PiccoloChellie I think you are exactly right. I had enough trouble deciding what I should charge and I know 3 local cake business owners that I consulted with to figure things out in the beginning plus years of Exec. Pastry experience/degree and program to cost out things... but taking a guesstimate on what that funky 3d cake you've never done before should cost is still tough for those of us with experience. Now you take a hobbyist or the new wanna-be with out experience and they've no clue at all what they are up to on the business side EVEN if they can execute the cake.
I'm remarkably lucky in that one of my previous jobs I was responsible for all the job costing for all products for two companies under one "umbrella." I had to sort out every little thing that went into each job - from the sheets of paper and ink used to print out the production schedules to the labor to the exact amount of time each item spent on each machine. It was tremendously complex, but it's the only way the company knew how much to charge for the products!
Those were marketing materials and had absolutely nothing to do with caking, but when I decided to follow my dream, the FIRST thing I did was job cost my practice/family cakes the same way I job costed those production orders.
It took time just to get my baselines sorted out and then to bring those in line with established businesses in the area. It took a lot of time. It took time that the hobbyists and wannabes have no desire to take, and quite possibly have no idea how to even start doing it.
(and, as an aside, I'm still struggling to not think of myself as a wannabe... but this is a business and I am a businesswoman! I have one of my new business cards taped to my desk directly in eyesight to remind me of that every day!)
It took me 3 years of planning to get to the stage that I felt ready to do this for real. My competition is NOT the person who makes one star-tip character pan and figures they can get rich quick selling them for $15 to the Walmart customers. And those Walmart customers are not my customers. I'm okay with that. My prices are my prices. I have two "budget cakes" available for those who want something a little fancy but can't afford to spent $75 on a cake and everything else is available to those who view fresh, custom, delicious dessert as something important.
EDIT: Katie, could you perhaps stop off at the Penguin and grab me a couple(dozen) orders of fried pickles and deliver them up here to the Great White North? I lived in Charlotte for several years and oh, God do I miss the food.....