Cake and Clients
When you are immersed in an industry like cake decorating you can easily see the passion and pride within it.
You can, however, also see the indifferent attitude of those outside the inner circle.
And who can blame them? Let’s face it, most people only need a cake a couple of times a year. They don’t live, breathe and dream icing sugar. They have little interest in the fact that you have spent hours/days/millennia on their cake. They just want a moment of personal celebration and a face full of Death by Chocolate!
But when passion and indifference collide, ie when client meets creator, what are the gems that Cake Artists would most want their customers to understand?
Bear with me – I’ll get it all off your chest for you:
1. IT’S ONLY CAKE
Darned right it’s only cake. It isn’t clay. We’re not magicians? Do people have any idea how hard it is to make something special out of cake? To stack it, to carve it, to support it, to cover it? The answer is most likely NO!
Because no matter how complementary the client is about their cake, it’s only Cake Artists who appreciate just how much time, effort and know-how has gone into their creation.
No doubt that’s why Cake Artists always feel undervalued. It’s not because clients are rude. It’s just because they don’t realise.
And supermarkets don’t help. If you can grab a factory-made hungry caterpillar for a fiver, why on earth would you consider that a Cake Artist expects more than the cost of a Starbucks for a hand-made, bespoke work of cake-art?
2. DELIVERING A CAKE
NO! NO! NO! You can’t just plonk a 3-tier cake-masterpiece in the footwell of your car passenger seat. Are you on drugs? Does that seriously not register with you as a recipe for disaster?
Not only do you underestimate the mess that you will make when the cake moves (and trust me it will) but do you really intend to feed 150 guests a slice of whatever detritus, kiddy vomit and dog mess has been walked across your car-mat over the lifetime of your vehicle. Even if your foot-well is immaculate, cakes fall, they crush, they damage. And no, sitting it on the seat itself is little better. Did you REALLY think that would end well? Cakes don’t like being transported. And whilst we’re at it, pot holes are the work of the devil, and whoever invented speed-bumps wants shooting.
Cakes get car sick, and more importantly, your guests will get sick if you’re not careful.
When the client pipes in with ‘Don’t worry, I’ll pick it up!’ how many of us die inside just a little because we KNOW they have just opened up that can of worms?
Travelling with cake-art is not straightforward and we know it. That’s why Cake Makers will charge you for a delivery. They know what they are doing and they care about the standard and hygiene of what they deliver. But you wanna have a go? Fill your boots. We’ll just crouch in a corner and rock back and forth nervously until we hear word back that it’s arrived safely!
3. IT’S NOT A PLEASURE DOING BUSINESS WITH YOU!
There are going to be some exceptions that prove this rule, but in general, we don’t excel at the business stuff. Mainly because we are ‘artists’.
We are! We care about our creations. We don’t want to make shit-cakes (industry term). We want to make showstoppers! Every cake is an advert for our abilities and talent so the last thing we want to do is make something that we’re not proud of.
But what happens when the client has a tight budget? I’ll tell you what happens. We let our creativity rule our heads and spend more time, money and effort on the cake than the budget allows. In other words; that’s bad business.
And guess what? When Muggles see what they get for their money, because you’ve been such a superstar, they’re going to come back for more. And you are going to have to pull the stops out again because you’ve raised their expectations.
It’s a slippery, slippery slope and most Cake Artists are heading down it face first at full velocity.
4. MATES RATES – ALRIGHT MATEY?
Yes…we Cake Artists have family, friends, friends of friends, people we once went to school with 30 years ago. But sadly we can’t do ‘mates rates’ for everybody.
Oh don’t get me wrong – We’d LOVE to! We are pleasers, facilitators, we love to make people smile. But we also have to do other things in life – you know, eat, sleep, go to the loo – all those boring things that mean that with the best will in the world you can’t make free cakes 24/7. No matter how much you love people.
And there is something about cakes that Muggles just don’t associate with work. Not like solicitors and accountants and all those professions that charge more per hour than a Cake Artist makes in a day. For some reason it’s easier to ask for a cake than free legal advice.
Which leads me onto the bit that’s our fault. We’re rubbish at saying NO! We must practice. NO NO NO NO NO NO. Or as Cake Artists would say “I’m so sorry, I would really love to but I’m so terribly sorry but, Oh alright go on then!”
5. CLOCK-OFF? Are you kidding me?
Cake Artists don’t understand the meaning of a ‘working day’. And whilst we’re at it, they struggle to understand the concept of knocking up a ‘quick cake’ too.
Creativity takes time, and in truth usually 3 times longer than you bargained for. This is one reason why we often undercharge. If we ourselves cannot grasp the reality of how many man-hours this stupid profession takes, how on earth are clients expected to get it?
Add to that the perishable nature of what we produce and BINGO you have a sleep deprived, stressed out, race-against-time Cake Decorator.
We know what the world looks like at midnight…and 1am…and 2am – I could go on! (I often do!)
The cake artist who hasn’t experienced a late night is a rare species indeed. If you find any, protect them! They are needed for scientific research!
6. Last Minute Dot Com
Last minute orders are ever so slightly hilarious. It’s not that Cake Artists want to be rude. It’s just that asking for a decorated three-tier cake for the next day is eye-wateringly, side-splittingly funny.
Is it because we make it look too easy? Have we given off such an air of competence that you think we can overcome the laws of physics and conjure up a baked, cooled and rested cake out of thin air? Oh – and then decorate it flawlessly?
Even more side-splittingly hilarious is that being the pleasers we are and the suckers for a 3am cake decorating session, occasionally you’ll find a Cake Artist who’ll take the job on! You will easily recognise them by the bags under their eyes, the corn flour in their hair and a spouse who is about to divorce them.
7. Candid Camera
We love our clients. (We really do!) But not when we are elbow deep in icing sugar and on a scary deadline.
That really is the WORST time to ask for progress shots. And let me tell you something else. Progress shots are usually going to panic them, because a cake that is half finished aint much to write home about. So if I DO surrender and send a shot or two, the next thing that is going to happen (trust me, this is a proven fact) is they’ll text with a gazillion questions about whether that is the final colour, and aren’t there going to be more flowers on it and have I remembered that the name has to fit on? An hour of texting later and I am ready to boil my phone in the sugar syrup just a fraction before I politely ask the client to go boil their head.
8. IT AINT OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER
Well, It IS…but actually it ISN’T. Because you will not find a Cake Artist who drops off and runs. Nope. Never!
That’s when we begin to stew. That’s when we wait and hope that the Client will throw us a nugget, give us a sign, some little indication of how amazing the cake was.
Yes, I know, they already told you they loved it. They have ‘Oooed’ and ‘Ahhhed’ and told you that it’s even better than they hoped for. Jolly good! But hold on – they haven’t TASTED it yet!
And until then, until they text you or put something on facebook, or send out a smoke signal, it ain’t over and you simply won’t have a wink of sleep.
Because you care. It matters. You are not a machine you are a living breathing Cake Artist and you NEED that feedback.
And that’s why we’re like monkeys working for nuts. You can give us all the money in the world, but really, all you needed to do was feed us a complement and we’ll be your friend for life. Just remember that friendship is a two-way street and if you are a real friend to us, you’ll force us to say NO every now and then!
Still want to set up a cake business? Hear my warts and all about cakes and money here: Money Money Money (And Cakes)