Are Bartenders Self Employed? (Insightful Guide)

are bartenders self employed
Joe | Last Updated: August 30, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

If you’ve recently found yourself wondering “are bartenders self employed?” then you’re not alone. Whether it’s out of curiosity or it’s something you’re considering yourself, we’re going to go through all of the details in this article.

In short, no, most bartenders are not self-employed. However, self-employed bartending is becoming more common among those that want to bartend whilst working for themselves.

Bartending as a whole is becoming an increasingly popular career choice for those that are fed up with the monotonous office job life and instead want a sprinkle of fun and excitement at work.

Who can blame them? Since the 2020 pandemic began, roughly 22% of workers across the United States considered changing careers, with bartending being front of mind for a lot of people.

Freelance bartending has become an option that many are now considering, whether that is to run alongside their day job or something they do on a weekend or on evenings for extra cash.

Are Bartenders Self-Employed?

For the most part, bartenders are NOT self employed. The vast majority of bartenders are employed by the company that owns the bar and are usually contracted to part-time or full-time hours.

Being employed as opposed to self-employed comes with many benefits, including sick pay, paid vacation, a retirement plan as well as health and life insurance, but of course, this depends on the employer.

are bartenders self employed
Photo by Dmitriy Frantsev on Unsplash

It also means that income tax and social security contributions are handled and you do not need to hire an accountant or file a tax return.

With that said, the amount of money a bartender can make is usually considerably higher when working freelance, so there are certainly pros and cons to weigh up when deciding between employed or freelance.

Read more: 9 tips for bartending a private party

Can I Be A Self-Employed Bartender?

It’s certainly possible for a bartender to be self-employed, in fact, it’s happening more and more in the industry as people look to maximize their earnings and have more flexibility.

Bartenders that have experience and a strong resume will be qualified to apply for freelance bartending gigs, but those that are new to the industry without much experience may find it more difficult to be hired.

Catering companies, hotels, weddings, and other private events are regularly on the lookout for skilled freelance bartenders, especially those that can entertain their guests.

Some bartenders that are specialized, such as flair bartenders can make a fortune if they work freelance.

This is because they can set their own rate of pay and keep all the tips they make, and in the flair bartending world the tips can be astronomical.

If you’re someone that’s experienced in bartending and is confident in your skills, exploring the freelance world may be a more lucrative option for you and will provide more flexibility.

How Much Do Freelance Bartenders Get Paid?

The rate of pay for a freelance bartender varies depending on the experience of the individual and if they are specialized in the role.

Typically, the average cost to hire an event bartender will range somewhere between $40 – $80 per hour, but this can reach $160 – $320 and over $500 per hour for highly skilled bartenders.

This rate of pay is increased significantly by the tips that they make. At private functions such as weddings, bartenders’ tips can be very high and it’s not uncommon for freelance bartenders to make thousands in tips.

As you can see, the pay that freelance bartenders can potentially earn is much higher than working for a company which is why so many experienced bartenders are now exploring this option.

Why Are Most Bartenders Not Self-Employed?

The main reason why most bartenders are not self-employed is that they simply don’t know that freelance bartending exists or can not be bothered to make a go of it.

People get comfortable in their routines and going outside of that is deemed as ‘risky’, but those that succeed in freelance bartending are glad they made the jump.

The freelance bartending world is only recently starting to become more popular, and now that people are understanding the earning potential a lot more bartenders are giving it a go.

After all, if you’re a highly skilled bartender that has multiple years of experience, why would you want to work for someone else and work long, tiring hours when you can work on your own terms and earn significantly more money?

It makes sense for the best bartenders to work freelance, whether it’s alongside their full-time bartending job or not, the earning potential is exponentially higher in freelance bartending.

With that said, finding freelance work can be quite difficult and without actively seeking the work it will not fall on your lap.

More On Freelance Bartending

Setting up a freelance bartending business is a great way to make a lot of money in bartending, but it’s not as easy as you may think and requires some initial work.

Most freelance bartenders will provide their own setup, which includes a table set up or sometimes a portable bar for a more classic vibe.

The bartender does not usually supply the alcohol and instead may bring their own ingredients such as syrups, fruit, and the bartending tools they require.

The event organizer may ask that the bartender brings the alcohol, in which case they may be provided with a shopping list for which they will be reimbursed upon arrival with a receipt.

are bartenders self employed
Photo by Sangria Señorial

When it comes to finding work, some of the most effective ways are through social media apps such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook but there are job boards that request freelance bartenders too.

Indeed, Upwork and Freelancer are all good platforms to use to search for freelance bartending work, and you’ll often find that the work on these platforms is the most lucrative because they are usually large-scale events and not smaller parties.

Final Thoughts

Now you know the answer to “are bartenders self employed” and have a better understanding of why so many bartenders are deciding to go freelance.

Most bartenders are NOT self-employed and instead work for a company, but freelance bartending is on the rise and is expected to continue growing in the future.

It’s a great way to earn extra cash on their own terms and the pay is usually great. Freelance bartending jobs crop up regularly, often at private functions or events.

A bartender that has strong experience in the industry will be able to pick up freelance work easily, whether that’s on weekends alongside their career or whenever they need extra money.

Freelance bartending allows the bartender to set their own hourly wage as well as keep all of the tips they make during their time working.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I’ll see you in the next one.