Even though Uber and Lyft make up a majority of the on-demand economy, there is no shortage of other apps and services that you can work for. And when I heard about a new electric scooter company called Bird, I decided to sign up and give it a try.
Now if you’re wondering what electric scooters have to do with rideshare driving, you’re right! On the surface, they may seem like pretty different companies, but scooters and rideshare are both part of the shared mobility space, and they actually have a lot more in common than you may think.
Both businesses are mobility marketplaces: Uber connects drivers and riders while Bird connects scooters and customers. And as it turns out, those scooters need able-bodied workers to charge them every night, so that’s where workers in the on-demand economy come in handy.
After covering the rideshare industry for four years, I’m already seeing a ton of parallels between the two business models and, like we saw with rideshare driving when it first hit the scene, there’s a lot of opportunity for ‘Chargers’ right now since Bird is growing quickly and able-bodied workers are in high demand. Based on my own experience and from talking with other chargers, you can easily make $20-30 per hour working for Bird.
If you’d like to download a copy of our free Bird Charger Quick Start Guide PDF, please opt in to our e-mail list below:
What is Bird?
Bird is a new electric scooter service that operates primarily in California, for now (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose). If you’ve been to Santa Monica or Venice for example, you’ve probably noticed hundreds of people riding around at all times of the day on black electric scooters. And while the company is still limited to California, it’s only a matter of time before they start expanding after raising a series B round of $100 million.
You can rent scooters for $1 plus $0.15/min and travel around town, campus or wherever your heart desires. I originally signed up with Bird as a customer (you can get your first ride free here) because it seemed like a fun way to zip around town and I was quickly hooked!
Here’s a video about what it’s like to rent a Bird Scooter:
Looking for another review of Bird as a passenger? Check out this article, Bird Electric Scooters: Vehicle Sharing App Launches in Santa Monica
Signing Up to Be a Charger
After a few rides, I noticed a button one day in the app that said ‘Become a Charger’ and I immediately clicked it!
Uber actually uses a similar button in the Uber passenger app to get passengers to sign up to drive, and this was the first of many similarities I noticed between the two companies. It’s also important to note that Bird’s founder Travis VanderZanden was VP of Global Driver Growth at Uber and COO at Lyft before starting Bird. And it looks like Ryan Fujiu and Steve Schnell from Uber also joined Bird.
From there, the application asks for personal information, tax information and your bank account information so they can send you direct deposits. This part of the sign-up process was pretty standard.
Soon after, I got a phone call from Jake at Bird asking me a few questions about why I wanted to be a Charger:
- What do you love about Birds?
- What type of car do you have?
- How many Bird do you think you can charge per night?
The phone call was refreshing, since it seems like Bird actually wants people to sign up who are passionate about the service and wants to ensure you’ll be a good fit for the company. Uber and Lyft tend to be more focused on getting as many people into their application funnel as possible and have no real vetting other than the background check.
I wasn’t sure how stringent the vetting process for Bird would be, so I made sure my answers reflected how much I love Bird and to show that I have a big car and am ready to do a lot of work! Here’s the gist of my responses:
- I love how easy it is for the short-trips around town and the fact that you can leave the scooters anywhere. I’d like to see more on the roads and want to help make that happen.
- I have two cars that I could use for this job, a Ford Fusion Hybrid or more likely my SUV since the second row folds down, and I’ll have more space to store the scooters.
- I’m not sure exactly what’s required of charging but I think I should be able to do at least 10-15 a night no problem since I live in West LA and am free at nights.
Phone Call with Bird
Jake from Bird walked me through everything in about 20 minutes, and below are my notes from the meeting:
A charger has three main duties: capture, charge and release back into the ‘wild’. Bird is big on using ‘bird’ terminology, so I hope you’re ready for a lot of bird related PUNS 🙂
Bird Charger Requirements
- Must be 18 years or older
- Must have a car
- Charge at least 3 birds at a time
- Must live in/near a service area where Bird operates
The last three requirements seem more like suggestions to me. If you’re carless, you can still be an effective Charger if you happen to live in the busiest Bird areas, since you can just walk the Birds back to your house, charge them there and you won’t have to drive around looking for them.
Bird also says you must live in a coverage area and while that definitely makes things easier since you have to drop them off early in the morning, as long as you live relatively close and/or don’t mind up getting up early, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Bird Charger Pay
Chargers are paid for each Bird they pick up, charge and release. Most Birds will pay you $5. But some Birds will pay more, depending on how difficult it is to find, charge and release.
According to Bird, the cost (electricity) to charge each scooter is estimated at $0.08-$0.15.
Once you are approved to become a Charger, Bird will activate ‘Charger mode’ in your Bird customer app. This allows you to toggle into Charger mode, then capture and charge Birds.
There’s only one app that you use for both charging and riding (similar to Lyft) and here’s what the ‘Charger Mode’ toggle looks like:
Birds are coded on the map in different colors and each color has a dollar value
At the start, you’re going to want to go after the green and yellow Birds, which are the easiest to find. You can capture Birds at any time throughout the day but the company tends to ‘release Birds’ back into the wild at 6 p.m. So you’ll see the highest number of Birds on the map right after 6 p.m and usually they are all gone by 12 a.m.
