I don’t hate the cheap cake lady and you shouldn’t either.
If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’d know that I don’t hate her (or him) at all (here’s an article I wrote about it.) I think at some point, all of us undercharged (until I taught you better) and frankly, they don’t know what they don’t know! It’s almost like a rite of passage to be underselling for a while. Usually, one of two things happen to the people who sell at very low prices. Either they realise their mistake and start to charge more and take it all more seriously or they leave the industry because they end up burned out. So I don’t really have a problem with the cheap cake lady because I was her once, and as long as I can keep my business and marketing going, I’ll probably stick around a lot longer than she will. I don’t feel she’s a threat to me in the long-term.
This is getting kinda ridiculous now, and VERY frustrating.
Thanks to the wonderful world of Buy, Swap, Sell groups of Facebook, it seems like the world of cheap cake ladies has EXPLODED. This in itself is no big deal, all industries have boom times when there’s a wave of fresh talent coming in. The big deal part is that they seem to be FAR more aggressive towards existing cake makers and they are not only pricing crazy low, they’re wearing that as some sort of badge of honour. They use ALL kinds of crazy excuses for having those prices EVEN AFTER being educated by their peers about it. They use bullshit excuses like:
- I’m only doing it for pocket-money
- I’m doing it for charity
- I’m a Mom so this is just a side gig
- I don’t feel right charging people
- I want to be “affordable”
- Nobody will pay the real prices I’d have to charge if I costed out every hour of my time
- If I charged that I wouldn’t be in business
- It’s just a hobby (meanwhile tha hobby has a FB page, website, customers…)
You know, they write posts kinda like this:
Look, I’m not going to tell this person how to run their business – and YES, there is a business model of being affordable which is perfectly valid but this is just ridiculous. A tiered cake at $30?! WHAT? That’s not a thing, not even at Wal-Mart. You can be affordable without 1) losing money and 2) making it sound like other bakers are ripping people off.
THIS SHIT NEEDS TO END.
Here’s my PRICING MANIFESTO which I think you should read and then staple to your forehead:
- We can educate one another without being awful to one another. You really don’t have to talk about others being too expensive as a way of making your business seem more appealing. You also don’t need to act holier than thou because you choose to be at the lower end. It serves no purpose. It does not make you any more worthy, intelligent, thin or awesome. It just makes you a bit of a jerk. Think someone’s pricing is insanely low? Reach out to them with kindness AND WITH ACTUAL HELP. Not “Hon, your prices are way too low. You need to fix that.” but “Hey there, I read this article on pricing and it really helped me so I thought I’d pass it on, here’s the link.”
- Stop using bullshit excuses (or blaming other people) for cheap prices. Being a parent, wanting to be affordable, it’s a side gig, everyone else is charging less than I am etc … none of these are reasons for you to sell your soul at a price so low you might as well give THEM money for you to do it. You are bringing us ALL DOWN when you use these excuses. If you are happy with your pricing, be happy with them. Don’t feel the need to explain them to another business owner and don’t pretend there’s some brilliant reason for it. Your business, your rules. You made that choice, now live with it.
- WAKE UP to the fact that NOT EVERYONE BUYS ON PRICE ALONE. Some people do (including you). Some don’t (including you). Same is true for cars and handbags and clothes and whatever else – we as consumers make decisions on several levels. This is a rubbish, untrue excuse you tell yourself for a) being too cheap and b) not doing your marketing. If every single person you come across only wants to buy on price alone, you’re talking to the wrong people. YES, it can take a while for you to start attracting the right clients. They do not all come beating down your door the very second you figure out you need to up your prices. It takes TIME.
- At the other end of the spectrum, stop telling people they should charge way more when clearly their skills are not up to it. Not helpful people, really not helpful. Just because you are learning, you are slow and took 50 hours to do it (because you’re learning so you’re slow) this does not mean the customer has to pay for all that time. The “Hon, you should value your time! You should get paid for all this time!” posts piss me off. Hon, if you truly value your time – work faster and spend that extra time doing AWESOME STUFF like, oh, hanging with your kids or marketing or I don’t know, SLEEPING?! Your being slow is not a problem your customers need to pay for.
