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It's the 21st century...why have I volunteered to be a cake slave?

Pretty Witty Blog

It's the 21st century...why have I volunteered to be a cake slave?

Cake making on the scale we see it in 2017 is HUGE. Back in 2010 when I started Pretty Witty Cakes, it was not a huge industry. I remember that between 2011 and 2014, the industry grew so quickly that students who attended my classes came from 37 different countries By 2014 someone had attended my classes in person from every single county in the UK.


That was how fast the industry grew. Cake shows started to pop up all over the world, the cake making industry began to really blossom.  People across the world wanted to make cakes and make them well. They enjoyed it. Hobbyists and professionals were all in it together working alongside each other.

Hobbyists then became professionals and new hobbyists joined in.  At Pretty Witty Cakes our members grew and grew and within 3 years we had members logging in from over 100 countries. That is awesome. It is uniting. It shows the huge STRENGTH this cake making industry has as a group. 

I have seen people support cake makers who live 1000s of miles away via facebook. I have seen cake makers rally together to help someone suffering something as tragic as a bereavement or something as trivial as a bad hair day.  It is so inspiring. It is what makes us human.  I have seen people on my personal facebook page laugh with me when I post silly things my kids did and I have laughed with other people about what they might share. 

If there is one thing we, as a global community, do better than almost any other industry in the world, it is that we support each other. The cake making industry is one of the strongest and most UNITED global groups that exists. 

Except in one area.  One area which is for some cake makers is the most important area.  


I actually took a deep breath when I wrote MONEY. You see...I am English and us stiff upper-lipped Brits hate talking about money. We get shy, we get embarrased...we would just rather not talk about money. We would rather talk about having a boil on our backside than have the awkward feeling of talking about money. If someone else talks about it we think they are crude and sometimes even verbally we put them down. There will be some people reading this already feeling uncomfortable with the last paragraph.

Worse some people will start getting upset or even aggressive about this post. All of a sudden the UNITY falls away. We suddenly forget we are all in this global community, we are all human beings, we are all in this industry because we love making cakes. We then start to turn on each other and even get angry at what another cake maker is charging. 

But why? We should be united in charging the RIGHT prices. We should be supporting each other as we are all in the same boat. Too many cake makers are struggling to get the payment they need for the work they do. They give in and end up charging £10 for a cake that took all morning to make or £100 for a cake that took them 3 days to make. Read that back - £100 for 3 12 hour long days or 36 hours of your life. Put another way, that values your life at £2.70 an hour!

Why do cake makers act differently?

As I say in my Advanced Pricing for Profit class (see here if you haven't seen it), in what other industry do you see people doing this?? Do you see electricians saying "Oh ok then, I know I spent 3 days rewiring your house but I will only charge you £100 when my normal day rate is £150 a day".  Do you see people who stack shelves at the supermarket work 10 hour shifts and then agree to be paid £20? Do you see accountants do annual accounts that take them a couple of days and then invoice you for 2 hours work?. No. No. No. You see the opposite.  

People who are good at their trade - including the ARTS - get paid well. Joiners, French polishers, Photographers, Artists, Authors....they define themselves with pricing. Those who are professionals charge professional prices. The general public chooses the best photographer they can pay for for their wedding. They don't tell the photographer "What...i though it would only be £25 for all my wedding photographs". The general public accepts that this is how much photography costs. Why? Because the photography industry, the joinery industry, the artist industry, the architect industry...ALL OF THEM have as a group educated the public of the value of their skill.

Anyone who enters those industries and undercharges doesn't make it. They have implemented qualifications for the industry just like we have as cake makers with competitions and online or face to face learning which increase your skill base.

All those industry have a standard - an collective understanding that they won't work for peanuts. You cannot find people in those industries who will work for next to nothing unless they are start-ups. But the start-ups know from day 1 that they will put their prices up to correct levels as soon as they are up and running and some business is coming in.  

What is different?

The cake world, for some reason, doesn't do this. It is really really terrible at asking for the right money. We all do it.  Myself included.  I currently have a sale on for 552 tutorials for £44.50.....that is CRAZY cheap. It takes me a year to produce 60 tutorials and I am selling 4 to 5 years of work for such a low price. When I stand back at this and look at any other online subscription service outside the cake world, I realise how different the cake industry is. Have a look at the list of Top 50 line tutorial providers in the world across all industries.  The average price is much higher than the prices in the cake industry - MUCH higher. So that tells me I am also guilty of undervaluing my time. I am teaching people that my product should be lower value that it is worth.  I say this because it means I am also falling into the same trap as so many cake makers. So many of us are the same.  

The SuperMarket Mantra

In my Pricing for Profit tutorial, I refer to the "Supermarket Mantra" and it is a download in my tutorial that people can literally stick on their fridge.   


The same image or similar images have been flying around facebook for years. We all know this is true.  Yet we struggle so much to charge correct prices.

But what if we, as an industry, united. What if we ALL started saying "No" to making cakes for peanuts. If we ALL started pricing according to the time spent and materials used, the whole industry would change. This is because one of the biggest issues for the industry is those PROFESSIONAL cake makers who are running businesses and charging almost nothing for their time. By under-charging we are teaching non-cake maker customers that a cake that takes 3 days to make should be prices around £75.  Why? Why would we do that to ourselves? We are hard working people who love what we do. If we take the leap to make our hobby our career and profession, we should be charging properly.  

