Crappy Cake Weekend (I.e. How Not To Do Business)

Business By SusD Updated 8 Jan 2011 , 4:51pm by babypooh

SusD Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 6:34pm
post #1 of 56

Ugh...this weekend was the WORST cake weekend... (and this is about to be a long post with a lot of CAPS.) A couple of months ago I became official (inspected, legal, etc) and have since enjoyed a lot of business. To me a lot is 2 cake orders a week. Well this past weekend I had 3. Since Im new to this and havent started advertising its all been friends and acquaintances. BTW, Im a SAHM with a 6 and 3 year old, this was our first week of summer, and my husband is military and was gone. I spent ALL week juggling my kids and the kitchen getting these cakes prepared.

So Friday was an iPod cake for a neighbor/kinda-friends daughter. She requested purple fondant, red velvet, 20 servings. That is what she got PLUS I added an edible image with a quote from her daughters favorite singer. After she brought me the check (the next day, which is MY fault for not making it clear that payment comes before cake), I asked her how she liked it. Well, she said, I had some cake for breakfast. OK, that must mean she likes it since shes eating it for meals. Right? BUT, she went on to say that the edible image tasted like peptol bismol and who really likes fondant anyway???... and this was definitely one of my plainer cakes. Apparently she had meant to order just plain buttercream. Not my fault. She got exactly what she ordered. Also, I got the edible image from my local bakery and didnt have any quality control over its taste. Also, this is the THIRD cake she's ordered from me.

Second cake was a luau cake for a neighbor/kinda-friends 30th bday party. It took twisting her arm to tell me what she wanted and the directions that finally came were luau theme, 30 servings, clean lines, modern look, I loved your cherry blossom cake, and bright colors. I had to call THREE times to arrange a drop-off time and also made it clear that I was dropping off the cake AND picking up the check. So at the agreed time, I dropped it off and she wasnt there. Her mom answered the door and... you guessed it, no check. We were on the way to my daughter's dance recital so I had no choice but to leave the cake. This was after I swore that no payment means NO cake. AND... come to find out, everyone else in the neighborhood was invited to the party except me! These are ladies that I see every day at the bus stop and have done some social things too. WTH?! Am I just the cake lady now? Serious hurt feelings there and I cried all the way to the recital. And now I have to be the obnoxious one and bug her about paying me.

Third cake was for my best friends son. They are moving away this week, so I'm already sad about that. She had a going away party last week that I helped throw in her honor... made a sushi cake for that as well as a couple of dozen decorated cookies - both as gifts. This party however, was a me-for-hire deal. It was a superhero theme and I made a superman cake. Once again, because Im a business-idiot, I didnt demand payment before delivery (she's my BEST friend). And actually, nothing was said about paying me the entire time. I once again take the blame for not just stating... and you owe me such and such amount. She knows that I charge $3 per serving for fondant covered cake and has even helped me throughout my entire business venture... proofing my website, etc. As I was leaving she thanked me profusely for the cake, everyone loved it... blah blah. I was shocked... did she think this was a gift? And how awkward is this going to be if I tell her to pay me?! As we were driving away I broke down crying again and have sworn off the cake business forever! I finally got a text saying ps, what do I owe you? I felt much better and have since been kicking myself for not just making out a contract the minute we decide on a cake that says You owe me $ due at time of delivery or NO CAKE FOR YOU! Oh and... If my cake is for a party that youre not inviting me too, then NO CAKE FOR YOU!

I spent ALL week (time that even my prices cant compensate for... a whole OTHER post!) preparing and planning these three cakes. I am extremely proud of my work, but I hate hate dealing with people and money! How do you look at a friend and say, pay me now or Im not handing over this cake?? What do you do when they say oh, Ill see you tomorrow and give you the money then. Especially when these people are your friends and I want people to think that I trust them. But when you are starting out a business, your first clients ARE your friends. And I need to find somewhere to buy a pair of cahones when it comes to getting paid ON TIME for my work.

Epic long post for such a newbie on the site. Thanks for reading. (p.s. all the cakes mentioned here are in my gallery.)

55 replies
Rachel5370 Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 6:44pm
post #2 of 56

All of my clients so far are my friends too! And most of them are too broke to afford my prices! And my prices are not high for my area! I feel ya, honey. Hang in there! thumbs_up.gif

lilthorner Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 6:46pm
post #3 of 56

everyone knows that there are 5 people (yes 5) that can have a cake without payment first.. My mother, my mother and father in law, my aunt and my BFF.. ok 7.. my cousin and my sister.. but usually ALL these people pay ahead of time..

