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Freelance Bartender: Job Description, Income & Salary, & How To Become

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Do you love bartending and making drinks?

Then you’re not alone!

Mixology makes a great hobby, but if you’re looking to take your hobby to the next level, you may want to look at freelance bartending.

Freelance bartenders aren’t tied to specific locations, which makes their work flexible.

They can choose what shifts or gig jobs they want to work and can earn good money while doing it.

If you love people and working with the public, this may be the perfect job or side hustle.

What Is a Freelance Bartender?

A freelance bartender creates fabulous drinks and mixes for private parties or events.

While their jobs are mainly concerned with serving beverages to guests and consultation on the drink menu, they also need to be able to handle intoxicated guests, think on their feet, and interact with guests.

Much of bartending is customer service and connecting with customers while they drink, whether it’s comforting someone having a hard time, diffusing two fighting guests, or stopping someone from spiking their date’s drink.

Moreover, freelancing is like running a business where you attract clients and invoice them for your services.

What Does a Freelance Bartender Do?

Freelance bartenders work at events and private parties serving drinks, but they can handle far more than that.

A key feature of successful freelance bartenders is that they can take difficult people and think on their feet.

They should be able to:

  • Consult with clients on the drink menu
  • Mix drinks quickly and efficiently
  • Handle inebriated and demanding guests
  • Quickly handle problems in the menu and surprises (like an extra 500 guests)
  • Understand mixology and flavor profiles to create special orders
  • Know how to be showy and please guests and clients
  • Understand drink safety and follow alcohol laws

What Does a Freelance Bartender Usually Focus On?

When freelance bartenders are on the clock, they stay behind the bar to make drinks, connect with customers and collect tips.

If you see a problem, like running out of ice or your trash is full, hurry up and take care of it before returning to your station.

Unlike regular bartending, most guests at private events or parties have free bars and aren’t impatient for their drinks.

Making them in front of guests will get you more significant tips.

If you can put on a show and know a few bartending tricks, then that’s even better.

Freelance Bartender Job Description

Freelance bartenders contact clients who run events or parties like catering halls or local bars to see if they need help with last-minute shifts, extra hands to work a bar, and consulting on the drink menu for the event.

Top Freelance Bartender Jobs and Careers

Becoming a freelance bartender can lead to several careers in the hospitality industry, from managing your bar to working as a highly sought-after mixologist.

  • Bar Manager: A bar manager is in charge of an entire bar and handles everything from ordering supplies, paying employees to fill in on busy shifts, and providing support.
  • Mixologist: A mixologist is an expert in crafting delicious drinks and is popular with high-end lounges, fancy restaurants, and other drinking establishments. You need a deep understanding of alcohol and how to mix different flavors.
  • Restaurant Bartender: Restaurant bartenders handle both alcohol and food, delivering them to tables without a misstep.

Where Can a Freelance Bartender Work?

Freelance bartenders primarily work at events, from wedding halls, beaches, and event halls, to community centers, boats, and houses.

You can even pick up work in regular bars or lounges. It just depends on your clients, your preference, and what types of events you choose to work.

What’s It Like To Be a Freelance Bartender?

Bartending isn’t for everyone. It’s fast-paced, and you sometimes have to work long, strange hours.

You may also have to work with guests who are rude, condescending, or intoxicated, which can be taxing.

More importantly, you have been outgoing and connected well with others to succeed as a bartender, as much of your money comes from tips.

The more charming you are, the more people will tip you, which is where the real money in bartending comes from.

Is Being a Freelance Bartender Hard?

It depends on what you define as hard. It will be very hard if you can’t bang out drinks one after another when guests crowd your bar.

But if you can get into the flow, enjoy chatting with people, and understand how to mix drinks, you can efficiently complete a simple shift.

Is a Freelance Bartender’s Job Stressful?

If you’re not working at a location or just meeting with a client, it’s not particularly stressful.

But then you get to the party and get set up, and the drink orders start flying in.

