I’ve got a confession to make.
I’m just not that creative. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a skilled, talented, capable cake decorator and chef. Other people do describe me as creative, but I know that I am no artist. When a client came to me saying, “I don’t care what you do, you’re so creative, I trust you! Just make me anything as long as it’s pink!” I wanted to run for it. “Free reign,” to me was like saying, “Freedom to lose your mind.” I was MUCH, MUCH happier with the clients who brought me heaps of pictures of cakes they liked, designed their own, or gave me instructions down the last sprinkle. One of my most hated jobs was coming up with a theme for my front window display, and then having to magic out of thin air 6-8 different designs to go with that theme. At culinary school, I loved cooking but hated plating up. Sounds crazy, right?
Aren’t all cake decorators meant to be artists?
Many of them are, but just as many of them are not – and I am firmly in the “are not” category. This does not mean I didn’t produce beautiful things my clients loved, nor does it mean I lack the “creativity” gene. It just means that while I’m very good at what I do, I’m simply not in the league of the Karen Portaleos or Zoe Clarks of the world. I got into the cake business because I loved cake – and I still do – but for me it was never about the actual cake. I’ve written about that a few times now, how I never believed I was in the business of cake, I was in the business of happiness. The part I loved most about my business was the people. I loved seeing a kids’ face light up, or the beautiful pictures of brides cutting their cake, or even seeing my cakes on the front of a corporate newsletter in a picture about their recent celebration of their company’s birthday. I loved teaching and nurturing other cake makers, mentoring other cake business owners, and being a part of people’s special moments. Sure, I loved cake too- and I loved that I got to work in a creative field – but for me it was more about the people than it was about the product.
This past week in my Facebook group, someone asked if the rest of us ever get a bit down when we look at Pinterest photos and think, “I’ll never be that good.” I had to smile at that question because I knew from the very beginning that I’d never be that good so it never bothered me. I simply do not have the artistic aesthetic of the world’s best cake decorators…but you know what? I didn’t really need it. My business was about being my own boss, making a living from it, being available to my kids and creating a name for my products in my home town. I didn’t need nor want an international profile, didn’t need or want to teach (other than locally to beginners). I just wanted to make people happy, do something I enjoyed and earn a living while doing so. That purpose didn’t require me to be the next Van Gogh of the cake world, it really didn’t.
What I needed to have was amazing (fast!) technical skills, fantastic customer service, an ability to trouble shoot, knowledge about marketing and costing/pricing, some creativity and a love for the industry and my clients. I had ALL of that. Would it have been nice to have all those things plus that amazing artistic “X Factor” talent the artistic ones have? Sure, but I didn’t need it in order to be successful to the degree I wanted for myself. Early on I knew that there were artistic skills I lacked, so where possible I went and did classes about those skills – and learned to adapt those skills to my own strengths and weaknesses. I admire the artistic talent of the world’s best, but in my heart of hearts I know that when it comes down to it, I simply don’t have the soul of an artist. I wanted to make people happy, give them what they wanted, and be an entrepreneur – all things I could do even if I’m not the kind of cake maker whose cake sketches look like they should be framed on someone’s wall.
So what do you do when you find yourself looking at incredible pictures online and thinking, “I’m never going to be that talented,” ? The solution here is to figure out what your superpower is in your business and take ENORMOUS pride in that, and use that superpower as a selling point to your clients. We’ve all got different, special skills to bring to the industry and it’s a matter of recognising that those different skills appeal to different clients. I built my business on giving clients EXACTLY what they wanted (and yes, I used that as a tag line) – and that’s what I delivered to them, every single time. I didn’t claim to be original, artistic, “out of the box” or anything like that. I simply claimed to make wonderful things to their exact needs and give it to them with a smile. If it became clear that what they wanted was someone who was going to sketch for hours and talk about the ‘creative process,’ I’d simply refer them onto one of the many talented cake artists in my area who I knew would love being a part of that.
You don’t need to be as talented or as creative as others are out there. You simply need to be amazing at YOUR skill or talent, and go about delivering that to your clients with a smile on your face and in your heart. Trust me when I say that not everyone needs to be Picasso – there’s a reason why there was only one of him, but the world’s galleries still hang with the work of many others.