Guidance For The Novice Decorator! Help! How Much To Charge?

Decorating By Jessi83 Updated 26 Mar 2010 , 10:45pm by bettycracker1972

Jessi83 Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 3:20am
post #1 of 47

So, I'm new at this cake decorating deal (a year or less). So, a few questions. A friend is wanting me to make her daughter's birthday cake. She wants a 3 tier, alternating round-square-round cakes. Okay, done (although I would like to research the best stacking methods).

Bottom tier pink with black stripes, middle lime green with pink polka dots, top tier zebra stripes. With feathers coming out of the top, and a RI tiara. Also, wanted thin black fondant 'ribbon' around the bottom of each tier with a rhinestone buckle.

QUESTIONS: how to make a rhinestone buckle? Sugar diamonds? Feathers, I assume from some place like Hobby Lobby or Michaels? and HOW MUCH DO I CHARGE? That's my biggest deal! I have no clue! Please, Please, HELP ME!!

46 replies
kellertur Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 2:13pm
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Well, you really need to have a price per serving or base price to begin. How do you usually figure costs? Without knowing serving amounts, etc. I don't believe anyone can really answer this question. Base price first, , then all the extras second... Hope that helps.

Jessi83 Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 3:27pm
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What's normal for a base price? I've never charged for a cake before!

cakesdivine Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 3:35pm
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Novices should not be selling cakes! Especially if you live in a state that doesn't allow foods to be produced for sale in your home kitchen. Have her buy the ingredients and bring them to you, and then you make it for her for free as a gift. As far as the "gems" you can make them out of isomalt if you have a candy gem mold or just use an actual non edible rhinestone belt buckle, just make sure it is clean before you place it on the cake. If you use the plate & hidden pillar method of stacking you shouldn't have any problem with stacking your cakes.

Jessi83 Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 3:59pm
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I would understand if I was selling cakes out of my house to people I don't know ~ but it's for a friend, not some random person that I picked up off the street! I do not advertise, do not plan on advertising and only bake cakes that I take for family functions and whatnot - and now had a good friend ask me to make her daughter's cake. I was just trying to think of what I should charge her, that's all. Sorry if I ruffled any feathers! Was just looking for help!

Kellbella Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 4:11pm
post #6 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by cakesdivine

Novices should not be selling cakes! Especially if you live in a state that doesn't allow foods to be produced for sale in your home kitchen. Have her buy the ingredients and bring them to you, and then you make it for her for free as a gift. As far as the "gems" you can make them out of if you have a candy gem mold or just use an actual non edible rhinestone belt buckle, just make sure it is clean before you place it on the cake. If you use the plate & hidden pillar method of stacking you shouldn't have any problem with stacking your cakes.


Quote:
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Ouch! Everyone has to start out somehow!

leah_s Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 4:12pm
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Selling is selling. If you're charging for cakes, then you've started a business.

That said, business charge by the serving. You'll have to tell us how many servings a "round/square/round with a ball on top" is. A 6"round on top of an 8" square on top of a 12"round, or some other dimensions? That's in the neighborhood of 100 servings.

For the design I'm envisioning from your description, I'd be at $4 per serving, + $40 for the tiara, a purchased rhinestone buckle, purchased feathers, a $30 equipment fee and a $50 delivery fee.

Total $520 plus the buckle and feathers

erinalicia Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 4:24pm
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cakesdivine was only stating an obvious point. I don't believe anyone's feathers were ruffled but your own (based on your last comment). And if you don't plan to sell on a regular basis, then why charge your friend? A better option would be to have your friend buy the items needed, as suggested.

No one on here can tell you what to charge. If you really want to charge her, then you need to find out what other bakeries in your area charge, figure out how much it costs you to make the cake, including your time and utilities and all incidentals and go from there. Whether you charge her actual cost or mark it up is up to you.

bettycracker1972 Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 4:33pm
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I've been where you are. I only do cakes for friends and family, but word gets around and now those friends have friends who want my cakes. I'm not in business and I don't believe that you're even allowed in my state to operate a food service type business in your home. So what I do is quote the actual cost of the cake and let them know that anything more would be appreciated. (more of a favor that way than it is a service). It's amazing what people will pay. Yes, there are some that won't pay anything for your time, but I have had others double and even triple the cost price.

