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What do you do when you have too many clients?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

So, here is my problem - I have way more customers than  I can handle  . Long story short - foreigner, live in a city with a lot of my kind :) It seems like they all want me to do their cakes- babyshowers, birthdays, christenings , etc etc . I am always overbooked, working many many hours, don't have a personal life , don' t have a minute spare time . People are getting really upset when I say I am busy or booked .Right now I am taking orders for september and october and it looks like they will be filled soon . and I do 8-10 cakes a week .Opening a bakery , or renting a shop  and getting some help is not an option at the moment . Any advice  how to say NO, ( so they get it ) Do I not take new customers, and rely on my regulars? Do I raise prices?( currently - around $4-5 a serving)  It is a bit sensitive situation - everybody knows everybody in my community  , if I don 't take someone's order they call some of my regulars and it is really hard to  say no sometimes  , I try to treat everyone the same way but of course it is almost impossible , people are different and I am very tender hearted and this comes back and bites my behind .      ( .this is what a customer would say .. oh,  it is my son's 1st birthday and you did my baby shower cakes last year , I want you to do his cake and the party is in 2 months .... how can I say I am booked ,without feeling guilty , and I really am booked )..   I just feel so very overwhelmed :(      

post #2 of 15
Increase your prices.
post #3 of 15

I have a hard time telling people no as well. Though not to being overbooked, people want it last minute all the time. Just tell them the truth. That you're sorry but you are completely booked up. If they are telling other people, it doesn't seem to be hurting your business any. Is there someone else around that does cakes as well, that you would feel comfortable referring them to? 

post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft View Post

Increase your prices.
Yep
Easy fix (more profitable as well!).
post #5 of 15

 Sounds like you are over working yourself!!! Your cakes must be really good since you have so many clients!!! Too bad you do not have anyone in the family that could actually help you out when you are overbooked. I know you probably feel as though you are letting people down when you do not take their orders but you also need to take care of yourself if it is way too much to handle. Good luck, I know it must be hard for you to say no. Try not to get too stressed out!!! Hang in there!! 

 

Do you only have one oven? With all the clients you have, it sounds like you need two ovens and an extra freezer just for freezing extra cake layers that you can pull out and thaw within a couple of hours!!! It sounds like you are a very busy person. My prayers are with you to have peace. Being overwhelmed must be stressful at times especially when you are very tired and just need to rest!!!

post #6 of 15

Agreed that you just need to raise your prices.  It will weed out a lot of requests without you having to actually say "no".

 

Liz
 

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Follow me on my Twitter handle: @Sugar_Iowa

Or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SugarFineBakedGoodsAndConfections

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post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by slun4ogledka View Post

So, here is my problem - I have way more customers than  I can handle  . Long story short - foreigner, live in a city with a lot of my kind :) It seems like they all want me to do their cakes- babyshowers, birthdays, christenings , etc etc . I am always overbooked, working many many hours, don't have a personal life , don' t have a minute spare time . People are getting really upset when I say I am busy or booked .Right now I am taking orders for september and october and it looks like they will be filled soon . 

 

It is a bit sensitive situation - everybody knows everybody in my community  , if I don 't take someone's order they call some of my regulars and it is really hard to  say no sometimes    ...how can I say I am booked ,without feeling guilty , and I really am booked )..   I just feel so very overwhelmed :(      

My first response in reading the title was:  Raise your prices.   But, after reading your explanation of a specific, close-knit ethnic neighborhood, I will offer a different suggestion that may be a solution.

 

I suggest that you add a significant "rush fee".  (I'm thinking that you could simply double the price for a rush cake that was NOT booked far enough in advance.)  That way, you will get paid for your "overtime", and the customer will have the opportunity to decide if they want the cake badly enough to pay $10 a serving for that particular event.  You are a custom baker that makes an important product for the community, but you have limits.     

 

You can start telling each customer something like this:    Thank you SO much for your business and confidence in my custom baking skills.  Because customers just like you have been spreading the word, I have become overwhelmed with orders and will be requiring a much longer lead time for cake orders.  I'm letting you know now since you are an important customer!  If you need cakes in the future, please give me a call 3 months in advance, so I can be sure and take care of you!"

 

 

If this suggestion sounds like it may work, then post it on your website, outgoing phone messages, papers that you enclose with every cake that leaves your bakery, etc. 

