21 Ways to Earn Money at the Bar Instead of Spending It

Earn money at a bar
Satish Krishnamurthy under Creative Commons

Fireball shots. Dancing until 3 a.m. Crazy, laughter-filled conversations. Let’s face it: you love to party. But your fun-loving ways are wiping out your bank account. You don’t want to quit going out, but what’s a cash-strapped partier to do?

Turn it into a moneymaking opportunity, of course! Here are 21 ways to make a little moolah while enjoying the nightlife you love, rather than spending all your cash at the bar.

1. Act as an Alcohol Brand Ambassador

For this gig, you’ll dress up in branded gear and hand out freebies and shots to promote a liquor or brand. You most likely have to be an outgoing, attractive woman aged 21 to 35 to get this kind of work. (Sorry, guys. Keep reading!)

Look for local ads on Craigslist or other websites from staffing and marketing agencies like StuckforStaff. When I did this as a student in college, I was hired through a modeling agency and was called a promotional model. I made good money (about $20 to $30 per hour at the time) and often got free drinks and other free stuff. We had to take about 30 pictures posing with customers each night and had to play bar games as well as convincing people to buy the alcohol.

You’ll probably work part time; most shifts last three hours and may require visiting multiple bars in one night. But if you’re looking for something more, you could also look up local liquor distributors and ask who does their representation. Being an alcohol ambassador can lead to becoming a full-time liquor rep.

2. Bring People Food

Go to a bar that doesn’t serve food and ask a bartender if they allow outside food. Then ask the people at each table if they’re hungry. Tell them you’re heading out to pick up food, and ask them if you can bring them anything. Give options: you’ll get pizza, Mexican or burgers. Charge $5 to $10 dollars for delivery per table. (This idea comes from Megan Dougherty’s 20 No-Bullshit Ways to Make at least $30 Tomorrow.)

3. Offer to Hand Out Flyers for Bar Promos

Find local bars that have events or theme nights coming up, such as a poker night, 80s night, or a live band. Tell the owners you’ll create promotional flyers and hand them out on the street for $20 per hour. It helps if you have some design skills, but you can easily find plenty of ideas and templates for flyers online.

4. Share Photos on Instagram

Live in Chicago? Try Popular Pays, an app that gives you free things (e.g. a free beer) in exchange for sharing a photo on Instagram. This app is only open to users with more than 500 Instagram followers and plans to expand to other cities soon.

5. Play Smartphone Apps that Give You Cash

Hanging out at a bar is all about having a good time, but when you get bored, grab your smartphone and use some apps that earn you cash by watching videos, answering questions, taking surveys and other actions. Some apps to check out are SwagBucks, Surveys on the Go, Checkpoints, and Mobile Rewards.

6. Be a Friend — For a Fee

Sign up to “become a friend” on RentAFriend.com and say you’re available to go to the bar with someone or act as their wingman/wingwoman. Many people don’t want to go out alone, but may not have anyone to go with at the time. Charge $10 to $50 an hour.

7. Be a Guest Bartender

Guest bartenders usually only mix drinks for one night. New York City has several bars that offer guest bartending shifts. Mad River Bar & Grille requires guest bartenders to bring a minimum of 20 people through the door, and people make $50 to $300 per shift.

Check out this list of places to guest bartend in NYC. Other cities may have similar opportunities, or you could talk to some of your favorite local spots about trying this out.

8. Work as a DJ

If you know how to spin tunes and bring in the party people, some bars and clubs will hire you as a DJ. You may need to have your own equipment, but you’ll get paid and will likely get some free drinks, too.

9. Become a Comedian

Stand up, make people laugh and get paid. Some bars will pay you for your jokes — and people will be more likely to laugh after having a few cocktails! You probably won’t get paid much, but if you’re lucky, you could get $50 per night.

10. Run or Win Trivia Games

Trivia nights are a good way to have fun and win cash and other prizes if you and your friends know lots of random facts. You could also host a trivia night if you’re crowd-friendly, upbeat and able to come up with good trivia questions.

Ask your local bars if they’re interested in having a trivia night. Or visit the National Trivia Association website and look in the “Classifieds” section or contact them about becoming a host in your area.

11. Work as an Event Planner

If your neighborhood bar needs more traffic, create and present an idea for a theme night — and take a cut of the profits, of course. You could charge a fee (about $5) at the door or sell related merchandise, like knitting kits for a knitting-themed event or custom T-shirts. You could also arrange a pub crawl at multiple bars in an area.

12. Take Photos

Buy a Polaroid camera and offer to take photos of groups or people at a bar or club. Charge $5 to $10 per picture, or trade a picture for a drink. You could also offer to snap some good photos for a bar’s website or other marketing materials.

13. Sell Your Artwork to or at Bars

If you’re a local artist, bars may want to buy your original artwork, or hang it up for sale. It can’t hurt to ask! Include your name, contact info and the price for each piece.

14. Sell Homemade Snacks at Bars

Know how to whip up some amazing brownies, cookies or other snacks? Package them and see if bars in your area (particularly ones with limited food options) would be willing to sell them to customers.

15. Be a Nightclub Promoter

Most nightclubs hire promoters to help them with their marketing. You have to be personable and able to build a network of people to do this job, and you should have at least some marketing experience. Promoters usually can earn 10-25% of bar sales per night.

Do your homework and learn as much as you can about your favorite clubs, then contact them to see if they’re in need of promoters.

16. Write About or Photograph Your Nights Out

Some websites, such as PartyEarth, will pay you to write and take pictures of your nighttime experiences in bars and clubs. Does it get any better?

17. Do Social Media or Blogging for the Bar

Do any of your local hangouts lack a social media presence? Offer to blog about events or post content to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. If you have photography skills, those will come in handy, too.

18. Do Bar Tricks

Trick your friends or other people into buying you a drink or handing over a few dollars. The Art of Manliness offers 12 classic bar tricks, or learn one of these magic tricks from SloshSpot.com.

19. Play Lottery Games

Some bars offer lottery games while you sip your drink. Keno is an easy, lottery-like gambling game in which players guess which numbers will be drawn at random and get paid based on how many numbers they guess correctly. You’re not guaranteed to win, but here’s a good chart of your odds.

20. Play Video Games

Some bars offer video games with money prizes. For example, a man in St. Louis made an estimated $45,000-55,000 a year playing an arcade game called Golden Tee Golf. Another game with money prizes is Silver Strike Bowling.

21. Teach People to Dance

If you’ve got moves and some patience, charge people a couple of dollars to teach them to do popular dances, such as the Wobble, twerking, tutting or other options.

If you like the idea of free beer, you might also be interested in getting paid to audit liquor stores.

Lindsay Oberst is a freelance writer and loves to have fun, so she’s always looking to make a few extra bucks. Find her online at @LindsayOWrite or LindsayOberst.com.