The life of a cake maker isn’t for everyone. It has demands and pressures like no other job. There will be issues and problems that only your cake friends will be able to relate to. It’s a lot more than just rolling out icing.
It’s also a lot more admin than people think. I used to say I spent 75% of my time on my laptop, shopping for ingredients, drawing designs, talking to customers and only 25% actually making cakes!
I ran a successful cake business from home for many years, only closing my order books for good last summer to concentrate on other parts of my business full time. Here are my top five things I think you should know before starting a cake business from home:
1. Your Kitchen
Your kitchen doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to reach a certain standard. One of the most important things you should do before embarking on your new career is to get your kitchen registered with and checked by the council. You must register at least 28 days before opening.
There are lots of different things to be aware of and a few hoops to jump through but once it’s checked and you get your rating, customers will be more confident in buying from you, you will be listed publicly as having a council checked kitchen and you get a fancy window sticker to display your rating. It also, most importantly ensures the safety of your future customers.
2. Self Employment
This is something that I feel causes some confusion amongst bakers. I know from conversations I’ve had with hobby bakers that a lot bake just for the cost of the ingredients. If this is done occasionally, then it falls under a hobby in the eye of the law. If, however, it is done regularly and even a small profit is made, you are considered trading and by this point a lot of things could happen. Namely, if you are on any income support or benefits, they will need to be recalculated. If you work full time, the tax may need to be altered and most importantly, you will need to complete a tax return at the end of the financial year.
Even if in the first few months of starting your career as a cake decorator you only bake 2 cakes and make a grand total of £12.76 profit, you must declare your income.
3. How Much Should I Charge?
The harsh reality is that 9 out of 10 businesses don’t survive their first year. That may sound a bit depressing but it’s worth knowing what you are getting into. When I started my cake business it was my secondary income after a full time job. Later, as my business grew, it became my only source of income, but this was a slow process, about a year and a half. I honestly don’t think I could have lived on just cake income at the start. One of the main reasons for this was I didn’t charge enough for my cakes (You can read more about this in my article here) and I didn’t have a business plan in place.
It may be sugar and flour but you need to treat it with the same respect as you do any other business. It’s a fun hobby but when it comes to turning it into a career, there’s so much more you need to think about than just sprinkles!
4. Let’s Get Personal
When you calculate how much you want to charge, it won’t be in everyone’s budget – and that’s ok. But, something which used to upset me and the statement I know a lot of my fellow bakers get, is ‘But it’s just a cake?!’ I think you and I both know, it’s never just a cake. There will be people that compare your hours of work to a supermarket buy but you cannot take it to heart. I know its hard because you may feel it’s a reflection on you and your work but I promise, it isn’t. There will be customers who ask you to make a three tiered cake with handmade models for tomorrow and, unless you are actually super human, you’re going to have to let them down and say no. Saying no was a big thing for me, I ended up making myself ill one month because I took on too much because I didn’t want to let anyone down.
You have to put yourself, and your family first and don’t let negative comments get to you or bring you down. We’ve all had them, you need to keep your head up and rise above it.
5. Cake Life
I think the most important thing to know before starting a cake business from home, is that when you do, you will have one of the best jobs in the world. You are part of so many special occasions, you make so many people smile, your art and talent will bring joy to so many families, and that is really something to be proud of. There will be long days and longer nights, you will need to buy in extra storage space for tins, moulds, cutters and you won’t be able to simply walk past a Lakeland without ‘popping in’. But it really is an awesome job that is so much more than just cake.
Even my worst day as a cake decorator and running my own business was better than the best day in any previous job I had.
For more about setting up your own cake business, make sure to check out my book ‘Cakes, Bakes & Business‘. From the rules surrounding getting your kitchen ready, registering as self employed, insurance, advice on pricing your cakes, and marketing advice that is both relevant and easy to implement. As well as a Cake Contract and Terms & Conditions template, Cake Disclaimer template, Cake Pricing template and Accounts template.