Cake decorating is one of those fabulous hobbies that can easily morph into a business if you have the talent and drive to take it in that direction. You might find that a family member wants you to decorate a cake for a work event and then someone who attends that party learns your name and wants her own cake for something else. And before you know it you need to figure out a catchy name and get business cards. The most important part of this process is making logical steps in your business so that you don't stumble over obvious issues and fall into traps you can avoid.
Here are some important tips to making your hobby into a business smoothly:
- Start by honing your skills on friends and family before taking orders from "real" clients. Yes, those training wheel cakes are still for clients but your family is not likely to sue you or scream at you if the design is wrong or the tiered cake is slightly uneven. You should be very comfortable with all the basic cake decorating skills such as piping, borders, fondant work, simple gum paste flowers and writing on cakes. Practice, practice practice so you can deliver what you promise a client. Cakes are sometimes more important to an event than you might think, such as for a wedding, so take the time to perfect your skills.
- Take pictures right from day one to document your best work and create a portfolio. People like to see what you can do and often "practice" cakes can be absolutely gorgeous. Many professional designers regret those creations made for family or themselves that should have made the book and did not. Take close up high resolution photos of all angles and details of your cakes and eventually add these images to a professional website.
- One of the most important steps when starting your cake design business is getting the right insurance and talking to an accountant about what you need to do to maximize your profits and comply with all the local and federal guidelines. Insurance is crucial in case something goes wrong and is a sound business investment. You should also research the requirements for the type of kitchen you can run your business from in your area. Many cake decorators cannot use a home kitchen at all and others can work out of their home as long as certain requirements are met such as no pets or a separate business area. Err on the side of caution when it comes to creating a viable business plan and setting up a sound foundation for success. A business should be treated as a business.
- Collect the right tools to do the job rather than settling for second best or improvising with tools not designed for a particular function or technique. There are countless amazing cake decorating tools available now that were not around even 5 years ago. Buy what you need and if cost is an issue at least put together a basic cake decorating kit for your business. You will find yourself slowly adding tools as your skill level improves and you need to try new techniques such as air brushing or stenciling. In cake decorating having everything available for each design will reduce stress and create better results. Part of having the right tools includes getting an extra refrigerator and freezer because you will need the room to store ingredients and cakes in various stages of completion. Many health boards will also require separate storage areas even if you can bake from home. You will appreciate the freezer space if you are making cakes that can be frozen for a week or so before an event. Sometimes things happen in day to day life that ruins the best laid plans so frozen cakes can save your business.
- Although most businesses start out slow cake decorating can be one of those that gets inundated with orders quickly especially if you are designing in a successful niche market or have limited competition. That is why it is important to hire part time help when you need it. We often try to do everything ourselves thinking to save money or keep control. A successful business person knows when to delegate and when quality of end product suffers due to lack of time or attention. You want to eventually expand your business so take the plunge and hire someone who can at least do the basics while you apply the finishing touches.