Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hiring Your Kids To Work In Your Business

This summer I hired my kids to work for me. They're old enough to do actual work, so I decided that I could have them do the tedious website stuff that I've been putting off for the last year.

Hiring your kids is beneficial on a tax basis, and also allows them to learn a work ethic if you actually make them work. But there are some things that you should research before deciding whether to hire your own children.

First, are they old enough to do real work for you? You can't pay your kids to clean their rooms and deduct it as a business expense. It has to be business-related and legitimate work. Like I mentioned before, I'm having my kids work on my website, my website store, and some other tasks relating to that shop that I've been putting off. It was taking me forever to do the store listings, but they're whipping through it because they're better typists than I am and they don't stop to analyze SEO, keywords, etc. like I do, they just do it.

Don't plan on getting away with paying them $25 an hour to stuff envelopes. I did research into how much people got paid for data entry, then went with a middle-of-the road figure from that range. Its a good salary for a teenager, but not as much as I make per hour, so I'm still profiting from having them do the work.

If they're under 18 or over 18, the tax rules are different. I have one of each, so I have to file their taxes differently. The easiest way to do this, frankly, is to go talk to someone at the bank where your business account is. I had someone at my bank set up a direct deposit system for my business account, and since my kids both have checking accounts at the bank the payroll service is free for me to use. Intuit has a payroll service that will send you notifications when you need to submit hours, pay taxes etc., so it's easiest to have someone help you set that up.

Keep in mind that you can always claim no withholding on their W-2s if they're not going to be earning enough to pay income tax for the year anyway. Here's the IRS info on the subject: IRS GUIDELINES.

State taxes are also something to pay attention to. My kids won't earn enough to have to have state taxes withheld, but there are still rules to follow about registering new hires with the state and filing worker's compensation (my kids are exempt in VA but I had to track someone down to check.)

Legalities aside, there are a few things on the personal side to keep in mind.

Give them work that fits their skill set. My son is in college studying aviation with a double major in computer science. He has a private pilot's license and can rewrite a computer's hard drive, but he can't use a paper punch to cut out wafer paper flowers. When he came home from school I wasn't quite ready to hand off computer work to him yet, so I thought I'd have him do something "simple" while I was getting that set up. Well, turns out that he has sweaty hands and isn't good at figuring out how to do crafts, so that didn't work out. I swear he was really trying, but it wasn't a good fit.

My daughter, on the other hand, wants to major in art and is highly organized. She set up the inventory system for my shop and now yells at me when I don't put something back in the right place. When she gets tired of the data entry stuff I can give her some crafty things to do and she's fine with that too. Today she did some work on my web store and took some pictures for me to use to make more designs.

So make sure that you're assigning tasks based on what they can actually do well. Right now my son is working on my website, doing the setup that I don't know how to do, and I fully intend to use his skills while I have the chance. No more crafty things for him.

Schedule regular working hours. Doing this will eliminate any "when do you want to work for me today" kinds of questions, and it will give some structure to the entire experience. If you treat it like a casual thing it won't help teach your kids that they have to go to work and actually do work. Make sure that they know what you expect them to do and hold them to the time they're supposed to be working. Make sure that you're not hovering, though. They should be able to do the work you're giving them without you having to supervise their every move. (This goes back to the skill set thing.)

Make your expectations about their income clear from the start. My son is in college, so I told him that the point of a summer job, whether working for me or for someone else, is to earn money to spend during the school year. Which means saving most of what he earns.

My daughter asked if she should put some of her money in her savings account. I told her what I thought she should be saving, but what she does with her money is up to her for the most part.

Neither of my kids gets an allowance if they have a job, and they have to finance their own discretionary spending. If you want to have a specific arrangement or a specific amount that your kids would have to save, make that clear from the beginning to avoid any arguments. And don't change your mind about the "rules" on their money after you've decided on them. If they go out and spend their money on Twizzlers and gum you can give them a lecture on eating too much candy. But as long as they're saving what they're supposed to be saving, don't yell at them for spending money that they earned. They'll figure it out soon enough when they want to buy something and don't have enough money for it because of all the Twizzlers.

So far my arrangement has worked out REALLY well. I've had the pleasure of not having to figure out a new website, and my new personal online shop is finally up and running! I've been able to have a thing called "free time" in the evenings, and I've been able to sleep until 7am every day, which is new and unusual. If your kids are old enough to do the things that you hate doing, give some thought to hiring them.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA and online at

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mountain Biking Cake, Or Know Your Limits!

This cake had the bride and groom at the top of the mountain and their dogs riding bikes up the trail to the top.

When the bride asked me about this design, I told her that I'm not the best figure modeller, and that I don't really like doing it, but I would draw the people on gumpaste. I can draw, I just hate modeling 3-D figures.

I'm also not afraid to tell people if I don't want to or can't do something, since it's a lot better to do that than it is to overpromise. The bride was fine with having the figures drawn, and this is a good example of how you can work around the things that you prefer not to do for whatever reason. Just offer an alternative.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and online at

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pinterest Promoted Posts

I decided to try promoted posts on Pinterest because I  was asked if I knew anything about them. I didn't, but it made me wonder if they'd be worth doing, considering that Pinterest is such a great way to get images out there.

Pinterest started offering promoted posts relatively recently. They're currently available only for U.S. users, but you can sign up on a waiting list to be alerted to when they open it up worldwide. They're also currently rolling out buy-it-now pins that will let people buy items directly from pinned photos. If you sell things online, this is a wonderful thing. If, that is, you can get in on it, because they have a waiting list and they're being very slow to go through all of the applicants. But I digress...

Honestly, I don't do much with Pinterest. I pin things occasionally, but I don't spend a lot of time on there. I figured that this would actually be good, because I could see if my traffic increased a lot if I paid a little attention to my account.

