Quality Vs. Quantity

Business By dm321 Updated 1 Oct 2010 , 7:46pm by Annso

dm321 Posted 30 Sep 2010 , 9:07pm
post #1 of 29

Doesnt anyone consider the caliber of work when pricing?

I see a lot of posts where people are requesting pricing advice. Seems like a lot of the feedback only accounts for the size of the cake, how detailed it is, and how much it costs to make. Although I agree with this advice, I also think its important to consider the caliber of the artist. Just because a cake may be a certain number of pieces, or may have a lot of tiny details does not mean its actually worth what someone else might be able to charge.

Ive seen a lot of cakes on this site that are pretty impressive for home-bakers & hobbyist but just because someone enjoys baking/decorating cakes (and may even do a decent job at it) does not mean they are entitled to charge an arm & a leg for them.

As a hobbyist, I feel very privileged to have access to a great site like this where not only do we get to mingle with the pros but theyre kind enough to give us advice & encourage us to keep on cakin. Ive often wondered what must go through the minds of these truly talented artists when they see mediocre (and in some cases, blatantly shoddy) cakes being passed off as if in the same category as their own amazing cake creations.

Just my thoughts... icon_redface.gif
~diem

28 replies
indydebi Posted 30 Sep 2010 , 10:21pm
post #2 of 29

I agree with you but you will find that many on here don't want a critique of their work. Many CC'ers offer pricing with caution simply because there are so many factors involved .... area of the country, competition, the market you're in, whether supplies are bought wholesale or in a grocery store, if the baker even has a walmart close to them (I knwo that sounds odd but believe it or not, walmart isn't conveniently located to everyone! icon_surprised.gif ), etc.

There have been threads in which CC'ers have suggested that the quality of the work didn't merit a particular price range and bluntly all hell broke loose. Either the argument is the baker "didn't ask for a review of the work!" or "what's quality got to do with it?"

It's an egg-shell-walking-tightrope when someone asks for advice. Sometimes we're not sure what advice they REALLY want to hear.

KimmyKakes4Me Posted 30 Sep 2010 , 10:35pm
post #3 of 29

Sometimes people need to be told straight out: "You need to practice and then maybe think about selling" Wish someone told me that way back when. It was so frustrating seeing all these people getting paid pretty good and I was stuck at crap prices. The aluminum foil covered cardboards, bulgy fondant and crooked star tip piping didn't help either.

Elcee Posted 30 Sep 2010 , 10:36pm
post #4 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by dm321

Doesnt anyone consider the caliber of work when pricing?

Just my thoughts... icon_redface.gif
~diem




I agree, I am sometimes surprised at the quality of cakes that are even sold (not just here, but in general), never mind priced at top dollar! JMHO! icon_wink.gif

dm321 Posted 30 Sep 2010 , 10:38pm
post #5 of 29

IndyDebi - it's interesting that you should be the one to reply... You are among the handful of "pros" I truely look up to! So thanks for the response!

I'm fascinated that more people don't feel this way. To me, the quality of the work is the most important part when it comes to pricing... Maybe one day I'll be lucky enough to charge for my cakes. Until then, I'm going to practice and make sure they will be worhty of it when it comes to that! icon_rolleyes.gif

Thanks for the response!
~diem

dreamcakesmom Posted 30 Sep 2010 , 10:51pm
post #6 of 29

I agree with Indydeb, a lot uf people do appreciate critical feedback as this is really the only way to improve one's skills however a lot of people just want to show their work and help give ideas to others. When it comes to pricing- yes in many ways quality merits higher prices, most of us can;t charge what PCB or RBI or other big names can charge because of their reputations. However sometimes location has more to do with it- A hobby baker in NYC could probably get more for a "grocery style" cake than a professional doing custom work in a very rural small town location

indydebi Posted 30 Sep 2010 , 11:35pm
post #7 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by dm321

IndyDebi - it's interesting that you should be the one to reply... You are among the handful of "pros" I truely look up to! So thanks for the response!


heck, i'm still trying to get to the Edna and Sugarshack and leah_s quality level! icon_lol.gif

LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 12:13am
post #8 of 29

This is such an interesting topic, and I have had the same questions. On the one hand, people say to never undercut your local competition, but on the other hand, should you charge the same as your local competition if you are not at the same level they are skill-wise? Pricing is such a hard thing because it's pretty subjective, and it can be so dependent on so many different factors.

