This College Student Makes $300 a Month Asking Weird Questions in Bars
You’ve probably been here before: You’re in a bar, nursing a drink that cost you way more than it should’ve. Suddenly, someone with a microphone starts asking you a bunch of random questions.
Who is this mythical figure? This champion of knowledge? This awarder of free beer?
It’s me, the quiz host. And it could be you, too!
By day, I’m a typical full-time college student who works part-time as an engineering intern. But, a couple nights a month I transform -- like Clark Kent into Superman -- into the master of all within earshot as a Quizmaster for a pub quiz company.
Much like the last son of Krypton, I only use my powers for good… usually.
And, in an average month, I make a few hundred bucks with this side gig.
How I Became a Quizmaster
Here’s how I found my way from the cornfields of Kansas to the big city of Metropolis.
I began my journey nearly two years ago at my favorite local pizza place. A company called Geeks Who Drink hosted pub quiz there once a week and, after that first night, I never missed a week.
After a month or so, the host started to recognize my face and we began hanging out. At his suggestion, I looked into becoming a quizmaster myself.
I applied and went through a brief audition. Afterward, I went through a couple nights of training with other members of the Justice League, and then I was off -- ready to leap over competitors with a single bound.
How Much Money I Make as a Quiz Host
In my area, 10 quizmasters work at 15 different venues.
I’ll occasionally fill in for other quizmasters who are stuck helping at the Kent family farm on their normal night. In a typical month, I host six quiz nights each month and bring home around $300.
In a given night, my home venue gives me a $25 tab for use on food and beverages while I’m hosting. On top of that, I get to stuff President Grant’s picture into my wallet every night -- that’s $50, paid through the quiz company’s payroll department.
It’s not a bad take for two and a half hours of work. I never saw Kal-El get $50 for thwarting Lex Luthor.
Besides the money and free food and drink, there’s another benefit to this gig: You meet a lot of people who can quickly become your friends!
I’ve made most of my best friends through this side hustle.
A Typical Night in the Life of a Quizmaster
Before I leave my Fortress of Solitude, I get everything ready for the night: I familiarize myself with the quiz content, make sure my music is ready and build a playlist for the audio stage of the game (a “Name That Tune”-style round).
Finally, I print off the material I’ll need for that night, for which I’ll be reimbursed by the quiz company. I pack up my laptop and cape and head out the door.
My venue provides its own sound equipment, so I just need to set it up. I set out the pencils and answer sheets for players, hook up my laptop and plug in my microphone.
Now it’s time for the fun to begin! I introduce myself and Geeks Who Drink and invite people to play along. The best part for the players? It’s totally free to play!
Quiz topics range from current events to history, science, pop culture, music, general knowledge, technology and more. Anything and everything is fair game, and it changes every night.
What You Need to Get Started
Do you have what it takes to rip off your stuffy day clothes and take charge of a room of people?
Here are the three superpowers you should have in your arsenal before you make the transformation.
1. High-Energy Personality
First and foremost: You need to ditch that boring Clark Kent persona to lead a great game of pub quiz.
If you aren’t an outgoing person, that OK. I’m not very extroverted in real life, but a couple of nights a week this gives me a great way to break out of my shell.
2. Time Management Expertise
It’s not just encouraged... it’s required.
Think about it: Would you want to go somewhere to play a game and spend the majority of your evening sitting around waiting on the host? Of course not!
You won’t need to fly around the world backwards to turn back time, but you will need to work fast. You’ll have to read questions, entertain the crowd, play music and score answers. Not to mention, keep track of all the teams’ scores, simultaneously.
It may seem like enough to make you submit and kneel before Zod, but after a couple nights of practice, it almost become second nature.
3. Good People Skills
These are a must. More often than not, the audience has been drinking, and a unique situation occurs.
I call it the Microphone Envy Effect, or MEE. Go to any small-venue comedy show, concert or variety act and you’ll see it. Certain audience members, combined with just the right volume of alcohol, will see someone on a microphone and decide they deserve the attention more.
Being prepared to handle audience members under the effect of MEE is a must. Unfortunately, most municipal fire codes won’t allow you to use your heat vision to vaporize those under the grasp of MEE.
Your superpowers need to be the ability to think quickly, be witty and have a great sense of humor. Defusing these situations quickly is the priority and humor is the most effective tool.
Tools of the Trade
My only upfront cost was purchasing a laptop. I bought the cheapest one I could find at Best Buy for around $400.
Besides my dashing good looks and personality, my laptop is the most important tool for this job.
When I’m not talking, I need to fill the silence with music. I also need to keep score and, without a laptop, I would run out of fingers to count on pretty quickly.
Geeks Who Drink provided all the audio equipment for me, including a microphone. The company also has professional writers who provide me with all the quiz questions and answers.
This is a huge relief because writing creative questions and fact-checking all of your answers is incredibly time-consuming -- that is, unless you are legitimately faster than a speeding bullet.
Depending on the company you work with, you may have other requirements or costs, but be sure to clarify these before you sign up.
Could You Become a Quizmaster?
I can say without a moment of hesitation, being a quizmaster is the most fun job I’ve ever had. The best part about this side hustle is the satisfaction I get every time I host. I plan on doing this for as long as I can.
So, think you have what it takes? Put yourself out there and take home some extra pocket money! An S on your chest not required, but highly encouraged.
Your Turn: Think you’d make a good quizmaster?
Zach VanSomeren has been working as a quizmaster as a side hustle for a nearly one year. He enjoys 80s pop music, arguing about who played the best Superman (Christopher Reeve) and is a self-proclaimed geek.