Becoming your own boss is a dream for many people trapped in the rat race.
Freelancing gives people the freedom to work flexible hours, while enjoying what they do and hopefully earn more than enough as their former 8-to-5 jobs.
Bartending is a side hustle you can turn into a full-blown freelance career or business. If you’re looking to switch careers or have been bartending most of your adult life, read more for a comprehensive guide in turning mobile bartending into a full-time business.
How to Most the Money with Mobile Bartending
Mobile bartending involves packing your bar and bringing the drinks and party to another location. Usually, birthdays, weddings, stag parties, and other events can benefit from a portable bar.
So who can make money with a portable bar?
- Bartender – The most obvious person who can turn mobile bartending into gold is someone who has experience bartending in the past. You’d have practice talking to people and first-hand knowledge of working the tools of the trade.
- Owner of a Bar – Like the bartender, you know how to work the bar and communicate with your patrons. You may not know many fancy mixes as your bartender, but having a menu card for drinks can solve this problem quick. If your in-house bartender is OK with working extra hours, you can find bartending jobs on his behalf in exchange for carrying the bar’s name.
- Caterer and Restaurant Owner – Entrepreneurs in the catering, dining and restaurant industry can also include mobile bartending packages into their regular services, hitting two birds in one stone.
The person who can make the most money with mobile bartending is the one who chooses to roll with portable bars on a full-time scale. If you do this only as a side gig, then you’ll earn less money. It’s that simple.
Pros & Cons to Bartending
Bartending isn’t something people would call a career – it’s usually a temp job while waiting for something better.
For example, working students in need of cash, actors working their way up, and so on.
Fortunately, the stigma of bartending as a temp job can now end as more and more people find success in bartending private events either as a freelancer or business owner.
However, you still have to weigh the pros and cons of mobile bartending to determine if this income-generating gig is something you’d like to pursue:
Pros of Mobile Bartending
The main advantage of bartending for events is the flexibility it gives you.
You can have a day job and work on your mobile bartending at night or during weekends, but it’s totally up to you if you want to be aggressive with your schedule or not.
You can even lie low for a while and pick up your bartending right where you left off.
Aside from the flexibility mobile bartending brings, there are several advantages to this income potential:
- Good money – A freelance bartender can earn $25 to $50 an hour. In events like weddings that have strict hours at venues, bartending gigs may be packaged as two- or three-hour work and priced $200 to $500.
- Free Food – You’ll be hired to cater events, so most jobs involve free food and drinks. And
- Networking – Because the job isn’t as hectic as bartending in nightclubs and similar venues, you’ll be able to communicate with guests more properly and if you’re lucky, make connections for future business.
- Fun – If you love every part of bartending, you’ll appreciate it more with a mobile bar since you’re not stressing about long work hours and you get to enjoy the party.
Cons of Mobile Bartending
Of course, mobile bartending isn’t for everyone.
This is especially true for people who feel their weekends are sacred days for family or church, or that you prefer working in the mornings.
Holidays are also in-demand for events, so if you want to earn as much as possible, you might have to miss a lot of holidays in exchange for mobile bartending jobs.
Another problem with this business is that it can have downtimes on certain seasons, which means the gigs you receive around Christmas time cannot match slower months such as August. This directly affects the money you earn, so you have to take note.
Bartending Gigs: Where to Find Event Bartending Jobs
If you’re already a bartender and have known the industry inside and out, you’ll probably have an easier time finding event bartending jobs than the rest. However, if you’re new to this and have no networking in place yet, here are some websites that list bartending gigs:
- ShiftGig– Catering and restaurant businesses (tagged as “I’m a business”) post jobs to find qualified people to work in and out of the kitchen. Event bartending jobs listed here will include number of hours for shifts needed.
- iHobNob – Looking for employment in the food and drink industry? Post your resume here or find bartending jobs with a quick search.
- Good Food Jobs – This site supports a wide range of businesses from farms to restaurants in their search for waitresses, bartenders, and other people in the food industry.
- FoodForce– Beginners to senior-level positions are available here, but mostly from companies offering specialty and natural foods.
- Proven – On this site, bartenders and other skilled workers can post their skills and need for employment directly on company’s Proven profiles.
- Poached– This staffing solution is aimed at giving jobs for bartenders, restaurant workers, baristas and so on.
These sites are just the tip of the iceberg – you can find a many more specific to the food industry.
10 Things You Need to Start Bartending Private Events
Mobile bartending isn’t a new business, but there are not enough guides around to show freelancers how to start bartending private events.
If you’re serious about bartending on-the-go, here are 10 things you should know:
1. Business plan
Even if you’re starting a mobile bartending business small, you still have to craft a plan. Do your research, compute in/out finances, and create a feasible business plan.
2. License and permits
If your bartending gig requires you to sell alcohol, you or the event venue owner should obtain a Temporary Events Notice (TEN).
For private parties like weddings, the host usually pre-pays the drinks so guests could consume them at the event.
Large-scale events obtain permits that often include alcohol license as well.
Liability insurance is a part of the business permit requirement, since this insurance will help you cover expenses if any accident occurs during the event.
4. Register the business
If you have big plans for your mobile bartending, make sure to register your business before making big investments.
5. Get Equipment
Aside from obtaining the ice and drinks, you’ll also need basic equipment like coolers, bucket, trash bin, tables, knife, utensils, cutting board and glassware.
6. Build a website
The easiest way for bartenders to book gigs is to let guests find you.
Create a fully functional and engaging website, which will serve as your digital “calling card.”
7. Get a social media game
Know the ropes how to become popular for every social media profile available.
Bartending can be competitive, especially in smaller towns, so step up your game because your social media presence can even make or break your business.
8. Expand your network
As a business owner and bartender, it’s your job to continuously build your network for future gigs.
If the city you’re based in has plenty of competition, you can choose a niche to specialize on.
There are portable bars that cater exclusively to wines, or craft beers.
Some bartenders choose to go with cheaper drink “stalls” and on-the-go trolley bars, while others go with more expensive, motorized vans or vehicles ala-foodtrucks.
10. Be original
The easiest way for people to notice you (and recommend to other people) is to create a buzz.
Make your bartending gig fun and guests around you will notice.
Invent drinking games, create challenges, and so on.
If you’re lucky, you can even get your gimmick viral. However, make sure you’re organized enough to keep a 12-month gig calendar to accommodate them once the demand increases.
Go Freelance or Stay Employed?
Bartenders employed with a nightclub, bar, restaurant, or hotel will have no problem with income, since they are technically still working on an 8-to-5 shift.
On the other hand, a freelance bartender will more likely be able to start his/her own business.
Running a mobile bartending business is possible even if you want to just pick up gigs here and there.
Of course, it is better to set-up a legitimate business and become a business owner as well, so you don’t have to worry about licensing and permits once you decide to go big.
Whichever route you take, your bartending skills and networking will be the reason you’ll get far.
As such, make sure to practice your bartending skills regularly and improve your knowledge with cocktails, drinks and everything in between. Marketing your brand and advertising your mobile bartending business everywhere you go should be a priority.