Tips You Must Know To Start Selling Cakes from Home
If you want to start a cake business, here are tips you must know to start selling cakes from home. Start off prepared by learning food safety, cottage food laws, best practices for selling baked goods and how to prepare mentally.
Now, this is not an exhausted list. There are many things to think about when starting a business, particularly a food business.
First off I’ll say that I’m not a lawyer and not an accountant, so always get advice from a professional before making a final decision. I’m also not the premier expert on running a cake business, but I did manage to run mine for several years while working full time and I learned a thing or two.
I want to share some tips I found helpful when I was selling cakes from home and some words of encouragement.
Ok, here we go… (oh by the way, I also made a handy tip sheet you can print out for free that lists all my tips. You can find the sign up for that close to the bottom of the post.)
CHECK THE LAWS:
Before ever selling any type of food from you home, you definitely want to check out your laws. Just because you see people selling food from their homes on Facebook, doesn’t mean it’s legal.
Don’t trust that those other people have done their homework. You’re the one that has to pay for your mistakes, so look out for yourself and do your own research.
Google your state laws on selling food items from home. Does your state have a cottage food law? If so, what does it say? Do you need a separate kitchen? Can you sell anything, or just goods that aren’t perishable? What about label requirements?
Know your laws…get familiar with them. In Texas, we have a cottage food law. That means we can sell food out of our homes, but it cannot be food that must be refrigerated.
When I was selling cakes from my home, that really put a limit on the types of cakes and fillings that I could sell. Sometimes you’ll just have to get creative.
This isn’t something you want to ignore though. Lawsuits are the real deal and if you’re just a sole proprietor, then your personal money is at stake…not just the business’s money. Be really careful to follow the law.
I don’t know about other states, but if you’re in Texas, here’s a link to our cottage food law: Texas Cottage Food Law
I also can’t stress enough how important it is to obey the labeling rules as well. Your state or local government may have specific things you must put on labels (Texas does). Now, you can’t go putting a label on the actual cake, but you can attach a label to a cake box that you bring with you.
It may seem aggravating, but really the law is there to protect people. I have a tree nut allergy (which is why you don’t see many cakes with nuts on my blog) and frankly I am one of those people who really appreciate allergy labels on foods.
This is another ‘cover your butt’ move. I didn’t have insurance for the longest time and it really made me nervous. My day job is working as a law librarian, so I see first hand the crazy amount of lawsuits that go on.
Sometimes it could be a simple mistake on your part, or the client got buyer’s remorse and wants to retaliate. Who knows, but if you have some type of insurance, that kind of gives you a little more peace of mind.
I ended up getting FLIP, which is Food Liability Insurance Program, through World Events Insurance Solutions. I paid by the year and it wasn’t too expensive.
Here is a link to their website: FLIP – Food Liability Insurance Program
DECIDE WHAT YOU’LL OFFER:
You’ll want to decide what kind of cakes you want to offer (or at least have a good idea). You can always adjust later on once you get some experience under your belt.
So figure out: Do you only want to do birthday cakes? Wedding cakes? Cupcakes or cake pops? Only buttercream cakes or will you offer fondant cakes? Will you include delivery or charge for it? What about flowers?
You don’t have to have every single detail worked out, but have an idea going in of what you like to do and what you really don’t want to do. You don’t have to take orders for cakes you don’t like making. If you hate working with fondant, then only offer buttercream cakes.
You can always widen your offerings later if you find you really want to branch out and you get more experience.
PERFECT YOUR BASIC RECIPES:
You want to get your basic cake recipes together and perfect them. You don’t have to figure out every single type of recipe that you’ll ever offer, but get your basic recipes down and make sure you’re happy with them.
You at least want a basic menu of flavors you’ll offer. Of course, you’ll get requests for unique flavors and you can take on the challenge if you want to at that point, but at least get the basics like vanilla, chocolate, marble, or whatever is popular in your area, perfected.
Ok, I know you know this, but I have to say it. Practice first before you ever start selling cakes. Don’t start before you’re ready. Now that doesn’t mean you have to know everything, but you do need to be comfortable with the basics and have those down.
You also don’t want to wait forever either, because you’re never going to know everything. Even those famous cakers out there don’t know everything. I mean they know a ton, but they are still learning and experimenting.
Practice your basic cakes. You should have your basic cake decorating skills down like how to cover cakes in buttercream, stacking cakes etc.
DETERMINE YOUR PRICING STRUCTURE:
Have a good idea of how you’ll price your cakes. There are many different ways you can price your cakes.
You don’t have to use just one specific kind of pricing method. For example, charging by the serving, won’t really work that well for a super intricate cake that takes way more work than a simple iced cake, but that has the same amount of servings. So, don’t advertise that your cakes are $2.50 per slice (or whatever price) because then you’ll box yourself into a corner. You can always use a ‘per slice’ amount to help you quote a cake, but personally, I never said “my cakes are x amount per slice”. I just made a quote for the entire thing.
Most clients do think it’s the amount of servings that cause the price to go up and that can be true to a point, but mainly it’s the amount of work involved for that particular design.
You can also set up a pricing structure that states the prices of plain buttercream cakes for 6″, 8″ and 10″ cakes…then add on from there if you want.
If you try to be the cheap cake person, you will work yourself to death and feel unappreciated and resentful at the same time. You will lose your love of cake making.
The Cake Boss has a good article on how to charge if you want to check it out. Here’s the link to it: Cake Boss’s How Much Should I Charge for my Cakes
This is just one of those things that is going to take some practice. Don’t beat yourself up if you undercharge a few times. It’s going to happen. Just reassess and make a promise to yourself not to undervalue your work next time.
You will get better and faster at quoting prices, the longer you do it.
TRACK YOUR FINANCES FROM THE BEGINNING:
Start bookkeeping from the very beginning and don’t forget about taxes. If you’re not sure how taxes will affect you, do a google search for your country and state, or go to your local tax office and ask.
You don’t have to get fancy. You can just keep a simple spreadsheet at first in excel or google sheets, which is free to use. Later on, you can then move up to something more fancy like QuickBooks or Freshbooks or something similar.
Make sure to track your income and expenses from the beginning. If you get a separate bank account, it’s much easier to keep track that way.
TAKE GOOD PICTURES:
You don’t have to get fancy and spend a ton of money on a new camera. You can use your phone.
You can get a couple vinyl backdrops if you want and take pictures next to a natural light source. Turn off your inside lights if they have the yellow bulbs. The yellow bulbs are what makes pictures look terrible. Try to take pics next to a window.
There are also lots of photo editing apps you can use now that can really do some amazing things.
I do have a post that goes through some simple tips to take cake pics. You can find that here: Practical Tips for Photographing Cakes Plus Editing
I have since changed up some things since that post, but it’s still a very good place to start.
Here’s just a bonus note: Don’t send any ‘in progress’ shots to the client. You may be excited and want to share with them how the cake is coming along, or how this topper you made is coming along, but most of the time that backfires on you.
The couple times I did it, it totally backfired. They’ll want to change things completely up even though you made the design they asked for and agreed to. You’ll be out more money and more time.
It’s also hard for the client to see your vision, so sending ‘in progress’ pics can panic them because they are seeing the middle, but in your mind you see the end result.
If they ask you for an in progress picture, just use your best judgement on it. I certainly wouldn’t be rude. Honestly though, most people do not ask for that.
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