Experience is a brutal teacher. But, oh how we learn! (C.S. Lewis)

sadsmile Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 4:35pm
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Really the advice about finding out if you can legally sell a cake from your home is the right thing, it's not negative it's cautious and protective. Cover your own assets people! I will never understand why this advice is always frowned upon as being mean and negative when it is constructive and the first thing a person wanting to sell any food from their home should do.

erinalicia Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 4:45pm
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sadsmile- because it isn't what they want to hear, plain and simple. Most people want to be paid for their hard work instead of giving it away. So that "hobby" isn't really a "hobby" anymore.

When I'm asked to do a cake by my close friends and family, they always want to know what they owe me. I usually try to avoid the conversation but more times than I can count have they slipped money in my pocket, my purse etc. They WANT to pay me because they know they are getting something custom and that it cost me money and time to provide it for them, and it does no good to argue with any of them.

In the OP's situation, if this is a close friend, I'd just give her a list of the items needed or go with her to purchase the items and have her pay for them and then do the cake as a gift. That's what "I" would do. Then I'm not getting paid for anything and she feels like she's paid for it, minus the labor.

OccasionalTiers Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 4:50pm
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that is a good point to be cautious if you have such laws in your state but i think in forums it's easy to mistake constructive feedback as agressiveness when it is delivered with "novices should not be selling cakes!" as an opening line.

i guess we can all differ on our opinion of whether you should charge or not charge a friend but that's really unique to that relationship. if you want to charge however, i don't think there's anything wrong with that either.

dailey Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 4:56pm
post #13 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kellbella

Quote:
Originally Posted by cakesdivine

Novices should not be selling cakes! Especially if you live in a state that doesn't allow foods to be produced for sale in your home kitchen. Have her buy the ingredients and bring them to you, and then you make it for her for free as a gift. As far as the "gems" you can make them out of if you have a candy gem mold or just use an actual non edible rhinestone belt buckle, just make sure it is clean before you place it on the cake. If you use the plate & hidden pillar method of stacking you shouldn't have any problem with stacking your cakes.

Quote:
Quote:




Ouch! Everyone has to start out somehow!




Cakesdivine is just giving her good, sound advice...

Jessi83 Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 4:58pm
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Aw, c'mon. I'm not here for the drama. I understand going by the legality of it all. That's not what I got 'ruffled' about, if you would call it that. I took it the same way that Kellbella saw it "Ouch". (Just about that "Novices shouldn't be selling cakes!") KS law, from what I understand from the forums, falls under some Farmer's Market Clause, so something about it can be sold to an individual or farmer.
Thanks to bettycrocker and kate (occasionaltiers) - I like the way you guys would approach this!
Thanks to all for the advice, but again, not here for the drama or to start fights or argue with anyone. Hope everyone has a good day! icon_smile.gif

erinalicia Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 5:01pm
post #15 of 47

then just charge what you want to charge. why even bother coming on here and asking for anyone's advice? I have no idea where you live, so my advice was to find out what other in your area charge and go from there. It's basic math, not rocket science, whether it is legal or not.

cakesdivine Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 5:56pm
post #16 of 47

Your profile did not state where you are from, so if you do live in one of the few states that allows baking from your home for sale then you are one of the lucky ones and more power to you. You stated you are a novice, I looked at your cakes and they are good so your cakes don't look like a typical novice's cakes, but like Leah_s said, if you are selling then you are a business end of story, and therefore you need to treat your caking as such.

To throw out a blanket request as you did, does show how inexperienced you are, not only in decorating but in basic business sense. Even in my 20's I knew enough to know how to create my price matrix. I guess I just don't get someone wanting to do a business of any kind without even knowing the most basic element of starting that business to begin with. Finding your price point is the first thing you need to do after you find out what permits, licenses, and business structure you will need to run your business. Your price point needs to be high enough to cover all your expenses, and any profit margin you wish to obtain. I guess I should have prefaced my statement on my last post with "This is why..."

The actual caking questions were good questions. Asking for pricing on an open forum, with almost no discerning information, not such a good question. Too many variables to consider. Now if you had asked for specific bakers in your area already doing business to respond, and you gave exact serving count information on top of the decor information you gave, and what you expected your own out of pocket expenses to be, THEN that would have been a question that could actually be answered. Not everyone is cut out for being a business owner. Some decorators are better suited to work for others or just keep it a hobby. Selling even for a penny is considered a business IMHO.

