Consultation Fees??

Business By CakesByJen2 Updated 19 Aug 2008 , 8:28pm by Aliwis000

CakesByJen2 Posted 17 Aug 2008 , 8:25pm
post #1 of 27

How many of you have started charging consultation fees?

I am so sick of wasting my time with consultations that don't lead to orders. I do understand people wanting to shop around and I don't blame them, but I just do this on the side and it is a significant disruption to our family routine when I have to take time to clean the house, make samples, and send hubby and kids out for the afternoon. Maybe I just got spoiled when I used to do this full-time and did bridal shows and the brides did all their shopping around at the shows and already knew they wanted me when they came, and didn't need samples.

Today was the worst. The bride was the sister of a previous bride, and I've gotten many referrals from her, so I figured this was a sure thing. I met with the bride and groom, they tasted 4 cake flavors, 4 fillings, and two icings and loved them. We designed a 4-tier wedding cake a different designs on each tier, inspired by details on her gown and invitations, including embroidery, pearls, dots, and scrollwork, that she seemed very pleased with. It was a 16-12-9-6 with w tiers of white velvet cake w/raspberry filling, and 2 tiers of chocolate cake and chocolate BC filling, topped with a loopy gp bow. There was also a Kalhua Fudge groom's cake with chocl-hazelnut filling to serve 50. The order came to about $600, and included delivery. The bride was ready to write it up, and just needed to run get a check from her mom for the deposit (she lives in my neighborhood). After half an hour I knew something was wrong. Later she called and said her mom wanted her to check some other places before making a final decision. I know it had to be about money, because they loved the cakes I made for daughter #1. Her wedding was 6 years ago, and was about $400, I think, and a simpler design. Don't they realize if their groceries, gas, and utilities have gone way up since then, that so have mine??

Anyway, becausee of this I'm seriously thinking of instituting a consultation fee to at least compensate me for my time and trouble. I'm afraid it would scare everybody away, but at this point I just don't think it's worth it to me to continue with so many appts leading nowhere (probably half). I'm currently only doing a few cakes a year, just to stay in practice. Any comments, advice, or commiserations??

26 replies
Marci Posted 17 Aug 2008 , 8:56pm
post #2 of 27

You could do a refundable consultation fee - maybe $25 or $50 that you will apply towards the cake, if they order. Personally, I don't do a tasting until they have booked the wedding.

indydebi Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 8:21pm
post #3 of 27

I don't ... and won't ... charge for consultations. I consider it part of the transaction ... the advertising ... the cost of doing business.

I book about 95% of those who come in for a sampling.

If you are having a LOT of no-business results, I might suggest it's something in the consultation process. Without seeing you in action, I've no real advice to offer.

If you think pricing is the issue, you might start out the conversation with "How much have you budgeted for your cake?" If you're not comfortable with flat-out asking them, try it in a client-friendly way of "What kind of number do we need to keep this under for you?"

I sent them all pricing info before the appt plus it's posted on my website, plus they have my Budget Wizard to figure the cost before they even walk in my door.

If you're running into a lot of "well, I have to talk to mom, first" then maybe ask up front, when making the appointment, "Who is making the final decision and will that person be at the appt with you?" If that person won't be there, somehow inflict the idea of how valuable your time is and the person who is making the financial decision really needs to be there ".... so maybe we should schedule this for when it's more convenient".

SugaredUp Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 8:46pm
post #4 of 27

I think Indydebi is really good at this stuff. She doesn't need to charge, but I do charge $15 (not much, just enough for them to take it a little more seriously) and then take it off their order when they pay the deposit.

Good luck!!

Amber

ShopGrl1128 Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 9:22pm
post #5 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

I don't ... and won't ... charge for consultations. I consider it part of the transaction ... the advertising ... the cost of doing business.

I sent them all pricing info before the appt plus it's posted on my website, plus they have my Budget Wizard to figure the cost before they even walk in my door...




I book most of my consultations, but I've been stood up a twice this year icon_mad.gif and I've been thinking on charging a refundable consultation fee, but realistically that would not work here in Cheapville...that would scare people off.

