15 Things to Remember Before Choosing a Bartending Career
Bartending can be a terrific job for some people. For others, it can be a big mistake. Before you choose bartending as your career path (or even as a job that you plan to do for a little while moving on to something else), you will want to take the following things into consideration:
1. Bartending is hard work. Many people go into bartending thinking that it’s a really easy job, like you’re just hanging out at the bar all day. While it’s true that it’s a really social job and there are a lot of fun aspects to it, it’s also hard work. You’re on your feet, dealing with a lot of people and constantly on the go so you want to make sure that this is something that you are cut out for before you start bartending.
2. It requires you to be nice to people. You’re going to be spending your time with a lot of drunk people and you need to be nice to them. Sure, there are bouncers to help you out when you get in trouble but you’re really going to need to learn to put up with some not-fun stuff from people if you’re going to be good at bartending.
3. You need to be able to set good boundaries. Although you’re going to have to be nice to people, you don’t want to be too nice. People will hit on you a lot if you’re a bartender and getting romantically involved with customers is usually a bad idea. If you’re not good at setting social boundaries, you’ll probably want to avoid this line of work.
4. You’ll probably make good money but it might not be steady. A good bartending gig can get you a lot of money but you’re not always guaranteed steady income. The shifts you get and the customers that come in can greatly impact how much you actually earn.
5. There aren’t a lot of extra perks with bartending. You probably aren’t going to get health insurance or anything like that so you’ll need to plan on being responsible with your money and getting your own insurance if you’re going to be a bartender for long.
6. There are a lot of risks that come with bartending. You can actually get into quite a bit of legal trouble as a bartender if you aren’t careful. If you serve too many drinks to someone who is already drunk and then he leaves the bar, gets in his car and runs into someone, there’s a chance that you could be in trouble. If you serve drinks to an underage individual even though their fake ID looked real to you, you could get into legal trouble. There are some protections in the law and in the places you may work but you should definitely be aware that you’re taking on a lot of responsibility when you become a bartender and it could come back to haunt you.
7. There are many different settings to be a bartender in. You can tend bar at fancy restaurants, golf clubs, dance clubs, dive bars … you’ll want to think carefully about where you apply for a bartending job so you pick the place that best suits you.
8. Bartending hours tend to be for night owls. This isn’t always true of course but if you want to tend bar where the money is then you’d better plan on being up all night and sleeping in all day.
9. You’re going to be around a lot of alcohol. If you have any sort of drinking problem or you tend to have trouble doing things in moderation in general then working as a bartender could be a really high-risk job so you’ll want to be careful about that.
10. Your friends will expect free drinks. You need to know that your friends are probably going to come visit you at the bar and they’ll expect free drinks or cheap drinks that are stronger than what you normally serve. How you deal with this depends on you, the interaction that you have with your friends and the place that you’re working. It can be okay but it can also cause problems for some people (and some friendships!)
11. Bartending is a social job but usually only superficially so. You’ll meet so many people while bartending (both behind the bar and in front of it) that you won’t know what to do with yourself but chances are that most of those friendships are going to remain superficial and those people aren’t going to be there when you really need someone. This can really make people feel bad about the industry after awhile.
12. You’re going to be expected to know every drink that exists. People will get irritated with you really quickly if you don’t know how to make the hottest new drink that everyone wants so you had better make sure that you’ve got a good memory for a lot of different drinks if you’re going to plan on being a good bartender.
13. It’s possible to keep pushing yourself and challenging yourself as a bartender. One of the good things about bartending is that you can always try to learn (or create) new drinks, work on better rapport with customers or pick up some neat tricks like juggling wine bottles or setting shots on fire. Keep pushing yourself and you might like the job more.
14. You don’t have to do it forever. It’s important to keep in mind that bartending is something that you can do just for a little while if you want to. It can be a great job but it’s not necessarily right as a career for a lot of people. Think of doing this but having a bigger goal to work towards as well.
15. You can always fall back on bartending. The great thing about getting bartending experience is that you’ll always be able to fall back on this work if you need to do so in the future. It’s usually good money and there are usually jobs available so it’s a good skill to have even if you don’t do it full-time for long.