Why Flexibility Can Get In The Way Of Being An Efficient Rideshare Driver

Most drivers will tell you that it’s the flexibility that is the best thing about being a rideshare driver.  Today though, RSG contributor, Christian Perea, shares his take on why rideshare isn’t as flexible as you might think.

“So how do you like driving for Uber?”

“Its not bad, it’s definitely interesting work.”

“I wish I could work whenever I wanted! You must love it!”


As rideshare drivers, we have all probably had some form of that conversation a few (hundred) times by now. It’s the one we can repeat in our sleep where our passenger implicitly questions our choice to do this. You go along with it now as it takes up less processing power in your brain so you can focus on the road and make sure that G-maps/Waze isn’t trying to steer you into a collision.

Flexibility is often advertised as one of the best reasons to become a TNC driver. You see ads saying “Be Your Own Boss!” as a man drives his Prius into the sunset on the beach presumably to make easy money while living a happy life accomplishing his dreams. Flexibility has again and again been listed as a reason people leave their jobs for the uncertainty of TNC driving.

Yes, we can log in whenever we want and sign out whenever we want. But it also just so happens that in most markets you have to work certain hours to capture the most income.  These hours happen to be when most people socialize though and quickly you realize that the flexibility may not be all it’s made out to be.

It is important to not mistake flexibility for freedom. You have the freedom to sleep in or to drive your Prius into the sunset, but it’s not in your financial interest (unless the sun is surging).

So it’s easy to feel like there is no flexibility. This seems to peak during Saturday nights when people are going out and I am just driving around. It tends to feel most flexible right now as I drink my coffee typing this at 3PM in my underwear.

What Gets in the Way of Flexibility?

If we want to have the best efficiency on the road we need to work weekends, nights, and big events. We all know that is when the market gets busy and the money trickles in. So the claim of infinite flexibility quickly goes away.

Often our TNC overlords will run some promotions to get us on the road. Guaranteed Primetime!, Winter Warm Up!, Summer Fun Time with “temporary” lower prices!, or my personal favorite the “We are going to ruin New Year’s Eve/Halloween/Memorial Day with an hourly guarantee!”

Driver Saturation On NYE
Driver saturation during an hourly guarantee

If we want to take advantage of many of these promotions we are going to be logging some serious and strange hours.

There is also the fear of missing out. This was most powerful when I was new. Whenever I was logged out of the application I was thinking of whether or not I should be working. Anxiety would ensue. Before I knew it I would be ditching my friends because it got busy.

In the worst case scenario you are working every hour of every day in order to simply make ends meet. There is no option of flexibility.

Getting Flexible

Usually it takes a few weeks to learn the schedule you prefer in your market. So I found it was best to plan for my free time and get ambitious and adventurous. Time management is crucial.

Truth is, you can always make more money than last week. Stop trying to meet your unrealistic income goals. We still have the ability and power to work when we want to. You have to exercise it in order for it to be worth anything.

I recently started setting time aside every day to take a boxing class. I never had done it before and it to be honest I had been sitting on my ass for eight straight months consuming Camels, Rockstars, and surfing Reddit.  Now I have been going every day for the last two months and have even managed to make some friends who aren’t Lyft drivers. I can also punch things correctly now!

Recently, I even found a way to quit smoking. In the past, I had trouble with the work-caffeine-cigarette cycle and my job depended on keeping a level head (e.g. not murdering them while going through nicotine withdrawals).

I figured that this was probably going to be the most flexible situation to quit. I took a solid three days off and was able to get through the hardest part. I eased my way back into working as I was able to handle it mentally and can say that it was much easier doing it on my own terms.

Have Fun When It’s Slow

If you find yourself being logged in and waiting for calls than I suggest setting up a strategy to enjoy that time. The best Lyft memories of San Diego were when drivers would meet up at the Hillcrest DMV parking lot and bust out some camping chairs to complain about how slow it is.

Our job takes us to different parts of our town that we wouldn’t otherwise see if we worked a 9-5 job. I like to utilize this by finding the places with the best view and reading a book or brushing up on my German or Spanish.

Think of what you can do while sitting in a parking lot. You can study for your LSAT or CFA I. You can become a real estate agent or start a new hobby. Get a camping chair and make some friends and start a Voxer channel.

I think its important that we leverage and experiment with other contract work. Think of ways to expand your income that you otherwise would not be able to do with a normal job. You may find that people will pay you to do things that you are good at when you least expect it.

Take Advantage

Don’t mistake flexibility for freedom. We have the flexibility to do a lot of things that a normal job would not allow for. This doesn’t translate to an infinite amount of freedom though. Flexibility as an independent contractor can be used to grow yourself or to position yourself to earn passive income. The ability to be a good boss of yourself will reflect on how you use that time.

I am guessing that you are at least making enough money to survive (sort of). You can turn around now but you will have to accept that you may not be able to take those risks you dreamed of taking when you last sat at “the desk”.

So what do you guys think about the flexibility aspect of rideshare these days?  Has it lost some of its allure or do you value the freedom that it affords?

-Christian @ RSG