For the last three weeks I've posted an article each week with questions and answers from home-based businesses who are actually making money and not scrambling around looking for business. I thought that this would be a good time to recap the main points of what they said.
First, you have to set financial goals and have an understanding of how much it costs to be in business. To be profitable, you need to know what the point is where you'll be making that profit. If you're making cakes for less than minimum wage without realizing it, that's no good for you, so get familiar with your costs.
Second, social media might work but it probably isn't working the way that you think it is. Having ninety million fans on facebook isn't going to do squat for your bottom line if all of those fans are other cake decorators who are just wasting time looking at photos of cakes all day. It might make you feel fancy to know that so-and-so cake decorator flavor of the week is one of your facebook likers, but it won't help you make a profit. Pay a little less attention to the quantity and more to the quality if you do intend on using social media to draw in business.
It also doesn't help to spend a ton of time sitting on the computer looking at pictures, You'd be better served to take that time and go practice with gumpaste or whatever.
Next, networking with other vendors is key, and referrals are golden. You don't need to belong to wedding associations, but meeting other vendors and other business owners is a good thing to do. When other business owners who deal with wedding clients know you, they refer brides to you. In fact, it would make more sense to spend your time on facebook and twitter chatting with other local business owners than it would to chat with other cake decorators if you're trying to get referrals for cake clients.
Next, and I think this one is the one that really chaps me the most, is to take online advice with a grain of salt unless you know that the person handing it out is actually an expert. Meaning, do they run a successful business? Have they ever declared bankruptcy because they took their own advice and it wasn't so hot? Are they actually working in the field now, or are they so out of touch they really don't know what they're talking about? Do they give advice about EVERYTHING, including things they have no experience with? Do they claim to be a shop owner raking in millions every year but they're really sitting in their underwear in their mother's basement typing on their computer before their shift at McDonald's starts? You'd better know before you take that advice.
And finally...Running a business isn't fun all the time. If you want to be profitable you need to get out of the hobby mentality and realize that you're not doing this for fun and relaxation, you're doing it to turn a profit. Some days you might be able to combine the two, but most of the time it's work. Expect to put in an effort and to not enjoy yourself all the time. Just be realistic about it.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, online cake supplies at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com