Hello, all --
After many, many months of reading multiple threads on cake pricing and such, I feel I have a good understanding of what to charge in my area for custom-designed cakes. I am still just really starting out, and operate under CFL, but I have learned through the CC community that just because I'm a home baker doesn't mean my time and skill is less valuable than that of a "real" bakery. I have done good work so far (both in taste and looks), and I don't take on anything I don't think I can handle.
My question is, what do you do when you are first met with that initial shock of how much a custom cake costs? I live in a rural/suburban area, and I had my first official consultation with someone other than a close friend or relative, so I quoted her an actual (that is, without the "friend discount") price. I won't get into detail about what I quoted, but please know that I researched multiple bakeries in the area that make custom cakes and my per-serving price was definitely within reason (on the lower end of the range I found in my research, but not low enough to undercut the others). The client agreed to my price, but there was definitely some awkward silence and a bit of a deer-in-the-headlights look when I told her what the cost would be. She admitted she really had no idea what to expect in the way of cake cost, except for "grocery store cakes," and of course she expected my price to be higher than that.
Do any of you have a specific reply when someone is totally shocked by the price you quote, or do you just not worry about it? Any advice would be helpful!
Thanks so much!
I am in the same position as you, I had the same situation last week with my first wedding cake order.
If you have done your research and you are charging less then what the bakeries in your area are charging, like you said, then do not worry at all.
I think like many of us, until you actually work in the industry, or you go to order a custom cake, you do not actually realize how much they cost.
Sometimes you will get the orders, other times it will be out of the customers budget and you wont. But its better to let that order go then under value yourself, because in the long term if you are giving each customer different prices for the same order it will just look really bad.
What you can say, if they really look uncomfortable, or want to go away and think about it is ask if they have a budget, what is it, and that maybe you could offer something a little different to suit that budget.
One of the best advice I was given was to give people an idea what a cake costs with basic decoration- for example I tell people my 8" cake covered in fondant with letters on it saying 'happy birthday Jack' starts at £xx. Then say, are you happy for me to come up with several ideas and quotes based on your theme, or something along the lines of 'did you have a budget in mind'. More often than not, either people don't have a budget, or the budget they have in mind is way too low for a custom cake. Then, knowing what your prices start at, they kind of get the idea that the cake they want will be more.
For those who say they are happy to proceed knowing what my prices are for basic cakes, and ask me to come up with design ideas, I give 3 quotes ranging from the cheapest, basic design to mid range design and cost, to sky's the limit in terms of design and cost.
Acompare to local restaurant desserts: for example dominoes used to have two chocolate lava cakes for five bucks -- that's $2.50 per serving without any decor so for your 100 servings ms. bride that would cost you $250 to feed your guests -- on the other hand at houston's dessert is $7 a plate so dessert from there for 100 would be $700 -- i"m only at $550 and this will not only be a mouth watering dessert it will be the stunning and aromatic focal point of the reception --
best to you
Thanks to everyone for their advice. You all are pretty much stating what I thought, but have given me some good ways to explain it to the client. I think this particular client is getting everything on the cheap for her event (the hall, dj, photo booth, food, etc.) because she "knows someone who knows someone." She is a relative of a coworker, and I think she expected me to do the same, even though we've never even spoken before.
Actually, we did discuss the budget she had in mind (after the initial stunned silence!), and it was not that far off (but still lower) than what I was quoting. I offered her some other options to get her closer to her budget, but she eventually agreed to go with the larger quote to get exactly what she wanted.
I think it will all work out in the end. I assured her that her money would be well-spent, that I care very deeply about giving people the best possible product. She seemed happy with the final decision. I'm just a bit of a people-pleaser I guess and don't want anybody to feel they're being ripped off, but at the same time I'm ready to make some money at this!
Thanks again for the advice!
AI'm on the high end of pricing for sure, and definitely don't have time for people to come in without a good idea of cost. So that gets discussed on the phone or thru email before we ever sit down. Nothing more embarrassing for them to get thru a consultation only to find out it's hundreds over their budget, and aggravating for me to have spent that time.
So figure out a way to weed thru the requests that aren't going to result in a sale, and giving a ballpark price before consultations are arranged is a good way.
I have to say I just had the "silence" situation this morning!!!
Random person wanting a diaper bag cake with several items around, for 50 people, she heard the price and.. SILENCE.
I asked her what was her budget and was half of the price.
So I nicely explained her that cake involves a lot of time (oh did I mention she needs it for saturday morning?), skills.. blah blah blah.. and I actually thought she got my point!
Then she said "I'll let you know in 30 minutes!"
I'm still here waiting for a text..
If someone can't afford it, they can't afford it. People honestly have no idea how much custom cakes cost, so don't worry about it as long as you know your pricing is right for your costs etc. The silence is probably surprise, but oh well. I have people who tell me that my price is out of their budget, then the next person will tell me that I'm not charging enough. Everyone has different budgets, their budget just might be too low for your pricing, doesn't mean that your prices are wrong.
More wonderful advice and assurance that I am on the right track.
Now that I'm trying harder to build up my business, I'll be getting a website together and will have a good deal about pricing on there. I think that will help with the "weeding out" in the future, or at least give people some sort of idea about price before we sit down and nail out the details on an actual order. And I've already gotten past that "I'll charge next to nothing just so I can get the order" phase....that gets old really fast! It's funny, people tell me I should "make a living" doing cakes, but are shocked at the price to do precisely that!
