CNBC Disruptor 50

The business of being a ride-hailing driver

A look at how ride-share drivers make money

Ride-hailing companies, also sometimes described as ride-sharing, are raking in billions of dollars in revenue by disrupting local markets. In fact, 2018 CNBC Disruptors were ride-hailing apps.

But drivers on the road have a different strategy to maximize profits – diversification.

Ride-hailing drivers are technically independent contractors, so they’re not tied to just one company. The more apps they’re on, the more money on the table.

George Kavallines | CNBC

Harry Campbell, a ride-hailing driver known as "The Rideshare Guy," runs a blog to help drivers make the most of their business. And he recommends drivers sign up for at least two different apps.

"Once you learn the ropes, you should be driving for at a minimum both Uber and Lyft because you’re actually a business owner as a rideshare driver so it’s important to diversify your income," Campbell said.

But juggling multiple ride-hailing platforms can be complicated. Fumbling between phones or apps to manage new rider requests while navigating the road isn’t always the most efficient, or safe, way to work.

At least one company is trying to make it easier for drivers to cash in on multiple apps. Mystro is an app that automates the process of comparing different platforms. It's almost like a personal assistant for drivers.

According to Campbell, who is also an advisor to Mystro, the app isn't just helping digital native millennial drivers.

"Something we hear from a lot of older drivers who maybe aren't as technologically savvy, is that they often struggle with accepting requests," Campbell said. Mystro's voice control feature makes accepting trip requests "completely hands-free."

But the surge in ride-hailing technology hasn’t been a boon for everyone on the roads. Taxi drivers are struggling to keep up with the industry disruption, and some feel the cards are stacked against them.

Manuel Morocho has been a New York City yellow cab driver for 20 years, and he said that since the entry of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, business is “completely down for yellow cabs.”

Manuel Morocho, NYC Yellow Cab driver for 20 years.
Jaden Urbi | CNBC

"Years ago you could work just eight or nine hours and make the money you need," Morocho said. "These days we’re not able to make enough money to pay our bills, our mortgage, working 12 hours a day, most of the time seven days a week.”

Even if they're not leaving to drive for Uber, many taxi drivers are still embracing a digital approach with credit card terminals and apps like Curb. More than 100,000 drivers now use Curb, which lets riders hail a professional taxi driver from an app similar to Uber's.

But Curb isn't looking disrupt the market, rather it wants to make the existing taxi industry more accessible.

"People focus on the future because it’s exciting. But there’s a lot of really important work that’s done by literally the dirty, greasy vehicles that turn the streets,” said Jason Gross, vice president of mobile at Curb.

"It’s gritty work in some cases, it doesn’t necessarily drive $60 million valuations for a mom and pop taxi operation in Columbus, Ohio, but it really serves an important role."

Tensions are heating up in the ride-hailing space. Companies like and are facing a number of legal battles and a handful of states are putting pressure on gig economy companies to classify their workers as employees. But as it stands now, ride-hailing drivers can still do their thing. Meanwhile, taxi cab drivers are struggling to stay afloat, and a ride is just a tap away.