Sep 04

Bar Work: Make Some Money On The Side

Reading Time: 6 mins

Bar work is one of the most flexible evening or day jobs you can find to make money quickly. If your English is good enough and you can do basic maths, you can do it. Plus, it can be a great way to forge yourself an entirely new career. See how by reading on.

What does a bartender job involve?

Working in a bar is not easy money. It involves lots of late nights where you’ll be standing up most of the time. You will have to get your hands dirty; emptying drip trays, dealing with drunken punters and even cleaning toilets. What’s more, you’ll have to do it with a smile so you get good tips.

You can work from four to 40 hours a week and shifts range from four to 12 hours (with an hour break).

What you need


Some jobs will require previous experience. However, if you can demonstrate that you are capable and a quick learner, other establishments will give you a go without experience. Many pubs and bars will put you through a trial shift during the interview process, which should hopefully give you the chance to demonstrate that you’re capable of doing the job.

Larger clubs and bars will require their staff to have fire training as well as health and safety. They may also require you to be trained on their till system. However, this sort of training is often provided in-house.


If the establishment you work for has a dress code, you may be expected to provide at least part of this yourself. It will probably be simple – a pair of black trousers and a black or white shirt. Don’t fork out on nice work clothes. Get something cheap that you can spill drinks on, sweat in and generally get grimy. This way, if it gets ruined, you can replace it easily. Clothes also need to be comfortable.

You may be able to get money back from your employers for washing these clothes. Also check with HMRC to see if you can get a reduction in your tax for washing your own uniform.


To work in a bar you’ve got to be willing to slog it out a bit. It can be a lot of fun and if its not busy, service can be pretty easy. However, if it’s busy you can be run off your feet for long periods of time, so you’ve got to be willing to put in the effort.

How much you can earn?

What you earn working in a bar depends on the type of venue and its location. Hourly rates vary according to region, experience and qualifications.

Junior bar staff are likely to get a base salary of minimum wage – £6.31 per hour for over 21s – but that will rise depending on experience. The average wage for a bartender is around £8 an hour, but if you’re good at it and manage to get a swanky job at the likes of the Ritz, you could be earning up to about £11 an hour.

On top of this you can expect to get tips. Tips depend on how good you are at your job and how nice you are to your customers. They also depend on the wealth and generosity of your customers.

Bar Work: Make Some Money On The SideProvide top-quality service with a smile to absolutely everyone and you maximise your chances of tips. Don’t be unrealistic, you probably won’t make hundreds. About £20 extra in tips per shift is a reasonable amount to expect and improve on.

Tips given on credit cards are paid to the company that runs the pub and then shared equally between employees on the shift. This means they’re automatically taxed. Beware, though, some companies keep these tips for themselves. It’s mean and nasty but we have come across quite a few that do. Our advice is to walk straight out if you find yourself working for a company like that and then let Springboard UK know. They’re a charity that deals in the hospitality and catering sector.

Cash tips are given directly to you. Technically, you should declare these as taxable earnings at the end of the tax year.

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What costs are there?


Bar Work: Make Some Money On The SideMost bar staff are trained in-house by the publican or licensee, the bar manager or experienced bar staff. This training is usually provided on the job so you are paid whilst doing it.

However, if you really take to the job, there are qualifications that can improve your pay. Staff can take NVQs/SVQs in Catering and Hospitality (Food and Drink Service) at levels one and two. These courses will teach you basic food preparation and cookery skills, as well as how to . It also teaches you how to manage people efficiently, maintain customer care and work with others efficiently. Course costs vary.

We found an example of one course in London for a Hospitality Certificate in Professional Food and Beverage Service Level 1. The fees were £1,370 for those who are 19 and over, with an additional £100 exam fee.

This is an investment for the future but certainly not obligatory. To find your nearest course have a look on Hot Courses or contact your local college.
If you’re more interested in staying at the bar, you can pursue a bartending qualification. The United Kingdom Bartenders Guild offers two bartending courses, one for the younger (or less experienced) bartender and one for advanced skills. The courses are partnered with Shaker, one of the UK’s leading bartending schools.

The International Bartenders Course offers seminars on:

  • The Professional Bartender
  • Reading your clientele
  • Bar Preparation/Keep
  • Tools of the Trade
  • Health, Safety and legal issues
  • Product Knowledge part 1 & 2
  • Cocktail Methodology

The cost for five consecutive days of tuition is £ 749 with the WSET Foundation Spirits Exam, £699 without.


These costs can be minimised by applying for jobs near to where you live. This way you can save on travel and getting home from work late at night will be easier and safer.

How can you maximise your revenue?

Working in a chain pub can be beneficial. You may get a lower starting salary, but the brand will attract customers, guaranteeing you tips. Chain pubs and bars also offer good career progression so you can make more money. You also benefit from professional employment practices and extra training that might not be available in smaller establishments.

However, in a smaller pub you could get paid cash in hand.

It’s possible to get a job without skills and progress through experience. However, getting training increases your employability, so could get you more money and a better work place.

Bar Work: Make Some Money On The SideFor the best working environment and to maximise your earning potential, pick an establishment that you would go to yourself. This way the clientele are likely to be people in your age group that you are likely to get on with. This will make it easier to be friendly and socialise, hopefully increasing your tips. It will also make your job a lot more fun.

Lots of bar jobs are dealt with directly with the manager, so dropping your CV into all the bars and pubs in your local area is the first thing you should do.

Is it for you?

Although working at a bar/pub could be a convenient short term job, you can also make a living from it.

Bar Work: Make Some Money On The SideWe spoke to Daniel Crebesse, the UK Bartenders Guild President, about what attributes you should have if you want to pursue a role as a bartender for a career:

“If you want to work in an office it’s not for you, you need to have a bubbly personality and like to meet new people. You’ve got to be attracted to the role, otherwise you’ll struggle. Bartenders who see the job as just a bit of extra cash won’t get very far and a certain level of dedication is needed to succeed as a bartender.”

Useful links

Sites you can look at for jobs are:

  • Gumtree
  • Springboard UK – A registered charity promoting careers in hospitality with a vacancies page.
  • Barzone

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Thank you Alessia.

I’m looking to earn some extra cash and bar work sounds ideal.


With thanks… Still yet another awesome blog post, which is precisely why my partner and I arrive for a webpage every so often!!


Did courses with Shaker (Gold Pack) after reading the above info. Had a fantastic time, learnt loads, definatley the most professional of the schools I contacted, just started working in a bar and I love it!

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