Instacart enlists freelancers to shop for and deliver groceries in exchange for a fee and tip

Expected pay: $10 – $20 per hour

Husl$core: $$$

Commissions & fees: NA

Where: Nationwide

Requirements: 18 or older, smart phone, car, background check and able to lift 40 lbs without accommodations

What is Instacart?

Instacart is a national food delivery and shopping service that enlists freelancers to buy and deliver groceries to customers.

(This post may include affiliate links. You can read about our affiliate policy here.)

How it works

Technically, the site has two different choices for people who like shopping for groceries. You can sign up to be an in-store shopper. These individuals do not do deliveries and are employees of Instacart. In-store shoppers will earn at least minimum wage and can be scheduled for up to 29 hours a week. These individuals shop for and package orders, which will be picked up by delivery drivers.

Or you can sign up to be a “full-service shopper.” Full-service shoppers are independent contractors, who use their own cars, insurance and gas and are paid by the gig.

For freelancers

Assuming you want to freelance, you would sign up, providing information about who you are and the type of car you drive. Instacart workers must be over the age of 18, have a smart phone, reliable transportation, be able to pass a background check and be able to lift 40 pounds or more without accommodation.

The site will review the application and conduct a background check. Assuming the worker is approved, he or she will get an Instacart credit card and start getting shopping and delivery requests.

Taking work

Full-service shoppers are independent contractors. In other words, you work for yourself. These individuals can work whenever they choose to. When they sign onto the app, the app alerts them to pending orders, which they can decide to fill or pass.

The order has information about where and what you’re shopping for and how much the order pays. Drivers also can get tips, which Instacart encourages, but does not require.

Instacart review

This site has been through a lot of ups and downs, as far as freelancers are concerned. It started out as a flexible way to make a bit over minimum wage — even after accounting for expenses. And became a hot commodity during the pandemic lock-downs, giving people thrown out of work an option to earn money — and providing a way for nervous individuals to stay away from crowded supermarkets.

During the darkest days of the pandemic, demand for this service was so high that customers were waving big tips at drivers to get their attention. Unfortunately, the site allowed these customers to rip away the driver tips after the deliveries were done, which understandably caused an uproar and forced Instacart to revisit its policies.

When we recently tested the site as a consumer, we found an option to boost a tip post-delivery, but no clear way to retroactively take away tips.

That’s good. Dishonest customers may still find a way, but it appears to be less of a problem.

Getting paid

You have a couple of options for getting paid here. You can sign up for direct deposit, in which case Instacart will pay you weekly. Or you can ask to be paid following each order. In this case, you can be paid almost immediately — within two hours of completing a delivery.

That makes Instacart a nice option for someone who needs to earn cash quickly.

Site shortcomings

However, Instacart is an on-demand service. So, whoever is working receives whatever customer orders that come in during that time. This means it’s tough — maybe impossible — to develop a regular clientele. And a regular clientele is handy when you’re shopping for groceries.

That’s because markets sometimes run out of the specific product or brand that the consumer requested. Knowing your customer makes it easier to know whether they’d want a substitute. As it is, Instacart shoppers need to pause, text and hope the customer is paying attention to their question about substitutions.

Any delay in getting a response means your job takes longer and you get paid less per hour.

As it is, Indeed estimates that Instacart shoppers earn between $8 and $26 per hour. And that’s before you account for the expense of paying for gas, insurance and maintenance on your car.


Demand for grocery deliveries remains brisk. If you like this type of work, Instacart is the market leader, likely to have the most gigs available. (If you want to shop for Instacart, you can sign up here.)

You can also work with Shipt, which promises nearly identical pay and terms.

However, we suggest you also sign up with a site called Dumpling.

Dumpling allows you to essentially run your own shopping and delivery business, building up your own clientele and setting your own rates and fees. You pay them a small fee to provide you with a credit card (that advances money for your shopping trips) and billing services.

Want to shop for Instacart?

  1. Click here to sign up
  2. Enter your phone number to receive the app download link
  3. Download the app and create your profile
  4. Start earning

What their drivers say: From Indeed:

“Great flexible be your own boss job that’s easy to learn, but comes with highs and lows depending on shopping volume and time of year. Its always available if you want quick money based on how fast you can work.”

“Great for a side hustle but that’s about it. Flexible with the schedule but the pay should be much better for the amount of time it takes to complete some orders.”

“I used to be so thankful for Instacart three years ago because it allowed flexibility in my schedule. I am a single mother and a job like this has been a blessing, and a curse as well. It has put a lot of wear and tear on my car and placed me in risky situations. They used to be pretty good, I averaged $20-$28 an hour but now I’m lucky if I get $18-$20 an hour. That is not even counting the taxes and gas.”

Need better pay

“Horrible pay and difficult to get problems resolved. Their online support is awful! Most customers don’t tip well, especially when they order heavy items. If you want a service, you need to compensate your shopper, otherwise, go get your own groceries!”

“Over the last five years shopper/driver pay has decreased significantly. This job no longer pays a living wage in most areas.”

“Orders are hard to come by now and your pay even worse. you could spend a good 10 hours at times and only make 60-90$. before you could make that in a matter of hours.”

(from Reddit)

“The new pay model essentially eliminated tips (60% of my earnings). I worked long hours during October of last year and made around $20/hr factoring gas into the equation. The new pay model knocked me down to less than $10/hr and I only put up with that for a few days before finding a better delivery service.”

“The hourly guarantee is calculated by the WEEK, not the day. For example, my zone has a $12/hr guarantee until I hit 50 batches. (It doesn’t tell you that. I had to call shopper happiness to find out the number of batches before I lose my guarantee.)


Let’s say I work the following hours and make the following earnings:

Mon – 10 hours : $90

Tues – 6 hours : $30

Wed – 8 hours : $120

Thur – 8 hours : $40

Fri – 8 hours : $144

Sat – 12 hours : $180

Sun – 8 hours : $160.

That’s 60 hours for the week and $764 in earnings, meaning I made a total of $12.73/hr, exceeding the guarantee and getting no extra money, even though I had single days that made far less than the guarantee. If we changed that a little and said that the Friday wasn’t nearly so good, I made $100 less ($44). So my hours were still 60 but my earnings were $664, meaning I only made $11.07/hr. Since I made less than $12/hr for the week, they would give me money until I hit the $12/hr for the 60 hours I worked, adding $56 to my account to bring my weekly earnings to $720.”

“Fun? Hahahaha. Yeah, right.”

Flexible hours?

“If you don’t work 30 hours during the week you’re not on the early schedule….there’s a good chance that you’re not gonna get any hours unless you constantly look at the app to check to see if people dropped any.”

“It’s total bullshit that they make people work 30 hours a week to get on the schedule and the way they do weekends is bullshit too…some people can’t work weekends. It’s very un-flexible…I cannot for the life of me figure out why they want to do it that way. Seems like a lot of people would like to do this job as a side gig for extra money. They pretty much want full-time employees.”

Updated 12/11/2023

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