Pricing Strategy For Private Event Bartenders



One of the most common questions I get asked by new bartenders in the private event bartending space is about pricing.  I want to jump in here and give you some quick pointers on how to price your next client or even your first client.  I am going to provide you with the exact formula of how I’ve done pricing from the very first time I presented my first client with a quote.  My goal is that after you’ve been through this video is that you will have a realistic idea of much to charge your first or next client.  However, if there were anything I would want you to take away from this video on pricing, this would be the most important.  PRICING YOUR NEXT CLIENT IS A FEELING.  I’ve priced many events based on internal feelings, and no amount of calculations will determine your inner feelings.

What do I mean by that? Anytime you come up with a number to present your client, I want you to ask yourself how you feel about that number.  If it gets you excited, if that price makes you feel confident, maybe that price makes you a little nervous.  If your price makes you feel any of those things, then that is a good thing, and that is the place that I want to be.  I want you to have a strong sense of self-worth internally, and all of those things make you feel that way.

I’ve broken this pricing thing down into a few little steps for you.

Step 1:  Explore the Opportunity:  Before pricing, the next client explore the opportunity(ies) that you have with the potential client.  Is there a potential of having future opportunities with your client?  Is your client part of a vast network?  What is the possibility of you wanting to work for this client several times?  If these questions create an immediate response of “YES, ABSOLUTELY!”  Then you want to use this client to your fullest advantage.  Take this opportunity to generate more business for yourself but less work.

How do you do that, if your client has a vast network and you treat them right they will market for you, freeing up time that you could use elsewhere in your business?  Over-deliver on all of your promises with this client by offering free work, nothing big, just a free travel charge or a waived deposit little things that makes them feel important.  Offer them a new client discount; this impresses them and makes them feel like they are a premium client.  I cannot stress enough over-delivering, if you are charging someone $500 for four hours, give them $1000 worth of work.  Now that we’ve learned a little about using your perfect client to your advantage, let’s talk about talking to them and understanding their vision.

Once you get that face to face meeting, or skype meeting, or email or phone meeting, you want to provide your client with clarity and understanding and how much worth you’re offering to them.

Now that we are the phone or in an email or even in person with our potential client, let’s ask some questions.  These questions will help you get to know the client and also provide a little more insight on how to price correctly and also get to know the client a bit better so that you can over-deliver.

First question: What is your reason or your inspiration for the party/event?

This question will help you determine how complex or how simple you want the specialty drink menu to be if they request one.  It will also help you determine staffing and appropriate dress attire etc. etc.

Second question:  Are there any examples of events or parties that you have attended lately that you would like me to align with as far as services go?  Again, this question will give you an idea of how to align your goals for the customer as well as pricing.

Third question:  What is the vibe of the event that you are going for?  You will need this information to understand the creative vision that they have for you and need from you.

The last question that you are going to want to ask is, are there any ideas of cocktails or dress code that you can provide me with so that I can get an overall sense of what exactly you are looking for?

Basically, all of these questions will help determine the vision that your client has for their event, and this information will help you see their purpose for bringing you on board as their event bar professional.  It will help you determine your purpose for being there, why they want you specifically, and what they are expecting in return.

Now that you have determined their purpose for you being there, what they want specifically, and what they are expecting in return.  You will be in a better place to explain the reason behind your pricing.   Up to this point, you’ve determined the quality of work they are expecting, so you will be able to over-deliver on that.  You’ve learned the inspiration they have for their event.  Up to this point, you should know exactly how to plan your pricing.

There are a handful of different variables that will go into pricing your project or event.  Let’s talk about each one of them.

Everyone that is reading this should have an idea of your daily rate.  Your daily rate is one of the most important aspects of pricing – it also helps put a price on your self-worth.  How much is your valuable time worth, remember one of the most valuable things that we have is time.  Your first step to determining your daily rate is determining how much do you want to make in 1 year.  Let’s start a nice round number of $100,000.

