The Insider’s Guide to Life as an Uber Driver
Uber has been playing in the big leagues.
The latest round of funding put its value at $50 billion, and since December, it counts more than 150,000 drivers in the United States.
But for such a vast enterprise, there’s a surprising lack of training. Apart from a 13-minute instructional video on how to use the app, Uber provides no additional support to its drivers.
This has in turn created a demand for online instruction on how to become a great Uber driver, spawning online ride-sharing gurus who share tips on YouTube, answer questions from fans, and have even created online courses for Uber.
Brian Cole is one such guru. He inadvertently stumbled into the role when he became an Uber driver last September. Cole was a delivery person for a pizza company in Cincinnati when he decided to jump into Uber, which had just become available in the city in April, full time.
Cole works mostly at night, ferrying inebriated customers from bars to home (no one has made a mess in his Toyota Prius yet), and was soon able to make more than $1,000 per week.
He started making YouTube videos almost immediately, videotaping both in his car and living room, not to attract some sort of following, but as a personal document of sorts.
“I only intended my channel to be a case study of what an Uber driver can make in an average market,” he said in a phone interview.
After one of his early videos containing a few tips for drivers received more than 30,000 views, Cole realized that there was a sizable market of Uber neophytes who needed a boot camp for ride-share driving, so he started making videos tailored for that audience.
How 2 Uber
His YouTube channel lists a comprehensive array of videos covering everything from whether you should keep a tip jar in your car (no, people might complain about you, and it’s against the rules so you could get banned) to how to deal with drunk customers (don’t talk back to them; remind yourself it will be over soon), and includes advice on how to avoid mistakes that even experienced taxi drivers are prone to making.
One of Uber’s most famous — and infamous — features is fare surging. During peak hours, prices can rise by a factor of five in a neighborhood when there’s a shortage of drivers. Novice Uber drivers are primed to chase after heightened fares, but Cole, speaking from experience, states that most of the time it’s not worth it: Surges are brief and will likely have declined or disappeared by the time you make it to that neighborhood.
“Surge pricing is a waste of time for me. As soon as I get there, surge pricing disappears. No more wasting gas and chasing surge,” an Uber driver wrote in the comment section of one of his first videos.
Cole has since partnered with Harry Campbell, author of the popular blog for Uber drivers, to create an online training course for incoming Uber drivers, priced at $97, aptly named MaximumRideSharingProfits.
After perusal of his channel, it’s not too difficult to see why Uber doesn’t provide its drivers more training: The advice Cole gives is intended to help the drivers boost their income, which may occasionally go against the customer ’s—and the company’s—interests.
In one of his videos, Cole advises drivers to avoid short trips. They’re usually not worth the time spent to pick up the customer, and the $1 safety charge really eats away at the short trips. Many veteran Uber drivers take this lesson to heart and will ask customers beforehand where they’re going, canceling trips that they deem insufficiently lengthy, much to the ire of some Uber users.
The diverging interest of Uber and its drivers is one reason Cole’s not worried that Uber could swoop in and replace him with in-house training videos.
“I think if Uber wants to create some kind of training, people would go on the blogs [and] YouTube,” Cole said. “Corporate training is great, but people will always want third-party reviews.”