Christian @ RSG