I apparently am the only one (I can't be but it looks like it on this thread) who gives a quote right away. First question, whether by email or phone, is what the wedding date is. Next, how many people at the reception and where will it be. After that I ask them if they have an idea about the type of cake design they're looking for, and nine times out of ten they will. That gives me an idea of whether they want something plain or fancy, and I can give them a price estimate. Then I ask if they'd like to set up a tasting appointment, and we set that up if they do. At the tasting I write up a contract, we design the cake, and I give them the price right then and send them home with the contract. If they want to hire me they send it back with the retainer, or they just give it to me at the appointment if they want to book then.
The majority of the time, our clients either don't have enough information for us to give a quote, OR their ideas are twice their budget and then we have to fiddle around scaling it back. haha. (Such as the one I have been playing ping pong with and who inspired this thread. haha.)
First question, whether by email or phone, is what the wedding date is. Next, how many people at the reception and where will it be. After that I ask them if they have an idea about the type of cake design they're looking for, and nine times out of ten they will. That gives me an idea of whether they want something plain or fancy, and I can give them a price estimate.
I think that this is a process that comes far more easily to experienced business people.
The underlying attitude that I bring to my emails about price quotes for custom work is that I am a business selling to another business. I don't want to waste their time, I send them a clear list of options and prices and ranges for the total charge.
I make applicable hourly rates clear and I provide a shortlist of work options and prices for specific examples. Running a "custom only" business means that you have to be able quote hourly rates for decorating work, and the rate should be the same for all customers.
Nine out of ten inquiries that I handle become orders. Maximum dancing around comes when bride has to get her mother's approval...
I get what you're saying about wanting things written down, but surely if you ever have to refer back, it's difficult to find the information if you're back a forth a lot anyway?
Gmail makes it really easy to find information, all you need to do is search for the name of the customer (or their email address) and all your relevant conversations appear. You can also configure Gmail to automatically check an external email address if you have your own domain, and when you send email to customers you can have the email appear to come from your custom domain.
Maximum dancing around comes when bride has to get her mother's approval...
Ain't that the truth...
Kitagirl, if they're clueless about what they want I give them a vague price range just to see if that's within the idea that they have for a budget, and if it isn't I pretty much say bye bye. I had a lady the other day call about a birthday cake, and she was describing a "willie wonka candy factory" themed cake. That left me with a lot of leeway design-wise, but I knew it would be a lot of work to do it like I'd want to. I told her the price, and she asked what I could do for less than that. I told her that the price was firm for that kind of cake. I'm not going to mess around trying to fit their budget if I know they expect one thing and a lower budget wont' be what they want, know what I mean?
If they're TOTALLY clueless I jsut give them the price range for the guest count, then I set up a tasting. You can get a much better idea of what they like when they're in the room with you. Phone and email only go so far.
[quote="costumeczar"]I apparently am the only one (I can't be but it looks like it on this thread) who gives a quote right away. [/quote
No, I agree. The ping ponging only continues for me if I don't give them a solid quote during the consultation. I've recently changed my tasting procedures. It's a little off topic, but here it is in case you're interested. First, I have the bride fill out the top of my order form with address type questions. Meanwhile, I get the groom involved and ask him how he proposed. This is one of my favorite parts, but if the bride interrupts a lot, I know she's in charge (LOL). Then we discuss budget, design, servings, location, rental stands, etc. and I start to sketch only the outline of the cake shape.
Once we've agreed on design, I go get the samples. While they eat, I'm in a different area adding and figuring out what the final cost is. I don't charge extra for different flavors or fillings because I found a good middle ground between the two. Also, the basic chocolate and vanilla cakes are always more popular than the carrot and pineapple. (Is this a good topic we should debate about next? If I it looks like they're still eating, I sketch more. When I come back, we complete the form with flavors, get signatures, they hand me the cash/check/credit card, we talk while I draw and color on the sketch, and then they walk out with a contract. I can only think of a few instances when I didn't get the money and the order.
All of this usually takes less than an hour. Today's consultation was different because of an unruly 6 year old. By the end I needed a glass of wine and two aspirin!
I too never give quotes over the phone and will spend the time to send an informative email.
When someone calls or emails me about a cake a couple things can happen...
Option #1 Small Cake Order:
Sometimes people call wanting a cake they saw on my website or they have a picture of what they want. In these cases I can give a firm price over the phone or email. Even if the cake is very detailed I can give a firm price because I know exactly what they want since I have a picture of it.
If the person sends me a picture or link to, say invitations, they want included in the design I can still usually give a firm price over phone (or email if I am responding to an email) because I can see the design. In most of these cases the client says "do whatever, just make it match" so I don't worry about sketches.
If the person wants a small custom designed cake I immediately reply "my buttercream iced cakes start at $X/serving and fondant covered cakes start at $X/serving. So for your cake to feed 30 will cost a minimum of $X to $X depending on the icing. Depending on the design the cost could go up. Is this in line with what you are thinking?"
This gives people a ballpark range right off the bat. If I am not in their budget it ends right there. If I am, then the conversation continues. At this point I give two options:
1. Either the design is up to me and I will follow their theme, color scheme... for the lower end of the price range.
2. They can get a couple quick sketches emailed to them (scanned and sent in PDF form) with options and prices that are on the mid to higher end of price.
Depending on their personality they pick what they want.
Option #2 Large Cake Order:
If the person has a picture of what they want (either from my website or a different one) and the # of servings needed I can give a price then and there. I let them know delivery is extra and if they give me the location of delivery I can give them a price for that too.
This cuts down on having everyone come in for a consultation because if they can't afford me they know (and I know) right away. Now, if they cand afford me and want a tasting - I am fine with that because it is a large order.
If the bride wants something custom design I tell her to bring to the consultation pictures of cakes she likes (for reference), color samples, and any other design elements used in the wedding (such as invitation, save the date, pattern from china or the dress...). This helps the design portion of the consultation so much because I have a path to follow. I do a quick sketch in front of them (very quick and poorly drawn) so I can look back at it later if needed. If they book right then I tell her I will design 3 sketches during the week for her to review and pick. 99% of the time the bride picks one of them without any tweeking.
If they don't book I let her know if she books I will at that time draw up 3 designs for her. Not before. Everyone has completely understood so far why I don't give everyone designs.
There are so many options for designs I feel it helps knowing what each bride likes so I don't waste time with designs that don't appeal to her. Pictures brought (or emailed for an over the phone price) are my best design friend.