We’ve all been there… pushing ourselves till the wee hours of the morning, working 7 days straight, rushing from one order to the next, the smell of buttercream never leaving our hands, hair and clothes…
And one day… without any warning, the thing that we have loved doing for years starts to fill our hearts with dread. The thought of cake drains us and we start to think “where did my joy for baking disappear to?”
Likely Diagnosis? Well I’m no doctor but word on the street is that this is onset of fatique and lack of mojo is often referred to as ‘Caker Burnout’.
Truth be told, trying to crawl out of a place of burnout when you’re already there is a lot harder than avoiding it altogether. So in this article, we’ll first discuss how to AVOID pushing yourself too close to the edge, and after wards, we’ll talk about what to do if you already find yourself in this difficult place.
Tips to Avoiding Burnout:
Most of us start out in cakes with it being a hobby, something that we did in our free time to relax or challenge ourselves creatively. We forget that when we start making cakes to sell, cake making changes from being a hobby to instead being a JOB. This in itself isn’t a bad thing, but it does means that we need to approach cakes with a totally new mindset: seeing it instead as a ‘job we enjoy’ instead of a ‘hobby’. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE… And one of the main differences is in the boundaries we set around our cake work.
Just like we do with any other job, we need to:
- Set our working hours (and decide when and where we allow for some flexibility)
- Not be tempted to answer emails and DM’s when we’re leisurely scrolling on our phones outside of “work” times
- Actually “clocking off” and making it a point not to think about work
- Intentionally setting aside time for other important aspects of life like family, friends, hobbies, other responsibilities
2.Learn to say NO
When we first start selling our cakes, most of us struggle with getting enough orders and live in a place of “scarcity” for what feels like forever. However when things start to pick up momentum, we can easily fall into the trap of saying Yes to anything and everything. This sudden influx of opportunity can make us say yes to requests for intricate car cakes, last minute orders or 800 cake pops with a week’s notice (yep, speaking from firsthand experience here!).
To avoid overcommitting, always ask yourself:
- Am I able to comfortably say yes to this opportunity without knocking everything else in my life out of balance?
- Is this opportunity really worth the input required?
- Is this in line with my business goals?
- Am I profiting enough from this?
3.Streamline Your Work
Most of us in the cake Biz start out making fully customised cakes. Meaning, whatever the customer asks for, be it a dog topper standing on one leg, a Peppa Pig concoction or a Star Wars themed cake, we’ll make it!
But as our businesses get more established, it’s important to start streamlining our product & service offering. There are no limits to what this can look like in practical terms, but here are some examples:
- offering standardized size options (2-3 diameter options only)
- Picking a medium that we’re most comfortable working with and specialising in that one area (eg. Buttercream only, fondant and ganache only, cookies only)
- Having a specific style that offers minimal customisation (eg. Drip cakes and clients can customise the colour palette and choose from a selection of topper options)
- Offering a smaller (but still amazingly tasty) menu of flavours so you can bulk bake and freeze in advance
The truth is..we aren’t robots. We can’t realistically customise every single detail of every cake we make, all on our own for years and years without experiencing burnout. Something has GOT to give. Give yourself permission to make your business function more efficiently even if it means simplifying and streamlining.
4.Outsource and Utilise Tools
Most cake businesses start out as one-woman (or one-man) shows but the thing we don’t realise is, it doesn’t have to always remain that way.
Whilst doing everything is a great way to learn the ropes of your business, there is greater efficiency in outsourcing areas of business or cake making to a third party.
Some areas you can outsource:
- Admin (VA)
- Photo editing (Fiverr)
- Decorations (flower making, figurine making, customised name toppers)
- Baking (purchasing ready baked tiers that simple need decorating)
I also recommend utilising Tools and ready made quality shortcuts to reduce the amount of guesswork in your cake biz. For instance, my Essential Email Templates for Cake Decorators and Customizable Cake Business Templates help reduce workload, save time whilst giving your cake business a professional leg up in managing client enquiries and orders.
Whilst we may be tempted to keep doing ALL THE THINGS ourselves, if we ever want our businesses to grow (and with our sanity in tact) outsourcing and even hiring down the track is a positive way to go.
Nothing recharges your passion for cakes better than taking the “work” aspect away and simple enjoying your craft for craft’s sake. If you’re in a place where you’re feeling unotivated and “mojo-less”, then I encourage you to look at different types of art, go to a gallery or museum, and start playing with designs and ideas that have been sitting idle at the back of your mind. Learning something new also has incredible power to supercharge your creativity and get you moving forwards in a fresh new way. Our library of Free Cake Decorating tutorials and Premium Decorating Tutorials are awesome places to start if you’re caught in a cake rut.
Make sure to schedule in BOTH rest and fun every week, even if it comes in smaller bite sized portions (remembering that rest and fun are two very different things and we should try and have both in the equation).
Our bodies and minds need rest and as much as we are driven and motivated individuals, we need to tune off and stop working every once in a while.
Try your best to make sure you have at least 1 day every week where you do nothing work related (no email checking, no baking, no sneaky last min cake orders). It might seem counter-productive to what you want to achieve, but rest will leave you feeling refreshed, more energetic, more inspired and better able to tackle a new cake week ahead.
Remember that running a cake business is a marathon and not a sprint.
Yes there are moments of acceleration (peak seasons) and low seasons as with all things. But overall, you want to protect you health, wellbeing and love for the game as you want to be in it for the long haul and build something that lasts.
What to do if you’re currently experiencing Burnout:
Seek help… Speak to a medical practitioner, a therapist, a counsellor, cake community, trusted family member or friend. Do not suffer in silence or try and “tough it out” alone. There are varying degrees of burnout and it can present itself in different ways. For myself, it landed me in hospital. For others, it may result in mild stress and in others, mental or physical health issues. The key is to reach out and get help to avoid things from spiralling out of control.
Take some time off to Reassess and Recalibrate
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to burnout. For some cakers, burnout could be a signal that cake-making is more suited as a hobby rather than a profession for them. For others, it often boils down to heavy workload or needing to fix things that are not working in their business. Sometimes as well, disappointment and discouragement can masquerade as burnout and perhaps what is needed are business guidance and training. Whatever it is, it pays to your foot of the pedal, turn the oven burners off and really get to the bottom of the root issue and figure out what you really want out of your cake making, career and life. Be honest with yourself, think through carefully about what you want for your family, your work and your future. I would also caution against making brash decisions in the “heat of the moment” whilst highly emotional. Get to a place where you can calmly and rationally consider things and map out what it is you really want to build, change or let go.
If there’s a problem, don’t just keep pedalling down the same lane in the same way. Nothing is ever going to change, if we don’t take steps to make changes. Fear and uncertainty may sometimes keep us from making much-needed change but we need to be bold and think about the long game here. Don’t be afraid to do things differently even if “its never been done before” in our cake industry. Be creative in your solutions to problems. Be bold and know that YOU are in the drivers seat. You have the power to adapt and move your cake business in any direction you want (of course with the magic ingredients of time, effort and innovation). Talk things through with those you trust and find solutions that make sense for your cake and personal life.
Remember that having CAKE in your life doesn’t have to look any one way. You could be a hobby baker, sell cakes as a side hustle, create Tiktok videos of cakes, aspire to build a high-end cake boutique or just bake for family and friends. No one thing is better or more valid than the other. Cake in a way that makes YOU HAPPY and fulfils your personal and family needs. The beauty of cake decorating is that it take on so many wonderful forms and be a part of our lives in different ways. So let’s remember that and hold on to the *joy* of cake decorating.