Common themes among rideshare drivers are you hear and see things others don’t, and you learn things about yourself you otherwise wouldn’t. Nick Gionfriddo, 31, an Uber driver for the last 2 years in San Francisco relates, saying he often “plays therapist” to passengers, and these interactions inspire him to explore filmmaking, photography, and writing.
While his earnings - typically $1100 a week after work expenses, according to Gionfriddo – are mostly saved so he can move to Los Angeles to pursue these new career opportunities, he’s keenly aware of the current opportunity before him.
“I get 20 new coworkers every day,” Gionfriddo says, “that is, I’m meeting 20 new people a day, and they all have different stories and knowledge to share. I hope to one day share tell their stories.”
Sometimes these stories are joyful, and filled with hope. Like the time he picked up a woman in Oakland who was beaming with happiness because her sister had just delivered a baby, even though doctors had previously told her she would never be able to conceive after a bout with cancer. Gionfriddo dropped her off at the hospital so she could meet her niece for the first time.
Other times these stories are solemn, and grim. Like when he traverses the Bay area, and witnesses first hand the bulging socioeconomic disparity.
“The dynamic in San Francisco and the bay is one of immense wealth, and then right next to it this incredibly crushing poverty,” he says. “A lot of people don’t see it unless they put themselves in a situation where they’re forced to see it.”
Across the ups and downs, highs and lows, twists and turns of life and the road, Gionfriddo admits driving has “blossomed new passions.” But it’s not always about what you learn, sometimes it’s as simple as what you can earn. To do this more effectively, Gionfriddo pretends he’s in a game, and while there are rules and limitations to it, the boundaries aren’t always what they seem. For example, he’s up every morning at 5:30 so he can be on the road from San Jose to San Francisco by 6:15. First he’ll pop by the airport to catch a passenger to bring into the city. From there he’s working the morning rush hour crowd until about 10 a.m. He jumps off the Uber app and tries to do some food deliveries during lunch for other platforms. If things are slow, he might pull over and set up a hotspot to work on one of his business ideas, or invest in stocks and cryptocurrencies. Once the evening rush hour rolls around, he’s back on app. But maybe, if he’s tired, he’ll relax until people are coming and going from the bars and clubs.
“You have to compartmentalize your day and figure out strategically the best time to turn your meter on and off,” he says. “If you want to get a good hourly rate, you can’t waste your time.”
Gionfriddo drives about 200 to 250 miles a day, and because of the excessive mileage he’s chosen to rent a car for the job instead of using a personal car. While the weekly car rental rate is an overhead cost ($234 after taxes for a Chevy Trax), he considers it “the cost of doing business.”
“It’s an operating cost of what roughly a small business owner would see any way,” he adds.
As it relates to rideshare, he only drives for Uber because if he split time between Uber and Lyft, he says he wouldn’t be able to drive enough hours on either platform to earn their bonuses. After he saves for his move to Los Angeles, he hopes to jump right into his new businesses, but he might take 3 months to drive for Amazon Flex during the day. Regardless, five years from now he sees himself as a successful, self-sufficient entrepreneur.
“I really hope to have a portfolio of businesses that contribute in a meaningful way to society,” he adds.