Our very own resident cheapo Joe Baylis shares his tips for getting on your bike to make a bit of cash. Find out how to supplement your income by delivering food for the likes of Deliveroo and Take Eat Easy, get fit while you work and, most importantly, stay safe cycling on London roads.
How long have you been a bicycle courier?
I’ve been a bike courier for around two weeks.
What made you decide to become one?
I have been between jobs, and at the same time looking to switch careers, and so I needed some way to keep the money dribbling in while I investigated different options. I enjoy cycling and needed a flexible arrangement, so food courier work was the perfect solution
Are you self-employed, or do you get work through an agency?
I am self-employed.
What are the typical tasks involved in being a bicycle courier (other than cycling/delivering)?
The job is pretty simple, as long as you don’t get lost! You receive a notification on your smartphone, which tells you where your pick up and delivery locations are. At each stage, you let the app know how you’re getting on, which in turn informs the customer. After you deliver your cargo, you are assigned another job.
From restaurant to customer, you will rarely travel further than 2km, in order to preserve the integrity and temperature of the food. Getting to the restaurant, however, is a different story.Other tasks include: safely dodging traffic and pedestrians, ensuring food is not spilt or damaged, treating customers and clients (restaurants) with respect and a friendly attitude, delivering food on time, maintaining a conversation with the customer if you’re delayed, and dealing with unexpected occurrences like punctures or other equipment issues.
What are the hours like – is it quite flexible work?
The work is very flexible, but this does depend on which company you work for. Some companies ask for a minimum number of shifts (e.g. Deliveroo), while others allow you to work as many or as few as you like (e.g. Take Eat Easy). You sign up for shifts online, so need to be quick when they become available. If you need to cancel, usually you will need to provide 48 hours notice.
For me, hours are based around the busiest parts of the day, so lunchtime and dinner time. A full day would be three hours at lunch, and then five hours at dinner, with a three hour break in between.
What is the earning potential for a bicycle courier?
Payment is normally based on the number of deliveries in a designated shift. My company provides a guaranteed minimum amount (for example, £20). Even if you are not able to do the number of deliveries equivalent to this during your shift, you will still get paid that amount. However, if you do more deliveries, then you will be paid for each extra one. So far, I have averaged about £9 an hour, which is above minimum wage, so not too bad.
There are some variations though. If you are lucky with the proximity of deliveries, you can do more and earn more. You may, rarely, receive tips. But as it is app-based work – ordered and paid for online, so people are less likely to have cash on them and the traditional ‘keep the change’ source of income is now obsolete. Other couriers are not provided with a guaranteed minimum and so their earnings are directly related to the work they do.
How far do you cycle in a shift?
It varies hugely from day to day. Some food couriers boast of 60 miles a day. Others work the shifts alongside more business-based courier work, so could be edging towards 80 miles a day. It probably averages out at around 40 miles if you work a full day just doing food courier work. But of course, if it is not a busy shift (i.e. nice weather when people are happy to venture out for their food), then you may only do five miles. It is an irony of food courier work that the worse the weather, the busier the shift tends to be.
Any funny or unusual stories involved in your work?
You hear some pretty entertaining stories from your fellow couriers. It’s actually quite a social job, as there tends to be a designated area to chill out with your fellow company couriers in between deliveries. Many stories involve eccentric customers who don’t quite appreciate the lengths that couriers have to go to in order to deliver their food. Most customers are more than happy to see you though, given their tummies are a-rumbling and you have their food. Just last week, in one shift, I was cycling in bright sunshine, gale-force winds and stinging hailstones.
When waiting for your next delivery, you are a target for lost tourists – never have I been asked for directions so much. Apparently you are also a target for drug dealers (especially on a Friday or Saturday night), who are somehow under the impression that you’ll need a little bit of extra energy from ‘ahem’ somewhere.
What advice or tips do you have for other people considering this type of work?
Once you have started, get talking to your fellow couriers to gain some knowledge of things like shortcuts, tricks of the trade, how to keep up a good customer rating, where to pick up free food – all that kind of jazz. Cycle safely! A quick but risky delivery is not worth an injury (or worse, your life). Cycling in London can be dangerous, but if you keep your wits about you, follow the highway code, stay away from lorries, and don’t take risks, it’s fine.
Get to know the roads and local restaurants of your delivery area. If you have to keep stopping to look at your maps, then you’ll rack up fewer deliveries. Find some nice areas (e.g. parks, cafes) to chill out in between deliveries. Head there and hopefully catch five or ten minutes to relax. You’ll need the rest! Take water and snacks with you. Also, learn how to maintain your bike. You should know how to change your inner tube. There is nothing worse than a puncture that you can’t fix on the way to a delivery, so get puncture-resistant tyres. Invest in a good lightweight lock, and keep your bike in good nick.