For two University of North Georgia Gainesville campus students, finding a job with flexible hours amid a busy class schedule and other part-time work sometimes proves difficult.
However, Jarrett Kirby and James Couey discovered a suitable option allowing them to earn some extra cash through the ease of an app and their vehicles. Both men work for Lyft, a transportation service.
Founded in 2012, Lyft operates similarly to Uber, but with a few differences. With Lyft, customers have to be in the system’s pickup area. With Uber, customers can be picked up from anywhere.
Through the Lyft application on a phone, a rider can request a driver for pickup in the designated zone. On the flip side, drivers can make money with a simple press of their gas pedal.
Couey, 28, has worked for the company for two weeks and has estimated he will add about $10,000 to his yearly income. And that’s only working about 15 hours a week.
The Flowery Branch resident mostly drives for Lyft from Thursdays through Saturdays. He adds more hours when he can among working three other jobs and attending classes at UNG in Gainesville. Couey works as a mechanic, buys and sells cars and works at O’Reilly Auto Parts.
He discovered the service when his mother told him how to apply after she had driven for Uber and thought he might want to sign up.
“I’m my own boss. I work when I want,” said Couey, whose mother has driven for Uber for the past month and a half.
The “as-you-will job” appeals to Kirby, who has worked for the company since July.
“I plan on using it while I have vacation time or downtime at other jobs,” the 25-year-old said.
As of now, Kirby works 20 hours some weeks and none the next week. The Buford resident explained it depends on his class schedule along with juggling four jobs. Kirby is in management training for RaceTrac, works for Vector Marketing and is licensed to do loan origination in Georgia.
For both college students, the benefit of working for Lyft is the weekly paycheck.
“I enjoy driving and needed something flexible to make extra income,” Kirby said. “I saw a few friends had liked it on Facebook. So, I went to check it out on their website.”
Before becoming Lyft drivers, both men had to meet a few requirements.
For one, drivers cannot have any tickets on their licenses.
Drivers also must have good people skills and a relatively new, clean four-door car.
“They check, like, where you’re from, your likes, dislikes and compares them to the rider,” Couey said, explaining the feature only applies to Lyft, not Uber.
Lyft also conducts background checks on each driver.
Once the driver is approved and the app is installed on his or her phone, the app pairs the driver with a potential person in a specific distance for pickup.
“I have 15 seconds to accept the rider, and then pick him up,” Couey said. “I drop said rider off, I rate him, and he gets an email to rate, based on the experience.”
Getting paid is as simple as any other job. Drivers provide their bank account and bank card numbers, then their weekly paychecks are directly deposited into their accounts.
The two men do face competition from Uber, which operates in the Oakwood, Flowery Branch and Buford areas.
However, Lyft is concentrated closer to Atlanta and Buckhead areas, with some nearer to Gwinnett or the Mall of Georgia area. Couey drives in the downtown Atlanta area.
“With all the clubs, that’s where I get the most of my money,” Couey said.
Kirby circles areas such as Brookhaven and Buckhead, or other high-income areas, for most of his time.
“I do find certain areas more lucrative than others,” Kirby said.
He also knows to stick close to areas where festivals, concerts, conferences or other events take place, such as the Georgia Dome or Little Five Points.
The Lyft app helps in that regard. It has a special “hotspot” feature, showing drivers the temporarily marked areas with higher quantities of requests for drivers.
It’s been an extra source of income for the two college students, but the benefits don’t stop there.
“It fits my needs perfectly and has tons of perks if I were to drive even just 20 fares a month, including AAA discounts,” Kirby said.
Being a Lyft driver also comes with discounts to AMC theaters.
“It’s super easy to get into, and you have the potential to start driving the day after you sign up,” Kirby said. “There’s not much else out there with a startup time that quick.”
For Kirby and Couey, they learn to network with their fares and meet new people.
“You’re going to come across some rude fares, but you’ll have that issue with any job,” Kirby said. “At least here, if things get weird or creepy, you can kick someone out or refuse the fare altogether.”
Riders also have the safety net of rating drivers. If a driver dips below a 4.8 average, they are flagged. But turnabout is 50-50. Drivers have the opportunity to rate passengers.
“I talk to all of them, and very few aren’t willing or wanting to make conversation,” Kirby said. “Most are intrigued by the job, and how much more personable we are than a taxi.
“Occasionally you have friends out for drinks who are more interested in talking to each other, or maybe just getting home and are tired, but for the most part people enjoy the difference in having a warm, welcoming driver.”
Working for Lyft does have its drawbacks.
“Not every ride is the best,” Couey said.
Kirby said the worst part for him is putting miles on his car, or finding himself in some unexpected situations.
“I came out of a narrow turn once, and hugged a curb just too snug,” he said. “I never felt the connection, but the tire did. And it burst from the pressure. I could have received a AAA discount during my tire issue as a gold driver, but I hadn’t received the benefit yet at the time.”