Starting a business is a big step but you’ve decided it’s a step you’re going to take. I see a lot of cake makers out there struggling in the first couple of years because when they decided to take the step they didn’t check out some of the vital business skills they need, as well as the cake skills they have. I've been in the business a long time and have made my own mistakes, as well as seeing others make theirs. Here are 5 Common Mistakes to avoid in your cake business.
1. Making everything for everyone:
Trying to be everything to everyone is exhausting, and actually not profitable or creatively fulfilling. It's the first mistake to avoid!
If you flit around from bake to bake, trying to make everything for anyone, you are in danger of watering down your offering. You won’t be known for anything in particular, so when someone is trying to find, for example, a kids birthday cake maker, how will they know that’s what you do? They’re more likely to find someone who definitely makes kids birthday cakes, so they don’t waste their time.
Also, how will ever get really good, and become an expert in one thing if you do everything? When you pick one thing and it becomes your niche you become better and better, and you will become known for those types of bakes or cakes. People will hunt you out, because you’re the best at what you do.
Also, how do you know who you are marketing and advertising your bakes to? If you make everything for everyone, one day you will may be advertising traybakes, the next 4 tier wedding cakes, and the next Afternoon Tea. It’s just confusing!
By working on your Niche Market and identifying your target market ( or Ideal Client) you can focus your energies and build a loyal following of customers.
One of the best ways to identify your niche, is by leaning into what you’re really good at, or what you enjoy the most. For more information on finding your niche read 4 Ways to Niche your Baking Business.
Once you have decided on your niche you need to find, market, advertise and relate to the people who will love what you do the most. That is the key to building a business that gives you creative freedom and customers who value what you do.
For more information read Ideal Client for Cake Makers, or download my Audio Workshop and Workbook on Niche Market and Ideal Clients for Cake Makers.
You’re in business, which means you intend to make some money. If you don’t intend to make any money then why start the business?
One of THE most common mistake I see many cake makers make, is not charging enough. There are a few reasons why this happens. Firstly, they don’t really know how much it’s costing them, and secondly, they don’t value their own time and skills enough. If you aren’t pricing your cakes properly, you are not alone.
Let’s tackle the first reason, as it’s the easiest and most practical problem to solve. Keep a record of all of your ingredients, and work out exactly how much each cake you’re making is costing you? You need to include everything from your basic ingredients to your boards, boxes, and mileage etc.
The second issue is trickier as it’s about believing in yourself and what you do. If you have started a business, it’s because you believe your cakes are good enough for people to pay money for. But making sure you charge accordingly is tough. When pricing and quoting for cakes make sure you factor in your time correctly, and make sure you set a decent, liveable wage for yourself. Even, if straight away you don’t think you have the skill or experience to charge very much, at the very least charge the statutory minimum wage! Never charge less!
As you find your Ideal Client, who appreciate your expertise, you will soon feel confident in charging more for your skills,
3. Setting Goals
This mistake is one many people make in business, and is easily avoidable. Setting goals often seems big and scary, and what if you don’t hit your goals? Will you be a failure?
Simple answer, NO. Setting goals for your cake business will give you something to focus on and aim towards. Your goals can be as simple as ‘I want to be making x amount of cakes a week by next calendar quarter’, or ‘I have to be making x amount of money in 2 months time’, or they can be more complicated like ‘I want to be known as the cake maker that makes swiss roll stacks’ (I don’t even know if that’s a thing).
Whatever your goal is, by having it there, in front of you, you can work towards it.
Goal setting needs a little effort. You need to break down big goals into more manageable goals, and you need to regularly assess how you’re doing. This will allow you to either carry on and hit your next goal, or rethink your approach for a better outcome.
Read Are you finding it hard to set goals for your business? for more information.
4. Setting Boundaries
This mistake in your cake business is a tough one to avoid. Your fresh and enthusiastic. You want to please your customers and you want to take on all the orders. However, the quickest way to burn out and falling out of love with your business is by not setting any boundaries.
My best advise here is to try to remember your business is your employer, and as with any employer they shouldn’t push you too far. No-one is going to thank you for working until 2am to finish that extra cake you took on. And I can guarantee you never thought to charge extra for working unsocial hours.
Many people start their own business as they think it’s going to allow them more freedom to work the hours they want to work. But if you allow your business to run you into working long hours, late into the night or neglect your family and friends then you need to ask yourself is it really worth it? Believe me, I know, I’ve been there!
There was a period in my business where I was completely burn out. I struggled to get out of bed, to communicate with anyone, and the thought of making a cake filled my heart and body with dread. But here I am, still making cakes, and loving doing so.
For me I decided to set certain boundaries. For example, I know as a cake maker I will often need to work weekends to set up cakes at wedding venues etc. Therefore, rather than work a 6 or 7 day week (which is what I used to do) I make a point, if I’ve worked a weekend, of taking a Monday or Tuesday off.
I also learnt when to say NO. Saying no is tough – very tough. But once you’ve learnt how to it will revolutionise your life. If you have set a goal of a certain amount of cakes, or turnover, which you’ve hit that week, and someone asks you to make another cake. Ask yourself, how will this effect my life? Will it benefit my business to the detriment of my personal life? If it’s a cake you simply must make, for whatever reason, how can you make it up to yourself the following week/month?
Setting Boundaries, saying no, and finding a real balance between work and personal life is vital to have a happy business.
Read Organising your Cake Business Orders to help even out your weekly working hours.
5. Learning how to make amazing cakes but not learning the business stuff
The fact that you have reached the end of this post means you see a need to learn how to nurture your business.
Cake Making is fun. It’s a creative job, slightly stressful at times, but on the whole fulfilling. A lot of people come to cake making because it fulfils a need to be creative and do something that doesn’t include maths and English too much.
However, running a business, any business – from cake making or being an engineer – means you have to learn some basic business skills. We’ve already touched on on Niche, Ideal Clients, Goal Setting and Pricing, but there is also a few other bits and pieces that’ll help.
Have you thought of writing a business plan to focus your mind, or having a marketing strategy in place so you’re not posting willy nilly on social media.
Now none of this stuff is hard. And there wills still be some mistakes you won't avoid in your Cake Business. But most of it is structured common sense. That when put into words you understand, without lots of nonsense jargon, you will very likely find quite easy and possibly enjoyable to do.
I have a few other posts that you may find useful, Essential Guide to Starting a Cake Business, 5 Ways to work ON your Cake Business and not IN it and a Frank and Honest Guide to Opening a Cake Shop. Or why not listen to our fortnightly Podcast, The Business of Cake Making.