I send my customers a very detailed email with pricing info, but even thought people know ahead of time that my price per serving is $3.50 sometimes when I comes to do the math, as in: "100 guests (times) X $3.50= $350.00 total" icon_mad.gif They seem to be shocked! What the heck!
icon_evil.gif

CakesByJen2 Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 9:26pm
post #6 of 27

Thanks for the input! I really don't think the problem is with the consultation, other than maybe I need to be more direct about pricing issues beforehand; I am certain it is a money issue. I think the problem is (1) people are shopping around a lot more than they used to, and (2) it seems more of the people I'm getting lately are naive about pricing and/or don't get the difference between the custom work I do and variety of flavors I offer versus your run of the mill bakery, and (3) I just can't be as free with my time now as I could before I had kids.

When I was doing this full-time I would do a bridal show every year where the brides got to taste several favors, talk pricing, and compare to other cake people at the show, so they had a better idea of what I was all about and usually knew they wanted me when they called, so I very rarely had a consultation that didn't book. The brides that came to me were those for whom the cake was a priorty, and they were willing to pay a little more for a custom cake.

Now I'm back to being a hobby, do no advertising, just do a few cakes a year from word-of mouth, mostly to stay in practice. So most of these girls have just gotten my name from someone else, not seen or tasted my cakes firsthand and are in the shopping around process. It seems sometimes I'm now getting people for whom the cake is not a priorty, or are on an extremely tight budget, which is really not my market, and I know are going to end up going someplace cheaper. What I'm trying to figure out is how to weed these out before wasting both of our time on a consultation. I tell them my pricing up front, and tell them to look at all the info on my website, but it seems they don't bother, or can't do the math, or aren't discussing the budget with whoever is paying. I didn't run into these issues before, so I haven't figured out the best way to tactfully encourage them to figure out if they can afford me before they take my time.

I know consultations are part of doing business, but I'm not really doing this as a business now, and with everything else I have to do, and two young kids, my time is at a premium and cakes are not part of my regular schedule and have to be fit in, often at the expense of my family and sleep. This last one just really bummed me out because I had worked with the family before, and she had given the impression that she definitely wanted to book me.

loriemoms Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 9:34pm
post #7 of 27

I agree with Debi, consultations are part of advertising and you shouldn't charge for them.

I think you are doing too much at your consultation. I will never discuss a design with a bride until I have a contract in hand. I have had too many take it to their aunt or a friend at church and get the cake for free. I only give them a free tasting, discuss my services, prices and if they sign a contract that day, will discuss design. If they do a contract later, then they come back for a design consult. Sometimes two. Some of them we do over email. Depends on the bride!

I know some bakeries in the area that are too busy for tastings and do either group tastings or they send the bride a sample to take home with a contract...then if they sign up, come back in for a design. You won't be waisting as much time..

indydebi Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 9:44pm
post #8 of 27

flavors: The majority of my brides order at least one tier white (and usually the biggest tier). Chocolate, marble, spice are the other most requested. Are your flavors "too exotic" for their grocery store tastes? Do you offer them "just plain white" cake? Ask them when they call "what is your favorite cake flavor?" to give you an idea of where their taste lies.


If they are shoppping around more, then they should be more in tune to what wedding cakes actually cost. To be sure they understand yoru pricing .... when you're on the phone making the appt, ask them how many people they are expecting and if they have had a chance to visit your website. If they have, you can inject, "So you've seen my pricing .... ok, so if you're expecting 100 people, then $350 as a starting price is in your budget?" If they haven't, you invite them to visit the website, "Where you will find all of my pricing posted. For 100 guests, we're looking at a starting price of $350 ... and that's in your budget ok?"

Based on what you've shared, it does sound like you're getting a different kind of bride now ..... it may take some time for you to adjust the appt to fit the "new" bride.

hallfamily727 Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 10:10pm
post #9 of 27

CakegrlPA - OMGosh! You mean, I'm not the only one who lives in Cheapville?? Ppl here hate paying for anything...much less a consultation. I will admit, tho most of my bookings (and I'm a newbie at this...just getting started) end up getting booked without a tasting. Most people already know what flavor they want before even calling me. Must be a midwestern thing.

terrig007 Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 10:13pm
post #10 of 27

When I got married we didn't get the samples until we had signed the contract and looked at the design and even then the samples were teardrop cutter sized pieces that had been cut off the tops when the cakes throughout the week were leveled and then a squirt frosting on it. The "samples' were 12 little pieces on an 8 inch cake board. You had to split the sample with Mr. Wonderful because that's all you got. When my folks went to drop off the lladro topper a few days before the wedding they had some extra samples and gave them two cake boards. My mom thought it was pretty strange the size pieces they gave and how you could determine what it tasted like. Luckily I had been to a few weddings where they did the cake and I knew they were good. But there were no samples and I checked with a friend who said when her little sister got married last month it was still the same set-up-tops of leveled cakes (she said three samples were burned tops) with a squirt of icing.

