Postmates: What it is, and How to Start the Job

Postmates delivery

Thinking about becoming a Postmates courier? Here’s what you need to know |

The on-demand economy has created new jobs that are totally unique. There’s the Uber driver, the Lyft driver, and the Airbnb host. There’s the Instacart driver to efficiently bring you your groceries, the Sprig server to provide you with an amazing salad, and the Amazon Flex delivery person to bring you your long-awaited purchases. Don’t forget about the TaskRabbit tasker to help with everyday demands, the dolly mover to transport your furniture, and of course, the Postmates courier. Due to the fact that Postmates allows you to deliver goods with a car, scooter, motorcycle, or even a bike, working for Postmates is looking like an attractive job for people in cities across the U.S.

Because the service allows multiple forms of transportation, just about anybody looking for a side job can work with Postmates. And any company that enables you to set your own hours has the immediate attention of millennials looking for a steady part-time job. Curious about the details? Read on to learn everything you need to know about what a Postmates job entails, how to get started, and all that the job has to offer.

What is Postmates?

A food delivery man steers a bicycle

Postmates enables users to order food from local restaurants, and even drugstores and grocery stores | Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Postmates is an app that promises users “the best of your city delivered in minutes.” The platform enables users to order food from a wide variety of restaurants, delis, juice bars, and food trucks in their cities. In some cases, they can even order essentials from a local drugstore, a clothing shop, a liquor store, or a grocery store. Typically, the most popular orders are takeout from local eateries.

In general, Postmates couriers will wait in a busy area for orders to come in. Once they accept an order from a customer, they become responsible for calling the restaurant to place the order. (Or, if customers place an order with a restaurant with which Postmates has a formal partnership, someone from the Postmates customer service team will call in the order, and the Postmates courier just needs to pick it up and deliver it.) If the courier is calling the restaurant themselves and needs to clarify what kind of condiments the customer wants or any other specifics about the order, they’ll contact them to get the answers they need.

After the order is placed, the courier finds a place to park near the restaurant. The order is paid with a Pex card issued by Postmates. (It’s also a good idea to keep some cash on hand, since there are some cash-only restaurants, and Postmates will reimburse the courier for those orders.) Next, it’s time to navigate to the customer’s house or apartment building, park, and deliver the order.

Postmates couriers almost universally agree that driving for the platform is a part-time job, which greatly differs from Uber, where there are some employees who work all day long and can make a great full-time income driving. The biggest draw for couriers is that they can make their own schedule, and they’re getting paid to explore their city.

What is it like to be a Postmates courier?

A pizza delivery man rides his bicycle through the snowy streets

Being a Postmates courier can be a good part-time job | Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The company claims that couriers can make up to $25 an hour making Postmates deliveries, plus tips. Postmates takes a percentage of delivery fees, but couriers get to keep 100% of their tips. Depending on the mode of transportation you use — driving your car, riding your motorcycle, or using your bike — you’ll likely have some associated costs. Remember that gas, wear and tear on your vehicle, and the cost of regular maintenance will impact your income.

Like most demand economy platforms, Postmates lets you work anytime you want, and as much or as little as you want. Employees who posted reviews about Postmates on Indeed report that being a Postmates courier is a good part-time job. However, if users don’t tip well, then you’re only making “close to minimum wage.” And if traffic and parking are typically a hassle in your city, you can expect them to be an annoyance when you’re working for Postmates. Some couriers even complain that they ended up with multiple parking tickets, or were afraid on several occasions that their car would get towed.

On the other hand, several employees note that the Postmates courier role can be great if you love exploring your city and finding new restaurants. It can also be a fun job for those who love meeting and talking to new people. Your day can vary in terms of speed, in the number of deliveries you make, and in the areas that you’ll be traveling through. So being a Postmates courier can be a great part-time job if you’re adventurous and crave variety.

As with any demand economy gig, it’s a good idea to track your expenses and figure out how much you’re making once you factor them in. For instance, one Indeed user calculated that in their city, “the only way to make $15-$25 an hour is by doing at least 2 delivers an hour and by getting good tips.” They said that the hours between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays hold the best opportunity to keep the income coming. And you can’t forget about taxes — you could be owing a pretty penny to the government if you’re making good money from Postmates, so be sure to put some money aside.

How do you get started working for Postmates?

Chipotle restaurant workers fill orders for customers

Applying to work for Postmates is pretty simple | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

You can apply online to work for Postmates. You’ll need to undergo a background check, and then attend a 30-minute orientation in your area. You’ll need to take a government-issued photo ID, a copy of your current insurance card if you’ll be driving your car, your smartphone, and either a voided check or your back account and routing number to set up direct deposit. Harry Campbell reports for The Rideshare Guy that his Postmates orientation session took only 20 to 30 minutes, and was followed by a short question and answer session. The background check takes two to four days to process.

At the orientation session, Campbell learned that once you’re a Postmates courier, you can work in any city or state where Postmates is available. (That’s quite different from Uber and Lyft. Those companies only allow you to work within the same state, and sometimes only within your city or region.) Campbell notes that the most profitable hours to drive for Postmates — right around lunch and dinner — may correlate to low demand times with Uber or Lyft. That’s an opportunity that you should consider if you’re thinking about driving for multiple platforms.

Once you pass your background check, Postmates will call you for an on-boarding session. Campbell reports that at the session, a manager will do a thorough job of covering what it’s like to work for Postmates. At Campbell’s session, for instance, he learned that the most common delivery is takeout food. Additionally, pay is based on the distance between the pickup and drop-off points. After the session, you can start accepting orders and making deliveries.

A food cart worker fills a styrofoam take-out container with food

If you’re considering working for multiple on-demand platforms, Postmates may be a great option | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Some Postmates couriers complain that the Postmates app for drivers is glitchy and often needs updating. And others note that the initial setup process for your account to get paid can be a pain. Additionally, your job security depends on the ratings that you get from customers. That can be a source of stress for couriers in cities with bad traffic or little parking. But overall, Postmates is a solid option to consider if you’re interested in driving for a demand economy platform. That’s especially true if you want to use Postmates in addition to Uber or Lyft, for the most profitable times for food delivery versus ride-sharing can be quite different. As Campbell explains:

I can also imagine a day where you would log on to the Uber app in the morning and catch the morning rush, then around lunch time you open up Postmates and cash in on the lunch crowd, back to Uber for the early evening commuters, Postmates again for the dinner time rush and then Uber to close out the night and take everyone to/from the bars.  Obviously that’d be a long day but you can see how a lot of the peak demand times for Postmates (lunch/dinner) correlate to low demand times with Uber.

While blog posts on the “average” earnings of the typical Postmates courier can sound discouraging, it’s important to remember what “average” means with regards to demand economy apps. The average user is typically someone who approaches the platform casually, without doing a ton of research on when and where it’s most lucrative to drive. If you take a more disciplined approach to working as a Postmates courier, and learn what you need to do to succeed in your city, then you’ll have a good chance of making more than the average earnings.