I used to feel bad about asking for my money up front, especially from family but guess what, if you have no $$ u have no flour, no eggs, etc.. I have also found that your "friends" will try to take advantage of you a lot of times, before anybody else.. this is not usually the case, but it is sometimes something like, "oh I wouldn't ever stiff you" or "I wouldn't ever not pay you"PLUS even though they are your friends, and you talk to them about cake, etc.. they STILL may not get the full effect of how much work goes into planning etc.. I had tow friends with me the other day and I was icing a 8x12 cake.. I was like I'm just tryna make it look like $45.. they said oh you could have BEEN stopped then..

I prefer fondant for some cakes, and depending on who it is, I will ask if they absolutely dont want fondant.. or we alk about it in the course of conversation and I make sure I make not of it..

hang on...

Kitagrl Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 6:49pm
post #4 of 56

Your cakes are GORGEOUS! Take deposits, don't undercharge yourself! And keep up the great work!

Your fondant work is lovely...the ipod cake "plain"? That lady did NOT appreciate the talent it takes to get such clean straight lines and perfect fondant on that "plain" cake. And since when is an iPod decorated in swirls or neon colors? I think it was perfect and your board really dressed it up.

Chin up!

(And PS: I wouldn't tell you your cakes are great if I didn't think so!)

WendyB Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 6:51pm
post #5 of 56

Your cakes are beautiful so you should have no qualms about charging, and charging well, for them.

Get a contract (do a search on CC and you'll find some) and fill it out with your friends as they place their order. Let them know that "now that I'm an official business I don't start baking until the details are complete in the contract and I've received payment in full". "Did you want to pay by check or cash?"


Jayde Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 6:52pm
post #6 of 56

I just wanted to say that I really liked your Ipod cake. Really well done, and if that is what she asked for then how can she complain? I mean there really isnt much to an Ipod.

Dealing with friends is never easy. They expect discounts, preferential treatment, last minute orders, and extra time to pay. It does get ridiculous after awhile. I know everyone will tell you to be firm and that friends shouldnt get preferential treatment, but its hard because most of your close friends and family are your first customers. They essentially helped to build your business.

After that try talking to them. Make sure that they understand that you are now a business and that in order to make a profit you must conduct yourself as a business. Even if they are for simple cakes, draw up a contract with a total price at the bottom. Include a date to be paid by. Make sure that all changes, servings, extras, etc. are all documented and that everything is signed off on by the customer, including the design. Make them approve the design before making the cake so that way no one can complain about the design being plain or not right.

Treat them like you would any stranger that order a cake from you, and if you must give them a discount make sure that you total everything up like BC servings 50 x $2.50 or 12 GP flowers x $2.00 add all that up and then make it easy on yourself and set a friends discount percentage, like 20%. Make sure that you show them on the invoice that you are giving them a 20% discount.

And lastly treat yourself like a business, stay professional. The more professional that you act by treating your business like a business and not like a friend doing a favor the more they will treat you like a business as well.


Jamielc Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 6:54pm
post #7 of 56

First off, CONGRATS ON BECOMING OFFICIAL!!! How exciting for you!

Second, thank you for sharing the story, we all need to vent sometimes. Starting a business is difficult, but you've got to do what you've got to do. I think pricing and getting paid/asking for payment are harder to do than the cakes themselves! I'm sure once you get a good rhythm going, this will come much easier.

Stick with your policy of 'pay me upon delivery/pickup or no cake' and make sure each customer is aware upon ordering. If you have to go to a contract for each cake, then do it.

Best of luck to you!!!

mykidsarekillingme Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 6:57pm
post #8 of 56

Your cakes are beautiful! And we all have days and weeks like that. This is what comes with starting out... the good and the bad. We all learn from our mistakes and little problems and as we get further along we no longer have these little issues. keep up the good work!!

catlharper Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:00pm
post #9 of 56

Oh Hon...rookie mistake...first of all draw up a contract (I'll be happy to email you mine if you'd like) that states that 50% of the fee is due at time of signing and the rest (for a party cake) due 7 days before the event (for a wedding cake it's one month before) or NO CAKE FOR THEM! I stress this again at time of signing and then contact them (don't leave messages or send emails...actually TALK to them) to remind them one week before their due date for the final payment. Then if there is no payment then you DON'T make the cake.

I feel for in the best friend do get stuck if you don't speak up. And, yes, I'm positive she thinks the cake was the childs gift. These days if I'm invited to the party and the cake is not an outrageous cake then I state the the cake is a gift and then reiterate it when I deliver it with a statement like "See what I brought you for your birthday gift!!!" Paid for is paid for WITH a signed contract. Otherwise close friends/family will see it as a gift only.

