"A Reasonably Priced Cake Maker"
The most commonly asked question in my baking Facebook group is ‘How much should I charge for this cake?’ It’s a question I mostly avoid answering because there is no one answer. There’s certainly no right answer. There certainly isn’t an answer that everyone will universally agree with. When I do have the energy to answer this question I answer something like this.
Only you can decide what to charge for this cake. I can tell you how I decide my pricing strategy, but maybe that won’t work for you because your costs are different to mine. Here’s some things to consider. What are the cost of your ingredients, board, box, toppers, ribbons or other necessities? What does it cost to run your oven, mixer, dishwasher or other appliances you may need? Add a percentage for wear and tear of these appliances, they will need replacing one day. How long do you estimate it will take you? What is your hourly rate? What is your imagination, your skill and your unique perspective worth? Do you include a cost for investment in your business such as marketing, upskilling and new equipment? Do you include time for discovery, for research and development? And if you don’t should you? What does your insurance cost? And running your website? Are you putting away a percentage to cover sick pay or holiday pay? Both of which self employed people don’t get.
There’s so much to consider that customers never even think about. Which is why the ubiquitous “I’m looking for a reasonably priced cake maker” posts on Facebook are enough to drive me to tears of frustration. Every business incurs different costs. Whether that’s because they have to rent premises, or pay staff, or buy more expensive chocolate or haven’t bothered with training and insurance, isn’t always obvious. A customer doesn’t know the costs involved with one specific business.
They might be able to take a good guess if they run their own business. And they’ve had to devise their own pricing strategy. And they’ve probably done what I did in the first year and realise they’ve paid themselves £4.21 an hour, and that’s not a viable business. You’d get laughed straight out of Dragon’s Den.
Oscar Wilde is credited with saying “a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Which really made me consider the difference between the price of something and it’s value. These are not the same thing.
You can go to a high street shop and buy a t-shirt for £1. You can go to the designer website and buy a t-shirt for £299. They may both look very similar. Your average t-shirt buyer may not even be able to tell the difference.
If I were to buy a t-shirt for £1 I would feel, well, icky. I know that something about this does not make sense. There is no way that this t-shirt is £1 and someone along the way isn’t getting screwed. Whether they have horrible working conditions or aren’t getting paid a fair wage, whatever it is, someone is getting screwed. Maybe you only have £1 and a t-shirt is the thing you really need. Fine, these shops serve a purpose, that is a whole different conversation about why that situation exists in the first place.
We live in a capitalist society (boo!) and that means there’s always someone willing to do the work for less money because they just need some money. Any money. And there will always be people who are the most skilled in their profession and are confident to charge the most amount of money possible. Neither of these people are bad or wrong or evil, they are just part of capitalism and victims of the free market. (Did I say boo?!)
The value isn’t in the price. It’s in my peace of mind. And it’s in my time. And it's in the happiness that the thing I'm buying brings. Is this job being done well? And are the people involved properly compensated for the work they are doing? Is it something I can possibly achieve myself? If not am I willing to stretch myself to know that it’s being done well, responsibly and safely? If not that’s fine. I can make the choice to do without it. What I don’t do is in any way imply that this service I’m being offered is being priced unreasonably. That's what a cynic would do and I don’t want to be that person.
So how do we decide what is reasonable?
For me, I would like to know that whomever I give my money to is working in safety, being paid at least minimum wage and hopefully more and cares about doing a good job. And isn’t that the very least we should want for the people we employ? However temporarily.
So how about we stop asking for a reasonably priced cake maker? Maybe we stop looking at the cost of an item and instead consider it’s value.