Jeanne1116 Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 10:14pm
post #11 of 27

I'm on the fence about consultation fees. I used to provide slices of cake (three layers cake, two layers filling) for tastings, but now I have beautiful bowls (small ones) filled with the buttercream flavors they requested to taste, plus cake to go with it. I call it a "make your own cake party" and some people like this, while others have trouble visualizing what an actual slice will look like. Sometimes I put the bowls out, other times I put scoops of the buttercream all on the sides of the plate and put the cut rounds of cake in a single plate with tongs for serving.

I started to limit consultations to two people when a family showed up with 8 (bride, groom, both sets of parents and some sisters). I also limit the number of flavors to 4 but since I started doing the make your own cake party, it hasn't been an issue to do more flavors of buttercream.

But I, too had problems with sketching out a design and having people take that custom design to someone else to get it cheaper. So now, I sketch on a separate page, and only give that to the clients after I receive their deposit. The sheet they take with them is a listing of names/contact info/colors/size/flavors they liked/general description of the cake (e.g., round, three tier, fondant, colored ribbon, dot pattern, monogram), delivery charge, and per person charge for the display cake and any utility cake they might need.

I tell them I hold their date for no obligation for 30 days then the day goes back in the pool, but nothing is secure without a deposit.

It's part of the cost of doing business.

You might want to consider having the clients pick their favorite cake flavor, and tell them that for $20, they will get to take home a 6" cake in that flavor.

johnniekake Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 10:16pm
post #12 of 27

Ok I have never charged for consults.............but after last Friday Im changing my policy!!

I had two consults and they both didnt show.....which wouldnt be a big deal if I had my baked from scratch cakes sittin in the freezer!! I bake all my samples up fresh and I tell people this and I ask to please call and cancel at least 24 hours in advance if they cannot make the appointment.

And I book 4 out of every 5 couples that consult with me. People can be really inconsiderate(sp)!! Its all about them icon_twisted.gificon_twisted.gif And right now its all about ME!!!!!!!!!Ok I feel better now that I vented icon_lol.gificon_lol.gif

indydebi Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 10:20pm
post #13 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by terrig007

When I got married we didn't get the samples until we had signed the contract




icon_eek.gif Once you've signed the contract, what's the point of the sampling? I view a sampling of "let's see if we like her baking so we can decide if we WANT to sign with her." If they've already signed with me, I don't see the point of a sampling. If they don't like my baking, they've already signed and given me a non-refundable deposit, so it's kind of a "so what?" thing by then. icon_confused.gif

Man, that makes no sense to me.

CakeMakar Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 10:51pm
post #14 of 27

I would not sign a contract with a baker who I had not tried her cakes beforehand. We had the cake flavors and design laid out before we signed on the dotted line. I couldn't image going into it blindly!
Only my husband and I went to the tasting - who else's opinion matters?
I've only done one wedding, and it was for a friend - so I don't have the customer side of the issue.

snarkybaker Posted 18 Aug 2008 , 11:19pm
post #15 of 27

Duff charges for his time ( $100) and so do I ( $35). For me it's a simple matter of there being not a lot of good bakers in this area. I could literally spend all day chitter chattering with people who may or may not order a cake, and then, good lord, who has time to bake ?

hallfamily727 Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 12:11am
post #16 of 27

The ppl who have ordered from me blindly have had me recommended by other ppl who HAVE ordered from me and tasted my cakes and/or cookies. I've never had any complaints.

PinkZiab Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 12:17am
post #17 of 27

I do charge. I don't think $25 is unreasonable for 7 cupcakes and an hour+ of my time. And that price will be going up very soon.

jules1719 Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 1:23am
post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

I don't ... and won't ... charge for consultations. I consider it part of the transaction ... the advertising ... the cost of doing business.

I book about 95% of those who come in for a sampling.

If you are having a LOT of no-business results, I might suggest it's something in the consultation process. Without seeing you in action, I've no real advice to offer.

If you think pricing is the issue, you might start out the conversation with "How much have you budgeted for your cake?" If you're not comfortable with flat-out asking them, try it in a client-friendly way of "What kind of number do we need to keep this under for you?"

I sent them all pricing info before the appt plus it's posted on my website, plus they have my Budget Wizard to figure the cost before they even walk in my door.

