15 Things to Remember Before Choosing a Bartending Career

Updated on April 23, 2016

 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.

Questions & Answers


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    • profile image

      Sarah 21 months ago

      I been bartending now for 11 years. The past few years on my days off I can't be bothered with people or want to leave my home. It's getting really difficult to have a life out side of work. I was wondering if this is a common problem with us ?

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      Voted up as an informative hub.

      Not my cup of tea as a job. Whenever I hear stories of bartenders being held liable for drunk drivers, I tend to think it's not for me.

    • profile image

      rosalesjohnjefferson 3 years ago

      Bartending can be a lot of things, for some people it’s a temporary job where they earn the income needed to survive, while others turn it into a solid career and earn quite a lot of money from it. Just like any other job however, bartending might come with its dull moments, but on the other hand it allows you to meet a plethora of new people, sometimes very influential, and through that you can make great connections. Bartenders can gain a good income that ranges from $10000 per year up to $20000. And this doesn’t even take the tips into account, which might double the revenues.

    • profile image

      nesh 3 years ago

      so true.

    • profile image

      robbie cifaldi 4 years ago

      ben working as a bartender for 3 years in italy since im amercian its eseyer to finde work plus the driking age is 16 18 its not that controled the laws arent that hard and i dont give free drinks nobody even friends the only bad part is little tips

    • KatNance profile image

      KatNance 5 years ago

      great hub..good money .i ve always wanted to bartend...

      giving free drinks to friends causes other risks

    • profile image

      Sergio2013 5 years ago

      Thanks SO MUCH Katherine; I needed to see the panorama !!

      I was considering this field but after reading this article, I KNOW I do not want to do it.

      I wish more articles were so thorough and candid.

    • Lovelovemeloveme profile image

      Lovelovemeloveme 5 years ago from Cindee's Land

      well written, easy to read. good HUB!

    • Helena Ricketts profile image

      Helena Ricketts 5 years ago from Indiana

      Very good and accurate info! I was a Bartender until I just got completely burned out on it. The money is nice, the hours can be brutal if you are working at a good club and the superficial friends is dead on. I've been out for a little over two years now and am happy with that decision but it was fun for the first few years.

    • pandula77 profile image

      Dr Pandula 6 years ago from Norway

      Really good hub! Not that I am interested in choosing bartending but because it gives an insight to an interesting career! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      Kapil Rana 6 years ago

      I can relate to this, I ran a busy banquet for a last 8 months in jwmarriott. Never a dull moment!really love to do bar tending....is there any job available in abroad...just lemme knw.....thanx....

    • princesswithapen profile image

      princesswithapen 6 years ago

      Obligation of giving free drinks to friends and the other risks associated with bartending including brushes with the law, and with violence could be some of the obvious risks that aspiring bartenders may overlook. I'm sharing this post with the hope that it helps someone make a well informed career choice because it sheds light on some of the not-so-glamorous things associated with being a bartender, despite how fun a job it is perceived as.


    • Kimberly Turner profile image

      Kimberly Quevedo 6 years ago from New Jersey

      Socially shared!

    • Kimberly Turner profile image

      Kimberly Quevedo 6 years ago from New Jersey

      Awesome hub! I was a bartender/server for a while and I can definitely tell you it is hard work! Another thing for people who get into bar tending need to think about as well is there will always be those slow boring days or shifts they will have to deal with. It goes along with your tip that it is not always steady money. Thanks for sharing these tips! Voted up!

    • wonderingwoolley profile image

      wonderingwoolley 6 years ago from Madison, WI

      Nice hub. Thanks for sharing, I learned a lot about bar tending that I might not otherwise.

    • chelseacharleston profile image

      chelseacharleston 6 years ago

      Great, comprehensive post! And SO true!

    • profile image

      OkandStuff 6 years ago

      Need to touch on not agressively hitting on your clientele as well (no, I'm not talking about flirting for tips). I'm sure your job has it's "perks" and all, but. Yes, he's attractive but I'm not creating animosity in a place that I like to frequent. I'm smarter than the bartender. A female in this town recently experienced the same in another venue. In hindsight, he put a lot of work into this. I really, really just took it as a guy trying to make a living but ultimately.......I just go to the other bartender because of the tension it's caused. I'm not the only one either.

    • Loco Life profile image

      Loco Life 6 years ago from Tennessee

      I absolutely adore this hub. I've been a bartender for 2 years now as a part time job, and you've touched base on so many aspects that go unnoticed.