My husband used a good analogy....we would love to drive a Cadillac with all the bells and whistles, but we drive a Kia. :) We wouldn't go the Cadillac dealer and be like, well, the Kia dealer down the road is charging this much, can you sell me your top model for the same (or less)? Of course not. Custom cakes, while beautiful and delicious, are not a necessity, and I shouldn't feel bad charging a fair price for my time and effort.
Thanks again for all the valuable feedback. You guys are great!
OP~~What a refreshing post! I wish you well in your cake endeavor. I hobby bake, but was involved in medical equipment sales for chronic pain patients and then with severely disabled children. The joy of caking is a wonderful antidote to the concern of "taking work home with you".
I am blessed with sufficient income to be able to spend money on my hobby and give away my cakes and chocolates. I hope you are able to find the niche that will make you happy. I looked at your profile, but only saw one photo. Do you have a website with more photos? It would be fun to see your work.
I would have to say, is make a list of everything that the client would like on their custom cake. Go down the list with them, tell them how much it would cost do each thing, and possibly write down like a ballpark frame of how many labor hours it would take, just so they can see exactly why you are charging what you charge. In the end people still may not understand about the pricing, but at least you can say, this is how it comes out to be that total, because of all the detail and work that goes into it.
@Apti: no website yet, but soon, hopefully. Most of my pictures are just on my phone/tablet, so they don't really have the "professional" look I would like to have out there on the web. Plus, my phone got stolen about a year ago, and I had a ton more pictures on it that I had not yet uploaded to my computer, so I was back to square one. But here are a few cakes that I particularly enjoyed doing.
What a shame about the camera/photos loss. Those are nice cakes.
AI know you don't have a website yet, but once you do I would recommend listing starting prices on it. That helps weed people out with a budget lower than your starting price.
Glad I read this, there is some great advice on how to try and avoid shock, thanks! I always try to include an estimated time that I will spending on their cake (if it is a $pricey$ one) that seems to help put things into perspective.
I think one of the best things before even going away and spending time costing a cake, is to discover just how much the potential customer is thinking that they will have to pay. By having some example pictures and saying the approximate cost of the designs created previously, they will understand the very rough cost they are looking at. It is all about making the customer feel comfortable with their choice - and understand that it takes a lot of time to create these designs. I for one had no clue how much the ingredients were to make a wedding cake, when my sister offered to make mine (prior to me studying cake craft) I nearly had a fit a few years later, after doing evening classes and then starting to do wedding cakes myself, just how much the base ingredients were for a three tier rich fruit cake. The general public just in general have little idea, how fast it all adds up. Even the boxes and the boards and ribbons add on a fair amount - and they wont even have thought of that! But finding out their rough idea and budget - saves a lot of wasted time, costing up a cake which will be ultimately rejected. People wont ask you if they have an approximate idea of your prices before they even start. But getting the right quality of customer is also key too.
Often, the sticker shock comes when a person sees a listed per-serving starting price, but the final price is quite a bit more than they figured in their head.
The best way to avoid this is to set your per-serving price as if for a nicely decorated cake, and have a minimum order amount. This will do two things - stop the sticker shock, and enable your customers do their own self-vetting before they even make the phone call.
From my own example, my starting price will buy a cake anyone would love to order for their special occasion. I add additional fees for above-and-beyond decorating, special fillings, and when the design will take much greater time, effort or creativity than average. Nobody gets a less-than-beautiful cake, so my price is set for what I am actually selling. My typical customer already anticipates the price I might quote them before contacting me, and often they are overestimating. (Because inviting 100 people doesn't mean they need 100 servings.)
Customers don't understand what goes into making the cakes, nor should they bother. If they want ordinary, they go to the grocery store. Since nobody expects to order a boring, unimpressive cake from a custom decorator, I always thought that it's dishonest to state a low starting price then add tons of additional costs just to make it pretty, or stacked, or flavored... it's like a bait and switch scam.
Your cakes are just lovely. I wish you great success!
This is a great discussion and I agree whole-heartedly with @AZCouture - prequalify your clients before you ever waste their or (more importantly) your time.
Whether it's done via e-mail, phone, or web submission I always ask about servings and budget. If budget divided by servings is less than or very close to my minimum, then I have a quick discussion with the client and tell them that if their budget can't go up or their servings can't go down then there's no need for us to proceed.
In the beginning I found that posting prices and # of servings with my cake pictures on my website cut out a lot of those sticker shock "Wow, people pay MORE than $20 for cake?!?" calls.
Thanks everyone for continuing to chime in with your advice! Definitely some great tips that I will be using in future dealings with clients.
Just a little followup -- the client who initially sparked this discussion (the one with the sticker-shock) absolutely LOVED the cake I made. She told me it was worth every penny and she would definitely be ordering from me in the future and referring her family and friends to me.
I think in the end the quality of the cake is what will convince people that it is worth the cost, and as I continue to get positive feedback I will get more and more comfortable discussing price/budget right up front before we get into the details of what they want. Until now, I had been doing that a little backwards -- having someone give me their grand plan and then me figuring a price -- one that was compatible with the work involved, but not so much with the client's intended budget.
After going through this discussion, though, I realize my next important step is to get that website up. That way, potential customers can review it and know about the pricing right off the bat, and if my price is outside the desired budget, they can discuss other options or simply walk away, no harm, no foul.
Again, thanks to everyone who has taken the time to respond!