Secondly...for the ipod woman..apparently it wasn't SO awful if she was eating leftovers. Yes, some brands of fondant are not that good, this is why I make my own, and yes, edible images can be sort of nasty, this is why I don't like using them but there are times, and this was one of those, where you HAVE to use them! BUT she was eating it AFTER the party so she needs to sit down and SHUT UP. Don't let that comment eat away at your self esteem.



Spills Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:02pm
post #10 of 56

I can't really say much, but I completely understand!

I've agreed to do one of my friend's wedding cakes this August, and I'm in the wedding party to boot...gonna be a busy week prior. Anyways, I told her I couldn't do it for free because that'd be crazy, and the only person that's getting a FREE wedding cake is my brother when he gets married thumbs_up.gif So, I even did up a contract for the cake order, which upon seeing it the bride to be and "my friend" exclaimed she was never signing it (she even helped me develop it!!). At that point I pretty much figured I wasn't getting any deposit...and REALLY wondering about the total price I gave her, if I'll see it all... How do you bring something like that up without starting more frustration and possibly damaging what friendship you have?

It's frustrating for sure, but then you have the completely opposite... I had one of my brother's friends print out my contract, fill it out completely, mailed it with the full amount on a check - and the cake's for September!!

Take the bad with the good, and be sure to remember more of the good than bad icon_wink.gif

sari66 Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:07pm
post #11 of 56

I guess what you learned from this is to get paid first! Even from friends you need to get paid for the work that you do. They would never think of going grocery shopping and not paying for the food they want so why would they think that you don't need to be paid?
Stealing from another CCer who is the lady with the best advise here Put on your big girl panties this is a business!!
Ask your customers for payment before making the cake period. Either have them pay 50% on order and the other a week or so before or the total payment at order or no cake!
Good luck with your new business icon_smile.gif

gr8yf Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:09pm
post #12 of 56

I tell my friends that I were 2 hats and I can't always do a cake that is free when I am doing this as a business, the business hat. The friend hat looks exactly like a door mat, welcome walk all over me.

Aeropanda Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:10pm
post #13 of 56

Obviously, you know how to go about it differently next time. Chalk it up to a lesson learned. I can tell you that MOST people are reasonable, and if you tell them that you need the money in order to get the supplies to do the best job for them, then you're still doing them a favor while still getting paid. We all want to maintain positive relationships with our friends, but we also need to be true to ourselves and demand the respect that we deserve.

cherryse Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:16pm
post #14 of 56

This is exactly why (well one of the reasons. One of the other is my husband is adamant about me not doing it) I don't do it professionally. I am a graphic artist and have another business (which I work in) so my time is very very limited.

It's funny, I used to be scared and intimidated about telling clients what my price was for my work, but I read a quote once that I've come to live by. "I am a highly trained professional and deserve the fair prices that I quote." I am unapologetic (yes, I had to fake that attitude at first) about my pricing and am more respected because of it.

I've found that people who got the cheapest rates were the biggest pain in the arses and took up vastly more of my time and energy than clients who didn't balk at paying the hourly wage I quoted. Trust me, giving your energy and time away for less than it is worth is usually unappreciated at best.

I guess what I am saying is, believe in yourself and your (great, by the way, I saw your photos) talent. Respect yourself and demand that from your customers and attitudes will change in your favor.

I am passionate about cake decorating but I only do it for family and a special few friends. I get people all the time who ask what I charge and that's what I tell them. I only do it as a labor of love for family.

nana_marta Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:24pm
post #15 of 56

All of these good people have given you wonderful advice, so I'm not going to add to it. I'm just sending you BIG HUGS!!!!! and telling you that your cakes are AMAZING! Congrats on being"legal"! Give those Kiddos a smooch and remember why we are here. More Hugs!

cai0311 Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:33pm
post #16 of 56

I make everyone sign a contract. For me, that is the easiest way for them to understand my policies without bringing it up in a "I don't want to get screwed from my family/friends". The whole point of a contract is to avoid these problems (and let's be honest) sometimes those closest to us cause the most problems for us.

matthewkyrankelly Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:47pm
post #17 of 56

Have you ever considered "hiring" someone to arrange payments? You could give them a cut - maybe 5%. That way you don't have to deal with the money thing. You also don't have to have those awkward moments. The money person will already have talked about the money. You do design consultation only.

artscallion Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 7:48pm
post #18 of 56

A policy of payment on delivery is a just a problem waiting to happen, in my opinion. As businesslike as it sounds, it's really nearly impossible to step off your friend's doorstep taking the cake away with you. Why put yourself in that awkward position?

