So, you want to be a bartender. Good for you! Bartending is a great way to make extra cash but it’s also a legitimate career path. You’ll make more money than many of your counterparts in “professional” positions, have tons of flexibility, and a lot more fun.
But, it’s not all easy money and partying; this job is tough both physically and mentally. Read on for some things you simply must know before becoming a bartender.
Because bartending is technically “unskilled” labor (a label I take particular issue with), people often assume you can just decide to do it, then get a job the next day. Well, sorry folks, but that’s far from the case. Most places won’t even consider hiring a bartender with no experience. And no, your bartending school certificate doesn’t count. You’ll probably be paying your dues as a busser, server, or host for a while until you make the leap to being behind the bar.
Bartending requires a laundry list of skills, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks; and remembering drinks is only a small part of that list. Being a bartender means you’re equal parts event planner, babysitter, and therapist. You need to be able to build solid relationships, keep track of sometimes thousands of dollars, and mix drinks all at the same time. And those are only the big ones!
In addition, you’ll be running food (sometimes even cooking the food), opening the bar, closing the bar, changing all the kegs, clearing tables, washing glasses, closing checks, making service drinks, and one million other things. Bartending is also an incredibly difficult job physically. You’re standing on your feet all day and all night and sometimes you’ll be working for upwards of 15 hours in a row, not finishing until 5AM. Don’t get me wrong, the rewards of bartending are great, but the cost is real.
You think you can talk to anyone? Try carrying on five separate conversations all while serving drinks, counting money, and keeping track of a million other little things. Oh, and those people you have to chat up? They’re the same people you saw yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that.
While regulars can make your job worthwhile and genuinely brighten your day, they can also be the absolute worst part of your existence. You can never have an “off” day. Your entire livelihood, and those of your coworkers, depends on you being friendly, funny, and outgoing; every shift, for your entire shift.
The best part about bartending is the cash right? Absolutely! But, it does come with a caveat. When your income comes in tens and fives, it can often be hard to keep track of it. Make a habit of recording your tips from the very beginning and make a plan to save regularly. You will probably make more money bartending (possibly a lot more), than you would at an entry or mid-level professional position. Take advantage of this and save. Please. Do it for me.
If it weren’t for the service industry, I wouldn’t have the wonderful friends I do or lead the life I live. I make great money, it’s easy for me to take time off, and I always have a fail-safe option in my back pocket. However, despite these advantages, I’m constantly justifying my life to others. No, I don’t necessarily want to be a bartender forever, but for now it’s pretty damn good. In short, if bartending is the life you love, live it. If you’re happy, you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.
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In the bartending game, tips aren't everything although that's how so many approach the profession. In order to have massive success, you have to focus on a long-term strategy.