How to Become a Bartender in 2021 [5 Steps]

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Lately my email box has been flooded with the same question over and over which is: Dave, should I even try to become a bartender during these uncertain times of COVID? And if so, how do I become a bartender, especially if I have no experience? How do I learn the bartending skills I need? How do I land an interview? Do I go to bartending school? ARRRGGGHHH!!! HELP!!!

Now, now. Don’t worry your pretty little head. I’m here to help because I know it can be scary during this unprecedented time in which everyone is wearing masks and keeping their distance. Like a world full of Hannibal Lecters.

So in this article I’m going to give you my 5-step plan for becoming a bartender in 2021 so you can get your foot in the door and start slinging drinks and making some cold hard cash.

And I know you’re thinking that finding a job as a bartender might seem like an insurmountable task during this time, but nothing is insurmountable when you have a plan. I’m serious about that. Proof is in the pudding. I continue to receive success story after success story in the form of emails and messages from my students who have completed my online bartending course TheRealBarCourse and who continue to get hired. Even now, during this time, because they have the right plan. For instance I recently received this Facebook message in our Bartender Tribe Facebook Group:

And I don’t say any of this to brag or say how great my course is. The point I’m trying to make is, people who are taking action are getting hired right now. So this 5-step plan we’re going to go over now is going to help you immensely, as well as help you erase all those doubts you’re having about trying to become a bartender during this time. So let’s get to the 5 steps.

STEP 1: DECIDE

One word. That’s it. Before we get to any other step, you have to decide that you’re going to do whatever it takes to achieve your goals and become the person you wish to become.

This is true of anything: getting better at sports, losing weight, whatever your goal is. Toe-dippers are the least successful people on the planet. Success comes from those who make the decision first, and then figure out how to do it after. And I know you have apprehension and doubts and fears. But think about this:

One of the greatest quotes I ever read was from Elenor Roosevelt. She said:

“You must do the think you think you cannot do.”

This one ideology alone launched my online business and allowed it to be as successful as it is today. I’m talking here about my bar inventory app, because I had to walk into hundreds of bars and restaurants to try and sell it to the owners and managers. And I fucking hate selling! With a capital “H”. But here’s what I learned from that experience:

The more you get out of your comfort zone and dive into your discomfort zone, the more opportunities that open up and the more successful you become. No truer statement was ever spoken, so before you do anything else, you need to decide that you will grab your machete and chop your way through the discomfort jungle. And let’s be real, it’s not like you’re going to war. You’re just taking the steps to become a bartender.

All this is to say, you can’t get through the secret door and into the success party until you decide first. So get excited, change your body language, stand up tall, bang on your chest like an angry chimpanzee. Whatever you have to do to change your energy and go all out. Got it? Ok, let’s move on then.

STEP 2: LEARN BARTENDING SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE

Everyone worries about this step the most, but it’s really no different than learning how to be a barista at Starbuck’s. Yes, you need to know cocktail recipes and practice your bartending skills, but what job doesn’t require this? It’s just training. And for the money you’re making, it’s well worth it.  

Now, there are a number of different ways to get educated and get trained, the most commonly known one being bartending school. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a big fan of bartending school. It’s not that you can’t learn bartending skills there. It’s just that they are expensive, and the strategies they give you to actually land the job are amateur at best.

I have already mentioned, TheRealBarCourse, which I believe is your best option. It is, after all, the #1 online bartending course. This is because when it comes to the results of actually becoming a bartender our success-rate is so much higher than other bartending courses and bartending schools.

Inside the course I teach you all the bartending skills and knowledge you need to know to get hired, including how to free-pour, multitask, change a keg, set-up the bar, cut fruit, how to use the bar tools as well as how to memorize and make the most popular drinks. I walk you through them video by video.

In addition, I have the most comprehensive section on memorizing cocktails, including the triple imprint method, which I invented. I also devote an entire section to the interview, including interview secrets, as well as how to create killer cover letters and resumes, complete with a variety of templates included.

It’s basically an arsenal for helping you become a bartender, but no matter what path you choose here, learning some skills and knowledge is a necessity to getting your foot in the door. I would highly recommend that whatever bartending course you choose that you ask them what resources and help you get for actually executing the plan of going out and getting hired. Skills and knowledge alone won’t do it.

STEP 3: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OTHER PEOPLE’S DOUBTS

What does that mean exactly? Well, right now, just about everyone out there is having thoughts just like you are. Doubtful thoughts. The mind is telling them, “You can’t get hired as a bartender, especially right now. Forget the fact that you don’t have any experience, bars and restaurants already had to fire a bunch of people, so nobody is hiring right now. And even if they were, they wouldn’t hire you.”