Freelance isn’t as bad as regular bartending because guests are usually more patient, but you still need to keep up with the orders.

Once things get busy it can be very stressful once things get busy, especially for those with little experience behind the bar.

Common Freelance Bartender Workday

Freelance bartending is frequently considered a side job.

You contact clients who offer you gigs to work.

At the event, you’ll set up the bar.

The party will start, and you have to fulfill drink orders, chat with customers, and keep an eye on guests.

This goes on until the party ends, and everyone goes home.

Then you clean up and head back home.

You’ll also have to do side work to market your services to get more gigs.

Whether you choose to put up flyers or turn to social media, you’ll need to make sure your name is out in the world to get more jobs in the future.

Freelance Bartender Tasks and Duties

You’re in charge of bringing mixing equipment like a cutting board, shakers, etc.

You consult with the client on the drink menu, and they buy the alcohol you need for the party.

Then once you’re at the party, you have to set up your station and serve drinks, chat with guests, cut off inebriated guests, and keep a watchful eye on anyone who drank so they don’t drive.

You can work with the host on this, as their job is to handle the guests.

Freelance Bartender Work Hours & Schedule

Freelance bartending isn’t for everyone.

Their work night starts as soon as everyone else gets off, and they can work entire nights through.

Of course, some parties take place during the day, and some are relatively short, but you should keep in mind you’ll primarily be working the long shifts nobody else wants when you first start.

Does This Career Field Embrace Work-Life Balance?

Maintaining a work-life balance with this job can be challenging, not because it’s very demanding but because of the strange hours.

Making plans with friends and significant others is much more complicated when you’re working while they’re off.

Do Freelance Bartenders Make Good Money?

In general, freelance bartenders can make some good money.

They cut out the company middleman and charge more for their services than a company would pay them.

How much you make depends on your experience, the shifts you work, and how much you make in tips.

How Much Do Freelance Bartenders Make?

According to Glassdoor, freelance bartenders make about 41,000 dollars yearly in base pay and tips.

On the other hand, Ziprecruiter puts the yearly income for a freelance bartender at $48,000, so it’s highly dependent on where you live and how much you make in tips.

If you take a busy shift and are tipped well, you can make over a hundred dollars an hour!

But that’s rare, and you’re more likely to make fifty to a hundred an hour instead.

How Do Freelance Bartenders Get Paid?

There are two significant sources of income for freelance bartenders.

The first is base pay. It’s how much you charge the client to work the event.

The second is through tips.

The friendlier you are, and the better show you put on, the more tips you’ll get.

Tips add up and can boost how much money you make in a night.

Requirements, Skills, and Education Required for Freelance Bartenders

The process of becoming a bartender without any experience is complex.

You should have some references and experience behind the bar before beginning.

If you don’t have this experience, there are ways to get around that, but landing your first gig will be an ordeal.

Who Should Consider a Freelance Bartender Career Path?

If you love working with people, bartending might be an excellent fit.

The most important part of this job is interacting with customers, who might be sobbing, fighting, vomiting, or otherwise acting in an inappropriate way.

If you’re good with interpersonal relations, can memorize a lot of recipes, and understand how to mix drinks to make new combinations, then this might be perfect for you.

Who Should NOT Consider a Freelance Bartender Career Path?

You shouldn’t work as a bartender if you can’t work as part of a team, need direction, or don’t enjoy working with the public.

You need to be able to think for yourself and work with others at the event to be successful.

Is it Hard to Become a Freelance Bartender?

No, anyone can become a freelance bartender with less than a thousand-dollar investment.

You just need a bartending class, a safety certification, and some experience.

What Do I Need to Become a Freelance Bartender?

To start, you need to understand when you’ll be working.

The weekends.

This is great for side hustling but not so great for rest and time with family and friends.

They also often work holidays, so if you want to maximize your profit, you’ll have to give up a lot of free time.

Requirements for Becoming a Freelance Bartender

There are no strict requirements for bartenders, no federal licenses, and no formal education.