If you're running into a lot of "well, I have to talk to mom, first" then maybe ask up front, when making the appointment, "Who is making the final decision and will that person be at the appt with you?" If that person won't be there, somehow inflict the idea of how valuable your time is and the person who is making the financial decision really needs to be there ".... so maybe we should schedule this for when it's more convenient".




my 2 cents-

Indydebi- you hit the nail on the head multiple times. There are so many ways to control the consult- if control is the word. I feel for the OP because we've all been in that position of having our time wasted. Yet free consults are what this business should be about.

One can argue til they are blue in the face the sound logic of why you charge for tastings. But know this: decorators like me are waiting in the tall weeds. I'm confident in my flavors, and you can taste as many flavors as the day is long. Gratis. I wonder which person a bride would want to deal with?

I wonder; would the people that charge for a tasting want to pay a fee if the situation were reversed? Of those that would who say "I did and so what?" I ask, were you happy about it?

AT the very least, if you charge a fee and the bride winds up booking, you should absolutely knock the fee off the final cost of the cake.

CakesByJen2 Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 1:27am
post #19 of 27

The sampling I don't mind; in fact I insist on it. It just doesn't make sense to spend that much money on something that you haven't tasted. I keep mini-loaf cakes in the freezer, and just cut off a slice of the desired flavor about an hour before and pipe a complementery BC on top. I limit it to 4 flavors, and a couple of fillings that complement the cake flavors they've chosen. I don't think my flavors are particularly "exotic", but more than the standard bakery white, yellow, and choc (though I do have those), and fillings are included.

I never let them have a sketch until the deposit is paid, and I don't go into that much detail if I know they are shopping around, just in this last case I was misled, albeit unintentionally (I'm sure the bride had every intention of signing and paying that day, but MOB wasn't feeling well and didn't make it to the consult, and balked when the bride went to pick up the money).

It's one thing if they come and decide they prefer the taste of someone else's cakes; they can't really know that until they taste them for themselves. BUt is just bugs me when it comes down to price, because they should be able to figure out whether that's an issue before they even contact me as that info is clearly explained on my website and in my brochures.

Even though I would certainly apply the fee to cake if they ordered, I've decided consultation fees, even refundable, wouldn't work in my area. So I guess I'm just going to have to be much more proactive and direct in making them really think about their budget and talking it over with whoever is paying BEFORE they make an appointment, even if it's a repeat customer. Thanks for all the input!

indydebi Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 1:40am
post #20 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by CakesByJen2

.... and I don't go into that much detail if I know they are shopping around,



I encourage them to shop around. I ask them if I'm their first sampling and if they say yes, then I strongly suggest they check at least 1 or preferable two other bakers/caterers. I had one couple kinda laugh that it was odd I would tell them that. I put on my "Banna" smile and told them, "It's because I'm arrogantly confident enough to know that when you do some comparing, you'll be back."

(By the way, I booked that couple just 2 days later. icon_rolleyes.gif )

But part of my speech is "you're about to spend a lot of money on this event, and you want to make sure that you're getting what you want, to fit in the budget you've set. You also want to make sure that your personalities work well with your vendors. I may have the best tasting cakes and the best prices in town, but if I'm a real bag to work with, you just don't need that stress on your wedding day!" (then I smile my southern gramma smile and say) "I hope I've passed that test for you today!" icon_biggrin.gif

I don't do sketches .... the closest thing I have is a simple little "stick-cake" made of excel squares and outlines. When I send them the quote the next day, it has everything they need to make a decision. And when they book it, we don't really have to meet again. Everything is done.

Next!! icon_biggrin.gif

cakelady15 Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 3:46pm
post #21 of 27

I have not had any tastings yet because everyone who has booked from me has already tasted my cake at some other event they were at, but I do have a spot on my website that says a tasting is $35 which will be applied to the cost of the cake if they book with me. I bake out of my home right now and I don't freeze my cakes so I have to whip a fresh batch of cake mix every time someone would want a tasting. For their $35 though they get 2 6" 2 layer cakes in different flavors with different flavor fillings and different icing to try. That's actually a pretty reasonable price for two 6" and even though they may not necessarily need that much cake it gives them the opportunity to share it with the MOB, bridal party, etc. so they can get more opinions if they want to. Someday when I open a real bakery I may change that because I will be baking cakes all day long and it will be easier for me to make samples without having so much waste, but for now this will have to workicon_smile.gif

robinscakes Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 5:46pm
post #22 of 27

