What’s Your Side Hustle?
Uber, Lyft, other apps offer workers extra cash, flexible hours
Younger generations are glued to their phones – or at least that’s how the stereotype goes.
But, the folks who grew up with cellphones and the Internet have upgraded more than just their old devices. The Chippewa Valley has seen rising activity in “side hustles” in the past few years in the form of Uber, Lyft, EatStreet, and other app-based transportation and delivery services. It’s the younger generations who fuel those ideas, and the older generations who drive them – literally.
“Lyft exists because of the newer generations like Millennials and Gen Z,” said Nicole Abbott, a Lyft driver. “Most people never go out without their phone, so it makes getting a ride convenient and easy.”
Abbott, a student at UW-Eau Claire, learned about the transportation business through her fiancé, who drove for Uber. “I wasn’t getting enough hours at my regular job, and I wanted to make some extra money so I signed up to drive for Lyft,” she said.
“Lyft exists because of the newer generations like Millennials and Gen Z. Most people never go out without their phone, so it makes getting a ride convenient and easy.” – Nicole Abbott, a Lyft driver and UW-Eau Claire student
Signing up isn’t difficult, Abbott said. All she had to do was visit the Lyft website to register to drive. A driver has to be 21 years old, pass criminal background and driving record checks, have a valid in-state driver’s license, have one year of driving experience, in-state plates with current registration, a four-door car that fits at least four people, and in-state insurance. Uber has similar requirements.
“It’s so appealing to younger people because it is something that you control,” she said. “With a regular taxi you don’t know which driver you’ll get. With Lyft, you know what type of car they’re in, the license plate number, and you get a picture of your driver. It all has a very safe, modern feel to it.”
While Abbott said Lyft is a company created by the younger generation, she typically sees older people driving as a means to supplement their income.
It’s something that Adam Lucast, also a student at UW-Eau Claire, observed when he drove for EatStreet. Though there were many young people who drove, Lucast said he frequently saw people in a “transition” period of their life. Whether that meant going from job to job or perhaps moving to a new state, many people picked up the side job as a way to bring in extra cash until they could find their career job.
That’s not Eau Claire-specific. Nolan Kerr, a University of Minnesota Twin Cities student, said most of the drivers he’s had with Uber have been between the ages of 30 and 50.
“Not many older than that, and definitely no one younger,” he said.
While drivers may be a little older or in transitory stages of life, Lucast said college students are the most common age cohort to use services such as EatStreet. While working there, he often delivered to places like Water Street and downtown Eau Claire.
“I’ve looked at taxi services in Eau Claire and the prices are pretty similar, and the Uber app makes it easier to request rides,” said Katherine Langfield, a UW-Eau Claire student who has used Uber. “I think having an app makes it more convenient and accessible.”
Other delivery services are also available in the Chippewa Valley, including Grubhub (in Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire) and UberEats and BiteSquad (in Eau Claire only). Menomonie and Chippewa Falls have yet to get on the Uber and Lyft bandwagon. As for rideshare options, anyone in the area can use Turo – an app where you can rent out someone’s old car.
Other companies – like HopSkipDrive, Via, Lift Hero, and Wingz – are popular in larger cities around the country but have yet to make an appearance in the Chippewa Valley.
Lucast said that, just as at any job, he was rated for his performance at EatStreet. If you don’t skip out on hours and do what you’re supposed to do, you’ll get a good score, he said. A good score means more hours.
“It’s just the same as any other manager,” he said. “It just sounds kind of Black Mirror-ish.”
Black Mirror, a Netflix show, explores the advantages, and dangerous effects, of technological advancement. But, for many drivers, driving for a food delivery or ride company is a job “just like anything else,” Abbott said.
“It’s also personally satisfying to know that I am helping people, who are sometimes very vulnerable, get home safely,” she said.