I guess my biggest question is how do I determine how much my time is worth as a cake decorator, based on my skill level and quality of work?

costumeczar Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 12:37am
post #9 of 29

Better decorators can definitely charge more than beginners. I think that there are a good number of people on both sides of the issue, though. I've seen plenty of awful decorators who are charging a lot of money, and plenty of people who are very good who seem to have no confidence so they're not charging enough.

Neither one is going to be in business long since you can't underprice and earn enough to make it worth your time (plus you'll be overworked if too many people find out that you're the bargain basement of bakers), and you can't overprice for crappy work and expect anyone to pay you.

If you're running a bakery then you'd have to hire employees, and the more skilled ones would cost more to hire. Assuming that you actually end up paying yourself a wage if you're running your own business, the better you are the more you should be getting paid, right? You have to figure out your own pricing based on your expenses, etc., but your salary should be part of that equation. The better you are, the more you should be able to charge.

JohnnyCakes1966 Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 12:47am
post #10 of 29

The flip side to this argument is: So many people shop based on price. They're willing to buy an "OK" cake if the price is low. With that in mind, if decorators priced based on skill, the average skilled decorator would probably get more business than the highly skilled ones because their "OK" cakes are cheaper. (This isn't at all a slam against Wal-Mart or grocery store decorators, but those cakes are fairly simply decorated, and they sell well because they're relatively inexpensive.)

Also, you also have to factor in taste. Some people are willing to pay more for a cake that's decorated "OK" if it tastes amazing. Personally, I wouldn't pay top dollar for an amazingly decorated cake if the cake itself doesn't taste very good or is dry as a bone.

costumeczar Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 2:22am
post #11 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyCakes1966

The flip side to this argument is: So many people shop based on price. They're willing to buy an "OK" cake if the price is low. With that in mind, if decorators priced based on skill, the average skilled decorator would probably get more business than the highly skilled ones because their "OK" cakes are cheaper. (This isn't at all a slam against Wal-Mart or grocery store decorators, but those cakes are fairly simply decorated, and they sell well because they're relatively inexpensive.)

Also, you also have to factor in taste. Some people are willing to pay more for a cake that's decorated "OK" if it tastes amazing. Personally, I wouldn't pay top dollar for an amazingly decorated cake if the cake itself doesn't taste very good or is dry as a bone.




Very true. A lot of people around here shop for price and are willing to buy less skilled work if it's a little less expensive. They'll never be the ones to hire the best decorators, though, so it's a different client base. It's tricky to start picking reasons why people buy certain things apart.

dm321 Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 2:23am
post #12 of 29

This is something that pops into my head every time I see the pricing discussions. It also pops into my head every time I see a sloppy cake and realize it was made by someone who makes them for a living.

I really think it's an interesting topic and love to see all the points of view. I also realize its a touchy subject So thanks, everyone, for participating in my discussion!

~diem

littlecake Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 6:21am
post #13 of 29

a lot of people don't have an eye for what looks good either ....it's amazing what people will buy.

emrldsky Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 10:26am
post #14 of 29

My cakes have flaws (*GASP* "OMG! Did she just say that??" "She's talking about her own cakes." "Oh, phew!!"), and I'm nowhere near the level of expertise as some of my competition around here.

But, I started my business with the idea that the more cakes I do, the better I'll get. I wanted to be legit, out of my home, because I didn't want the HD to shut me down before I could get more experience. And let's face it, those who do it for no profit most likely won't be able to do that many cakes due to the out-of-pocket costs.

That being said, I don't charge as much as my competition. I'm a new business, I don't want to overwhelm myself (a slow, steady climb is perfectly ok with me) and I know I need to work on my skills.

