I am spending way too much time with my customers figuring out what cake design they want. The flavors, size, etc is usually pretty cut and dried, but when it comes to figuring out what the cake should look like they kind of lose their mind and jump all over the place.
I have narrowed one of the problems down to giving them too many choices, so I no longer pull up the internet and go over pictures with them. I always encourage them to go online themselves before they come to me, figuring they can take their time and come up with some ideas to show me once we have an appointment made. Once they are here I show them cakes I have done and I have a few current books for them to browse through but it still seems like they change their minds once they see something different.
The last wedding I did the bride actually came in with a sketch (I LOVE when they do this!) but changed her mind completely when she saw a cake she loved better in one of the books. Then they were back and forth, back and forth, I don't know, what do you think? I don't know, what do you think? and the clock is going tick, tick tick...after they finally agreed on something that was a combination of several cakes her fiance pipes up and says Well how do we know we will like it in person? Can you draw us the cake with our colors? O.K., more time spent doing that and then they started changing where they wanted the colors...
I just got a call for a christening cake to serve 200 and they have no idea what kind of design they would like. So what did I do? After a very late night finishing up a cake I stayed up and browsed pictures online so I had some pictures for them to look at when they come over. I set my tasting appointments for 1/2 hour, but I always go way over because of the time spent trying to figure out what they want!
Isn't there a better, more efficient way to do this? I have spent way too much time in the past searching for pictures that I think the customer may like--shouldn't they be doing that? And how do I get them to do that?
You could charge for the tasting, so much $$ per hour of your time. I have found it easiest to meet with the bride and ask her questions about the "theme" of the wedding, colors, flowers, formal or informal, etc... and go from there. I have had a few with pictures, and we've altered some and some we've copied exactly. I also do a lot of communication via e-mail, so the back and forth of changing ideas is easier and on my time (could be midnight).
I usually require a deposit for doing too much work, especially sketches. I will not sketch without a deposit...actually I rarely sketch anyway haha.
If its for a party cake, I encourage them to look online to find what they like, somewhere, anywhere. Sometimes they tell me exactly what to do...other times they tell me they like this, this, and this and then I have the feel of what they like and they let me design it.
I've only had a few consults where the customer didn't know what they wanted and we had to do the painstaking design-from-the-ground-up. Really there's no way around it, sometimes you just have to. But I don't design cakes in detail without a deposit, at least that way I know that my time is being spent on their cake, not just in hopes I get their business.
That's a million dollar question! I don't charge for tastings or design time, but it is tempting. I read that Ashley Vicos charges, but if they book the cake, then the charge is not paid.....something to think about!
When I do a sketch of drawing, it is my property. I learned the hard way not to let them have the design...(so they can take your design and leave to see if they can find someone cheaper to duplicate it!)
I don't think there's any reason to do sketches for someone who is not sure they even want you to do their cake.
You can give them a close estimate of price depending on their description of the cake they want (leaving room for change)...then they decide if they want you to do it...pay their deposit...then you can narrow down details.