Mobile Bartending as a career or side gig
Mobile Bartending – why mobile?
If you’re a bartender, want to be a bartender, or have ever thought about it, you may want to consider augmenting your income as a Mobile Bartender using the ideas set forth in this quick Mobile Bartending Guide. As a Mobile Bartender, you will become responsible for marketing your own wares, booking your own events, running your own bar, and making your own money.
Not a bad way to go.
Read the below Mobile Bartending Guide for some insights into what is required. For additional reading on becoming a Bartender, be sure to check out The Bartender for more detailed information on becoming or becoming a better bartender.
First, the money
How much can you make? As always, the answer is “it depends”. A solid rule of thumb, looking across the spectrum of existing mobile bartenders, is to expect about $50/hour and a typical event might last 4-6 hours and hopefully you’ll also be getting tips. So it is not unreasonable at all to expect to pull in about $200-$300 or more per event.
It’s not unreasonable for a good mobile bartender to make $1000 on a given night for an event such as New Year’s Eve, large birthday or wedding, or perhaps a blow-out St. Patrick’s day party.
Bear in mind this is rarely a full time job so you won’t be working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week but depending on the events you work, you certainly could end up with 40 hours per week. $50/hour for a 40 hour week comes out to just about $100k/year so why not hustle?
A lot will boil down to how much you can, or want, to work. How much free time do you actually have? Will you be doing private parties in the evenings? Weekend weddings? Anything that comes your way?
As you get more and more immersed in this effort, your marketing efforts should be focused on any upcoming holiday to get the best bookings possible. This is where some kind of planning or calendaring tracking software will come in handy.
Below are a couple of screenshots below to show you how existing mobile bartenders are pricing their services:
What is required?
Some bartending gigs will only require you to show up and go to work.
Some may require you to bring all the alcohol, bartending tools, etc, etc. Either way, you need to be prepared so if you intend to take this seriously you should invest in Mobile Bartending tools. They can be found on eBay or Amazon or in a number of other places – Google it and find one that fits your budget and has the most functionality.
If the gig requires you to bring the alcohol, make sure that is either covered up front you are given an advance. You definitely want to set expectations here because if you run short, you’ll be blamed. If you buy too much, you’ll probably end up keeping the extra but also incurring extra cost. Be sure to see the “Keeping it legal” section below.
Bartending tools and a smile and some nice clothes are the primary necessities here and the situation will determine what else is needed. One thing to consider strongly is the number of guests and your ability to keep all the drinks filled. If the event will be large, consider hiring a bar-back to assist or maybe even another bartender to work with you. It’ll cause you to lose a bit on the profits, but it will help keep your reputation intact. Build that into your pricing model. For a certain number of expected guests, the price will be higher due to the need for a second or third set of hands.
The equipment you’ll need can range from an actual portable bar that you take to larger events, to the basics such as strainers, jiggers, muddlers, cocktail spoons, etc. You can find much of this on Amazon and have it shipped to you quickly. Here’s a few examples of what you can find:
The links above will take you to specific products on Amazon – looking around a bit will give you even more ideas of what you’ll need.
As your grow your mobile bartending business, you may consider upgrading to a trailer you pull behind your truck to really bring out the big guns, or perhaps even a converted vehicle. There’s a lot of examples of mobile bartenders that are doing this and this allows them to charge higher prices and often enjoy repeat business. Here’s a picture of WolfPig, one of our favorite examples of mobile bartending taken to the limit.
Click the link to be taken to their website (new tab). You can learn a lot and have a lot of fun. I never heard of a shot-ski until I read their page. Now I don’t how I lived without knowing!
All of the intention in the world doesn’t matter if you’re sitting home on Friday night, not bartending.
You have to be active, aggressive and outgoing to book your gigs. Get a website, twitter account, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, etc. Get your name out there and get noticed.
As you get engagements, be sure you get testimonials from folks and get them posted to your website – this is gold. The more testimonials you have, the better. If you can get a single one from a local celebrity, that’s a huge plus and will make potential customers much more likely to reach out to you.
In addition to the social networking aspect, you should also be scouring the want ads, Craigslist, etc for anybody that might be looking for your services. Also, be sure to make friends with local DJ’s, karaoke folks, trivia folks, caterers, event planners, etc. since they are involved in the same types of engagements. As you look at the types of folks you will be networking with, it’s a fun group and you’ll find most of them truly enjoy what they do and are willing to help.
Be quick to return the favor, also. A karaoke team that gets you invited to an event would certainly love to get the invite to your next event.
Upping your game with Flair
Remember the Tom Cruise movie “Cocktail”? Spinning and throwing bottles? Well, that’s called Flair and if you get good at that, you can expect your tips to increase quite a bit. Everybody loves to watch and as the night draws on and the drinks add up, it only gets more and more interesting. This is one skill it makes sense to pay to improve on for Mobile Bartending. You can find unbreakable bottles to practice with on Amazon alongside the links provided above.
Mobile Bartending – what kind of engagements?
A short list of where your engagements can come from
- Repeat Customers
- Corporate Events
- Celebrity Events
- Birthday parties
- Pool parties
- Any holiday party
- New Year’s Eve: I’ve bolded this simply because it’s the “King of Kings” regarding an event to work. Set yourself up as the Bartender for a New Year’s Eve party and you’re in good shape. Also, this can be a good time to raise your rates as you get more popular as the demand for good Bartenders is increased while at the same time most are booked.
Keeping it legal
Check with your state’s Alcohol Beverage Licensing department for specific information on this. A quick Google search of “alcohol beverage license [your_state]” should get you in the right area.
Did the above sentence turn you off from mobile bartending? It did for probably 90% of the readers and this is why it can be so lucrative. Most folks don’t want to worry with the legal requirements so will find something else to do. Don’t be that guy…or gal.
Understanding and abiding by your state’s liquor laws is crucial for the health and safety of everybody involved. Don’t fight it. Once you are licensed, it’s a feather in your cap and a differentiator that your customers will appreciate. It may be a pain in the butt to do and to maintain, but every business will have these things you get to deal with. I prefer to view them as raising the barrier to entry and therefore eliminating some of the competition.
What type of license you need will depend on the type of alcohol you’ll be serving. Beer and wine? Easier to get. Hard liquor? That’s a bit tougher, but more lucrative in the long run as you will have more events to work.
Note that if you just show up and serve the drinks, you most likely won’t need the liquor license. When you become the one-stop shop for everything the customer needs, that’s when this is needed. Again, check with your state’s requirements. If you just own the tools of the trade and show up to serve liquor that’s already purchased, you may not need the license but check anyway!
That brings us to another topic. Can you bring the alcohol with you? Usually not as this is usually a distributor’s job. If you stop by the liquor store and pick up a few bottles with the intention of serving them during the event, you may be breaking the law. Again, check your state’s codes to know for sure.
On the topic of picking up the drinks and taking them to the event, be extra cautious about crossing state and/or county lines.
Mobile Bartending Guide – summary
So that’s it – go get it. What other job do you get to work your own hours, party all night long, socialize with people having fun, and get paid very well for it? Not many jobs like that around – if you have the inclination, go for it. And as always, I’d love to hear your stories.