If you’re wondering whether the world of professional baking is for you here are five questions to ask yourself before you start out.
So you love baking and cake decorating, you find it fun, relaxing and you are probably pretty passionate about it. But does that mean you should take the next step and turn your beloved hobby in to a business? Having a good hard think about the questions below will give you a good idea if starting a cake business is right for you.
How hard am I willing to work?
Being self-employed is seriously hard work, I can honestly say I never worked as hard for my money as an employee as I do now I’m an entrepreneur so it’s really important to ask yourself just how committed you are to the idea of running your own business. You must be realistic about the effort you will need to put in, particularly in those first few years when you are likely to be making little, if any, profit. For every fun hour you spend creating beautiful cakes you are likely to be spending two hours on tasks like promoting your new business, responding to customers, doing your accounts and keeping your kitchen up to code. Although this will ease as you find your natural business rhythm, or as you can afford to pay for extra help, there will always be lots of work to do that has nothing to do with baking.
I once read a quote which kind of sums things up for all small business owners; ‘An entrepreneur is someone who works 16 hours a day for themselves so they do not have to work 8 hours a day for someone else.’ Ask yourself if you are happy with this reality and if it really fits with your life goals.
Do I have the resilience?
Successful businesses don’t happen overnight and if you are going to survive you will need to be resilient and persistent. Many people will give up thinking they have ‘failed’ at business when in fact they have probably just had an unsuccessful project or product. Even seasoned ‘successful’ entrepreneurs fail every now and again. The difference is that they know how to pick themselves up, learn from their failures and carry on with the next project.
I’m not saying that you can’t feel sorry for yourself for a bit – I have been known to have the occasional 1am sobbing session at the kitchen table when it all seems a bit too much for too little reward! However, the next day (or maybe the day after that) I am able to look at things objectively and work out what went wrong and what went well and take those lessons forward with me. Consider how resilient you are in your everyday life and how long it takes you to recover from failures or disappointments.
Can I let things go?
There are some things that happen in business that are really going to get up your nose. People will disappoint you and abuse your trust, try to undermine your business and even steal your photographs and pretend your work is their own. Whilst this is all terrible behaviour and you will want to have endless rants about it on Twitter and Facebook or to your loved ones, ranting doesn’t really get you anywhere.
The first time a Facebook ‘business’ stole my photographs and claimed them as their own work I spent a good 2 hours on social media being indignant with my indignant and supportive cake friends. Whilst you would think this would make me feel better it really didn’t and it wasted time that would have been better spent working on my business. I now have a process for dealing with the issue which normally takes me no more than 10 minutes and I honestly do not get wound up about it anymore. I am only able to do this because I let go of my indignation by recognising how counter-productive my earlier reaction had been.
Ask yourself how you would react to this sort of situation and if you can see yourself handling things calmly and maintaining focus on making your own business successful.
How well do I handle criticism?
Cake decorating is a highly creative industry and by putting our work out there as professionals we are inviting the world and his wife to comment on our abilities and our taste. And believe me, they will! Can you accept that not everyone will love your work and that some may be very verbal in their dislike of it? Is criticism of your work likely to send your blood pressure rocketing or badly knock your confidence? If so then you may be better off keeping your creations for friends and family only.
Do I want to be rich?
This may sound flippant but it is a serious question. You can make a reasonable living out of cake given the right balance of talent and marketing skills but if you are measuring your success solely by the money in your bank account then this is probably not the industry for you. Of course there are exceptions to every rule but for every celebrity baker and cupcake store chain there are thousands of talented bakers just paying the bills doing something they love. Ask yourself, is money the driving force for you or do you feel that the art is its own reward?
Working through these questions, answering honestly, will give you a good foundation from which to make your decision. If your decision is that it’s not for you then relax and enjoy making your friends and family smile with your hobby. If your decision is yes, the cake industry is for you – congratulations and good luck with your adventures in cake, it is a rewarding job with it’s own warm and supportive community.
Do comment below and let us know if you found these questions helpful and if there are any you would add to the list!