If non-cake makers / the general public started to realise just how long it takes to make a fully decorated cake there would be more empathy and understanding. It is US - the cake makers - who have the power to make that happen by UNITING in charging sensible prices. 

But, but, but....

I have seen the arguments from professional cake makers that they are really new so don't have the confidence to charge.  But do you see electricians, or artists or architects say this? Do you ever find out they are only on their 5th job. No. They don't mention it because to them it is not relevant. They are trained like cake makers are and they price accordingly. The fact that self-confidence may come into play in whether you want to call yourself a business is are a business if you take money and are trying to make a living from it even if not making huge profits. If you are taking money and not a business, you are a charity. Which is FINE if that is what you have chosen to do.  I have absolutely no problem with hobbyist or charities giving away cakes for free. I certainly have absolutely no problem with people making cakes for charity. That is awesome. Hobby cake makers are awesome. They are not to blame for upsetting the apple cart of pricing in the industry. Customers know those cakes are gifts or for charity. They know it is made by a hobbyist who enjoys making cakes for fun. Subconsciously the customer will not then think "I will get a free cake from a professional as well".  

But when professional cake makers charge £10 for a cake they spent most of the day making, the customer sub-sconciously thinks "ohh all that for £10" and the benchmark is set.  

That same customer will then one day order a cake from another professional but the subsconcious memory will return and the customer will be expecting the professional cake to be £10 as well. Or the customer will auction off a cake in a charity raffle for £20 - a cake that is worth hundred of pounds. This happened to me many years ago. I made a gravity defying cake for my husband's office for a charity event. It took me 2.5 days. It was amazing. What happened. The man who graciously accepted it raffled it off for £25!!!! He didn't even try and get more.  He could have made so much more money with a bidding system - money that would have helped a charity. It all comes back to the same thing - educating the general public about pricing for cake. 

But I have a cake business and people won't pay that much 

I have seen the arguments from professionals that "£25 is better than nothing and people in my area wont pay more".  They won't pay more because the moment one cake maker in a town agrees to accept £25 for a cake that took them an entire day to make, that cake maker then educates the general public that that is an acceptable price. And the same psychology as described above happens. The customer (quite innocently) thinks that is a "normal" price and then expects that from all cake makers. 

Ultimately over a period of years this approach kills the industry. But don't we all want the industry to survive? Don't we all want to be recognised for the amazing art work that we produce on cakes and be valued in society just like photographers, artists, architects and carpenters are - as SKILLED trades people?

Cake slavery is illegal

Look at it another way...In the UK (and many developed countries), the Government FORCES employers to pay the minimum wage.  You cannot employ someone to do a job and pay them less than the minimum wage. It is in fact considered so wrong to do that that it is a CRIMINAL offence to pay an employee less than the national minimum wage - a criminal offence. Why? Well for a start, in the UK, we passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.... Nearly 200 years ago us humans had worked out that working for little or no pay was WRONG. It is still wrong. Governments make things a criminal offence to try and ensure people do not break the law because it is considered so important that this law is upheld. It is about ensuring people receive a minimum and fair level of treatment. 

So why do people who make cakes pay themselves less than the minimum wage? Less than the lowest level the government sets to ensure minimum fair standards of living. Lets take the £25 example.  If you make a cake that takes 8 hours to make and you charge £25 that is £3.12 an hour! The national minimum wage in the UK is £7.20.

So if you own a company and you are employed by it, you are technically breaking the law if you are employing yourself and paying yourself less than £7.20 an hour. Makes you think doesn't it?

But wait I hear you say..."I am self employed so that law doesn't apply to me...ha - got you Suzi - you are WRONG"!

WHAT? Did you really just say that.  Did you really just say "I am self employed so I should work for £3.12 an hour instead of the minimum wage or more".  Did you just really volunteer yourself to return to the hard live of no money for your work - just like 200 years ago before 1833 where people were forced to work for nothing?

You are the boss, you make the rules...why on earth would you give yourself such an awful salary. You have left employment for your dream career, you make the rules now. Make GOOD rules which starts with good pay.

And this is my point. It is a choice. It is not easy. It is hard work getting prices right. But voices are strong in a group. I have thought for many years that there needs to be a re-education of the general public as to the cost of cakes.  That education has to be taught by cake makers. Only we can do it...

How do we do it?

I have always said that the best way to run a business is to make friends with local cake makers.  So why not do that.  Remember that UNITY I spoke about at the beginning. Well do it. Use your strengths. Get together with your local cake making community.  Make a group on facebook for you and your local cake makers where you discuss your troubles with pricing.  Support each other in charging the right prices. Obviously you cannot just all agree to charge the same, but you can boost each others confidence to charge the right price. You can support teach other by telling people how long it took you to make a cake or how much it cost to make it. You can share these figures so the general public sees them to if you want to. 

Support each other to grow your businesses.  Do not support each other in re-creating an mentality like that of the slave labour of the 1700s where people were "expected" to work for little or no money.  

And remember....above all, you have strength in unity. 

Suzi xx

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