So it’s been an entire year since I gave up the rat race and decided to start “living the dream!” Do I have any regrets? No. What have I learnt? A lot!
Anything is possible
I have learnt that it is possible to make a living out of baking and decorating cakes. It’s important to say that everyone’s financial situation differs greatly and this has a big impact on whether or not you can earn enough to “live”.
Personally, I found it similar to having my first child and having to re-juggle life and finances. Reducing my hours to part-time and managing on a lower income for a few years prior to taking the plunge helped.
All the same, it was a massive step as a parent and a home owner. Taking the bull by the horns and handing my notice in, has to be one of the most liberating yet scariest feeling ever!
Commitment to the job
Being able to devote 100% of my time to cakes was liberating and I found I was able to think of fresh ideas, use social media platforms to their fullest and network with other cake makers and PR agencies.
I achieved a higher grade at Cake International, a silver in the cupcake group and a Bronze in the wedding cake category. This also helps with brand exposure and allows me to try out new design and techniques.
My original plan was to take on approximately 1-2 wedding orders a month along with celebration cakes and a weekly cupcake offer. I estimated that this would provide a steady income.
Wedding cake in a barnThis plan changed quite dramatically for the better, another lesson in business is that you have to be flexible and adapt quickly.
I attended a successful wedding fair one month before handing my notice in, where I took approximately 6 orders from one fair and it gave me the nudge I needed at the time.
However, I soon learnt that this was a fluke! I attended a couple more fairs soon after and didn’t take any orders what so ever. It knocked my confidence a little and also my pocket. Another lesson learnt.
Following on from this I then turned to Mechanised for advice (who also happens to be my husband! How fortunate am I?!) I changed my marketing strategy from face-to-face expensive wedding fairs, to online pay-per-click, social media marketing and SEO of my website. The results were outstanding. I have had a significant increase in web traffic and enquiries since this.
Unexpected work offers
Candy’s Cupcakes Stir It Up MagazineThe amount of corporate orders I have received directly via my website for the likes of Virgin Media, O2, Barclays, Hallmark and Trans Pennine Trains, not forgetting the Disney on Ice official tour in Manchester where I managed to bag tickets for the show too!
Whilst these are fantastic orders they also tend to be last minute, going back to having to adapt and be flexible to the needs of customers.
To produce large corporate orders and to keep costs low, I invested in a Cannon edible printer. This has been fantastic on so many levels. I have managed to source pre-cut fondant sheets and with the help of Mechanised, I now have a template on the computer so I can print out edible toppers with a flawless finish.
Networking had also been a key to success. Gaining useful contacts such as photographers (Stir It up magazine shoot), PR agency workers for large corporate orders, wedding venues where I am able to leave business cards, social media networking via Twitter, Cake Decor and peers on Facebook. They have all supported me in increasing brand awareness and the work I do.
Let’s not underestimate the best enquiries; “word of mouth” and recommendations. Thankfully these form the majority of my orders and I am very fortunate to have a large number of loyal customers who return year on year.
It’s such a privilege to make a wedding cake, christening cake and celebration cakes for one family. I’ve had a number of beautiful thank you cards, gifts and photos from happy customers and it makes this job very worthwhile.
Forward planning is also key. This year I have created Easter baskets, Valentine bouquets, teacher gifts and a luxury Christmas Eve box. Thinking up new and creative ideas is fun, it also helps to forecast income and draw in new customers.
Being a cake decorator is never dull, every day there is a birthday, christening, wedding or special occasion and I enjoy being creative and trying out new and often challenging techniques.
Moving forward I feel it’s important for everyone to set achievable, short and long term goals. In the short term I am utilising social media further and have recently set up a YouTube channel to use as a platform for short video based tutorials. My aim is to showcase ideas and techniques that anyone can achieve, along with a little bit of humour (being dressed as a witch has to be the most ridiculous image of me, cringe!).
Long term I would like to open a studio where I can work from, host consultations, classes and film further videos with the possibility of a little tea shop. Being a home baker with an expanding business is starting to take over my home. It would be nice to be able to have a little separation and to have a few cupboards back in the kitchen.
The reason I am a home baker is because it makes financial sense, lower overheads and it also fits in with family life and commitments.
Decisions, decisions… watch this space.