      The money is great, but it sometimes becomes difficult to walk that fine line between being a nice and fun bartender, and remembering it is a job that has rules and regulations. Even on my bad days I have to find a smile for my customers, stick to telling friends no, and go in ready to work my tail off.

      Again, you wrote this wonderfully.

    • Jennie Demario profile image

      Venture Boyz 6 years ago from Floating in the clouds

      "It requires you to be nice to people." - I think a lot of people overlook this one! You can't just be nice and give drinks to the cute customers.. LOL.. Props to bar tenders they are almost like chemists with all of the mixing and formulations.

    • ShaneMorris profile image

      ShaneMorris 6 years ago from Springfield, MO

      I completely agree. I haven't done bartending myself, but being near downtown where I live I am in bars a lot - mostly working in bars with a kitchen or a restaurant with a bar. You've made many points that are all spot on, you really didn't miss anything. Excellent hub!

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 6 years ago from United States

      Rated your Hub INTERESTING. I especially like "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." Great point!

    • Freegoldman profile image

      Freegoldman 6 years ago from Newyork

      Great Hub.......Keep it up.

    • kaitiaki profile image

      kaitiaki 6 years ago

      Funny how such an obscure subject matter can reach out to various populations (including me, I guess). You have touched people with this. My younger sister tells me that women are all after a male bartender (for what that's worth), and my younger brother tended bar in Corsica for a few summers, loving every minute. Good post, I enjoyed reading it!

    • BarsAndBartending profile image

      BarsAndBartending 6 years ago

      Bartending is a fantastic career if you've got the travel bug. I spent years travelling around Germany, Ireland, Greece, Australia, England, and of course Canada bartending and they were the most exciting times. Working pubs, club, festivals, and private events. Currently bartending in Taipei, Taiwan. Bartending is not just for the west!

    • profile image

      Weber Genesis E320 7 years ago

      thanks for the great tips

    • Neon_Letters profile image

      Neon_Letters 7 years ago

      Your friend will expect free drinks.... that is absolutely true... and anoying even more when they have other friends you don´t know and they also expect at least one free drink.

    • lender3212000 profile image

      lender3212000 7 years ago from Beverly Hills, CA

      Bartending is a great way to make money but you do really have to put in some hard work and tough hours. I made my living that way for quite a few years when I was younger. I think a lot of people don't realize just how demanding it is, especially at a busy bar or restaurant. Great money but you have to have the right work ethic and people skills to really be good at it!

    • Boogr profile image

      Boogr 7 years ago from Louisiana

      Great hub! And oh so true! Esp #10! I've lost many a friend because I wouldn't give them free drinks! Bartending is a GREAT source of income if you know what you're doing! It is very hard work, (depending on where you work), and it requires a lot of saying "no" with a smile on your face. If you are a people person, the job is great, but if you get claustrophobic easily, then this isn't the job for you!

    • Alternative Prime profile image

      Alternative Prime 7 years ago from > California

      Plus, as an extra added bonus and for your nightly entertainment pleasure you get to listen to all those old jokes your Uncle used to tell you like.. " What did the termite say when he walked into the bar? Is the barTENDER here "..Or.. " What did the Bartender say to the horse? Say fella why the long face? "..And the best part is, sometimes a patron might leave you one of these instead of a TIP!..

    • profile image

      Abinash  7 years ago

      i like a bartender so it is nothings for me.

      thank you

    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 7 years ago from At the Gemba

      Some good points, I owned my own Bar on the coast whilst I also had a day job. Very hard work to do both but I loved the social side of the bar, I would love to do it again but it just did not make enough money..

    • jdaviswrites profile image

      Jeff Davis 7 years ago from California

      nice hub. i cant disagree with any of the points you've made.... especially the part about having it be something you can fall back on...ive definitely done that. keep up the well written and informative hubs.

    • profile image

      Bartend823 7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing-excellent hub! I really like it!

    • Jesusjohn78 profile image

      Jesusjohn78 8 years ago from Ohio

      Awesome article!! I worked a college bar for a few years and this is spot on advice. I loved bar tending!

    • danjutsu profile image

      danjutsu 9 years ago from UK

      I can relate to this, I ran a busy pub for a few years in England. Never a dull moment!

    • bgpappa profile image

      bgpappa 9 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Good hub and good information. I bartened my way through undergraduate school. The night owl thing is really true. I still have trouble falling asleep and a decent hour because I got so use to getting off of work at 3 a.m.

    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 9 years ago from West Coast

      KV - Great hub and oh so true! Another thing is having to deal with the people in the bank when you are depositing a bunch of crumbled up ones lol. I was often questioned about my occupation at the time!