Sound familiar? It’s awful, isn’t it? That voice? We all hear that voice at times. I know I did. But think about it. What if you decided to become a school teacher? Would you be like, “Man, I don’t think I have what it takes. I don’t have any experience and all the jobs are probably already taken.”

No way. You’d make a plan, you’d sign-up for classes to get educated, and you’d go to interviews and you’d get hired. It’s no different when becoming a bartender. Follow the plan.

DON’T BE A SHEEP

Think about this: 10% of the population owns 90% of the wealth. Why is that? Because the other 90% are sheep. They follow what others do and say and the moment someone else around them takes action or tries to do something that will make them successful, the sheep try to drag them down because they don’t want to be left behind. Don’t be a sheep.

When it comes down to it, the doubt factor works in your favor, because 90% of the people who hear this voice in their head, LISTEN TO IT, which means they do nothing. In fact, when they fail, they love to prove positive people wrong. “See,” they say. “Told you I couldn’t do it.” When really, they took very little action to move them towards their goal. In other words, they don’t do the thing they think they cannot do, as Mrs. Roosevelt declared.

You’re different though. You aren’t going to listen to that voice. While the other 95% are home curled up in a ball, you are going to take action to make something great happen in your life. BIG ACTION. After you learn your bartending skills, you are going to create a fantastic resume and then make a list of bars to go hand them in. Yes, even during this time. You’re going to put your mask, introduce yourself to the bar manager and hand in your resume. You’re going to take advantage of what others won’t do. And then you are going to do step 4.

STEP 4: FOLLOW-UP, FOLLOW-UP, FOLLOW-UP

Hopefully you’ve read this far because THIS STEP is the secret to landing a bartending job. First off, let’s look at the “follow-up” stat that I have shared before, because it is mind blowing. I’m literally giving you the formula for becoming a bartender right here.

If we look at salespeople…and let’s stop right here because I can hear you right through the screen. You’re saying, “I don’t want to be a salesperson, Dave, I want to be a bartender. What the fuck!!??” Yes, I get that, but in order to become a bartender, you do have to make one sale. You have to convince just one manager to take a chance on you and buy what you’re selling, which in this case is you.

So back to salespeople (before you so rudely interrupted me), if we look at them, similar to our wealth stat earlier, 10% of them make 90% of the money. Because, like we just talked about, they do something different than everyone else. Check these stats out.

SALES FOLLOW-UP STATS

  • Only 2% of sales are made on the first contact. That means you aren’t going to get hired the first time you walk in. So if you walk in one time, hand your resume in and never go back, you have a 98% chance of not becoming a bartender. This is what most people do. Not getting hired has nothing to do with their bartending skills and experience.
  • 80% of successful sales take place after the 5th follow-up. That’s an awesome statistic right there. It’s telling you all you need to know about making a sale. And yet…
  • 44% of salespeople give up after one follow up. Right there, 44% of the competition is wiped out. And when it comes to bartenders following up for a job, I guarantee you that you can at least double that stat. I hired bartenders for years and I would say 1 in 12 came back to follow-up.
  • Only 8% follow-up more than 5 times. Remember, 80% of sales happen after the 5th follow-up, so 92% don’t reach that magical 5th follow-up, so they’re out. They aren’t making the big money. That means if you follow this plan, you have a huge advantage over 92% of the competition. And these are professional salespeople. Not people looking for a bartending job.

These sales stats are nearly identical for getting hired. It’s not that you can’t get hired after one follow-up. After all, there are still the 20% that make a sale before the 5th follow-up, but how powerful is it once you reach that 5th follow-up? You are almost guaranteed to get hired.

And let me say this. If you are following up with multiple bars, I will remind you that you don’t need sale after sale, day after day like professional salespeople do in order to eat, pay the rent and buy new sketchers, or whatever it is they spend their money on. You only need ONE sale. One sale to convince a bar manager that you are the one who is going to be a great hire for them. That’s it.

In short, if you follow-up, follow-up, follow-up with multiple bars, it’s over baby. You’re going to get in. It’s basic math. And you most likely won’t even need all five follow-ups.

