I live in an area where there is little to no competition for nice cakes. There are few decorators within an hour radius, and most of them amateur at best... like cakewrecks level amateur. By no means am I a professional, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with people who are just starting out with decorating, but some of the pictures they show off as "professional-level cakes" make me cringe. Think crooked, melting lettering and ninja turtle masks colored in with color pen scribbles. I have no pictures on this computer at the moment to upload, but I take a lot of pride in my work and am very detail oriented. I know a lot of techniques and am always striving to learn new ones to incorporate into my work. I know that I'll have a lot of interested people once pictures of my work make the rounds and they know that there's a decent designer in town, but I'm stumped with how to set my prices.
I have no idea what others in the area charge (I'm almost afraid to ask) but once I find out, how do I take that into account at the same time as the difference in skill level? Because they're the only ones around, most people here think that they're just the bee's knees, and I have no idea how a higher price would go over. Should I just work off of the local big box prices? I know I truly won't know until I just throw a price range out there, but has anyone been in a similar situation as me?
I can't/won't advise you on pricing. There are some on here who can explain how to figure pricing and I'm sure they will be jumping up & down to tell you.
One of your comments stuck a note in me.
........most people here think that they're just the bee's knees, and I have no idea how a higher price would go over....
Once your work gets known even a little I would think the people who are just waiting for something better to come along will find you. Yes, there will always be those who will bulk at higher prices but there is a nitch just looking for the better/best. Would you rather sell 10 $50 cakes in a week (lots and lots of work for a little profit) or one or 2 $100 ones (some work for lots of profit)?
Most people probably won't beat a path to your door but ...... consider the above ^^^.
Yeah, don't price too low, which is what you'd be doing if you used the big box stores are a guideline. Once you figure out how much you have to make to make a profit (which is materials+expenses+salary+profit) use that as the base price. Then look around to see what other people are charging. If they're at half of what you'd have to be at to make a profit stick with what you figured out for yourself, but if they're close to that (which isn't likely these days) you should raise yours some.
So I messaged the main "cake lady" in town today and she charges $2-$3 for bc and $3.50-$7 -- seven effing dollars -- for fondant. I'm totally dumbfounded. I really wish I could post some pictures of this $7/serving work just to drive my point home. So do I charge more than $7 an hour?? That sounds crazy high to me for an area where rent is so low.
I'd charge more than that for the buttercream, but it depends what she's providing for the $7 a serving. It sounds you could match that price and provide a better product and people would be happy. Definitely don't go less than $3 for buttercream, though, that's low. However, you have to take your local market into account so use those numbers, plus your own numbers, and come up with something that you're happy with.
Wow those ARE very low prices. I'd come up a bit and as costum said, even if you charged only 7/serving and provided a better product you will have them beating a swift path to your door. Be prepared to *work* :)