How I Earn: “The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had Working. Period”

Rob Michlowski - Feb 6, 2024
Illustration by María Jesús Contreras

This week, Lyft announced a series of features to make earning with Lyft easier. To celebrate, we caught up with top-earning Lyft drivers around the country and asked them to share their own tips and insights into how they are able to get the most out of driving. 

Back in 2017, I was working full-time as an executive recruiter, and my wife was looking for something to do now that the kids were out of the house. Every day she’d say, “Man, I wish I knew somebody who drove with Lyft who could show me the ropes.” And then, finally, I said, “Why don’t I sign up?”  

I drove for a few weeks, and I just kept driving. Lyft is the most fun I’ve ever had working. Period. As an executive recruiter, I went to work without talking to anybody, you know? Everything was done over chat and email. I’m social. I like talking to people. And in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I mean, the vast array of people that I meet on a daily basis is just stunning. You never know who’s going to get in the car next.

"At night I’ll look at scheduled rides and try to catch one to the airport the next morning. Those are my most profitable rides."

At night I’ll look at scheduled rides and try to catch one to the airport the next morning. Those are my most profitable rides. They tend to tip. And sometimes you’ll get an airport pickup that takes you really far. And the longer you have a person in your car, the more money you’re gonna make. Plus, you really get to know somebody. It’s beautiful. 

I’ll use some of the features too. Just recently I ended up in Clinton Township, which was an hour and a half away from my house. I put on the “head to destination” filter [which only suggests rides en route to a particular endpoint] and caught a couple rides back home. If I go out to Detroit or Lansing, I always use that to bring me back. 

If I have a streak bonus [where drivers get bonuses for completing a certain number of rides back-to-back], I’ll set a filter to only accept rides with a ten-mile radius, so I get as many short rides as I can. But otherwise, I don’t stress about bonuses. Just drive, and it’ll all work out. 

The only thing I avoid is driving during football games. When there’s a game here, you get caught in traffic. And with Lyft, almost all your money is for miles driven, not time driven. If I’m stuck for 30 minutes, I don’t make any money. So I go drive in Detroit when there are games here. 

Oh, one last thing. When I started, I watched a lot of YouTube videos of successful drivers. Most of what they said, I didn’t do. But the best piece of advice I ever got was from a guy who said, “Whatever you do, get strawberry-scented air fresheners.” Now, not a day goes by where somebody doesn’t say, “Man, your car smells great.”

Rob’s Top 5 Tips for Earning

  1. The night before you drive, see if there’s a scheduled morning ride to the airport you can catch. 

  2. When heading home, use the “head to destination” filter to optimize earnings. 

  3. When trying to maximize back-to-back rides, set your filter to a ten-mile radius.

  4. Consider avoiding driving on days with high-traffic events. 

  5. Get strawberry-scented air fresheners: The customers notice.