Instead, each state has different laws and requirements for bartenders, so check your state’s requirements before starting.

What Skills Does a Freelance Bartender Need?

Bartending classes can teach you the basics, but it’s no substitute for getting real experience behind the bar.

You need to understand basic bartending and mixing.

You also need accounting and networking skills to land clients and keep track of invoicing and income.

What Education Does a Freelance Bartender Need?

If you’re a complete newbie to bartending, start with a bartending class.

Check which ones are available where you live, or get a job where you can learn bartending.

You should also earn your TIPS certification, which covers alcohol safety.

Many event halls and companies will refuse to hire you unless you have this certification, so it’s good to have.

What Experience Does a Freelance Bartender Need?

You should have experience behind the bar, whether it’s from a restaurant, a lounge, a bar, or an event company.

References who can vouch for your expertise and work ethic are also excellent.

But if you don’t have these, you can cold call catering companies, event halls, and other places to see if they need last-minute fill-ins.

It can be a while until you get your first job, but if you’re persistent, this can work.

How To Become a Freelance Bartender

Once you have everything you need to become a freelance bartender, you can focus on landing your first gig.

Be persistent and don’t give up, even if landing gigs is difficult at first.

Where To Find Freelance Bartender Opportunities

Catering halls and event planners are good places to start.

They often need last-minute fill-ins and provide much of the equipment you need.

Then you can use them as references and start building your client base.

Let your friends and family know that you’re able to take on bartending gigs.

Make it clear that you will need to be paid for your services, even if you’re bartending at your cousin’s annual work Christmas party.

Applying For the Gig(s)

Most applications consist of cold calls and contractor agreements, at least at first.

You can sign up at several companies and halls to pick and choose what jobs you want.

How Do I Prepare For Freelance Bartender Gigs?

Wear comfortable shoes and a classy outfit.

You’ll be standing for your shift, and have to move quickly, so save your feet with some nice sneakers or loafers.

Do not wear heels or other dress shoes unless you are guaranteed by the host that you will be able to sit.

For clothes, go with dress pants and a button down shirt or blouse.

You can wear a skirt or dress if you choose, just be mindful of the cut and make sure your clothing won’t impede your movement.

If you have long hair, be sure to tie it back to prevent your hair from accidentally falling into anyone’s food or drink.

Similar Careers to Check Out

If freelancing seems neat but bartending isn’t your style, check out some other types of freelance jobs.

  • Freelance Hair Stylist: A freelance hair stylist can cut clients’ hair at home, go mobile and cut them at their houses, or rent a chair in a salon to handle clients. Rather than working for a company, they work for themselves. Freelance hair stylists must do lots of work on their own to market their skills.
  • Freelance Massage Therapist: Freelance massage therapists go to clients’ homes to give massages and rent a space in a spa or salon to attract clients and get referrals.
  • Freelance Accountant: Freelance accountants work independently from an accounting firm and handle accounting, bookkeeping, and taxes for clients.

Frequently Asked Questions

You have questions about the career that need answering, so here are some burning questions you might be asking yourself now.

How Many Drinks Can a Bartender Make in an Hour?

Professional bartenders should be able to serve 60 to 90 drinks in an hour.

That’s one drink a minute or less.

Halve that for cocktails and other beverages they have to mix.

Can Bartending Be a Side Hustle?

Absolutely. Bartending, specifically freelance bartending, is a great side hustle where you work on weekends or at night.

Wrapping Up

Bartending might be the perfect profession if you love working with people and have an outgoing personality.

You get to meet amazing people and flexible working hours, and the pay isn’t too bad either.

Of course, the irregular working hours, demanding work, and unpredictable pay can be a turn-off for some people, but if you’re working this as a side hustle, it can be very lucrative.

So whether you have experience in bartending and are looking to put it to good use, or if you want to get into the business, freelance bartending is a great way to get into bartending and make it into a career or just make some extra money on the side.

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