Getting paid to sample, select and source wine or beer is a dream come true for many, which is the very reason that a great deal of people often ask how to become a sommelier. The demand for sommelier jobs in large cities is increasing and as a freelancer with niche skills, you stand to make a very respectable income doing what you love, while potentially traveling to some of the world’s most desirable wine or beer producing regions.
If you’re looking to become a professional wine or beer aficionado, follow these tips and advice on how to become a sommelier. But before we delve any deeper, let’s look at a definition of the role itself.
What exactly is a sommelier?
Fundamentally, a sommelier is someone responsible for all aspects of wine or beer service in addition to food and wine pairing at a bar, restaurant or specialist event. Sometimes, an expert who specializes in beer is called a cicerone.
Unlike a general server, a sommelier is an expertly trained, knowledgeable and certified wine or beer professional with a host of practical experience.
As a freelancer, your role will vary greatly. As a sommelier, you might be responsible for developing wine or beer lists, sourcing new stock, educating and training hospitality personnel, and working closely with the kitchen to offer wine pairings for food being served.
How to become a sommelier in four steps
Being a sommelier is an exciting, rewarding role with a great deal of scope for someone with the right skills and a go-getter attitude. Here are four important things to consider to make it happen.
Learn everything you can about beer or wine.
Gain relevant industry experience.
Establish your brand and market yourself.
Without further ado, here are the essential elements related to becoming a professional wine or beer expert.
1. Learn everything you can about beer or wine
Like any challenging and rewarding profession, to gain any traction in the industry, learning all of the fundamentals of your niche — and more — is absolutely essential.
If you’re serious about becoming a sommelier, take the time to explore the history, development and evolution of beer or wine — or both, if you’re going for ultimate sommelier-based glory.
You also should gain access to a multitude of products from around the world to refine your palate and learn how to taste each drop correctly. To help kick-start your journey, here are some useful resources:
An iOS mobile app that offers in-depth information on the latest beers, lagers and ales from around the world. It’s a great way to stay on the pulse of the industry.
This mobile application is a miniature beer tasting program that will allow you to gain an excellent base knowledge of all things beer at your leisure.
One of the best ways to learn about wine is by attending events with other like-minded grape lovers. This application will show you everything that’s going on in your local area.
This guide will give you a rundown on the best places to order wines from around the world.
2. Get certified
Once you’ve gained a solid level of base knowledge, you will need to gain a form of industry-recognized certification if you want to refine your skills and be taken seriously as a wine sommelier or beer cicerone.
Perhaps the best curriculums available in this niche are courses from the Court of Master Sommeliers. For budding beer aficionados, the Cicerone Certification Program is both comprehensive and respected.
3. Gain relevant industry experience
Once you’ve gained an ample level of knowledge and you’re officially certified, the next step is to gain as much relevant industry experience as possible.
To achieve this, find a sommelier mentor and ask for career guidance as well as access to practical opportunities to learn your craft. Searching for short internships is always an excellent idea. And while you’re getting your freelance affairs in order, working as a server in a bar or restaurant that specializes in wine or beer is also an excellent way of making some money while gaining relevant experience.
4. Establish your brand and market yourself
Once you’re in the swing of the sommelier life, build upon your experience and expertise by launching your career as a freelance drinks professional. To do so, you will need to do the following things:
Gather your assets
Decide on a name for your freelance sommelier venture and consider your brand mission. As you’re thinking about a name for your venture, be sure to consider available domain names. Your domain name is a foundation of your online identity, so it’s important to choose a memorable name that truly speaks to what you have to offer.
In addition to the traditional .com domain extension, consider a domain name that ends with an industry-specific extension such as .beer, .wine or .vin. These are newer domain extensions so your chances of snagging a shorter, more representative domain name are better than with a .com.
To learn more, check out:
- 10 tips for naming a business or startup
- Why getting a domain name is a startup essential — and how to do it right
- How to write a mission statement you’ll be proud to share
Once you’ve named your venture and come up with a compelling mission statement, start pulling together the visual elements that will represent your unique brand.
- Develop a logo
- Get some business cards
- Gather photos and other images that you can use on your website and social media profiles
Editor’s note: If you need some extra help with logo design, the pros at GoDaddy’s Logo Design Services can work with you to design a high-quality logo that reflects your style.
Launch a website
This will serve as the HQ or nerve center of your entire operation. GoDaddy offers a choice of website hosting options and easy to use website builders, along with excellent domain names and additional services for budding freelancers or business owners.
If you want more creative control but don’t want to build from scratch, check out Managed WordPress from GoDaddy. You’ll still get the ease of pre-built themes, as well as access to thousands of free plugins (like SEO Wizard or event calendars), a free domain with annual plans, daily backups, 24/7 support and more.
In today’s digital world, people crave valuable content that inspires, entertains and educates. If you publish regular content you stand an excellent chance of boosting your Google search rankings and sparking up valuable dialogues with potential customers or clients.
This blogger’s business plan will offer you useful ideas and insights to get started.
If you want to succeed as a freelance sommelier, you must have an active social media presence. Rather than spreading yourself thin, select three current platforms that you feel best suit your target audience.
- Claim your social media handles on those platforms.
- Start following and engaging with industry insiders and members of your target clientele.
- Begin posting useful and shareable content.
Network, network, network
By having a user-friendly website, publishing relevant content, and engaging in social media discussions within your niche, you should start to gain valuable leads for new business. But, to be really successful — particularly at the start of your career — you need to put yourself out there. That means is that you should put in regular pitches, applications and proposals online, and attend regular industry expos or networking events to land new projects, contracts and clients.
Being a professional wine or beer expert is a dream come true for many, but it’s those who take the time to get under the skin of their trade, get certified, gain relevant experience, build their brand, and take a proactive stance to networking and continual learning that will squeeze every last drop of value from life as a freelance sommelier.