iBlog – Perils of Bartender Bloggers

 

Today, we take a break from our normal routine to dish a little bit on Bartending and Blogging; the why, how, when, and what not to do. Guess I should prolly quit that third-person speak – ala, the “Queen of Media,” blogger numero uno, and jizz drawer, Perez Hilton.  Eh…it’s fitting at times I guess. I’m approaching 100 posts or so and I thought it only fitting I write a little anecdote on getting all loose at the lips, letting your unfiltered mouth run amuck. I’ve been getting random questions about the topic and even the old lady, an extremely private type, is suddenly hit by the exhibitionist blogging bug.

It’s been about 10 months since I started dishing dirt on bartending via my blog. I’ve been in the restaurant/bar business since I was 16. I’ve been bartending since 1994. Yikes – old fart. Within just a couple of short years after getting behind the stick, I had already compiled such a litany of stories (mundane, horrible, as well as “uplifting”), that I repeatedly joked about documenting them all. I’d write a book and get it published – you know – making some much needed loot while sharing a breadth of bartending knowledge. How hard can it be? I’ve picked up a half-a-dozen crap bartending books at Barnes and Noble over the years. Most of them sucked ass. Yet, they were selling – somehow. I imagined I could do better – be faster, stronger, etc. (Steve Austin reference).

Well, as the saying goes, “life got in the way.” Fast forward 17 years. The InterWebz was born. The pressure and writing bug built up steam. The stories and experience accumulated. I did a little googling on blogging and platforms and shortly thereafter, finally penned my first article on Blogger.com. I sucked at first – I must admit. I had a Gmail account – so it was ridiculously easy. I’m not a writer.  Heck, I’m not even a good public speaker. I hate dishing dirt in public and drawing attention. I knew nothing of blogging, blogging etiquette, rules, monetization, back-links, or SEO. Yet, there I was, revealing years of mistakes, experience, horror stories, recipes, and the like. I also initially committed some terrible blogging faux-pas – never again.

I was clueless but I was also excited to finally be able to speak freely – albeit, somewhat anonymously.

NOTE: “Anonymous” is relative. Any semi-techie with half a brain can do a little digging and reveal a ton of information on who I am, what IP I come from, domain registrations, referrers, where I work and have worked, etc. It’s not difficult. I simply chose not to be blatantly obvious for reasons stated on my About page.

I started blogging in lieu of writing said book. I figured I’d suck at book writing but sure as hell could write me an occasional blog post – editors be damned. After all, look at the millions of blogs out there. Many of them are complete works of shit and fiction, while some are great. Most, fall somewhere in between.

Service Industry Blogging

If you dick around the Web, you’ll find hundreds or even thousands of independent blogs authored by waiters, mixologist, owners, bar consultants, restaurant management groups, loss prevention specialists and even managers.

The InterWebs is littered with thousands of carcasses – remnants (many can be found on Technorati) of blogs that started ambitiously and were quickly abandoned – usually within a few weeks or months. Most Hospitality bloggers start out with good intentions and blog for a lot of the same reasons as the rest of us – to get stuff off their chests. I guess some folks were not born to write or maybe, simply run out of shit to say. It happens.

We’re in the service industry. We can just about never say what we really want to say. We lack the authority to do so, but have the intelligence to know that it’s far from the right time and place to ever tell a customer what a douchebag he or she really is.  As a result, a large percentage of today’s blogs bitch and moan about idiotic customers, recounting sordid horrific tales.

That brings us to the Bar sub-genre.  There are primarily three types of Bar bloggers: (1) The Mixologist (2) The Imbiber and (3) The Bartender. Most blogs fall into categories #1 or #2 or are a combination of both. They’ll write about cocktails, cocktail culture, bar reviews, new boozes, and new concoctions they’ve dreamed up. The Bartender Blogger, on the other hand, is the smallest subset of Hospitality Bloggerdom.  It’s someone whose focus is waxing on actual bartending experiences, tactics, war stories, and the like. I can count on one hand how many of us there are active today. It’s pretty abysmal – but I’m glad to be one of them.

I know there are hundreds of folks that do what I do in New York City alone. I’ve worked with countless bartenders who have a myriad of entertaining stories and knowledge, but who never get around to sharing – at least in blog or book format. It takes a special breed I guess. Maybe the Bartender Blogger is a masochist – a glutton for attention and comment trolls – I dunno. What I do know is that I enjoy it immensely.

The Truth Shall Set You Free (or get you fired)

There is an unfortunate truth to flapping your gums in public. Obviously, a public electronic forum with widespread and instant reach (like an Internet blog), is the most efficient medium for expressing and distributing your thoughts. You’ve got to watch what you say, how you say it, and who you say it to. Talking shit and throwing businesses and people in power (including guests) under the bus can easily get you fired. For the ultimate, well publicized, example, just google “Jessica Elizabeth Proof Bartender.”