Jessi83 Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 6:13pm
post #17 of 47

I'm absolutely inexperienced in business sense - I am a former nurse and current stay-at-home mom, LOL! Absolutely something I intend to really keep as a hobby and have no desire, whatsoever, to make it a business adventure. But true, if I'm selling a cake, that makes it a business.

I've never been good at charging people for anything, whether it be babysitting when I was young, arts & crafts, etc. Just the way I was raised, I suppose - my mother is the same way. Especially if it's something that I enjoy to do. I always felt guilty for whatever reason (call me an idiot, if you so choose) taking money from people doing something that I like to do.

Sorry, maybe I should have been more specific in my questioning or something. My bad. Just thought I would throw it out there, as general as it may be, and see what I got in return.

So, again, thank you to all for your advice, suggestions, criticism, etc ~ I think they've helped! icon_smile.gif
And cakesdivine - thank you for the comment about my cakes, I take that as a compliment that they don't look like a 'typical novice's cake' icon_biggrin.gif
Again, have a good day and SMILE! It's a beautiful day!!

keonicakes Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 6:24pm
post #18 of 47

Jessie83...
If it were me, I would charge her for the materials. You may want to give her an "estimate" on what it's going to cost for them because most people have no idea what this stuff costs, less the time it takes.

I see you are new to the site, Welcome. I'm sorry you got a bit of feedback that could have been aggrivating or hurtful. I know that can be discouraging.
If you look at say pricing matrix topics, you will see just how many people have that same dilemma....

What to charge.... I don't charge because I think in my state its $10,000 if you get busted. And I have no interest in having any sort of business in food. Oh my God at the headaches these girls and guys go through. I think this is why it hits a nerve with people that are licensed, aside from the fact that so many people do charge illegaly and it's taking money out of their pockets. Can't blame them there.

I can almost guarantee that you will never get a harsh answer to a question on here as long as pricing isn't the question.

Just by all means, get reimbursed for your expences on this cake, (keep receipts) it will not be a cheap one.
Amy

Caralovescake Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 7:04pm
post #19 of 47

Jessi83, I haven't been on here that long, but I notice that some people simply CANNOT hold their tongues when it comes to pricing, and legal versus illegal.. Some of the "elders" on here love a good challege as I have learned from reading waaaaay too many posts on here. It certainly is entertaining. What I love about this site is the people who actually want to help. Don't worry, you will find all the help you need as long as you avoid those who love to show who they are too the Newbies.

costumeczar Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 7:08pm
post #20 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Caralovescake

Jessi83, I haven't been on here that long, but I notice that some people simply CANNOT hold their tongues when it comes to pricing, and legal versus illegal.. Some of the "elders" on here love a good challege as I have learned from reading waaaaay too many posts on here. It certainly is entertaining. What I love about this site is the people who actually want to help. Don't worry, you will find all the help you need as long as you avoid those who love to show who they are too the Newbies.




Yeah, yeah, ignore all the "old" members who actually have experience and know what they're talking about. That's the way to build a good foundation of knowledge based on nothing. It's not that the "elders" love a good challenge, but that we get tired of listening to the complaints of people who don't want to hear anything that they don't want to hear.

cammyblake1 Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 7:27pm
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In my 9 to 10 months of lurking myself, I have noticed a lot of hand holding and encouragement to "just do it anyways" from members, in situations like this. I really can't believe that is what is acceptable. Someone on another forum a few years ago advised me to stop doing it illegally and save up money and be legal. I did that. Best advice I could have ever gotten. A lot of you sound like the little child who just wants mommy to say "yes junior, you can have that 8th piece of pizza because you deserve it". Nevermind that he is overweight and his health is in danger.

rosiecast Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 7:32pm
post #22 of 47

Cammyblake, I'm a hobbyist (and a bad one at that, lol) and i couldn't agree more with you. If you ask a business question then expect a business answer.

Aurora_333 Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 7:42pm
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Jesse83
What is a Farmers Market Clause? Never heard of it and very curious. TIA

cakesdivine Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 7:50pm
post #24 of 47

Jessi, I commend you on what you have done, being a nurse, and also a SAHM are probably some of the hardest jobs to do on this planet, and they never get the respect the truly deserve! icon_smile.gif

So if caking is truly your hobby then keep it that way. IF cost is an issue and it isn't feasible to do free cakes for friends & family then get them to purchase all the ingredients (give them a list). I know that the minute you take something that is a hobby love and take it to that next level of business, that love can be zapped right out of you especially if it goes against your inner being to do business.

