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How to Land Your First Private Bartending Gig

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Editorial Team | June 25, 2019 | 0

How to Land Your First Private Bartending Gig

Have you ever thought about bartending at private parties and functions? It’s a great side gig. And it’s not that hard to get started. But it’s not that easy, either. Here are some tips to help you get started as a bartender for private functions.

Are You an Expert or a New Bartender?

First, take a cold, hard look at your skill level. Have you ever been a professional bartender? What kind of venue did you work – local, corner dive? Crazy, busy party bar? Upscale restaurant? Private club? Who was your clientele?

Use this information to steer you towards what kind of venues might work best for you. That doesn’t mean that if you worked at a bustling party bar, you can only work crazy party gigs. It means you can handle crowds, chaos, and lots of mixed drink orders for several hours straight. Or if you worked at a private club, that may indicate you excel at delivering personal, upscale service.

If you are new to the business, there are gigs for you, too. A catering service or event venue may often have beer and wine only events. The skills you need for that are the ability to open a bottle of beer or wine, pour it properly, serve it, and smile. Depending on the state you are working in and your employer’s rules, you will also need to have some certification and an alcohol license.

What are the Bartending Requirements in Your State?

If you are an established bartender and you are staying in your area, then you probably have all the various alcohol certifications and licenses you need – just make sure they are up to date.

But if you are new to the business or you are moving to a different state, you may need new certifications. Both local and state governments have stringent rules about serving alcohol. They, and prospective employers, may require you to get some form of alcohol seller certification.

Where You Can Find Private Bartending Work

Regardless of whether you are new or an old pro, there are several different ways to find good, reputable freelance bartending work.

Event Venues

One of the best ways to find work is to contact the event venues directly. Since they may be hosting all kinds of events, they may need all types of bartenders – from friendly faces to pour beer and wine to experienced professionals who can handle large parties and multiple mixed drink orders.

Venues do not mean only event venues. Museums and other public spaces are often the sites of private parties and fundraisers.


If a party or event requires food, they need a caterer. If alcohol is also served, then a bartender will be required. If nothing else, talk to several caterers (bring your resume!) and pick their brains for places that might need freelance help.

You may also meet caterers while you are bartending at venues. Look sharp and impress them and they may want to use you for their own gigs.

Event Planners and Wedding Planners

This is another door for you to open. Even in the biggest cities, it can be a small world in the hospitality business where caterers, venues, and planners all know and work with each other. If you do a good job, word gets around.

Staffing Companies

These businesses find the work for you and in return, get a fee from their client (good!) or from you (not so great, but ok). Do your homework beforehand and know the going rates in your area based on your experience. Most gigs should provide for a four-hour minimum. Find this out upfront.

Keep a record of each staffing company you called, when you called them, who you talked to, and what they said. They often don’t have anything right away, but if you can develop a relationship with someone, then they may give you a heads-up if a good gig comes in.

Special Advice for Newcomers

If you don’t have experience as a bartender, it will be harder to get gigs. Here are a few common sense tips:

  • Take any job that comes along (as long as it looks legit and you’re not putting yourself in a vulnerable position). At this point, you need experience as much as you need the money.
  • Talk to bartenders. Make friends with people who work at the venues and the catering companies. You may get a serving job which could lead to a bartending job.
  • Have all applicable licenses and certifications ready and up-to-date.
  • Smile, dress nicely, and be friendly. Nobody is going to hire a grumpy, dumpy bartender. Nobody. Look and act like a great bartender. Or to put it another way: fake it ‘til you make it.

Whether you are just starting, or want to take your bartending experience in a different direction, you can have a lot of fun and make good money as a freelance bartender. But you first have to show people that you can do the job and be an asset to their organization.

Start Your State-Approved Alcohol Certification Program

Almost all local government, state departments, and employers require workers to get an alcohol certification. You can start on your alcohol certification today by enrolling in one of our state-approved alcohol seller and server programs. We’ll teach you about the ups and downs of alcohol sales and service, and equip you with techniques to protect you and your employers from alcohol-related liabilities and administrative actions.

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