A few months ago I signed up for Dolly, the moving app, to see what it was all about.
I’ve driven for Lyft and Uber, toyed with food deliver and Amazon Flex – so when this new moving app started generating some buzz in Seattle I had to check it out.
I originally signed up in September of 2017, and I wrote a post about how to sign up for Dolly. It was actually my roommate that introduced me to the app. He had recently purchased a new truck, and heard about moving furniture with Dolly to generate side income.
I didn’t have a truck at the time, but it didn’t matter. Dolly let’s you sign up as a “hand”, and essentially you do the lifting, not the driving. You can also sign up as a “helper” if you own a truck. Helpers almost always take the lead on gigs – a hierarchy is determined and the lead does the bulk of interaction with customers (at least through the app). Dollies are broken up into to categories, moves that require a truck and moves that are labor only. Labor only Dolly’s are divided up 50/50 between both of the hands on the job. Moving Dollies that require a truck are split 65/35, with the truck owner pulling in the bulk of the payout.
Starting out, I would take both types of jobs – and really enjoyed doing both. Dolly has a cool system that does a decent job of replicating contract labor, just in an on-demand setting.
Jobs are priced “per item” or “per hour”. They post to a live feed, that displays to all helpers and hands in the general area. It’s first come first serve, so you’ve got to be ready to jump on a gig when the right one pops up. A cool feature is the feedback function. If you’re not interested in a gig, you select from a variety of reasons why you passed on it. These include “price”, “location”, “too difficult”, “still interested” and “other”. If multiple helpers and hands pass on the same gig for “price” as a reason, the customer will be encouraged to raise the price in order to get the gig filled.
While not a true replica of real life independent contracting, where contractors have the ability to negotiate one on one with a customer, it’s a nice system. Dolly seems to have figured out a way to let independent contractors keep their autonomy while selecting bids having never seen the customer in person. It works out well for customers (as does everything else in the on-demand economy), because they can set a bid relatively low for their move and it gets pitched to a large pool of hungry contractors.
So into my experience.
September was a busy month with Dolly. I was picking up moves and labor a few days a week. I learned how to determine the difficulty of gigs relatively quickly and jump on good opportunities. There were gigs where I would make $60 to $100 an hour doing relatively light work. Those were the days!
Then there were the misrepresented, highly challenging gigs. Customers would post a stair-master for a move up two flights of stairs. And the naive hands who was new to Dolly would bite. That was me a few times. And let me tell you, there is no amount of cash that can compensate for the toll that a move like that takes on your body. But I learned. I stayed very far away from stair-masters, washing machines and large cabinet moves.
All in all, September through November were good months! I made good money helping people and getting exercise. And then there were the stories of the “gravy train”. The guys who had been doing it for a year and purchased a box-truck (capable of moving huge loads). Rumors spread that they would pull $1500 to $2500 a week doing moves.
I’d met multiple people on the job who had purchased a truck just to work for Dolly. It was starting to feel like Lyft and Uber all over again. The contractors were purchasing the depreciating assets in order to capitalize on this tremendous opportunity.
I didn’t buy in personally, although there was a week or two that I considered selling my Mazda 3 and purchasing an older Ford Ranger. It’s a smaller truck but they do great on gas mileage, and can handle smaller moves well. Best of all, I would have come up on the trade in if I had played my cards right on Craigslist.
But something kept telling me not to invest, even when it looked good on paper. In fact, one of those voices was Dolly support. When I asked about truck requirements before purchasing, they recommended not buying for Dolly! A far cry from the ads from Uber encouraging drivers to lease vehicles so that they could move passengers around!
I’m not saying that it would have been a bad investment. In fact, I still think it’s too soon to tell. The load of gigs in my Dolly feed has slowed down for the winter, which doesn’t surprise me. Who would want to move apartements in January?
But as Dolly continues to make a name for itself, competitors won’t be far behind. Prices will fall to pressure and this time it will be the hands/helpers that take the hit.
Dolly the On Demand Moving App | How Does It Work?
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