That guilt mentality you spoke of is what helped put my mom out of business 3 times in her life, twice with dance studios and once with a restaurant. She let people walk all over her, even her employees. She was just so afraid someone wouldn't like her or would be unhappy with what they got, that she bent over backwards, and they still complained. There are always going to be those negative Nancy's who want something for nothing and have to complain. So if you know yourself and business isn't where you want to be, then insist others respect your wishes of keeping your caking as a hobby, you will be much happier in the end.

chrissypie Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 8:14pm
post #25 of 47

I agree, not worth getting fined for making a cake. It would probably turn your hobby that you love, into something you resent. I understand the expense of making cakes, not just the cost of ingredients, but your time as well.

Now, I have a question for those who know. IF you make a cake for your friend as a gift, and a week later, she takes you out to dinner as a thank you, is that the same as selling cakes? I am just curious. I too have been approached to do cakes, but have no interest in skirting the law, not only for my financial safety, but because I am not a fan of breaking the law.

However, I have not done them because they are expensive and I do not have a lot of money to just be giving cakes away. I keep the free cakes to my family and close friends birthdays, holidays, and the like.

I decorate for the enjoyment it brings me, but like I said, money is beyond tight and the ingredients are not cheap. So, is it ok if your friend treats you to something, sometime after the fact?

Caralovescake Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 8:18pm
post #26 of 47

If it is a close friend why can't they just give you money? It is not like they will turn you in to the cake police. I think you would only not sell to people you don't know.

kiwigal81 Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 8:19pm
post #27 of 47

I think that would be alright...if a bloke takes you out to dinner and you give him something a little later, after the fact, to show your appreciation.... icon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gif

I think the advice on this thread is sound. To the OP, you will find that this is a prickly issue, but that generally, people just don't want others to get pinged for violating any laws, and don't want to be undercut and have their livelihood threatened by illegal cakesters.

I am going to do the same thing with ingredients: I'll make the cake, supply the time and do it for love, but the raw materials, people can provide. I don't see that as selling, because selling cakes is much more than selling the ingredients, you charge for the time and effort too. If I give my dad wood to make a cake stand, and he does, he isn't selling to me. Likewise if I make him a cake as a thank you after. Money for the process = selling. Giving you the ingredients/paying for ingredients does not. We all know a cake is MUCH more than eggs, flour, butter and milk.

cakesdivine Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 8:21pm
post #28 of 47

Not meaning to hijack your thread Jessi BUT

OccasionalTiers - seems like you are the passive-aggressive one, leaving nasty comments on people's photos under a different username. Did you know that CC sends an email everytime someone sends a comment on a photo to the photo owner? Funny the user name listed in the email was first OccasionalTiers, then it was LaPetiteFour on the second one, but when I go to look at the comments they say TrailCake as the user. Odd all these user names were created today, and NONE have photos associated with them. And your name is Kate. Are you the same person we use to know as K8? K8 got banned if I remember correctly because she was so confrontational and extremely passive-aggressive.

kiwigal81 Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 8:24pm
post #29 of 47

Isn't that interesting!!??!!
I want your computer skills!!
But why would someone do that?
For the love of all that is good, whyyyyy??

rosiecast Posted 3 Mar 2010 , 8:26pm
post #30 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by cakesdivine

Not meaning to hijack your thread Jessi BUT

OccasionalTiers - seems like you are the passive-aggressive one, leaving nasty comments on people's photos under a different username. Did you know that CC sends an email everytime someone sends a comment on a photo to the photo owner? Funny the user name listed in the email was first OccasionalTiers, then it was LaPetiteFour on the second one, but when I go to look at the comments they say TrailCake as the user. Odd all these user names were created today, and NONE have photos associated with them. And your name is Kate. Are you the same person we use to know as K8? K8 got banned if I remember correctly because she was so confrontational and extremely passive-aggressive.




OMG- How juvenile. That's just worng. You don't have to agree with people all the time, but don't be disrespectful of their work.

So sorry cakesdivine. icon_mad.gif

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