Amazon is continuing its trend of disrupting industries. Its sights are now set on courier services, and there’s a lot of money up for grabs — at least in the short term.
Amazon recently announced an expansion of its Delivery Service Partner program. The updated program encourages current Amazon employees to quit their jobs and start a package-delivery business. Amazon will even foot the start-up costs to the tune of $10,000, plus three months of the employee’s current wages.
“Now we have a path for those associates with an appetite for opportunities to own their own businesses,” said Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations in an announcement.
Greg Zakowicz, an e-commerce analyst for Oracle Bronto, said the program is a smart move by Amazon.
It’s a “win-win” for customers and the company, he said, because Amazon has found a way to “fill a void” in package-delivery that other couriers like the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx can’t.
But is it a win for entrepreneurs?
“That’s the million dollar question. No one knows yet,” Zakowicz said. “It’s a hard lesson to be the Guinea pig.”
How to Become an Amazon Delivery Service Partner
Amazon’s partnership program launched in June 2018 and is available to anyone in the U.S., U.K. or Spain. The program aims to entice delivery-savvy workers to start their own business ferrying Amazon packages full-time. Amazon provides basic training and guidance, but the hiring and leasing of delivery vehicles is on its partners.
The recent expansion focuses on Amazon’s current employees. It offers them up to $10,000, plus three months of current wages to quit their Amazon job to join the program.
The application process — you can start it on Amazon’s Logistics web page — can take up to six months to complete. Those accepted into the program go through three weeks of intensive training, which includes travel to Seattle.
To be eligible for startup funds, applicants must be U.S.-based Amazon employees.
Amazon favors applicants who have:
- Experience hiring and developing employees.
- At least $30,000 in liquid assets.
- Previous business-ownership history.
- Experience delivering packages.
Amazon published a brochure that includes a full training schedule and additional details about the business plan.
The e-commerce giant needs these additional couriers to meet an increase in demand due to a shift in Amazon Prime’s delivery time, down from two days to one.
But Zakowicz cautions this advice before dropping your day job to get the $10,000: “From an investment standpoint, this [business model] isn’t a get-rich-quick game.”
Other Moneymaking Opportunities Thanks to Amazon Disruption
Amazon has a history of disrupting the retail, e-commerce and courier-service industries — providing side-gig or career opportunities along the way.
The good news is that there are several options that don’t require buying a fleet of delivery vans.
Tapping into Amazon Associates, its affiliate marketing program, is a solid way to monetize your website or blog.
You make money by adding links on your site to Amazon products you’ve written about or reviewed, and when a reader clicks your link and makes a purchase, you’ll earn a commission. This is called affiliate marketing.
Here’s an example: You use a fancy new kitchen gadget and want to write a product review on your cooking blog. Use an affiliate link in your review. When someone clicks to buy that awesome gadget, you’ll pocket up to 10% of the purchase price.
Realistically, you might not earn a ton of money through the affiliate program, but it’s free to join, so there’s no loss in adding these into posts you’re already writing and sharing.
Not all product categories earn 10% commission. Beauty products earn the full 10%. Home improvement, furniture, kitchen, pantry and gardening supplies earn 8%. Other products earn less or aren’t eligible for the program.
As an Amazon Flex delivery partner, you’ll deliver goods to consumers via Amazon.com, Prime Now, AmazonFresh and Amazon Restaurants.
Amazon Flex says you can make $18 to $25 an hour as a Flex associate, though that’ll depend on how much you’re able to deliver. It processes payments on Tuesdays and Fridays through direct deposit, so you should see your money on Wednesday, Saturday or both.
To qualify, you need a phone with the Flex app and a car. If you’re delivering Prime Now orders, any car will suffice; however, if you’re delivering for Amazon.com, you’ll need a four-door midsize sedan or larger. In some areas, bikes are acceptable.
Becoming an Amazon Flex driver is a way to build package-delivery experience and boost your application to become a Delivery Service Partner.
The program recruits in various areas across the country based on need. If you don’t find your city on the list when you go to sign up, you can join the waitlist.
Amazon offers several options, including publishing to Kindle, print or audio.
Publishing a Kindle book is free, and your book will be available on the website within 24 to 48 hours. You’ll earn up to 70% royalty through Kindle Direct Publishing. You’ll also keep the rights to your book and set your own list prices, and you can make changes within the book after publishing.
Publishing to print through Amazon’s print-on-demand service is also free. Here, you’ll be able to create, publish and distribute your book within a few days. You’ll still own your copyright and set your list price. You’ll earn up to 60% royalties.
Finally, through Amazon’s Audiobook Creation Exchange, you can publish audiobooks and distribute them through Audible, Amazon and iTunes. You’ve got several royalty rate options here.
Mechanical Turk, aka mturk or turk, is a crowd-sourced marketplace by Amazon. Individuals or businesses can list simple tasks on the platform for users to complete at an agreed-upon rate, and Amazon takes a cut — similar to most freelance websites.
Each task is called a HIT, or Human Intelligence Task. You can complete these tasks from home and in your own time. Common HITs include opinion surveys, transcriptions and data entry gigs.
How much you make will depend on which tasks you accept and how much time they take. You’ll see a pay estimate before you begin, so you can gauge if a task is worth it.
To apply for Amazon MTurk, either create a new account or sync your existing Amazon account, then fill out a questionnaire. Screening and approval can take up to 48 hours, after which you will be placed on a probationary period where you must complete at least one HIT every 10 days. After that, it’s unlimited.
According to an NPR study, 44% of online shoppers now start their search on Amazon. And they’re not just buying from the corporation. Thousands of individual sellers post items for sale on the site.
To cash in on that action, you must first register as a third-party vendor with an Individual Seller Plan or a Professional Seller Plan.
- Individual seller accounts are free. They have a selling limit of 40 items per month, and Amazon deducts a 99-cent fee per sale. That means no up-front costs to list your item.
- Professional sellers must pay a $39.99 monthly subscription fee. Professional accounts have no selling limit and are exempt from the 99 cent fee.
Both types of accounts are subject to additional selling fees, which range from 3% to 45% of the sale price depending on the category of the item.
If you don’t feel like packaging, shipping or storing the items, Amazon also offers Fulfillment by Amazon, which handles all of that for you, plus customer service and returns — for additional costs, of course.
Broader Effects of Disruption
Who isn’t winning from Amazon’s bold push into delivery and entrepreneurship?
The USPS. It’s been hemorrhaging billions of dollars a year. In 2013, the postal service partnered with Amazon as a way to plug the money hole. Since then, postal workers dedicate Sundays to delivering Amazon packages only.
The new delivery service program could be a way to phase out the USPS partnership, Zakowicz suggested.
But not without a lot of sweat from the new partners.
“The way everything is structured, it doesn’t seem like the profit margins have room for them to sit back [compared to the other Amazon-disruption jobs],” Zakowicz said. “These guys are going to be busting their a****.”
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He specializes in ways to make money that don’t involve stuffy corporate offices. Read his latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.
Staff Writer Carson Kohler contributed to this article.