What is the best part of being a bartender? Ask ten bartenders and you will likely get ten different answers.
For some, it's the people you meet. For others, it's the stories. Some people just love the artistry and skill needed to mix a great drink. It really depends on why you got into the job, and where you're working.
It's rare though to find a gig that pays well and reliably, i.e. something you'd want to turn into a career. If you do have a career going for you, that's great! However, since most places pay bartenders $2 an hour, tips count for a lot, and increasing the size and number of your tips is important in order to get your bills paid.
So in this post I'm going to show you how to not only increase your tips, but make more money as a bartender in other, more reliable ways too.
To Make More Money Bartending, Think Like a Business
Bartenders, like other servers, survive on tips. Sure, you've got your hourly wage, but you can only work so many hours during the day. To actually increase your profits, you need to make more money in the same amount of time. So to start, we're going to focus on increasing your tips.
Focus On Your Customers
It’s easier to keep an existing customer than it is to find a new one. You will earn more money in the long term by focusing on your regulars and striving to treat them better every time time you see them. That doesn't mean to ignore new people though! Treat every walk-in as a potential long term client and they may just turn out to be one.
Learn their names, ask about their family, where they work, what type of drinks they like and which ones they don’t like. Add a personal touch to your service and you will continue to gain more regulars who continue to increase your tip.
Everyone has their favorite bar, and very often, it’s the bartender that shapes that opinion. If you get to know your regulars — I mean, really get to know them — they will ask for you, they will wait for you, and reward you for treating them well. Of course, you'll have the occasional douche that takes advantage of you, but you have to stick out your neck first to see which clients will create a mutually beneficial relationship.
I know from experience that I feel very cool when I can walk into a place, nod at the bartender, and get a drink before anyone else. Or that the bartender knows my drink order and makes it without me needing to ask.
Be A Better Business
You're in the business of making drinks. People know when you do it well, even if they don't say anything. If you want to increase your tips, you need to make better drinks. People remember and talk about these things the day after, and come back specifically for the guy that makes “an awesome whatever”.
I know it pisses me off when someone can't pour a beer right (plz guys, it's supposed to have a little head), so badly made drinks make a bad impression as well.
Take some time to learn how to make the classics properly. YouTube is free. Join some communities and learn some funky new drinks to experiment with and see how customers react.
Take a look at what you're wearing and how you're greeting customers. Are you treating everyone like they're' amazing, or like it's just another day at work? Self improvement, both inside and out, can lead to a better customer experience, and thus repeat customers that give better tips.
Pickup Extra Shifts Strategically
Everyone knows picking up an extra shift or two is an easy way to earn more money as a bartender. If you are strategic about it, you can maximize that extra time and earn even more.
Let your coworkers know you are interested in any shifts they can’t or don’t want to work. You can hang a flyer in the break room, highlight your available days on a calendar or send a text to all your coworkers.
You might think they will say something if they need someone to fill in for them but you never know. And sometimes, the mere thought of taking a night off is enough to convince them. When I was a teacher abroad, I was a lazy dude and took off every chance I could get. Anyone that wanted to take a class from me…awesome! I'd have more free time and they'd have more money. Win-Win.
If you are single, you can easily grab holiday shifts from those who have families.
If you have a family, take advantage of events like concerts that your single coworkers want to go to.
The main point is that you need to make it known that you're interested in making more money. You may end up with more shifts than you can handle if you have a bunch of slacking (or illness prone) coworkers!
More shifts means you grow your network, thus expanding your client base and may even open up new opportunities for you.
If you can’t grab any extra shifts from your current coworkers, maybe it’s time to find new coworkers.
Good bartenders can find an opening fairly easy. So during the times you aren’t bartending at your main location, try to find another one that is just as busy, or more so. You may be able to snag a couple shifts when someone calls in sick or goes on vacation.
Also, look for bars, restaurants and hotels in upper-class areas. Golf resorts are great too. The times you work may vary, giving you an opportunity to work two jobs. For example, you could work the afternoons at the country club, and nights at a club or pub.
Upscale places like country clubs don’t usually need multiple bartenders like nightclubs and dive bars do. So if you manage to get hired at one, chances are you will be able to collect the majority of tips.
Another option is to look for places with more customers. Bars and restaurants located downtown in bigger cities can be a nonstop tip-fest for the right bartender.
Get on Social Media
Social media is a surprisingly under utilized tool among bartenders. The bartenders that do use it see noticeable gains.