I think the thing to focus on isn't so much hacking people down when they ask pricing questions, but maybe letting people know that it's OK not to be totally awesome right away...that building that experience over time is perfectly alright, and even charging for it is fine.

Now that I've said all that...I do want to add that while I might not be as good as my competition, there is a bakery near me that needs to work on smoothing their butter cream. *shudder* Even my first Wilton cake was smoother than some of the pieces they've sent out the door. icon_wink.gif

kger Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 11:56am
post #15 of 29

It's funny how the friends and family that see my cakes rave and rave and tell me I should go into business, and when I tell them I wouldn't make enough money, they think I'm out of my gourd. But when I show them a photo of a professional cake compared to my hobby cake, then they get it. It pains me to out myself as an amateur to the muggles out there, but it's got to be done. They're really aghast when I tell them how much I *could* charge for one of my custom scratch cakes if I thought my quality were up to par, because these are grocery-store cake people for the most part.

And I am going to have to stay far away from grocery store bakeries because it is getting too hard to bite my tongue and keep my mouth shut when I see people inquring about cakes. I want to scream, "NO! Don't do it! I can bake you something INCREDIBLE!" and then I remember I'm not there yet. This one woman was at Safeway yesterday asking about the size and price of a half versus a full sheet cake, and I had to keep saying to myself, "Not your customer. Not your customer. Not your customer."

jenmat Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 3:29pm
post #16 of 29

I know that aesthetically people have very different tastes. What is "perfect" to one person, is a total mess to another.

What I don't get is why you would go into business unless you are an expert in the field. Customers shouldn't be guinea pigs.

I have my share of "I'm not good enough" days, don't get me wrong. But I'm still a business, and every cake that goes out my door needs to scream "professional." Do I still have a lot to learn? Of course! But again, a paid-for cake needs to look professional- clean lines, straight writing, good colors. Does this take practice? You bet, and so does everything you do in life. Is it expensive to learn? You got it, but it is the price you have to pay when you want to be in business.

I think people are putting the cart before the horse when they go into business and admit they are "practicing," or "still learning," and therefore aren't going to charge very much.

Giving pricing advice based on what I would do vrs a beginner asking the advice should be irrelevant- if they are a beginner, they shouldn't be pricing at all.

I know, I know, I'm being a little harsh and black and white. I still struggle with the business end of it, and there are times I need advice on that. But when you enter a specific business without knowing exactly how to make said product look professional, then you're in over your head and it drives me nuts.

indydebi Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 4:00pm
post #17 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by jentreu

I think people are putting the cart before the horse when they go into business and admit they are "practicing," or "still learning," and therefore aren't going to charge very much.

Giving pricing advice based on what I would do vrs a beginner asking the advice should be irrelevant- if they are a beginner, they shouldn't be pricing at all.


Perhaps we should look at the cake business in the same sense we'd hire another professional......

Plumber: "Yeah, the pipes might leak when I'm done, but I just got started and I'm still practicing, so that's why my price is lower."

Doctor: "Appendix .... gall bladder .... I'm not sure which is which, but one of them will come out and you might feel better. But since I'm new at this, that's why I'm giving you a sweet deal on the price."

Mechanic: "Sure, I can replace your brakes. I've only done it a couple of times and the last person slammed into a tree because I'm still practicing, but that's why I price myself a little lower than the norm, until I get better at this."

Now please .... this is all tongue-in-cheek so take it with the humor that it's given. icon_biggrin.gif no one has to be a Norm Davis or a Sylvia Weinstock before going into business. But there's definitely a starting line that should be crossed before hanging the "open" sign. thumbs_up.gif

I shudder to think how much I spent in free cakes before I thought I was good enough to sell a wedding cake. icon_redface.gif

costumeczar Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 4:47pm
post #18 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi


I shudder to think how much I spent in free cakes before I thought I was good enough to sell a wedding cake. icon_redface.gif




It was amazing to me that after I opened a business checking account and started paying for my cake stuff from that, that we suddenly had a lot more money in the household budget. icon_wink.gif


And @kger, I've actually told people in the Wilton aisle at Michael's that they did NOT want to buy that can of icing. By the time I was done telling her how nasty it was she would have been too embarrassed to buy it!

LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 5:07pm
post #19 of 29

so here's my question...how do you know when you're "good enough"?? I am a total obsessive perfectionist about anything creative I do, and I am definitely my own worst critic (as far as I know anyway... icon_wink.gif ) so how do I know if I am truly horrible or if I am just being impossibly hard on myself?

kger Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 5:07pm
post #20 of 29

Yay, @costumeczar. Now, how to convince the supermarket bakery customers to consider supporting their local custom bakers?

emrldsky Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 5:36pm
post #21 of 29

I guess I should clarify what I meant. icon_smile.gif

I wasn't saying that I started my business to use my clients as guinea pigs, that's what family is for. icon_wink.gif I guess what I was saying is that I see my flaws, I know my current limits and strengths. I'm not to the level of the caking-greats, but I feel confident in my own abilities. I've seen my competition (nice, commercial bakery) and they can do things I can't do. But like I said before, they also can't smooth their butter cream cakes and I can.

Anything that goes out my door with my business name on it (i.e., for a client) is clean and professional (http://www.cakecentral.com/cake-photo_1680548.html). Anything I'm experimenting with for family or friends, gratis, is where I learn new techniques. Or for myself (http://www.cakecentral.com/cake-photo_1745566.html).

I also would never promise a client I could deliver something professional if it would be my first time attempting a high-technical level. For example, if I had someone ask me to make them a topsy-turvy cake next week, I would find a way to explain, politely, that they might seek out a decorator who is more proficient (although it's on my list of "cakes to do for guinea pigs"). No one wants to end up on Cake Wrecks, unless it's Sunday.

Another example...I had someone ask me to make a 3d squirrel cake. I explained that although I didn't feel it was my area of expertise, I could do a squirrel-themed cake that WAS in my area of expertise. Did he order from me? Nope. But not because of my alternative, but because he ran out of time. icon_wink.gif His poor wife didn't get any cake. icon_sad.gif

So I guess what I'm saying is...there's a level of professionalism that goes beyond decorating ability, and you should never sell a client something that you wouldn't actually pay money for yourself.

TexasSugar Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 5:51pm
post #22 of 29

I think the quality part comes into play in the profit section of the equation.

Honestly you can't change less than the costs/labor or you might as well not even bother doing cakes. But you can increase the amount of profit you want as your work improves or the design warrants it.

Edited to add:

I do think when it comes to labor the person pricing their cakes need to be realistic about it. If someone is newer and slower they may have to take a bit of a hit there because it wouldn't be fair to the customer to pay for 8 hours of work when it probably could have been done in 6. And like any other job, "entry level pay" is always lower and you get raises as your skills increase.

TrixieTreats Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 6:07pm
post #23 of 29

I agree with TexasSugar...isn't this an example of standard Economics. You can apply this idea to anything. People start businesses, whether it is a service or a product. The laws of demand with weed out the lesser of the businesses and only the talented, experienced, quality products or services will stand the test of time. That is the beauty of a free market. Anyone is free and able to start a business (within legal guidelines) and it is up to them to continue and prosper. 9 out of 10 businesses fail...in any industry...whether that has to do with motivation, product quality, knowledge, customer service, or pure business sense.

All the better for the people who are wonderful at what they do. Those amateurs that are selling the poor quality cakes will make their clients run into the shops of those who are great, and eventually run themselves out of business. And, if not, their clients are content enough to stick with them, so...whatever.

costumeczar Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 6:47pm
post #24 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by kger

Yay, @costumeczar. Now, how to convince the supermarket bakery customers to consider supporting their local custom bakers?




Heh heh heh...You can't convince most of them, because if they're used to the prices of supermarket cakes and are willing to go with that quality, they don't care. If someone cared about the taste of a cake they'd go to a specialty bakery, at least. If they don't really care about it, they'll just shop for price, but that wouldn't be your customer anyway.

