By Julius Grafton
I personally know at least 10 freelance theatre and events techs show drive Uber – it is the perfect ‘in between’ filler because you can drive one hour or one week – the system lets you log on and off anytime.
“I finish my gig at 12.15am and I’m too wired to go straight home to bed”, Glenn (Sydney) says. “As I walk to to carpark I go Online on the Uber Partner APP and usually have a local pickup before I get to the car. Often it is people who were at our show, and have had a drink or two after”.
At this point I should disclose that I too drive Uber, and like all drivers I get a commission if I refer new drivers. But that isn’t the main point of this article. Rather it is to open up a pathway to a better life if you rely on freelance, for those times in between when you are not earning anything.
The Entertainment Assist report in late 2016 shocked the industry with findings that while we are mainly passionate and driven about working backstage, when the work stops we crash. We have the one of the largest incidences of depression, and are many times more likely to think about suicide than others outside the industry.
Causal to that are the dark times between work. So Uber presents as both therapy and a life line. Make of it what you will. Here’s how you can:
First log on here and let the system guide you through the process to become a driver. They require a driver authority in your home state and they usually have a hot link to apply. If there is a government fee (in NSW it is $80) they pay it and take it out of your first weeks pay.
You need a suitable car with four doors that isn’t TOO old. Uber can hook you up with one of their partners for car rental or weekly lease too. It is surprisingly easy to get the right vehicle. I suggest a diesel SUV, which is what I use.
Then drive. Once you are ready to go, you slide the switch to ONLINE. I bought a windscreen mount for the mobile, and always have it plugged in as the APP chews battery since the screen is on the whole time. You will also burn some data, but I don’t hit my 9 GB limit each month so I don’t know what the UBER burn rate is.
Depending on where you are and what time it is, the jobs flow. You get a ‘PING’. You have about 4 seconds to choose the job – I always check the estimated time to the pickup, and I wouldn’t drive more than 10 minutes to get there.
Punching the PING locks you in to the job, but you can still cancel within 5 minutes without penalty. It is best not to, as too many cancellations can affect your ratings.
If you get caught in traffic, I find it best to ring the rider and let them know, so they don’t cancel ME (they can cancel free if I don’t make it within the original time frame). The APP has a contact system using a masked number, so you and I don’t have a record of our mobile numbers. I know the first name of the person I am collecting, and they know me and have my car details and a small photo. Uber’s system is ultra safe for everyone because it knows who is where.
On that, I can pull up a record of all trips, as can any rider. Our daughter left her phone in an Uber one night, and the next day we got it back. The drivers know they are accountable, as do the riders. The Rating system will throw a driver off UBER if they fall under average, after warning them first. It will also reject repeatedly bad riders. Another hint: see the PING has a 5 star note at the bottom? That’s the rider’s score. If I see anything starting with 3, I don’t go to them!
It isn’t the best paid gig. But I average about $35 an hour gross (after UBER has taken its cut), and from that I have to pay 10% GST, fuel, car costs and income tax after expenses are deducted. You could cherry pick times that earn a lot more – such as weekend nights from 6pm – 9pm, or week days between 8am and 9am, and peak hour. This is when demand is off the scale, and the system imposes PEAK charges. Drivers share in that!
My earnings are at times that suit me and they are usually NOT the peak times above. I drive because I enjoy meeting people and seeing new corners of Sydney. I have a patience for driving, I don’t think road ragers or anxious personalities are suited but you need to try it to know.
For me it is a de-stresser between my media work, which is more cerebral and intense. Getting out on the road in the city is a visual treat, at least it is in Sydney where there are views and new projects everywhere to see.
The riders are either solo and quiet, or they want to chat. I welcome them on board, hit the START TRIP slider and off we go. The destination pops up, and I can use the UBER map or a GOOGLE map to navigate there.
Both maps are dynamic and take traffic into account which can be invaluable. Most riders have a route preference, so I ask them.
After a few trips, I check earnings on the app. It is always reassuring to see what you’ve earned. Every Monday, the UBER system pays the money into my account.
Every second trip is an eye opener, or a great discussion. I really enjoy these! Here is one story from the road:
Party girls in Uber. Collected Zoe and Liza at 11am Sunday. They compared notes, Liza left her phone in an Uber sometime Saturday night and had just had a round trip to Mascot (cost $78) to retrieve it. Now we were headed to a house in Paddo to get her handbag. “How did you get home?” asks Zoe. “I honestly can’t remember!” she says. “OMG doesn’t my breath stink?” (It sure did). “I used half a tube of toothpaste and it still reeks. It’s ‘cos I made a bacon and egg plate at 3am and used a whole container of Aoli. Kind of like I had bacon and egg on the side…..”
I’m laughing with them, genuinely funny city girls. “Tell him about the duck dash for cash splash”, Zoe yells. “So we went in the charity swim at Bondi at 9am and afterwards we were so proud we had to go have a few at the pub…”
“A few kegs….” says Zoe.
“By 5pm I was needing a swim, but I didn’t have my bag, ‘cos Zoe had it and she was gone”, continues Liza. “So I went down and stripped to undies at Bondi. Nice sheer black ones. More like a G string actually. Anyway had swim, came out and could NOT find my jumpsuit. Like, anywhere.”
“So I walked to my friends place about 1km through Bondi, in my wet undies”.
“Fell asleep face down on the lounge floor, woke at 11pm and decided to go to a party. Borrowed boys jeans, striped shirt, things three sizes too big. Looked like a lesbian, actually”.
“Next day went to the surf lifesaver on duty and asked if they found my jumpsuit. ‘Were you the naked girl?’ he asked. ‘Actually yes I was’, I said. He got on he radio to the guy in the tower. ‘The naked girl is here, did anyone find a jumpsuit?’ The guy in he tower says ‘yes it washed up this morning – and is she still naked’? He zooms over on the quad bike, and it is like FULL of sand!”
Outrageously funny girls.
Oh yes, and Zoe was on her NINTH iPhone since 2012. “The guy in the Optus store looks at my number and plan and seems confused. “Are you on – like – a family plan or something?”
“No. Just me.”
So there you go!
Just a couple of things to consider:
(1) Uber is legal in NSW – check the status where you are.
(2) While the rider (passenger) is insured by UBER, you are not. You should check with your car insurer about ride sharing – will your comprehensive insurance cover you?
(3) You must allow for GST, even though UBER are at time challenging the tax ruling. This is a grey area, but better you put the money aside than not.
Other than that, JUST LOG ON HERE!
(Feel free to email Julius for tips or with questions, here.)