STEP 5: GET IN ANYWAY YOU CAN

Now, I know that being a bartender is at the top of your list, but getting your foot in the door any way you can is key. That’s because bartending itself is really not that hard. So your job is to just get hired, no matter the position. That means if the bar manager wants to hire you as a server or barback, take it. Servers and barbacks still make great tips, and you can gain the experience you need. I myself started out as a server and within three months I had moved into the bar because someone left, and during those three months I was spending my time with the bartenders learning everything I could.

Again, as you can see here, this is exactly what one of my students Luke did. I just got this email from him a couple days ago, so again, people are getting hired right now.

Now, I’m not saying you will get two interviews in three days. But it can certainly happen, as it did with Luke. You can catch lightening in a bottle, it happens all the time, but you can see here that Luke has no problem starting as a server/barback because he knows he is on the path to becoming a bartender.

With that said, if you do take a job as a server or barback, you just want to make sure you let them know that your goal is to become a bartender so you don’t get pigeon-holed into that position forever. I’ve had servers tell me that they have been serving for years waiting to move into the bartending spot, and when I ask them if they have ever told the manager that their desire to bartend, they will often say, “Well, no. I just figured I had seniority.”

The bar manager is not a mindreader. You have to let him/her know what you want.

THE BARTENDING INTERN

Want to take it up a notch from there? Here’s another nugget of gold for you: in order to ensure that you are the next one up to move into the bartending position when someone leaves, offer to come in on your days off and train for free. You’re basically offering to be a bartending intern. Yes, the bar gets free labor, but it’s also free training for you. This is a very good thing for you, assuming the bartender training you isn’t a moron.

This comes back to you offering to help them get something they want, which is the same strategy I teach in the Interview Secrets section of TheRealBarCourse to get hired. When you offer to help others get what they want, instead of always trying to get what you want, they are much more likely to reciprocate.

Also, this bartender “intern” training is perfect, because the other bartenders aren’t threatened because you aren’t taking any of their tips. Then, when some shifts open up on the schedule (someone calls in sick or takes a vacation), who do you think they are going to give them to? Yep, their faithful and trusty intern who shows grit and gumption above all others.

PICTURE THE RIGHT THINGS

To finish things up, let me say that the secret to you reaching your goal of becoming a bartender is this: instead of picturing everything you have to do, or the hurdles and pitfalls ahead, or the doubts in your head, I want you to picture what it’s going to be like once you do become a bartender.

Imagine making drinks, laughing with your guests as you serve them, and best of all, imagine walking to your car (or your bike, I don’t judge) counting all the cash you made that night. Imagine the joy you’ll feel and the pride you’ll feel around your friends knowing that they know that you are a kick-ass bartender. It’s an awesome feeling to not only be making good money doing something you love, but the pride you feel as well.

FREQUENTLY ASKED BARTENDER QUESTIONS

DO I NEED A BARTENDING LICENSE OR CERTIFICATE TO BECOME A BARTENDER?

The answer to this is yes and no. No, you don’t need a license or certificate that shows you completed some educational skills at a bartending school or course. Bar managers could care less about this. However, depending on the state you live in, you might be required to take an online alcohol awareness course, which is like $12 and easier than the captain of the cheerleading team. You can learn more details about this by reading this article: Do You Need a Bartending License [The Real Truth]

SHOULD I GO TO BARTENDING SCHOOL?

This is a matter of preference. Hopefully by now you know my opinion on bartending schools. I simply believe they are way too much money for what you get. And I don’t think it’s necessary, especially if you follow a well-thought out strategy and plan. I’ve laid one out here in this article that is more general, but inside my online bartending course, we of course go into a lot more detail. Bartending schools will teach you skills and knowledge, but they can’t guarantee you a job, and bar managers in general don’t see bartending schools as a true path to success for them. You can learn more about whether or not you should choose bartending school here: Bartending School – Do You Really Need it? [The Real Truth]

HOW MUCH IS BARTENDING SCHOOL?

This certainly varies based on the quality and reputation of the bartending school. A general range is $400 – $1,000. Online bartending courses can range from $20 to $200. You’ll want to make sure to do your research before picking one.

CAN I REALLY BECOME A BARTENDER IF I HAVE NO EXPERIENCE?

Absolutely! This one is a no-brainer and the reason I’m so confident is that I have hundreds of emails from my students who had absolutely no experience and became a bartender because they took action. Having no experience is no excuse. We have a specific strategy to help you overcome the no experience excuse, so…NO EXCUSES!

I hope this helped you out a bit. Remember, when it comes down to it, during this time of uncertainty, be certain, and you will stand out among the crowd.

Thanks for being here. See you next time.

Cheers,

Dave

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