If you take a deposit to book the date, then tell them you'll need the balance by XX days before the cake is due. Smile and say, "make sure you get the balance to me by then. I can't begin a cake until it's paid for, and that date is the absolute latest I could start work on your cake and still have it done in time."

Then if she doesn't pay by that date, don't start the cake. If she comes by with a check the day before the cake is due, or calls on the date asking where her cake is, tell her you thought she'd changed her mind since she never paid in time for you to start the cake like you'd asked her to.

This puts the awkwardness and responsibility for any crisis square on the shoulders of the person who wasn't playing by the rules (right where it belongs!), not on the trusting person who spent time and money for naught and now has to be the bad guy depriving little Johnny of his first birthday cake.

LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 10:23pm
post #19 of 56

I don't have anything to add except, has this woman ever SEEN an ipod??? Of course it's "plain" as she puts it, everything Apple does is designed as cleanly and plainly as possible. They don't ever clutter up their computers, mp3 players, etc with a lot of extra buttons and stuff, they are very minimalist in their design intentionally.

I think that cake looks PHENOMENAL, and like everyone else said, no one's going to eat cake for breakfast the next morning if they didn't like the taste!

Ok, I'm done now! icon_biggrin.gif So sorry you had to deal with difficult people!

tweeter_bug98 Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 10:58pm
post #20 of 56

Your cakes are beautifully done. I especially love the iPod.

4realLaLa Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 11:21pm
post #21 of 56

So sorry that happened to you. Your cakes are darling. I love the iPod.

johnson6ofus Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 11:49pm
post #22 of 56

It goes... "I'm sorry. I have to write everything down so I can stay organized and keep all my notes together. I am so busy with _____ and _____ (insert kid's names) and with _______ (insert Hubby's name) deployed, I really have to stay on top of things. My contract reminds me to ask all the important questions like flavors, colors, and dates".

Fill in contract.

"So, I need 50% deposit now so I have the money to buy the needed supplies and prepare for your fabulous cake. Do you want to pay that in cash, or by check?"

Friend- um, no... not now... I'll pay later, you know me...blah, blah, blah.

You- OK. I'll just set this aside until you can get me a check. I just can't afford to front for it. I wouldn't want this to interfere in our friendship, so my business is run "by the book" to protect me, AND my friends.

As Judge Judy says- do you value the friendship? Then DON'T loan them any $$$. Yes, if you violate your own payment policies, you are "loaning" them $$$. Would you give me a cake without payment? So when you do that for a "friend"- it is a loan, and that makes you a loan collector... not a baker. Don't fall into this.

Don't forget the posts here about-- "they want a full refund because the pink was too coral colored " (or something equally stupid). So your "friend" will say- Well, we ate half the cake, so here's half the $$$. <sigh>. icon_eek.gif

You work too hard to stress about getting PAID. A contract and a JOB is to be paid. Walmart arrests people for getting a cake without paying.

Hugs- great cake work!

springlakecake Posted 30 Jun 2010 , 11:59pm
post #23 of 56

I know how you feel. It is much harder to do business with friends and talk money. I also just got a legal kitchen just over a year ago. At first most of your customers are friends, but then you'll start getting more customers you don't know. IT is a LOT easier to talk money with people you don't know. I like to do the "dirty work" over email with friends. I tell them I'll send them an invoice via email where they can check over the details and confirm with me. (quick books). If they decide it's too much or want to make changes they can just let me know. You might try something similar.

I wouldn't worry about what a teenager said about the edible image. One word TEENAGER. They aren't necessarily the most delicate with their words.

I honestly think your best friend was hoping the cake was a gift.

I also have done cakes for people where all the neighbors are invited, but not us. Oh well. I don't really worry about it.

All of the cakes looked great, so I 'd just chalk this up to experience and move on.

Ladiesofthehouse Posted 1 Jul 2010 , 5:51pm
post #24 of 56

I opened my legal bakery in December and since then have grown a very thick skin! All of a sudden I realized that giving cakes away for free or reduced prices wasn't going to pay the bills. Letting people walk all over me was just me saying I didn't believe I really had a business either. If you don't collect money up front and have an understanding with every person that orders something from you, then prepare yourself for a long, tedious, heart wrenching time running your cake business.

Decide today that what applies to some customers applies to ALL customers. Yes, you will make some people upset, yes you will lose some "friends" I know, I've been there already this year more than once.

It is hard to tell the young mom from church with the kid in T ball that you can't make the entire team a baseball cookie with their name on it for Walmart prices. It is hard to require the woman grieving over the loss of her mom that you need payment up front for the funeral cake to feed 200 people. The cake maker in me wants to make it was easy as possible for them, the business owner says Wait a second--how are WE going to pay for that?!

