Have you ever taken a job that you just know isn't going to turn out well, but something compels you to do it anyway? Then you regret booking the client and you do the job, knowing full well that there's going to be some kind of complaint once everything is done?
I did this once (ten years ago), and learned pretty fast that it isn't worth the stress. I think that when you're starting out and you feel like you need to take every job that comes along you're more likely to say yes against your better judgment. You need to learn to listen to your psycho radar and just say no.
If you do find yourself in this situation the best thing to do is cover every base that you can to head off issues that will arise. The one that I took that I knew was going to go wrong was a client who insisted on having a pink wedding cake to match the bridesmaids' dresses. That would be fine if it was a really light pink, but this wasn't, and I knew that it was going to be a heck of a lot of pink. This client didn't want to hear my opinion, though, and wanted everything to match. Fine, if you like a really pink cake, but I just had a feeling that she was going to decide that she hadn't asked for that distinct a color.
So I decided that I was going to head off this particular complaint. When I covered the cake I took the swatch that she had provided and put a piece of the fondant right next to it to show that it was the same color that she had provided. Just for my own information, you know...It was actually a little lighter than the color that she sent, too.
So sure enough, I got a call the Monday after the wedding. "The cake was too pink." Well, guess what, I had backup to show that it wasn't. Just knowing that the photo existed made me able to say that I had matched it exactly, had taken a photo of the two together, and that I had done exactly what she insisted on according to the contract. She grumbled but she knew that she was wrong so she didn't push it.
As an aside, I heard from her again when she called to complain that I hadn't mailed her the anniversary cake a year later. Yes, mailed it to Florida. I pointed out that the contract also said that she would need to call me a month ahead to arrange pickup of the cake, and that she hadn't done that. And that it also said that I don't mail cakes.
Some other ways to cover yourself are to insist on the client signing off on delivery, putting everything in writing through emails, making sure to have a contract that's signed by the client, and not allowing changes past a certain date. Too many changes will result in confusion and can give people an opening to complain about the final product.
Photos don't hurt, either. Take a lot of pictures of the final cake after it's been delivered and set up. It can only be helpful later if questions arise.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, online cake supplies at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com