The Business of Cake Decorating #10
Preventing Burn Out

by Earlene Moore

An excerpt from an email message
I read your article in the American Cake Decorating and wondered if you've ever suffered a "crises of faith" in regard to the business? I've been decorating for 7 years and am finding it increasingly difficult to enjoy what I do.

I'm not lacking for business, quite the contrary. Maybe too busy is my problem. I've considered a sabbatical, 3 months or so, but do worry about my customers, will they still be there when I come back?

Have you been here, or heard of solutions? Thank-you for your time.

You bet, I have reached that burn out place several times. When I had been decorating for just five years we moved to Lubbock from Plainview (40 miles away). When we moved I told my family I did not want anyone to know that I was a cake decorator for a while. That lasted about 6 months. But it was nice to not have that every week mess for a little while. Then I began to be pulled back into this business again and ended up teaching and co-owning a shop for five years. Then I sold my half of the shop and managed to stay out of this business for another two years. Then a friend who lived 150 miles away gave my name to a Lubbock woman who wanted a very large fancy cake and it started slowly again. Now we have added an extra kitchen, classroom/workroom on the end of our house because it again has taken over my life. I do have the option now of saying NO when I begin to get tired of this. I don't have the overhead of a separate business location so I can now mark off that calendar and just not take any orders when I don't want to do them. For instance this Christmas my daughter and her family are coming home for the holidays. I turned down 6 weddings for that weekend. Family has to come first once in a while.

If you have plenty of business and it is driving you nuts - RAISE YOUR PRICES. You will work less hours and make the same amount of money. People who want quality are willing to pay. It will not matter that you are higher than everyone else in town if you are turning out a good quality product. If I have calls for Birthday cakes now I tell them I do not do any cake for less than $35.00. They usually say I'll call you back I need to check with my _______. Then they don't call back. Fine with me. Those little birthday cakes will eat up all of your time and you end up making no money. If I can't make at least $15 an hour it isn't worth the time.

I love the wedding Brides and Grooms cakes. They can also be quite a challenge but, the customers seem to be more willing to pay for the work on these larger cakes. REMEMBER you can say NO and not take an order. It is alright to mark off a week or a month when you just want to take time for yourself or your family and turn down the cakes. You don't have to give your customers an explanation other than your schedule is full. It can be full with a good book you want to read, or a day you want to spend with your children. You don't have to feel guilty about taking time for yourself. If you don't do that occasionally you will reach burn out. Well I have reached it again and now I must cut down on the stress. So no more cakes for 2005 and if it feels really good that might be the cut off time for me. 49 years of doing cakes just might be enough. There is still one show I want to be able to enter, maintain the web site and keep up the shopping cart, plus teaching a few classes each year and judging a few shows should still fill up lots of time in the sugar world.
Well here it is now 2017 and so far I haven't missed the cakes - I miss the people but not the mess. I have found my life less stressful and still have managed to stay in the Sugar Arts field in a smaller capacity.

Update - 2017 and I haven't done a cake for several years. I have now eliminated the shopping cart. Health issues have made it exremely clear I have no business doing the cake business any longer. I still love the sugar arts - I just have more limits on what I can do now.

There have been times that you also just get stale. Tired of doing the same things week after week. Taking a class and being with other decorators sometimes is just what you need to get those creative juices going again. Attending a cake show and seeing new ideas helps. Otherwise getting out of our comfort zone and stretching the ideas, creativity and learning something new is good for us. It puts the excitement back into our Sugar World. The absolute best place to recharge your creative juices is the ICES conventions .  WOW is that a mind blowing weekend.  Cake ideas, demonstrations, vendors, other cake decorators to talk to and network with -  WOW is to little a word for this incredible weekend.  Yes you do have to turn cakes down (during a busy season) to attend that convention.  Just try it going just one time and see if you don't reap more ideas, imagination, new techniques, otherwise more things to offer your customers when you go back home.

One other show you might want to give some serious consideration in entering or attending is the OK Sugar Art Show in the Fall of the year in Tulsa, OK. .This show is actually two shows (1. The regualar cake show plus 2. The special wedding cake show) of high quality sugar art work in one weekend. Check here for more info.

There are now several large shows around the country that are certainly worth your time investment. Austin the end of February, Florida show - April show and NE cake show Norm Davis and Zane beg help organize National Capital Area Cake Show - April

Good Luck and I hope this series of articles has helped you.

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