But, unless you are willing to take the next step in your business and treat it that way you will always agonize over what you should or shouldn't charge, what you should or shouldn't require them to do, who should pay what, how can I talk to that person that way, etc.

Bottom line--are you a business, or are you a charity/hobby? Make a decision and get to work finding the REAL customers that will pay your prices for your beautiful cakes and be thrilled that you were willing to work with them. They are out there!

And here is an added bonus that I discovered--all of a sudden you will be so busy with real customers that your "friends" will find you all booked up for their next birthday cake


tesso Posted 1 Jul 2010 , 6:00pm
post #25 of 56

your cakes are great, and you need to stand up for them and always get the money ahead of time !! saves on headache and worry.

indydebi Posted 1 Jul 2010 , 6:05pm
post #26 of 56

As someone said earlier... rookie mistake .... and I believe we've all done it at one time or another. icon_wink.gif

Some suggested conversations:

Them: I'd like you to make me a cake.
You: Great! How much were you looking to spend?
(Gets the money issue out in the open right up front.)

Them: I'll have a check ready when you drop off the cake.
You: Oh gosh, that would be great but I'm unable to do that. I don't have suppliers that give me 30 days net .... I have to pay for my supplies up front, so I'll need that check by xxx date.

To the person who said her edible image tasted like pepto bismol, you can let her know "Thanks for letting me know ... I'll let my image supplier know that so they can check it out at their end." This lets them know it's not your doing on that particular part of the cake.

thecookieladycc Posted 2 Jul 2010 , 4:04am
post #27 of 56

Been there done that!!! And it does suck!! I think that people just assume because I'm a new business I need sympathy orders or something. I even had my daughters ballet teacher ask if we could trade after I had made her order... lets see a $90 class in exchange for $200 worth of cookies... ummmm no.
I went though the whole waiting 2 weeks after I delivered the cake to get paid thing. Finally I put my foot down and actually went to deliver a cake and she didn't have the $$ so I left with the cake.
I realized that I am a REAL business and until I started treating myself like one, one else will.
Don't sell yourself short.... you have way too much talent for that!

Yum2010 Posted 4 Jul 2010 , 1:39pm
post #28 of 56

Honey!!! Big hugs to you!! and I soooo feel your pain!! Dealing with friends are soooo dreadful, I've even lied a few times and told them I was booked just to get out of doing the darn thing because I knew they were cheap and I just didn't feel like dealing with them! I have learned people will take advantage of you and they will play the "friendship" card whenever they can. In my case, people also assume that since I do this as a side job for extra income that I will be cheaper than everyone else. Be firm with your prices and I agree with Indydebi's post. Ask for budget upfront. This is exactly how all of my consultations begin now because it lets them know that they will be charged and that this is a business. It will weed out the cheapies that you don't want to deal with because, as another post said, those the cheapies are the biggest PITA customers of all. It always floors me that the people that don't want to pay are the most demanding of all.

Montrealconfections Posted 4 Jul 2010 , 2:19pm
post #29 of 56

It wasn't a crappy cake week I went to see you photos all three turned out fantastic! You made 1 more cake than you are used to with as you said your hubby away and the kids home and I didn't read about any "cake" related issues? So GREAT cake week!!

Cake number 1 you asked if she liked it if you didn't want to hear you shouldn't ask I don't like negative feedback so I NEVER ask I wait for them to bring it up so far this works well for me ;o). I use edible images yeah they aren't tasty but they aren't additional flavoring they are decoration.

Cake number 2 the hula party you got excluded from, it does suck they left you out stupid to order the cake from you but it rocked so even if you weren't there everyone was talking about you (in a good way) screw them! And even if you make cakes you can't expect to be invited to every party for me personally I find it much easier to ask for my $$ when I wasn't invited as a cake maker when I'm going to the party I feel awkward like it should be a free or less. I've actually declined invitations to avoid that feeling.

Cake number 3 Very tricky situation but live and learn you'll never be unclear about payment again.

You shouldn't give up you are very talented! You are getting orders which seems to be a problem for many on here, keep it up slowly your clients will mostly be strangers that's when it is easiest since there is no doubt they better have the money CASH no checks!

Hope you are feeling better today!!

adonisthegreek1 Posted 4 Jul 2010 , 3:30pm
post #30 of 56

Never be afraid to ask for money UPFRONT. It's just good business. Your cakes are awesome. Especially the iPod and Superman cake. Also, never-ever ask someone how they liked your product. You're opening the door for complaints.

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