Some of them could be convinced by trying a better-quality cake, but maybe not if price is the main issue.

Let me use a car analogy...We once went down to a friend's parents' house for the weekend, and his parents were pretty wealthy. On the way there we drove in his Peugeot, which we all thought was a really nice car on the way down there. Then we spent the weekend driving around in his mother's Mercedes, and at the end of the weekend the Peugeot felt like a little tin can. If you're used to something that you think is nice, then you see what else is out there, your point of reference changes and you might not be satisfied with what you thought was good after that.

People who stick to grocery store cakes aren't looking for the quality, they're looking at the price. If they go somewhere and have a cake that actually tastes good and looks good too, they might realize that there's more out there, but that type of client tends to order based on price and convenience, so it isn't always going to be possible to change their minds.

indydebi Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 7:02pm
post #25 of 29

To add to costume's great car analogy ......

I used to have a job where I averaged 3 days a week on a plane (that didnt' count the days in a hotel!). I flew standard coach because it saved the company money, of course (i.e. Walmart cake).

Hubby and I went to Vegas for the Baker's Convention a couple of years ago. On the way home, the airline ran a special for an upgrade to first class (customized cake) for a ridiculously low rate. We jumped on it.

Oh. My. God. I dont' care what it costs me, I am NEVER flying coach again! It's first class or nothing!

My point of reference didnt' include first class flying. But once I experienced the difference .... man oh man there is no turning back! thumbs_up.gif

jenmat Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 7:04pm
post #26 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by CakeMasterSRC

so here's my question...how do you know when you're "good enough"?? I am a total obsessive perfectionist about anything creative I do, and I am definitely my own worst critic (as far as I know anyway... icon_wink.gif ) so how do I know if I am truly horrible or if I am just being impossibly hard on myself?




I am NOT an expert on how good is good enough. We all have room to improve. I'm nowhere near any of the greats out there. However, I guess my thought would be- can you deliver a consistently good product that total strangers are proud to present on the most important days of their lives? (wedding, 1st bday, baby shower, etc.), and can you deliver it in a timeframe that allows you to make a profit?

Those are questions only you in good conscience can answer. When a product goes out my door, I try and look at it objectively and say, "yes, I would be proud to serve that."

There will be flaws, and I can't tell you how many times I've lain awake at night and thought about how I would do a certain cake differently next time. But my customers would never know that, and that is what's important.

When I see questions in the business section about "my first wedding cake, how much do I charge?" it does drive me nuts. My thought is not how much do you charge, but can you do it well? If you don't know how much to charge, what else don't you know? I mean, fine, go ahead, ask away- those of you that graciously answer the questions, I applaud you!

We all start somewhere. I get that. What I don't get is when someone is starting they are trying to start at the top and not the bottom. Gotta have a firm foundation.

Indy- man, the money I spent on learning could have probably put me through culinary school!!!

Great topic btw~
jen

julesh268 Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 7:12pm
post #27 of 29

I'm not in the bizz...just a hobby right now and having a lot of fun doing it. I wanted to chim in and say that I don't think you need to be an EXPERT to start your business. I do believe you need to know your limitations, be honest with the quality of your work (and show examples of your work), and be willing to decline an order if it is out of your skill leve. Bottom line, unless you are in high demand...you don't get to demand high prices.

My point is, people ask me to build them cakes (like Cake Boss style) and I say no. I have zero desire to make a dog, squirl, house, boat, etc. I want to make a cake that looks like a cake. If I tried, it would look terrible. I know my strengths and will work on perfecting them. But I have a good friend Suzieq929 on here who will try anything and does great work.

CWR41 Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 7:19pm
post #28 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by emrldsky

...you should never sell a client something that you wouldn't actually pay money for yourself.




thumbs_up.gif

Annso Posted 1 Oct 2010 , 7:46pm
post #29 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by julesh268

Bottom line, unless you are in high demand...you don't get to demand high prices.




I love this one thumbs_up.gif

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