Let’s take that nice round number of $100,000 and divide it by how many hours a week that you want to work.  Let’s say that you want to work 16 hours a week (that’s 2 four hour events a week plus the time it takes to prep) I would say that 25 hours a week a good number.  Take 25 and multiply it times 52; you should have come up with 1300 (I rounded up) hours annually. Please double-check my math.  Because our goal is to make $100k in the year and we only want to work 25 hours per week, we will take that $100,000 and divide it by 1300 it comes out to roughly $80 per hour.   This number is how much you are worth per hour, and this is your starting point for anyone that asks. You will then take $80 and multiply that by the length of the event, 8 hours (I’ve included all of the extras time put in), we come up with $640.  This number becomes our rate for the day. This number is to give you a starting point.

I usually include 50 miles of travel time for free in my event package; this is just something that I’ve always done, and it’s given me a competitive advantage in most cases.   In some cases, for instance, if I am sitting in traffic or if I anticipate traffic or the potential of being stuck in traffic, I will charge for something, but for the most part, up to 50 miles is free.

The more equipment you will use, the more you will charge, I will always bring essential bar tools. If the client needs extra equipment or tools, I will charge accordingly.  If I am asked to work as a concierge service and pick up items, I will add on a service fee and provide a receipt.  Usually, I will add 25%, and this is sufficient enough to cover the wear and tear on my car, remember I’ve charged for an 8-hour event, and that includes my time if it’s less than 8 hours on site.

Negotiating and finalizing the sales are the final and usually the most stressful part of the pricing phase.  I have a list of suggestions during this stressful time.  You don’t want to use the words cost or price during this phase, because these words tell your client that they will not be getting a return on investment.  Their return on investment is your 100% undivided attention to them as well as to detail when it comes to their event and guests.

If your client tries to low ball you or tell you that so and so is cheaper – you can ask them what is it going to cost you if you choose the lower bids.  If the client is looking to uphold a particular reputation or looking to have the best event, this gives them the illusion mentally that they might be coming up short if they don’t hire you at your price.  The flipside to this is that you will have to decide on whether you want to walk away from this client or negotiate a fair price.

Being that we are in the business of problem-solving, you get the chance also to show the client you are in the business to create visuals as well.  Our drink presentation, the way we carry ourselves these are visuals.  You also have the opportunity to get hired for brand awareness and brand strategies.  It doesn’t always happen, but it has happened to me, and it could happen to you, you want to be prepared.

You never want to give your client one package to choose from; when you create your proposal, always give them options.  Give them the “basic” package, which is the bare minimum that you will offer.  If they are willing to hire you for the rate that you first offer, you may as well push the limit and see if they will purchase a higher tier.  Leave the options open.

I have two final suggestions when it comes to pricing for your client.  I feel like these are the most important aspects of pricing.  My first, last suggestion is this DO NOT FOCUS ON SELLING!  You are in the service and hospitality industry, and you should focus on selling service and hospitality.  When you put yourself in the client’s shoes and focus on how the guests can be served appropriately and taken care of, you will be able to speak on their level, and the selling will come automatically.   When you generate care, thoughtfulness, service, and hospitality, you will have them coming back every time.

Lastly, Don’t give any advice in the negotiating phase.  Only diagnose the problem.  Listen, really listen to what the client is saying, and if you’re asking the questions that I mentioned in the beginning, then you shouldn’t have any issues trying to diagnose the client’s problems.  Another way to diagnose the problems is to ask more questions and listen to the answers.  You will always want to get to “yes” make friends in the sale with your clients in the sale process; people will always buy from friends.

Before I get into the sales calculator part of this, I want to end by saying this.  If your bid gets rejected or you and the client can’t come to a happy medium with pricing – don’t be a jerk about it.  Thank them, follow up with them just like you would any other client.  Check how they are doing in the process of their planning, and if you knew the date of their event, wish them a happy event.  Make a friend, make a sale, they may refer someone to you in the future, or they may come back to you later whether either happens or not it doesn’t hurt to be a nice person.