A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from a reader un-happy with one of my posts. I don’t get many of these so I listened to what he had to say and before I knew it, I had an offer for a guest post from that same reader. He told me that instead of complaining about my article, he was going to write his own. I absolutely love that type of initiative and today I’m publishing his article for all of you to read.
It really is an inspiring story and echoes a lot of the same sentiments that I’ve been saying for months. What I loved most about this post though is that “The Black Car Guy” (as he calls himself) took full responsibility for his situation. He was unhappy with the way things were and instead of moping around or complaining, he went out and did something about it. The Black Car Guy (BCG) is now one of the top 1% of Uber drivers in his region and he just took home his biggest paycheck ever: $10,000 in the month of October! And before you call BS on that number, I actually had BCG forward me his bank statements to verify the deposits and I can assure you that this number is 100% true.
Two and a half years ago I was a very low paid cab driver bringing home about $80 a day. I’d been laid off a corporate sales job in 2011 and was floundering. I first heard about SideCar in February of 2012.
By the Fall of 2012, I was a full-time Sidecar diver. I wasn’t making a ton of cash but at least I was independent, could make my own schedule and didn’t have to pay those high gate fees to the cab companies. I learned my way around and became a passionate student of all things TNC. I read every article. I learned about top notch customer service. I embraced the whole damn thing.
Over time, I added UberX and then Lyft. And then came the rate cuts! The methods that had been generating a pretty good income suddenly were sucking wind. I had a friend that was doing Uber SUV and he recommended I give it a go. I wasn’t going to take these cuts lying down so I went down to the Ford dealer and bought myself a brand-new SUV. That was six months ago.
Revenues are through the roof. But I didn’t get there by doing more rides. I actually got there by doing way less rides (but they were much more profitable rides). Don’t ever let anyone tell you that more rides equals more money. Usually, the opposite is true. You just need a strategy to get the longest rides you can at the highest prices possible. BTW, surge pricing rarely if ever figures into my revenue generation.
My Best Month Yet
October was an amazing month for me. Since adding Uber SUV to my repertoire last May, I had been active on all platforms. I wasn’t always too busy in SUV after the morning rush though so I started to run all apps after 10am. When I did that, I stayed busy. But the average ride revenue was still too low. But during October, I decided to do away with the one app that paid the lowest, and that app was Lyft. I still kept SideCar, but always kept my multiplier at 2.5 X or higher.
My New Strategy
I actually shifted strategies in several ways. Instead of circling the city center after 9:00 am and taking cheap Lyft rides just to stay busy, I headed 25 miles away to the wealthiest parts of the region that I could find. The rides were infrequent, but when I got them they paid really, really well. Sometimes in excess of $200.
Mostly it was a lot airport rides averaging around $120-$130. For the non airport rides, I was often asked if I could hang out for an hour or two and then provide the return leg as well. Of course, I was only too happy to oblige. In some cases I’d generate $350 to $450 for just two rides.
The results for October are in and they are pretty outstanding. Just shy of $10,000 in income for the entire month and that figure is AFTER commissions. My best month so far this year.
So How Did/Do I Do It?
Even though the money can be good, I actually don’t work nights. And there are a few reasons for that. First, I like eating dinner with my family and sleeping at night (at least most of it). Second, I don’t like weird odors accumulating in my car. When you drive at night, you get a lot of cologne, perfume, tobacco and alcohol odors coming in. That gets into everything and it’s hard to get it out.
What’s the number one thing people complain about in cabs?
The smell. I don’t like it and passengers don’t like it either. Then, you have all the effects of alcohol, the potential for folks getting sick, getting angry, emotional, changing destinations, no shows, rowdiness, low scores due to mix ups based on passenger errors, potential for accidents due to the combination of drunk drivers and darkness – the list goes on and on.
Nights are not for me. Besides, it’s rare for business travelers to book super long rides at night, and that’s where I’ve been banking most of the revenue lately.
When To Drive If Not At Night
But if you don’t drive nights, you do have to start early. My schedule is quite early, starting at 4:30 am. I lurk near the cluster of the most expensive downtown hotels, snagging business execs headed to the airport, till about 7:30 am. Then I position next to the inner city residential areas, doing the morning work commute to downtown. At about 10 am, I head to the outer super wealthy burbs where things are really quiet, but where I really ring the register with those airports and other super long rides. By 2 pm, I’m headed home.
Everything I Do
I keep my car spotless throughout the day. Cleaning windows, shaking out mats, wiping down seats with a little cleaning spray, re-stocking waters, making sure it’s very neat and tidy for each and every passenger.
I use a combo of Waze and Navigator to avoid traffic. I run premium fuel and synthetic oil to baby my engine. I make sure to stay up to date on brake inspections, tire rotations, fluids, transmission flushes, etc are up to date.
I always pull up and drop off on the correct side of the street. I always open doors unless they call me off. I always keep conversation very light, but take subtle clues about the need for any conversation at all from the client.
I don’t wear a suit and tie (jeans for me and a nice shirt only) but I wear clean clothes every day and pay good attention to hygiene. Interiors and me should always smell fresh and clean. I always ask how the temp is, I usually keep the AC on but keep temp at about 70 with a light fan blowing in the second row.
I provide Android and iPhone charging cables. I know my way around. Really, really well. I know where the hell I’m going. But I use google GPS traffic maps to reroute around traffic. I drive smoothly. Never accelerating or braking too sharply. I don’t push through stale yellow lights.
Folks want to feel safe more than anything. They are putting their life in your hands so you should take their safety seriously. On the road, be courteous, yet confident. I drive with forceful, assertive defensiveness. I strike the balance. I scan ahead, always watching for potential choke points, hazards, ambiguous situations. I’m never caught off guard because of something I didn’t notice just because it was 100 yards ahead.
I never complain about Uber, even if they have done something irritating recently. I take 110% responsibility for any and everything related to my business – and am truly grateful for the opportunity I’m afforded.
I was recently awarded by Uber for being in the top 1% rated drivers in my region. I truly believe all these things make me one of the highest rated and highest paid Uber drivers on the system. There’s no reason that any driver who wants to make very good money can’t do it if that’s what they truly want – and are ready to put in the work.
6 months ago I was only on UberX and Lyft and I was unhappy with the rate cuts. Now I’m on Uber SUV/Black and satisfied with the results. It’s totally do-able. If I can do it, anyone can.
-The Black Car Guy
RSG: So what do you guys think of The Black Car Guy’s story and does it sound like something that you could ever see yourself doing? If you have a story, advice or expertise that you would like to share, please send me an e-mail. I won’t be able to publish every story I get but if it’s valuable content, then I won’t be able to say no. (Btw, Rideshare Chick is out sick this week but she should be back next week!)
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Update: BCG would like to remain anonymous but he is a driver in a large West Coast city. He drives 4:30 am to 2 pm Monday through Friday with about 3-4 weekend days on top of that a month. In October, he drove 4,400 miles and fuel, car payment, commercial insurance, maintenance , washes, tolls, phone, airport fees all added up to about $2000 for the month. The $10,000 figure is revenue after Uber’s commission so all in all he made $8,000 after ALL expenses.