How can having a following as a bartender make you more money? Regardless of the tipping culture in your country, we’re going to cover why your personal brand is vital to your earnings.

I’m David Eden Sangwell from BartenderHQ and I’ve worked in every position you can imagine in the drinks industry since 2000.

In 2010 I was headhunted to work in Dubai, helping to open a luxury hotel on the palm, but that wouldn’t have happened without building my reputation as a bartender, and today it couldn’t be easier to do. But what does that even mean, and how can it make you more money?

The job of a bartender is to make your bar money.

I talked at length before about how a bartender’s role is not service or even drinks making at its core, but making a profit for the business you’re in. Those other things are vital of course, but they’re the means to create sustainable revenue for the bar. Guests won’t come back if the service is bad, they won’t bring more friends and won’t recommend you.

While you’re doing this however, you should also be thinking about your personal brand too, your reputation as a bartender. Even if you have no interest in leaving the bar you work in today, there could easily be a change of management or even the bar closing down, so its vital to position yourself for when you do finally move on.

So where do you start? Maybe you already have. If you have guests who come in regularly and know your name, and perhaps come in because you’re on shift, you’re well on your way. The difficulty, is having a way of showing what you’ve built, and making it transferable if you leave, and that is one of the focuses for what we’re doing in formalising you’re bartender brand.

Let your guests find you online – Facebook Page

It’s vitally important that you have an online presence on social media platforms for your guests to follow. The best bang for your buck will certainly be Facebook and instagram.

As far as Facebook goes, you’ll almost certainly already have an account, if not, set up your personal account now. What you’ll need to set up however is a Page, which your personal account will manage. This is where you’ll direct anyone who wants to follow your bartending content.

Having this page will allow you to keep your more personal content private if you choose to, like family life, but remember regardless of your privacy settings, anything you put online could find its way out. Anything related to bartending or building your brand can go on the page and be shared on your personal account with your friends and family too.

Next step, Instagram.

You can certainly use a single Instagram account for everything but as with Facebook you may want to keep some things private. If so, go ahead and create a second account, or feel free to just use one, your call. Try to use your actual name of possible for your handle, as then if you leave the industry the followers can easily come with you. Not something I got right with @BartenderHQPics!

What to post to build your following?

So this is a huge topic and will massively depend on where you are in your bartending career, but the beat advice I can give is from Gary Vaynerchuk. 

Document, not create.

-Gary Vaynerchuk

Regardless of if you’re just starting out as a bartender or you’ve been doing it 20 years, what you’re doing and your own story is what you should post. If you’re creating cocktails from scratch, post pictures. Jump on the instagram and Facebook stories feature and shoot a video of you talking about your inspiration for the drink. If you’re entering a mixology or flair competition, share your preparation journey and process. Post a video on a bus home from work about how  busy your shift was or that guest who you connected with. Be real.

How to get early followers

So you may well be looking at your new accounts wondering how to get started. Will not already having followers stop others following you? Doubtful, but once you have a few posts on each go ahead and invite your friends to follow. Explain that it’s new and you’d love their feedback on what you’re posting. If you encourage their comments you’ll start some conversation and the platforms will see that your posts encourage discussion, which they like.

Next up, when you’re working, invite your regular guests to follow too. You can let your audience know when you’ll be behind the bar, and fingers crossed, your shifts will become busier if you’re doing a good job in looking after those guests. Again, ask for them to leave honest feedback so you can make the content better for them.

Be sure to keep posting on the platforms, and over time you’ll build up a larger following. Don’t worry about getting huge numbers quickly, relevant engaged followers are way more useful than a wide audience who isn’t invested in what you do. And don’t even think about buying followers on any platform. We’re not here for vanity numbers, we’re growing a following that will be valuable.

But what is all of this for? How does this equal more money for you in the same bar, or when you move on?

Your audience of regulars is valuable. This online community you’re building is a way of showing how you can connect to guests, and many of them would follow you to another venue. Guests are not just regulars of a bar, they’re regulars of their bartender. Bar owners value the guests that a bartender can attract to the bar, and smart managers will offer better wages for bartenders who bring them more business.

Of course, if you’re moving to another city or even country, your guests won’t follow you there, but you’ll have demonstrated how you build a regular following. That skill (which you’ll now be even better at) will come with you. Just make sure you follow through.

The following that you do have online however will help you when you’re looking to move. My trip to Dubai for a year was entirely off the back of being a competitive flair bartender and being well known in the industry as social media didn’t have the power it does today in 2010. Now it’s even easier to share what you do and your passion for drinks and bartending.

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