Calling All Home Bakers: How to Earn Money Selling Your Treats Over the Holidays
Do people love your cupcakes? Is your pecan pie famous for miles around?
If so, it might be time to start a home baking business on the side. In today’s day and age, no one wants to buy their holiday dessert from the grocery store -- but no one has time to make it either.
For home bakers, this is a golden opportunity to earn some extra holiday cash. To help you get started with this side hustle, I asked three “bakerpreneurs” for the inside scoop.
Where You Can Sell Home-Baked Goods
First off, make sure it’s legal in your state to sell home-baked goods. The regulations surrounding this industry are called cottage food laws, and they vary by state. Abide by any required regulations; you may have to apply for a permit or license.
Though, in many places, you can sell your goods at holiday fairs or farmers markets, the home bakers we talked to exclusively did custom orders for individuals. They’ve been busy enough with these that they haven’t had to sell outside their homes.
Dee Dee Steele-Sigee of Dee Dee’s Sweet Escape said custom orders are plentiful around the holidays, because “people are busy with fixing regular meals.” They don’t have time to bake pies, bread or cakes, which means they order those items from her. Cheesecakes and cookies are also popular holiday items, according to the bakers.
How to Get Started Selling Home-Baked Goods
There’s one thing all of the home bakers I spoke with emphasized: the power of word-of-mouth. So be sure to bake delicious products, give excellent customer service and tell everyone you know that you’re now selling baked goods.
Here are a few more tips for getting your new side hustle off the ground:
Share Photos on Facebook
When Danette Short started posting Facebook photos of what she was baking, her business “really started taking off.” She now has a thriving side business called Short-Cakes, which she runs in addition to raising and homeschooling her children.
Create a Signature Item
Tamara Boatman of The Lemon Tree Cottage Bakery got started by selling a pumpkin roll at a church bake sale. She said the customer (her children’s pediatrician) then “asked me if I could remake it for her for Thanksgiving. Others in the doctor's office wanted one also, so I did and have been doing the same item now for several years.”
Boatman explained that a signature item (especially if it’s holiday-themed) “will establish you in the minds of your customers… so they know in advance who to contact when they want that special something.”
Hand Out Business Cards
Even if your doors aren’t officially open yet, get some business cards printed up.
Steele-Sigee said, hands down, these are the “the best way to get your name out there.” She works tirelessly to market herself, saying: “I hand out cards to everybody -- at the supermarket, at the mall -- to anybody that will listen.”
Network With Other Bakers
Know of any other home bakers in your area? Look at them as friends, not foes. Steele-Sigee met other bakers through Facebook and a local baking group; now, if one of them is too busy to take an order, they give referrals to one another.
Pass Out Samples
One thing is clear: Everyone loves free cake. So why not show off your baking skills by sharing free samples with potential customers?
Boatman suggested dropping off samples at places you have contacts, such as your dentist’s and doctor’s offices, library, school, church, book club, knitting group, etc. (And don’t forget to leave a card!)
Just be sure to only visit places where you have a connection, as Short warned that dropping off samples at random offices “almost never results in orders.”
How Much to Charge for Home-Baked Goods
When you start selling baked goods, figuring out how much to charge is going to be one of your biggest hurdles.
The first step is to assess your target market. How much are other bakers charging? And for what types of products? Next, look at your own skill set. How much experience do you have? How quickly will you be able to complete the work?
Boatman determines her prices by adding all of her expenses (including packaging), then multiplying that number by three: one-third covers her ingredients, one-third covers her water and electricity, and one-third is her profit.
Most importantly, don’t get discouraged if people balk at your prices. Steele-Sigee said you have to “remind [your customers] it’s a custom item, so it’s going to have a custom price… Do not sell your art cheaply.”
Boatman agreed, saying: “I rarely encourage moving the price down. It has been my experience that I work myself to exhaustion and have less to show for it at the end when I price lower just to get more orders.”
As for how much you can earn, it depends on how much work you put into both the baking and the marketing. If you’re just taking special orders, the bakers estimated you can earn between $200 and $400 per month; if you’re working 20 hours per week, $800 to $1,200; and if you start baking lots of wedding cakes, much, much more.
Should You Start Selling Your Home-Baked Goods?
Does earning money selling your home baked goods sound like a sweet deal? It can be, and you may find that your business lasts well beyond the holiday season -- especially if you follow these three pieces of essential advice from our bakerpreneurs:
“Be confident and bake and do the best you can do -- and keep excelling. Baking is constantly changing, and skills are constantly changing. Keep advancing, because each and every day, something new comes up. Keep trying to find that wow factor,” said Steele-Sigee.
Get In the Right Mindset
“Be patient and learn the science behind your baking; you really need to understand your medium. Also remember that everything is fixable. Working from that mindset is going to save you a lot of stress,” said Short.
Don’t Lose Sight of What’s Important
“Remember: it IS the holidays. Don't schedule making money to help get you through and give your family a huge, fabulous someTHING when the most important will never be the things but the people around you. You'll regret the baking if you neglect the ones you're doing it all for, and they will remember that longer than they will the latest and greatest thing,” advised Boatman.
Your Turn: What’s your signature baked good? Would you ever consider selling it over the holidays?
Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.