How An Uber Driver Makes $250,000+ Per Year

Forbes ran a fascinating story last week about an “Uberpreneur,” who makes $250,000+ driving Ubers… with a twist.

Uber

The article is about Gavin, a Filipino immigration who drives Ubers, but makes most of his money selling jewelery to passengers:

His name is Gavin Escolar, a charismatic Filipino man with a laugh that’s even louder than his orange-and-red striped dress shirt. We’re cruising down Valencia street when I notice diamond earrings dangling on the dashboard. Around his wrist, an emerald bracelet gleams through the sunlight. In the seat pockets, glossy catalogs display more jewelry. The cover reads: Gavin Escolar’s 2014 Collection.

Then it hits me: I’m not in Gavin’s car. I’m in his mobile showroom. He’s not just an Uber driver. Nor is he just an entrepreneur. He’s an Uberpreneur, using the ridesharing app to promote his jewelry business.

“My passengers surprised me,” Gavin says, remembering his early days. “I thought they would be silent or on the phone. But most people wanted to talk. When I mentioned my jewelry, they asked for business cards, but I didn’t have any.” That’s when a light bulb went off in his mind: Why stop at business cards? Why not just show them my jewelry?

This is an interesting, because I would have assumed Uber would have a policy against drivers trying to sell other things to paying passengers. But it seems they actually support the idea:

“Absolutely,” Uber spokeswoman Kristin Carvell says. “One of the greatest things about the Uber platform is that it offers economic opportunity for a variety of drivers — full-time, part-time, veterans, teachers, artists, and students — in more than 260 cities around the world.  Supporting and fueling the local economy is important to Uber and our driver partners help us to achieve this goal.”

How much is Gavin making with his business?

It’s these tactics that translate to sales. In the past year, Gavin designed many jewelry pieces for passengers, averaging $18,000 in transactions per month. Adding the $3,000 monthly gross earnings from Uber, he made $252,000 last year.

I think the key here is that Gavin seems to have tact with how he approaches this. Clearly he wouldn’t have such a high Uber rating and sell so much jewelery if he didn’t get “hints” from people. If he’s a nice guy and has a great product, I’m all for him being entrepreneurial. The good thing about Uber is that there’s an instant feedback loop, so if someone’s sales pitches are annoying, the person being driven can immediately provide that feedback through the app.

So I say kudos to Gavin for his creativity!

What do you think — is it okay for an Uber driver to try and sell paying passengers something, assuming it’s done with tact?

Comments

  1. the way he’s doing it, i see nothing wrong. like you said, if it were to become annoying or pushy, the feedback via the app would skew negative.

    side note: on sunday i flew the 11:30PM arrival from IAH-LGA on UA. upon entering a yellow cab, the driver — who was incredulous because i was going to queens and not manhattan — turned to me and snarled “why don’t you just take a bus, man?” needless to say we had words and i am officially done with nyc taxis for good. with uberx being technically cheaper anyway, i won’t be surprised if others make the switch permanently.

  2. I actually think this is NOT okay. Uber is all about keeping high standards for the relationship between driver and passenger, and this crosses a line. Uber is basically condoning it as an admission that they want to pay their drivers less than minimum wage and have it made up for in hard-to-measure-and-issue-W2s-for side businesses.

    Poor form, Uber. If I had a huckster as my driver, they wouldn’t be that much better than a yellow cab, IMHO.

  3. In my understanding, doesn’t $18,000 transactions translate to revenue? I’m guessing his actual profit would fall somewhere around $150,000

  4. @pavel I guess it’s in the tone. He may have thought you were an out of towner and not known that buses to someplace in Queens might be comparably convenient and cheaper than a taxi. If he was trying to be helpful (“Why don’t you take a bus? The Q72 is right there and you’ll be at your stop in 10 minutes for half the price”) vs. jerkish (“Take a bus. I want a more expensive fare.”) that makes all the difference.

  5. I’m wondering if he got this idea from reading your blog post about tuk-tuk drivers, and just decided to cut out the middle men. 🙂

  6. For a scalable way to make $250k, just notice what is happening in your local taxi market. ‘Uberpreneurs’ are using the age-old model of buying fleets of black cars and leasing them to former taxi drivers as the’ve always done. But instead of paying for licenses and medallions and dispatch fees, they let Uber handle all that.

    Think about it, if you’re a new immigrant, you don’t have enough capital to buy a car or medallion. Would you rather go through the rigors of municipal licensing and pay $$ for the privilege of driving for one of your local taxi oligopoly companies, or instead make more money by installing an app and just leasing a towncar from your buddy?

  7. unless it is right across the street I don’t walk and to suggest I take the bus or subway is ridiculous. That’s never going to happen whatever the cost.

  8. @LTL LGA taxi drivers hate queens because they waited a long time to get a fare and the make way less on a queens fare than a Manhattan or brooklyn fare. Never tell a NYC taxi where you are going until you get inside.

  9. @LTL nah he was just frustrated. it was 11:30 on a Sunday night and freezing outside. No one wants to take a bus. He just was pissed because it was an Astoria run right down the GCP and there were no more shorty tickets from the dispatcher that time of night. Too bad, too because I always tip very generously to cabbies and delivery people, having done both jobs myself. Also not my first time having cab drivers pissed about going to Astoria, even from JFK which is weird because it always ends up a higher fare than the Manhattan flat rate.

  10. I cannot imagine buying jewelry from any sort of cab or hired car driver. I’d be offended that any driver is taking advantage of me being a captive audience and I’d probably ask to be let out if I were in an area where I could catch another cab.

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