You might not want to use your personal profile, but you could easily create a page specifically for your customers. Once you create the page, simply tell your customers about it and a lot of them will follow you.
Once you have them following you on Facebook, you can let them know about specials, events and extra shifts and/or new locations you are working.
If you use social media well enough, your customers will tell their friends, and they will tell theirs. Before you know it, you will have a large customer-base and loyal following on social media.
Since everyone is on their phone 24/7 anyway, you can also make updates while inside the bar. Flash sales or other limited time promos can easily be tweeted out and increase traffic to the bar area or to sell certain drinks you need to move.
Go Beyond the Bar and Make More Money Online
Another way to make more money as a bartender is to take everything you know and share it online. Doing so can allow you to create a passive income stream for yourself, and it’s easier than you think. Creating an online business on the topic of mixed drinks, booze, bartending, performance (flare), or even whiskey/wine/beer tasting is completely possible for anyone with a computer an an internet connection.
- You don’t need to be a tech wiz
- You don’t need to invest hundreds of money
- You don't even need to be a professional bartender
How long have you been bartending? Do you remember what it was like before you poured your first drink for a waiting customer? Newbies are going to have questions. Enthusiasts are going to want to expand their knowledge. The business of information is profitable, and you can make money with information in many ways.
For every question posted online that you see, there are hundreds more that you don’t see. And each one of them could be an opportunity for you to earn more money.
By helping people and answering questions you see on sites like Facebook and Twitter, you position yourself as an authority in Bartending. Those who want the knowledge you have will follow you to learn more.
You can offer coaching, ebooks and courses to them to make extra money. If you set up a simple blog, you can answer questions there and earn money from Adsense or other advertisers. In addition to money you earn from ads on your site, you could publish reviews of products related to bartending and earn money through affiliate sales.
How Realistic is all of this?
On Quora alone, there are almost four-thousand people following the “bartending” topic.
Quora, if you don’t know, is a question and answer site. It’s a place for people to post questions on any topic and get answer from people with knowledge on that topic.
If four-thousand Quora users are searching for answers on bartending, how many do you think are searching Google, YouTube, forums and communities? If you start a website of your own you could siphon visitors from all those places and earn residual, passive income.
Answering questions like the one in the image is a surefire way to start building your online brand.
If you are ready to learn about making more money online with your bartending skills, I have a lot of resources on my site, including:
- how to set up a simple WordPress blog
- how to find out what people are searching for online
- at least 3 ways to make money from your website
Bartender Affiliate Examples
With a quick search, I found an affiliate program (free to join) from a company called foodpairing.com. They teach you how to help customer pair drinks with bar food appropriately to enhance both the food and drink. This would be more targeted towards bartenders working in more expensive and traditional establishments, but it still fits within the bartending niche.
It's a membership site, so you'll be making monthly commissions from each membership you sell.
This site is clearly from somewhere in Europe, so if you are in the USA or targeting US customers, you may want to find a similar site that's US focused. Seeing the Euro sign can scare some online buyers! Still, you can see this this is a pretty cool option to promote.
I also noticed a few bartending school affiliate programs maybe worth promoting, or some ebooks that teach you how to make special drinks or get started with a career in this industry. Of course, you should make sure the things you promote are quality, but at least you know there are options out there!
And affiliate promotions are not limited to membership sites or services. Promoting physical products is great too.
One potential method of making money with a website about bartending would be the “home bartender”. They're going to need things like a liquor cabinet, cocktail shakers, appropriate glassware, and even things like an espresso machine if they plan to make drinks with espresso shots.
This is a five star product with almost 500 reviews on Amazon. It's only about $20, and you would make between 4% and 10% commission on each one sold. Four percent on twenty dollars doesn't sound like much ($0.80), but keep in mind that this is the internet!
There are millions of people shopping online every day. You may make a few sales each day of this amounting to only a few dollars. But after a few months of growing your business, you will have several pages earning a few dollars a day. Those quickly add up to hundreds of dollars in income that you can rely on.
Of course, building an online business isn't always smooth sailing, but if you stick around long enough, you'll learn how everything works. Much like your journey as a bartender, you've got to put in the time, practice your chops, and learn from mistakes to become good at what you do.
The good news is that the world of online business is always changing, so there's definitely going to be room for new, enthusiastic entrepreneurs, and always something interesting to learn! Here's my full list of affiliate training modules.