Example: 

"Hello customers!  Thank you so much for your business!  In fact, since I am getting so much business, I wish to let you know that I am finding that cake orders require 3 months of lead time to guarantee you receive your special cake.  September and October 2013 are nearly filled with orders, so you may wish to get your order in now!. 

 

Since any orders taken once I have been completely booked require significant overtime on my part, I will be instituting a  "rush fee" for any orders which I may be able to accept after that date has been booked."

 

Then....you slowly begin training your customers to YOUR advantage, not theirs.    About two months from now, begin to  raise your prices, a little bit every 3 month, so that in a year, you are charging $6-$9 a serving, NOT $4-$5.  If you do it slowly, they will adjust and those who can afford your cakes will remain loyal customers.

post #8 of 15

I think that you have received some good suggestions on how to train your customers.  The other side of this is to change how you schedule and value your own personal time as well.  When you do your calendar, make sure to black out your off days and schedule in things that will help you recharge "Museum with Kids/Hiking in Favorite Canyon/Catching up on My Book/Sleeping in and Watching Movies in PJs!".  It is harder to fill in 'just one little cake for a repeat customer' when there isn't any room on the calendar. Also, if you have designated "slots" to fill for each week, then you can't add in extras.  It is hard, because you want to keep people happy, but you have to remember that you are just as valuable as they are!  

post #9 of 15
Hi Slunchogledche:)... I don't think that increasing your prices will work. In our comunity / Надникнах и видях тортите ти... Поздрави-страхотни са! .icon_smile.gif))/people can complain that something is expensive, but knowing that is good and there is no other person doing similar cakes, most of the custumers will say Ok, I'll pay extra.
post #10 of 15

Well, if you're convinced that raising your prices *won't* put customers off, I'd definitely do it, anyway.  At least you'll be properly compensated for all the time you're spending on the cakes!!  But I would also implement the other suggestions previous posters have given - like substantial rush fees; ONLY taking on x number of cakes a week...  and the hardest, but easiest one - LEARN TO SAY NO.

 

Honestly.  I found it soooo hard at first.  But now, I can easily say "I'm sorry but I'm already fully booked.  I'm sorry I can't help you on this occasion".

Inside this fat body, there's a thin woman screaming to get out...... but I can usually shut her up with chocolate!
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Inside this fat body, there's a thin woman screaming to get out...... but I can usually shut her up with chocolate!
Reply
post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thank you guys for taking some of your precious time to reply on my post :)  I am working on growing  pair of bal$$ so I can defend myself in certain situations :)) I guess it is the summer that makes people a little crazy :) I am going to raise the prices by little , hopefully it will go smooth ( even tho sometimes $10 is a big deal, remember- closed community, everybody knows everybody and they compare prices - regardless of the fact the cakes are different themes, even different sizes ) :)Also I was thinking to update my smallest size cake-it will take me the same time to do but it will be a bit more expensive- and hopefully I wont't have many small cake orders . I have been posting my schedule on facebook -letting people know my availability and it seems to be working well . And I am contacting my customers who I know have occasions in the fall to let them know I am booking really fast and if they want me to do their cake , they will have to book me now. Again , thank you so much for the time and the words of wisdom :))) Now , after I vented , I feel so much better! 

post #12 of 15

slun4ogledka~~You are welcome.  Stay in touch and let us know how you're doing.  (I can see those bal$$ getting bigger already.....lol)

post #13 of 15

What is the smallest cake you make?  You mention having a lot of small cake orders that take the same amount of time but less money...how about having a minimum size or price cake order?  Then you wouldn't have so many small ones and would have more time for the larger, more profitable ones.

post #14 of 15

You can raise prices and/or you can can pace your self.  pick a day in the week or month and don't book anything that day  if they want it they will have to get it a day earlier.  Or do what bakery's do, freeze the cake, however this does change the flavor and is why we don't do it at our shop.  (i can taste the difference).

 

if you happen to have teenage kids recrute them or one of their friends that are capable, pay them a percentage of the day. (they work really cheap)

 

Time management might be your key, 

post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cake and a cup View Post

Or do what bakery's do, freeze the cake, however this does change the flavor and is why we don't do it at our shop.  (i can taste the difference).

When it's done correctly, freezing a cake for a short amount of time should not have any negative effect on the taste or texture of a cake. In some cases it can even improve the flavor.
Quote:
if you happen to have teenage kids recrute them or one of their friends that are capable, pay them a percentage of the day. (they work really cheap)

Just make sure you follow labor laws in your area and are able to handle payroll taxes and worker's comp.
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