How to Earn a Good Salary as a Bartender

When you think of getting a lucrative job, bartender usually isn’t the profession that first comes to your mind. However, you’d be surprised how much some of them earn. There are more than 45,000 bars in the U.S. where one or several bartenders are serving the customers and making some serious money. Even though you don’t need any certificate to get a job as a bartender, the more skills and experience you have, the better your chances are for getting a good job – as in any other profession.

Where to start?

You should know that getting a job as a bartender won’t be that easy, especially if you have no previous experience or training. But don’t get discouraged, you can still get yourself out there in a whole number of ways.

For example, you can get to know a bartender at a bar you like to go to. Of course, talking about business to a guy or girl who is swamped with customers in the middle of the night is out of the question but you can come during a quieter time, in the afternoon, or before the crowd rushes in. Talking to a bartender may help you gain perspective of what’s necessary to get a job, how much the salaries are, what drinks are ordered most often so you can learn how to make them and other tricks of the trade. Don’t expect him to reveal all his secrets, though. There are some things you’ll have to discover on your own.

Which brings us to our next piece of advice – get down and dirty. Meaning, get a job as barback. You will probably have to wash glassware and other dishes, make snacks or even prepare food, clean and load the bar with stocks, organizing the fridges, etc. But through this hands-on approach you will get to see how it all works behind the bar. You are likely to learn a lot about the bar in general and about bartending – which will make you a suitable candidate if there is ever a job opening. In many cases, bar managers like to hire the people who are already working there and know the rules. So, if you’ve proved you’re a good employee, you may expect that promotion.

If you’re already actively looking for a job as a bartender but have no previous experience, browse through the ads online and in the newspapers and look for those that specifically note that you won’t be needing any experience or that they provide their potential employees with appropriate training. Even though many bars will rather hire somebody who is already working for them (barbacks or waiters), you may still have a shot.

Also, some bars offer something resembling an apprenticeship where they will train their potential employees and teach them all about the job. You may get the chance to follow an experienced bartender around for a few weeks or a couple of months and learn everything from the horse’s mouth, and you may even end up with a paid position if you show you’re a quick learner and a hardworking person.

If you still consider yourself far from becoming a bartender, you can always spend more time doing research about the job. There are many resources online that can give you practical advice on how to mix drinks, how to communicate with customers and everything else you need to know. So, even if you don’t have the experience, you will at least gain the theoretical knowledge and prove to the employers that you’re serious about the job. Moreover, many people who want to become bartenders buy their own equipment and practice making cocktails and mixing drinks at home. You’ll become everyone’s favorite friend and you’ll get to apply your knowledge.

Another option you should consider if you want to become a bartender is a professional bartending school. Even though most bar owners don’t require formal knowledge from their employees, it won’t hurt your resume that you have completed some course that equipped you with knowledge and practice for the job. This will cost you, but it will be well worth it since you will find out everything you need to know about bar setup, drink preparation, customer service, knowledge about products you’ll be serving and even legal issues. It is definitely a good head start and something that will set you apart from other candidates.

What helps?

All of the knowledge and expertise in the world won’t really be enough if you don’t have some “bartender traits” that will get you that job, keep it and make as much money as you can. So here’s what couldn’t hurt in this line of business:

Team player – It’s very important to realize you won’t be working alone as a bartender. It’s quite likely there will be at least two or three people you will have to cooperate with behind the bar, depending on the size of the bar. So you need to know how to function with other employees.

Confidence and positive personality – Of course you need to be confident in any job you do. But here, it’s extra important to keep that smile on your face and be as relaxed as you can. In order to sell more drinks and get more tips, you will need to be the face that your customers really like to see.

Knowledge of drinks  – There’s nothing worse than a bartender that has no idea what he’s selling. There will be people who will come to you for advice and recommendation when it comes to the drinks and you need to be ready to provide them with it. Seeing that you know what you’re talking about will make your customers trust you and reward you in tips.
Knowledge of customers – Getting to know your customers is very important, especially if you have regulars. Make sure to remember the names of your regulars and offer them the usual drink exactly how they like it. With the customers that you’re not familiar with, be as amiable as possible, smile and include a personal touch into the service even if you’re busy.

Quick service – We don’t even have to mention this one – you need to provide the customers with quick service. So make sure those people don’t wait for their drinks or the check because that’s only going to reflect on your tip. Learn to manage money as fast and as safely as you can and never forget the orders.