I do not charge for consultations/samplings. One reason is that several bakeries around me do charge for consultations. One down the road charges $50 whether or not you book with them--no refunds. I've had several people come to me and complain about them, so why change what I'm doing? They all booked with me. Secondly, I don't consider myself on the same par as a lot of other decorators who can certainly justify charging for their time. I'm still trying to get clients so I make it as easy as I can on them. Last year I did 4 weddings and this year I've done around a dozen so far, so I'm happy with the increased business. Most of my work is birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, etc. And lastly I work for a bakery and am paid by the hour, not by the cake. I don't sign in for consultations since I don't believe it would be fair to my boss. I work a little less than full time, and over 40 hours during the holidays. I don't need the job financially since my husband is the breadwinner. I do this for fun. If I were a single parent I might have a different attitude about charging for consultations. So, I don't think there is anything wrong with you charging for a consultation especially in your case when you're doing this from your home and have so many things to do to prepare for the consultation (send the family off somewhere, clean up, bake samples, etc.). Your time and inconvenience seems to be worth the money.

robinscakes Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 5:52pm
post #23 of 27

Oh, and one more thing!

I had the good fortune of going to the RBA convention in Las Vegas last September and went to a seminar hosted by Keri Vincent. She made a point of saying "NEVER let your client take a sketch with them until they've signed the contract!" People will do exactly what Jeanne1116 (did I get that name right???) said about taking the sketch to other bakeries and seeing if they can get it done cheaper. I've made a point of following her advice. You get the sketch (a copy, not the original) with the signed contract!

SugarBakerz Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 5:56pm
post #24 of 27

I charge $10 for a tasting, which is 2 mini cc's of up to 4 flavors. I will add the $10 to their total if they book with me, if not, I keep it.

terrig007 Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 6:07pm
post #25 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

Quote:
Originally Posted by terrig007

When I got married we didn't get the samples until we had signed the contract



icon_eek.gif Once you've signed the contract, what's the point of the sampling? I view a sampling of "let's see if we like her baking so we can decide if we WANT to sign with her." If they've already signed with me, I don't see the point of a sampling. If they don't like my baking, they've already signed and given me a non-refundable deposit, so it's kind of a "so what?" thing by then. icon_confused.gif

Man, that makes no sense to me.




Debi,
That is what they did and still do. I had went to a couple of weddings where they had provided the cake and I knew that if I ever got married (remember I was 36 and a first time bride) that I would go there. I don't know if I would have even gone in their if I knew their policy without having tasted their cakes before. Funny thing though, you can or at least then only get samples on Saturdays.

KoryAK Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 6:10pm
post #26 of 27

I do the $35 applied toward final wedding cake payment if booked.

Aliwis000 Posted 19 Aug 2008 , 8:28pm
post #27 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

Quote:
Originally Posted by CakesByJen2

.... and I don't go into that much detail if I know they are shopping around,


I encourage them to shop around. I ask them if I'm their first sampling and if they say yes, then I strongly suggest they check at least 1 or preferable two other bakers/caterers. I had one couple kinda laugh that it was odd I would tell them that. I put on my "Banna" smile and told them, "It's because I'm arrogantly confident enough to know that when you do some comparing, you'll be back."

(By the way, I booked that couple just 2 days later. icon_rolleyes.gif )

But part of my speech is "you're about to spend a lot of money on this event, and you want to make sure that you're getting what you want, to fit in the budget you've set. You also want to make sure that your personalities work well with your vendors. I may have the best tasting cakes and the best prices in town, but if I'm a real bag to work with, you just don't need that stress on your wedding day!" (then I smile my southern gramma smile and say) "I hope I've passed that test for you today!" icon_biggrin.gif

I don't do sketches .... the closest thing I have is a simple little "stick-cake" made of excel squares and outlines. When I send them the quote the next day, it has everything they need to make a decision. And when they book it, we don't really have to meet again. Everything is done.

Next!! icon_biggrin.gif


.



Actress...baker..cake consultant on CC..indydebi is there anything you cant do? lol jk jk


I agree with many of the different opinons on this topic. And obviously I am just speaking in a consumer/customer mind set here. I can see where some people would need to charge for a consult, and would respect that but I feel if the cake is booked with that person it should probably come off the cost of the cake, as many state they do. I also can see how some people would say that its a cost of doing business and it should be free. I totally agree with getting a tasting before a contract, who wouldnt test drive before they buy? Just my thoughts, worth far less then 2 cents icon_smile.gif

Alicia

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