Why you should care

Because this is an easy way to get cash — and a morning jog. 

I wake up at 6 am, jump on an electric scooter and head into the winter cold. Soon, the wind is whipping a grin out of my suddenly wide-awake face. It may be early, I may be tired. But there is an unfiltered joy that comes from riding through the hushed streets, quiet before the early traffic rush. Even better: I’m getting paid for my refreshing head start to the day. 

This is life as a scooter charger, a side hustle that pays $6 per scooter or, if you grab four in a night, as much as $24. That might not seem like a hefty payday at first glance. But consider that, with the right location and system, you can easily charge two scooters overnight in less than half an hour of actual work. And you can make more, in less time, if you have a vehicle. Charge two to four every weekday and you’re talking about an extra $250 to $500 in your bank account each month. That’s your monthly beer fund or grocery bill, retirement savings or rent payment in lower-cost cities — just for picking up a scooter on what might already be your afternoon commute and dropping it off the next day. “It can help people to supplement other incomes,” says Paris Marx, author of Freedom From Jobs: How Automation Will Revolutionize the Future of Work.  

You have to live in one of the dozens of U.S. cities where an electric-scooter startup, such as Bird, Lime, Skip or Spin, has set up shop. If you do, you already know, because you’ve likely seen them whiz by you, everywhere from Mobile, Alabama to Boise, Idaho (scooters are also making their way around the world). Next, download the company’s app on a smartphone, and go through their sign-up process, which typically requires a background check, driver’s license and a direct deposit bank account. Assuming you’re approved, the company will send a set of chargers in the mail … and then it’s off to the races!

Time it well, and you might even get a free commute, with no gas or metro costs. 

 

Each company has a different process. In essence, though, they all involve picking up the scooters at night — your smartphone “unlocks” them typically after 9 pm — and returning them to a hub anytime before 7 am with at least a 95 percent charge. Drop them off too late, or under-charged, and you risk getting paid less (or not at all). Where you live is essential: Ideally, you can pick them up after work, during happy hour or between Netflix episodes, and then drop them off before work. Time it well, and you might even get a free commute, with no gas or metro costs. 

Like most new technologies, upcoming regulations could make scooter charging less lucrative or enjoyable. “Generally the model is that when these companies start out, they tend to offer more money to get people onto the platform and participating,” Marx says. But he worries that those relying on gig economy jobs are exposed, without typical labor protections: Scooter chargers are designated as independent contractors, not employees

 

There are personal costs too. Practically, you can expect a small uptick to your electric bill, roughly about 10 cents per charged scooter. Make sure the effort is worth your time (I don’t charge on nights where I can’t make at least $12 per hour). For some people, the lifestyle change is the hardest part: Waking up that early isn’t easy, and walking or jogging back from dropping off the scooters is a morning exercise some might want to skip.

Then again, that morning ritual might be one of the most surprising benefits. Having cash on the line might be the motivation you need to fulfill any dreams of being an early riser. For me, waking up with the rush of a morning ride has let me begin writing with the sunrise, coffee in hand. While I started charging scooters for extra cash, I instead got a lifestyle that’s made me not just more productive, but also healthier and happier. It sure as hell beats the Dave Ramsey method of delivering pizzas to make pocket change.

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