I'm probably preaching to the already converted as I am lucky to have a wonderful client-base who value what I create and the time and love that goes into it. Unfortunately, not all bakers are so lucky.
With constant news stories of endless price rises because of Brexit, Covid or just because there's a day with a 'y' in it, it saddens me to see that people in the baking community are still struggling to value their own personal worth. Of course - if you're lucky enough to have a wonderful baker who actually pays you to have a cake from them, then fair play to you.
As a client, I'm sure it may be hard for you to reconcile that you're unable to gift an edible treat that has taken many hours to create - and sometimes years of practice to perfect - alongside the other expensive gifts your loved ones are getting for an occasion. The cake should only cost a tenner or so, as it's just a few ingredients thrown together, right?
If your loved one asked for an expensive Swiss watch and you couldn't afford it, you'd not ask Tissot for a discount, you'd just manage their expectations. Or buy the expensive watch and that would be all they'd get. Or in the real world, they might want the latest iPhone with the fastest processor and the biggest storage. But if you didn't have the budget, would you ask the Apple Store employee to drop the price? Nope - you'd maybe explain your budget, see what they had that worked and if not, you'd leave the shop and buy something else.
So why do so many people expect cake makers to spend hours creating something individual and unique for Tesco vanilla sponge prices? And why do we as cake makers continue to feel bad when people don't have the budget and we feel the need to drop our prices because someone says we are too expensive. I agree, cake is quite transient. It doesn't last long. It looks nice, you get a photo. You eat it and it's gone. Whereas the iPhone will last several years (if you're lucky and it doesn't get dropped).
How much did you spend on the birthday takeaway? £30-worth of Dominos pizza where a spotty youth has thrown a few bits of ham and pineapple onto a mass-produced bit of bread? Or did you go out for a lovely meal, costing upwards of £100 for four people.
Your £100+ cake might give you 25+ portions. So that's about £4 per head.
And while I'm on the subject, how much did you pay for a slice of mass-produced cake when you were in Costa/Starbucks/Nero/other coffee shops are available? £3.00+? And your cup of coffee or frappe smoothie?
Cinema popcorn. £6.50 per bucket at my local chain cinema. But I pay it (and I feel like I've been robbed when I do - but it keeps Mini Me happy).
I've been there. Trying to start my business. Chasing every cake enquiry. Wondering why people aren't buying. Desperate for validation. Dropping my prices to win business. Being 'The Cheap Cake Lady' but using expensive ingredients as I like my cakes to taste good - not just taste like they came from Asda.
Forgetting that cake is more than just ingredients - it's also time, consumables and resources. I use more electricity running my oven. Extra water for the extra washing up. More cleaning products. My family food budget gets eaten in to because I stick cake ingredients, Fairy Liquid and anti-bac surface spray in the weekly shop. Forgetting that the endless reels of Sellotape and staples I buy out of my own pocket are being bought to support my business and are rarely used for personal use (I'm a lazy present-wrapper and buy gift bags).
And then one day, I found my niche and bit the bullet and listed EVERYTHING that I touched from the moment the enquiry came in until the client collected the order. It blew my mind. Take a look at the word cloud - I hope it blows your mind too.
Not only that but I realised that I needed to be charging for my time. UK minimum wage is currently £8.91 for someone who is over 23. I was conflicted. I work full time so have enough money to cover my bills so did I need to charge for my time?
That time is time I could spend with my family. Okay I'm doing something that I love but still, if I didn't have my day job, I would need a salary. To get to not doing the day job, I need to charge for my time. And the time isn't just the time I spend baking and decorating. It's the washing up. And the shopping. And the learning of new skills. And the marketing. And the admin.
Thankfully internet shopping makes this all easy. But when you order something for a client, there's a delivery charge too. I try to be efficient and keep stock to drive delivery costs down but when I need something that is one off, do I absorb the £3.95 postage? Pass it on?
This is no longer a hobby. It's business. Of course, the alternative is for the customer to make the cake themselves. I mean how hard can it be? A bit of flour, butter, sugar and eggs. Et voila. A cake that doesn't hit the mark, a whole load of kit you've bought to make it with that you'll never us again, a messy kitchen and a nervous breakdown to boot.
But in getting someone else to do it, what you're really paying for is for someone else to take that stress away. So you get all the good stuff without the trauma.
In the same way that you could probably fix your own car if you watched enough YouTube videos and had the right tools. But better to pay the local garage a couple of hundred quid to get it right than run end up worse off than when you first started.
So am I sorry I charge so much. Actually, no I'm not! Not at all"
So lessons learnt:
1) Thank you to all my wonderful clients who value my worth. I am grateful for each and every one of you.
2) Bakers - please value your worth and work on finding your ideal clients. They are out there. They may not be the people who can afford Tissot watches and iPhones or even a platinum subscription to Sky - but they value artistry and care.
3) Clients - we do this for love and to make your occasion special. But like you, we all have bills to pay and prices are spiralling. Please continue to show us love and support and please be honest with your budgets. If we put our prices up, it's because we are being squeezed left right and centre - just like you are. We don't like to because we want to continue doing what we love. We need your help to help ourselves.
4) Teaching - if you want to learn to make your own cakes or how to price your products for your business, I am absolutely happy to help. Check out the Academy menu option for tutorials or to register for my next free business masterclass Much love