So I decided to pay to promote a pin from my Etsy shop to see what would happen. I chose an item that sells relatively well, but that had recently slowed down a little. Since I'm pretty cheap I put a $5 a day limit on the ad and ran it for a week. I have to say that the results were very intriguing.

First step: Make sure that you're on your business page, not a personal page. I assume that you can only do this with a business account. Click on the "promote pins" button at the top right under your business name on the screen. You'll find the welcome page.

It will give you a little walkthrough/sales pitch that gives you a quick overview of the program.

When all that's done, you can choose either an engagement campaign, which looks like it's aimed at increasing the number of people who follow you, or a traffic campaign, which directs people to click to see your website. I chose the traffic campaign because I want people to go to my online store, and I would also only be charged for clicks to the store itself. In an engagement campaign you're charged for every click, closeup and pin on the post that you're promoting.

Now you can choose how to target the ad. This process isn't nearly as thorough as the facebook ads process, but you can choose a general geographic area if you want to keep it local. Since this is only for U.S. users at this point they give you a list of American cities to choose from, and if you have a preference for languages, devices etc you choose those next. You also choose the link that you want to direct the traffic to.

And now the results...These are the results from teh 5th day of a 7-day campaign, and it's pretty clear from the charts which day the pin started being promoted. Look at those increases in traffic to my Pinterest profile! So the ad was definitely effective in increasing the number of people to my pin.

Here's the actual number difference...To start, I had about 324 pin views per day. Remember that this is only the 5th day, too.

On the third day of the promotion I had 8210 pin views. Percentage-wise, those are huge increases. And the number of people in the "average monthly viewers" category doubled.

At the end of the campaign, my promoted pin had been shown in people's feeds over 39,000 times. 77 people repinned it and 32 clicked through to my store, which is when I was charged. So for a 7-day total of $4.36 the pin was saved to 77 people's boards.

This might sound low, but remember that when a pin goes on a board, it stays there. And if someone follows that board, they'll see the pin. and when they pin the pin it spreads it more. It's not like facebook or Instagram, where a picture goes by in your timeline and is gone. On Pinterest the value is that the picture stays there and is available for other people to find. For all eternity, or whatever...

So for $4.36, I got 32 new sets of eyes on my shop. The one weak link here is that I don't have a way to track how many sales actually happened because of people clicking through. That could be sales of the pinned item, or of any other item in my shop the people found only because they clicked on that pin. There's an option to create a piece of code to embed in your website code to have that information reported, but since I was pointing people to my Etsy shop I couldn't use it.

I did check in my Etsy stats, and the views coming from Pinterest increased, plus the item that I pinned was at the top of the favorited items category for that time period. Whether that would have happened anyway, I don't know, so that's the one weakness in my evaluation. Based on the number of sales of the listing in the last week, though, I do think that I got at least a few sales from it.

I think that the promoted Pin was worth doing, especially for that price, what the heck! If the 32 people who clicked through to my shop had never been there before and now know that it exists, it's worth $4.36 even with no sales. If they bought something while they were there I made money in the process.

I'm running another promoted Pin ad now to see how a less popular item gets pinned. If I get similar results exposure-wise, and if I actually sell a couple of those items, I'll be sold on the effectiveness of this kind of ad. The strength of Pinterest, as I said before, is that the pins stay there, and they don't get buried and forgotten by new content. I'll see what happens from here, but based on the results that I had I think that this is a good way to drive traffic to your site.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA and online at and 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Blue and Coral Cake

This wedding cake was based on a photo that the bride brought featured large coral colored fantasy flowers made with a peony cutter, and little blue fondant filler flowers.  I put some wafer paper butterflies on fondant to give them stability and added those to the cake.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and online supplies at

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What To Do When Friends And Family Want Free Cake

I had a viewer post a question on a youtube video about pricing, and I thought it was worth repeating the answer here since it's a topic that everyone can relate to. (So much so that it takes up a section in my book on running a home-based business.)

Here's her question: "What do you do when family members expect a cake for birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other celebrations? I have made several cakes for family and friends and feel the 'freebie' days are over."

Here's my response: You're going to get a lot of resistance if they're used to getting free cakes, but I have no doubt that they don't know how much time and expense goes into making a cake. If you sell cakes to other people and have a price list, I'd let people know that you're changing to this:

1. They get the cake from you and you give them a 25% family discount and that's their birthday present.
2.They get a cake somewhere else and a regular present from you.
3. They pay you full price and get a regular present from you.
4. If it's adults who don't give each other presents, they get a 25% discount if they want a cake from you.

WHEN (not if) they pitch a fit and say that you're greedy and mean, remind them that when you make a cake for free you're losing time and money that you could be using to make a cake for a paying customer, and you can't afford to do that anymore, and that's not being greedy, it's supporting your family.

When they say that you're family so you should be willing to do it for free, remind them that yes, you're family, so they shouldn't ask you to do something that they know will make it more difficult for you to pay your bills. Or something that will take time away from your family, or whatever it is that making cakes does to you.

Remember that family and friends are your worst customers, and that you'll find out who your REAL friends are when they have to start paying you for your work. They might also decide to "punish" you by getting a grocery store cake. This is pretty common, and you shouldn't take it personally. It only means that they either can't afford your cakes, which is fine, or they're trying to be passive-aggressive and "teach you a lesson." But all it teaches is that you can have a day off from working for free. And that's never a bad thing.

My rule of thumb is that the only people who get free cakes when they ask for them is the person who gave birth to me and the people I gave birth to. If I want to make a free cake for someone AND I OFFER, I get to decide on everything other than flavor. If someone ASKS me for a cake they're placing an order, and the rules I outlined in my other reply apply.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and online at