Sadra Safraz, Owner of The Statement Cake located in British Columbia, Canada
We can sometimes cause damage to the things we love. Sure, we do everything with the best intentions and hope we’re doing all the right things. But sometimes, we have NO clue what we’re doing. No fear! It’s nothing a little self-education and committed implementation can’t fix.
Below are four common problems many cake artists face in their businesses and suggestions on how to take baby steps to make big changes.
To successfully achieve a goal, you need to have an action plan. The goal: a behemoth wedding cake due on Saturday about a two hours drive away in 93.7 degree weather. The action plan? “Uhhh, I’ll just go with the flow.” (Usually this means I’ll sleep 3 hours a night, I’ll make three trips to the grocery store, we’ll have pizza for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday, and I’ll swear off cake decorating FOREVER this time). Yep, I’ve been there too many times.
Have mercy on yourself, your family and your business! Set a production schedule for a basic cake order and adjust from there based on how intricate the cake is. For example, for a buttercream two tier cake that’s due on Saturday, my schedule would look like this:
Tuesday: Prepare the cake board or any small details that will go on the cake (plaques, fondant accessories, etc.)
Wednesday: Bake, wrap, and freeze cakes. I like to get this out of the way before decorating. Baking = hot kitchen. Hot kitchen = caking nightmare.
Thursday: Make buttercream. Stack, fill, and crumbcoat cake.
Friday: Complete cake and assemble with the final details. RELAX.
Saturday Morning/Afternoon: Take photos in natural daylight (this is a non-negotiable in my schedule. We’ll discuss this later).
If you had a very large cake, you could even bake on Monday or Tuesday and schedule the rest of the tasks accordingly.
The best way to put this into action is to actually write it out! Create a paper schedule for each week so the tasks are always there in front of you and you can experience that amazing feeling when you check something off from your to-do list. Ahh, satisfaction!
The photos speak for themselves don’t they? Taking beautiful, high quality photos of your work should be right up there on your priority list next to making a quality cake. Otherwise, how will you be able to share your masterpiece with the world? If you’re anything like me, a cake with no photo is as if that cake didn’t exist at all. It doesn’t matter how much I get paid for it, the real satisfaction is adding that baby to my portfolio. The money’s nice and all (really nice) but the best part is having that gorgeous photo to show everyone what I’m capable of.
You don’t have to own a DSLR to take stunning photos. Most smartphones today are equipped with an incredible camera that will do just the job you need.
Here are two tips to get your photo game as strong as your cake game:
- Choose 1-3 backdrops that complement the majority of your cake designs. White is always a good option, light/medium grey is very suitable as well. There are many backdrop options out there so browse around to see which ones you like most. Whatever you choose, be consistent with it. The best way to develop a style that is specific to your business is to do things consistently. Use the same collection of backdrops, the same light source (daylight is best), same angles, etc. in all of your photos.
- You’ve heard it all before. Daylight is your friend, your BEST friend. My favorite time of the day to shoot depends on the season; in Summer, I love shooting in late afternoon when the light is subdued and warm but obviously I have to adjust my shooting times around my delivery and pick-ups. As I mentioned earlier, I adjust my production schedule so I have PLENTY of time to take styled photos of my cakes. Close ups, distant shots, adding props here and there, I have fun with it and I make time for it every.single.time. We work so hard on our masterpieces so why not do them justice by capturing their beautiful essence?
Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform today with more than 600 million users! It’s literally eye-candy in the palm of your hand. Now before you start Instagramming like a madwoman (or man), take note of these valuable beginners tips:
- Treat Instagram like a professional portfolio. Only post your best photos, meaning well styled, well lit and with no extra clutter in the background. The first 9 square grid on Instagram is extremely valuable real estate and will determine whether someone will want to follow you or not. It’s the first thing they see when they visit your account so make the invitation to follow you as irresistible as possible.
- Post pics of behind-the-scenes action, up close detailed work, as well as the full cake. People love to see how these amazing edible art pieces come to life and EVERYONE loves a useful tip here and there. You know all those detail shots you took of your cakes? Keep them in a photo bank so you always have something to upload to your account when you’re tight for time.
- Share something about yourself! Get a little personal — tell your followers why you got into this work, what you love most, and some other quirky things about yourself. Help them create a personal attachment to you and your brand. In business, there is a B to B channel (business-to-business, B to C channel (business-to-consumer) but really, all that is relevant to us today is a H to H channel (human to human). We have a desire to connect with brands we love by knowing about the people and stories behind them.
- Utilize Hashtags. Other than utilizing popular hashtags that are used globally, find hashtags that are used frequently in your city so that locals can find your work.
- Find local influencers in your market and contact them for collaborations. This usually means offering free products in exchange for a shoutout to potentially tens of thousands or more local followers. You don’t want to contact just anyone, you want to ensure they are aligned with your brand and its values. There is a strategy to this which will be discussed in an upcoming blog post.
Life is short, so make cakes you enjoy and it will show in your work. There are some things I just don’t want to mess with right now; these include royal icing cookies and novelty cakes. I don’t enjoy them and I probably wouldn’t do them justice, so I don’t offer them. I found that it’s smarter and less labour intensive to maximize on my strengths instead of spending time going from terrible to mediocre at something that I don’t like doing.
Take a moment to answer the following two questions: What are your strengths? and, How do you perform best? Your energy is much better spent on using your good skills and making them excellent by taking on challenging work that you enjoy. Then, complete your work in the manner and environment in which you are most efficient. Whether you’re a night owl or early bird, block out specific times of the day to do the work you need to do in the environment you work best in.
So, are you overhwhelmed? Inspired? Motivated? Hopefully more of the latter two! Remember, your baby needs your love, commitment, and flexibility. You have hundreds of great ideas running around in your mind; make a commitment to regularly write down your goals and plans and start DOING! Don’t forget to enjoy yourself and write down your daily reflections in an entrepreneur journal to track the day-to-day little successes and trials of your business. It’s such a great thing to look back on at year end!
The Statement Cake is a hub for advice and discussions on branding, digital marketing and all things Cake!