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Instacart shoppers make money by buying groceries at local stores the company has partnered with and delivering those items to customers’ homes.
Demand for Instacart shoppers skyrocketed as people stayed home during the pandemic. A couple of years later, online grocery delivery is still a burgeoning business that provides flexible opportunities for people seeking side gigs.
Here’s what you need to know to get started as an Instacart shopper and what to expect.
What is Instacart?
Instacart is a grocery delivery service that partners with local stores to deliver items to customers’ homes. The service relies on independent contractors and part-time workers to fulfill and transport orders.
The hours are flexible and orders arrive through the Instacart Shopper app. Key details, like job responsibilities and the way you earn money, will depend on whether you’re a full-service or in-store shopper.
Full-service Instacart shopper:
Are independent contractors.
Can shop for and deliver groceries.
Are able to work when they want.
Can earn tips on top of pay.
Is available wherever Instacart operates.
Are a part-time employee of Instacart.
Do in-store shopping only (no delivery, so a car isn't required).
Work shifts up to 29 hours per week.
Is available in many areas (but not all) to help meet increased demand.
For full-service shoppers, Instacart is like Uber for food (and groceries don’t talk). The Shopper app makes it seamless to set your availability, pick up gigs, track earnings and communicate with customers and Instacart’s help team if you encounter any issues.
Where can you work for Instacart?
Instacart operates in cities across all 50 states, spanning thousands of communities large and small. To see whether there are full-service or in-store shopper openings in your area, download the Shopper app and enter your ZIP code.
How much do Instacart shoppers make?
The way you earn money is determined by the work you do. In-store shoppers earn a fixed, hourly wage that varies by location. Full-service shoppers’ pay depends on the order.
Instacart provides an estimate of potential earnings for every order and guarantees shoppers will earn at least $5 for each delivery-only batch and $7 to $10 for each full-service (shop and deliver) batch. "Batch" is Instacart’s term for a unit of work that can consist of one or more orders.
As a full-service shopper, your pay per batch of orders depends on "the number of items, type of items, driving distance, and effort involved in shopping and delivering," according to Instacart.
Earning potential is usually higher when customer demand spikes, so working on Sundays and during popular events, like the Super Bowl, can mean more money. You can earn tips on top of batch pay as a full-service shopper.
» MORE: How to make money with DoorDash
What you need to work for Instacart
There are a handful of basic requirements you have to meet if you want to make money with Instacart:
Be at least 18 years old. If you want to deliver alcohol, which can result in larger tips, you have to be at least 21 in some states.
Be able to lift 30-plus pounds. The website states “up to 40lbs” without accommodation.
Have a smartphone. Your smartphone must be an iPhone (with iOS 14 or later) or Android (5.0 or later).
Pass a background check. Instacart says most shoppers are cleared within 10 business days, but this varies by location.
Have a bank account. Paychecks come via direct deposit, so you'll need a checking account to collect your earnings.
Full-service shoppers also must have the following:
A valid driver’s license and access to a car. You also need insurance coverage that meets state requirements.
A set of insulated bags. You'll need insulated bags or hard coolers to keep food cold (or warm) while on the move. Instacart sells preapproved bags from Bamko, its preferred vendor, through the Shopper app.
How to sign up for Instacart
Getting started on Instacart is a simple process:
Download the Shopper app. You’ll provide basic information, like your name and location, and give the company permission to perform the background check.
Attend an in-person orientation (in-store shoppers only). Choose a session in the app. This is part of the onboarding process for an in-store shopper.
Fill out the paperwork. As a full-service shopper, you’ll sign a contractor agreement and W-9 tax form. As an in-store shopper, you become an Instacart employee, and will sign an offer letter and W-4 tax form.
Register your Instacart payment card. Instacart gives you a preloaded payment card to checkout with customer orders. New shoppers can expect to receive their card within five to seven business days.
Start taking Instacart jobs
You’ll be assigned shifts each week based on personal availability as an in-store shopper, and can expect to work up to 29 hours per week.
As a full-service shopper, you're free to make your own schedule. Look for orders up for grabs in the app or set your app to notify you whenever an order is available in your area. Factors such as your average customer star rating and delivery time can influence which orders you see. You can review the details — store location, number of items and estimated payment — and accept the order.
In either role, you’ll be required to update your progress as you shop, noting any changes or refunded items, through the shopper app so customers can track their orders. When your cart is complete, check out with the preloaded payment card provided by Instacart. If you’re a full-service shopper, you’ll deliver the order to the customer’s home.
How do Instacart shoppers get paid?
Instacart issues paychecks weekly via direct deposit.
Instant Cashout is a feature you can use as a full-service shopper, which allows for an immediate payday, as long as you have at least $5 in earnings.
Important note for full-service shoppers: Since you’re acting as an independent contractor, Instacart won’t withhold taxes, and you may need to make estimated quarterly payments.