In my case, I’m not being an obtuse, ignorant or spiteful hater. I’m simply relaying my experiences and knowledge for my personal, therapeutic benefit. Even so, If I were to go about running my mouth about how Restaurant A grills rotten steaks, Bar B does the bait-n-switch with call liquor, and Manager Suzy Q sleeps with this person, I would be (1) completely out of order (2) quickly ostracized from the local industry [practically everyone knows each other] and (3) worst case – terminated from employment. Bartenders have been fired for far lesser “crimes” of inappropriate communication and for very, very good reasons. That’s not to say a specific bar or restaurant experience or review is out of scope – it’s not. It’s just a horrific idea to out the one you work at or have recently worked at.

As the not so bright Ms. Elizabeth recently found out, the 1st Amendment entitles you to run your mouth pretty much at will. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a price to be paid for doing so. Be warned.

Blogging Tips

1. Blogging Platforms: Do yourself a huge flavor – stick with WordPress from the get go. In the beginning, there was straight-up HTML. Shortly thereafter came easy-to-use WYSIWYG Content Management solutions like LiveJournal, Blogger, and WordPress. I suggest using WordPress because if your blog gets big and popular enough, you’ll want to migrate to it anyway. The biggest blogs on the planet (CNN, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, etc.) and millions of others standardize on WordPress. It scales well, can be self-hosted, customized up the wazoo, is easily customizable and has thousands of plugins. Most folks these days tend to start either on Blogger or WordPress.com hosted blogs.

2. SEO: Google it. I don’t have the inclination or room to provide a write-up about it. There is a treasure trove of info already published on what this is, what it’s good for and why you should be concerned with it. One important note: don’t make my mistake and start off with the default URL structure WordPress gives you. As you’re starting off, make sure you change the URL structure to something intelligible and searchable like domain.com/year/month/day/post-slug instead of the crap domain.com?p=3815 which is meaningless to humans and search engines.

3. Relativity: Keep to your blog’s theme. If you continually meander off on a tangent about baking weed brownies when the rest of your articles are about how to be a kick-ass Nanny, you’re going to lose readership.  But, hey – it’s your blog. If your intention is to simply vent, and you don’t care about traffic, monetization, and other crap like that, than a baked Nanny post and other off-topic discussions are all good I guess.

Monetization

In short, it means making duckets from your blogging efforts. I started out not giving two shits about making money from blogging. My intention was strictly stress relief – and maybe a bit of self-indulgent publicity, since I’ve never really had much public notoriety. Money never initially entered my head.

That said, I’m a techie IT guy – a geek. I host my own UNIX server at a commercial hosting facility. I like to dick around on it. That freedom, however, costs me money – $23/month to be exact – out of pocket. I host this site and a half-a-dozen low traffic sites for friends, on my own. I suck at asking people for money. I’m gullible and weak that way. I feel bad for everyone and wind up doing all kinds of stuff for free when asked by neighbors, friends and family – quite different from how I am at the bar.

As the months of blogging wore on and more articles were published, I continued educating myself on blogging. I also found some Service Industry blogging “friends,” many of whom I’ve linked to on my Blogroll. I became better and better at writing, presentation, post formatting and generally, consciousness of reader appeal. I guess that’s somewhat of a natural progression.

One thorn in my side however, has been that monthly $23 nut. Not that it’s an enormous sum, but it’s still a cost center – a black hole. That’s two drinks and a tip at my local pub.

If you look up blog monetization strategies, you’ll find the number one, most effective and popular solution mentioned, will be the advertising affiliate program, AdSense. Yes, there are lots of other advertising programs, affiliate marketing, and direct product sales. There are bartenders hawking branded beer poppers, wine keys, books – all kinds of stuff. If you get hugely popular and recognized – paid speaking engagements and seminars can also enter into the picture.

After a few months, I signed up for Google’s AdSense program. I was initially rejected. But, I made some tweaks, continued with my passion (my posts) and re-applied a couple of months later. Some may scoff at my “selling out.” I don’t push any products or shove a million ads in front of my readers.

My goal was to simply cover my hosting costs – not make a shit ton of cash. That’s not why I started my blog and not why I continue to publish articles today. To date, I’ve made only a couple of bucks – nothing remotely close to covering my monthly charges. That’s fine for now. Again, my intention is to write and write some more, not get rich. At the rate I’m going, maybe in 4 years will I possibly generate enough traffic and clicks to cover a month’s hosting costs. Some or better at it than others I guess and have been at the game far longer – before lots of folks developed “ad blindness.” Whatevs.

Anyway, as pretty much all successful internet marketing gurus and bloggers will tell you, if your mission is to blog to make money, you’ll never make any. On the flip side, if you put serious commitment and energy into producing a lot of quality content, on a topic you’re intimately familiar with, if you’re a Subject Matter Expert in a particular field, and you wind up blogging about it, you can potentially turn your expertise into a cash cow. Just google ShoeMoney, All Things Medical Billing, Plenty of Fish, and a host of others. Watch their videos, read their stories, look at their checks, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Here’s a video to get you started. None of them started out with the intention of making loot.  Keep that in mind.

 

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