Can someone please tell me, when did it become not okay to want to make a living? I keep seeing all these articles about how you should only do work you’re passionate about, telling us that if you really love it then the money shouldn’t matter, how if we love what we do then it isn’t really ‘work’ at all. I’ve seen social media posts from cake companies nastily referring to other cake companies “only in it for the money,” as though that is some sort of dirty evil secret.
And yet, I see post after post after post complaining that clients are not willing to pay us what we are worth, that cake toys and classes are expensive, that we are being undercut all over the place, and that “we’re closing our cake businesses down because we’re simply not making any money to survive.”
Wait….WHAT? So it can’t be about the money (because it’s just not cool to be about the money), and yet the money is the problem with this industry. Does anyone else see the issue with this? It’s not about the money but apparently it’s all about the (lack of) money?
Passion does not pay the bills. Last I checked the grocery store does not take passion as payment, nor does the mortgage company or my kids’ school.
There is a perception in this industry that it’s not okay to actually want to make a real living out of creating edible art. That somehow if you’re not doing it for the love, that’s not okay. Maybe it’s because we are all expected to be “starving artists,” but honestly I’d much rather be a well-fed artist who can continue to create art than a starving one who needs to stack shelves in order to stay alive.
Of course, it’s not nearly as black and white as that. This industry -or any industry- is not ALL about anything.
Those of you who have read this blog for a while now know that I think your business needs to have a much big purpose than just creating gorgeous cakes. My own mantra has always been, “I’m not in the business of cake, I’m in the business of happiness”…but please note, that’s the BUSINESS of happiness. I love the craft of making cake, but unless I’m fully committed to making money from it, then there is no reason for me to be in the business of it. I might as well keep it as a hobby.
A lot of people tell me they are NOT actually in business, that they only make cake for family and friends and/or that they only charge people for their ingredients and/or that they only do it because they really love it. I don’t have a problem with that…except of course when that person has a Facebook business page, has business cards, or is telling people to pay them more than the ingredients actually cost them. As an example, are you really going to your sister and saying, “Okay, so I added up my receipts, and for ingredients I paid $19.88,” and then expecting her to really only give you $19.88? Oh, and if it’s for the love, why do you even use the words “charge them” for ingredients? A charge implies a fee for the purchase of goods, doesn’t it? So which are you? In business or not in business?
From others I hear, “I’m in business, but I’m not doing this for the money.” Answer me this: if you were not in it for the money…why are you building your website, baking macarons, teaching, working out your prices, writing tutorials, creating and selling retail products? Why on earth would you bother with the crazy messy of being IN BUSINESS if you were not in it for the money? Are you telling me you work 15 hour days, have a bad back, answer emails at 1am and haven’t slept late on a Saturday morning in 5 years because IT’S JUST FUN?
If so, you’ve got a very warped idea of fun my friend.
It would be very, very nice to have a sugar Daddy, win the lottery or find a money tree which would allow me to just give everyone free cake, teach everyone for free, and invent and give away products for free. That’s not going to happen, so instead I made my business about making money. No, not millions of dollars, but enough money to pay me a decent salary so I can afford the groceries and the school tuition and the cake toys. I defined my level of success in many different terms but one of those was money. Let me explain that in more detail. I make no secret of the fact that I really value education and I wanted my three kids to go to private school. Private school costs THE BOMB and times three it’s like a NUCLEAR bomb. So at the very least my business had to make enough money to pay those tuition fees (and let’s not forget the books, the uniforms and the field trips too.) Judge me as much as you like, but I had to be about the money because I needed the money to pay the fees of the school…because that’s important to me. Does it make me elitist to want to send my kids to private school? Maybe, but so what? Perhaps my definition of success was just to be able to make enough money to buy instead of rent my house, afford a vacation once a year…or just buy groceries without having to price compare. It doesn’t really matter where you would spend that money or how much of it you want to make, what matters is that you are honest and real about needing to earn that money in the first place.
This week I spoke to a brilliantly talented cake maker who said to me, “All I really want is to be able to go to the grocery store and buy what I need without having to think about it.” For her, it’s not at all about elite things like private school, and yet she is coming to me because she’s just not making it financially. So…try and tell me again that what you do is not (at least a bit) about the money.
You are probably in this for MANY reasons – perhaps lifestyle, artistic expression, love of cake, passion – but if one of those is not money then you have no business being IN business.