- If you’ve figured your pricing out, are wanting to take your business seriously, and get pissed off every time you see those crazy cheap posts: GET OUT OF THOSE GROUPS. Seriously. Leave. Spend your time on marketing (especially local marketing), reach out to businesses in related or other who are doing BETTER than you so you can learn from them, learn to price…just DON’T HANG OUT IN PLACES THAT UPSET YOU. News flash, nobody is forcing you to hang out in there. If you use the excuse of being there so you can buy cheap shit off your neighbours, how about you pay a reasonable price for stuff from a local business instead? You want other people to shop at your local small business? Give them the same courtesy.
- GEOGRAPHY actually matters – if you live in a small town, or in an economically depressed area, or (as in Texas recently) there’s been issues like the price of oil going down or natural disasters, your prices may need to change. This is nothing to do with you, your skill, or what others think you should be charging. It’s just that life happens. This is why you can’t crowd source your pricing – we live in different places and we have different clientele.
- If you’re going to take this business (side gig or not) even vaguely seriously, then spend as much time and effort on BUSINESS EDUCATION as you do on decorating education. You need them both, and no I’m not just saying that because I teach this stuff. YOU NEED THEM BOTH if you’re going to get past this tsunami of people charging crazy low prices and blaming it on their being a parent. Consider it a business LIFE RAFT. It’s sink or swim in our industry and personally, I prefer to be in a nice, dry raft than dog paddling for my life.
- Ditch the finger pointers. Hang with people who are not working for free or exposure, people who think it’s important to register their kitchens, people who teach you new skills, people who inspire you. If you spend ALL DAY with the finger pointers – the people who pin the blame for ALL their business problems on others (customers, cheap cake ladies, the weather, their friends, etc) then eventually you too get stuck in that mindset. Crappy attitudes catch like a bad cold – which is why so many FB groups end up in flames and keyboard warrior fights. Jerks tend to hand together. Don’t be one of them, don’t hang out with them. You can do better
- Wanting to make more money in your business does not make you greedy, it makes you a business owner. Would I even need to post that sentence if my main audience was male? Probably not. Just like I wouldn’t need to tell you to stop feeling bad for charging. You ever met a man who felt bad for charging someone for something he made? Nope. I think money amplifies who we are. So if you’re a kind, giving person … making more money will just make you kinder and more giving because you’ll have the means. If you’re a tight wad greedy shmuck, well, your wad will just get tighter and greedier. Think about this. Money is PAPER (or in Australia, plastic) – it’s not a living breathing thing and it can’t MAKE YOU do anything and it can’t make you BE someone different, it has no soul.
- Small business involves hard work, often for a long time, often unpaid. Most small businesses will take 3 or more years to really get going (and that’s assuming you’re able to give it a lot of your time). So if you’re six months in, feeling like this business is going to kill you, and finding yourself stuck in the excuse making spiral, then it’s time to re-evaluate if a business is what you want. You can choose to close it down AT ANY TIME (and here’s how to assess if its time to end things.) You got INTO this – then you can surely get OUT of this. NOBODY is forcing you to stay in it. Rather than post endlessly on social media about how crappy it is (and we both know you’re just wanting some attention and sympathy), get out. Please. I don’t really understand the purpose in complaining loudly and often about how shit this industry and your business are, you’re just bringing us all down and it’s not necessary. You can whine to your bestie offline, or online in a PM, no need to drag the rest of us down with you.
Pricing isn’t easy – it’s a process.
You’re going to get it right sometimes and get it wrong other times.
There will ALWAYS be someone cheaper than you, way cheaper than you, and so cheap they have to lay their own damn eggs to afford to bake.
None of those people are your problem and they aren’t the reason you’ll succeed or fail, so stop blaming them. Your business, your problem. FIX IT.