How to Capture Birds
Once you’ve located a Bird, capturing it is a lot easier than Duck Hunt. All you have to do is scan the QR code located on the handle bar or enter the 4 digit code. Once you’ve captured at least one Bird, you can head to My Birds on the navigation menu of the Bird app and see which Birds you have captive (these are Bird’s terms I swear!).
You’ll see the Bird ID, battery percentage (real time) and current status (charge – this means the scooter is plugged in and charging).
Charging Birds is pretty straightforward, but you will need to get special chargers from Bird. Luckily, the chargers are free, but you’ll have to decide how many you want to start with. I opted for 6 chargers to start and I think 3-6 is an ideal number for newbies.
Each scooter takes around 3-4 hours to charge 100% and while you could potentially charge multiple scooters with one charger, I don’t recommend it since the scooters do lose charge once you unplug them and it’s annoying to get up in the middle of the night to switch them out.
I think being a Charger is a lot easier than driving for Uber or Lyft or delivering food for Postmates or DoorDash since there’s no customer interaction, but there are a few rules. This is especially true when it comes to releasing Birds back into the wild. Here are all of Bird’s ‘suggested’ rules for releasing Birds:
- Scooters need to be dropped off between 5 and 7 a.m. anywhere within a Bird’s Nest
- Bird asks you to release scooters in sets of three on private property in a nest
- Try to find a flat surface as close as possible to high foot traffic area while never obstructing or blocking pedestrian pathways
- Scooters should be evenly spaced and wheels turned out
Bird provides in app guidance on where to drop the Birds in the morning. Here is a screenshot:
The cool thing about Bird is that you actually get paid on the same day if you release all your Birds by 7 a.m. On the morning of my first drop, here’s what the earnings report looked like before payment (9:24 a.m.) and then after payment (10:56 a.m.).
Bird Charger Customer Support
I was impressed with Bird’s customer support throughout the sign-up process, and they’ve continued to quickly and thoroughly respond to any questions I’ve had. There were a few different modes of communication (e-mail, text, in-person) I used to contact Bird, but text was definitely the easiest and most convenient for me. Here’s a sampling of the questions and responses I got (my responses are in yellow):
The solid customer support has been a nice change of pace from dealing with Uber and Lyft. Right now, actual Bird employees are manning the support lines. As they scale and potentially transition to a third party, I really hope they continue to provide solid support. I can’t tell you how nice it is to get your questions answered by someone who knows what they’re talking about.
And it looks like they recently transitioned to in-app chat support for Chargers.
My First Day of Charging
It’s been fun learning the ropes of a new shared mobility service, and I’ve also found that it can be quite lucrative. Whenever these services first launch, they tend to pay well because they have to. On my first day of charging, I was actually in Santa Monica for lunch, so on my way home I located three birds, captured them, put them in the back of my car, and took them home and charged them.
Once you get the hang of it, finding the birds is pretty easy and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes per Bird. Charging them takes a few hours but all you have to do is plug them in, so it’s pretty much passive at that point. The only challenging part for me was getting up early and dropping them off by 7 a.m.
But there’s not much traffic at 7 a.m., especially on the weekends, and it only takes a few minutes to pull them out of your car and place them on the street. Here’s what my first Nest looked like, how’d I do?
When all was said and done, I probably spent about 20-30 minutes actually working and made just under $15 (conservatively $30 per hour). If you’ve got an SUV or even a truck, you could easily do 6-9 Birds at a time, and make significantly more, especially if you pick and choose the best times to work. The Birds are heavy, around 25-30 pounds, and a little awkward to handle but they’re definitely manageable.
Overall, I had a lot of fun riding the scooters, and then signing up to charge them. This job won’t be perfect for everyone, but it is surprisingly flexible, and I could imagine many different scenarios where it would make sense for Uber and Lyft drivers to work for Bird or really anyone looking to make some extra cash.
And if you’d like to be notified when Charger positions become available in your city, please fill this out.
Bird Frequently Asked Questions
What is Bird Scooter?
Bird is a new electric scooter service that operates primarily in California for now (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose). You can rent scooters for $1 + $0.15 per minute and they also hire ‘Chargers’ to charge the scooters every night.
Where is Bird Available?
Right now, Bird is only available in California but it’s only a matter of time before they start expanding. You can contact Bird here to find out when they make it to your city.
How do I sign up for Bird Scooter?
Bird is available in the Android Play Store and the Apple App Store – you can get a free ride by signing up here with our referral code.
If you’re interested in signing up for the Charger program, you can sign up in the app like I did or click here.
How much can Bird Chargers make?
Chargers are paid for each Bird they pick up, charge and release. Most Birds will pay you $5. Some Birds will pay more, depending on how difficult it is to find, charge and release.
Does it cost anything to sign up as a Bird Charger?
No, it’s completely free to sign up, but you do have to be older than age 18. Bird will also provide you with the actual chargers that you can use to charge the scooters you capture.
Why does Bird use so many bird puns in their marketing and slogans?
I’ve asked the company for comment and no one was willing to take credit for it 🙂
What do you think of the company and the charging gig? Is this something you would be interested in trying?
Make Every Mile CountDid you know that every 1,000 business miles can generate $535 in tax deductions? Never miss another mile with the new QuickBooks Self-Employed automatic mileage tracker.
-Harry @ RSG
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