When I was still a newbie cake decorator who was caught up in the excitement of discovering that I can make beautiful cakes, I never thought about drawing up a contract or even an order slip for those who wanted to order their cakes from me. I accepted orders through Facebook messages and text messages. I didn’t even ask for any deposit or any guarantee that my customer can and will pay for my time, effort, talent, and product.
As more and more people learned about me, the volume of orders I got increased, and the designs expected of me became more difficult. I slowly realized that I needed to collect a certain amount from my customers first in order to buy the ingredients I needed and to defray for the other expenses associated in making a cake. I also realized that I needed some sort of guarantee that my customers will, for all certainty, buy what I have made for them. I haven’t been duped by anyone personally (well maybe not big time, but there were a few minor instances in the past that I have been conned), but I learned from baking groups and forums that there are a lot of bogus buyers floating around the world. One of the best ways to prevent being shortchanged in this business (and in any business for that matter) is to ask for a downpayment.
That was when I started seriously looking into my process of taking orders. As my business grew bigger, I was more and more vulnerable to becoming a victim of my own carelessness and of heartless swindlers. I made an order slip to ensure that I got the details of each order correctly and so that I do not mess up dates and times of orders. My order slip also reflected the total cost of the order and the amount for downpayment given and when it was paid. The order slip protected both my interests and that of my customer.
As I began accepting multi-tiered cakes that would become central pieces in their respective events and that would cost the customer a lot of money, I realized that I had to properly set the customer’s expectations regarding what I could do for them and for how much. I needed to layout the scope of my work clearly. There should be a guideline for me and for my customer to ensure that I deliver what he expects and that he gets exactly what he paid for. There were also other complications that I realized would crop up when taking big orders: scheduling of orders, payment terms and methods, cancellations, and deliveries. This is when I decided that having a cake contract would be necessary.
I didn’t know where to start and what to place on the contract. I thought of consulting a lawyer, but then I thought that would be too much. Basically, all I needed was a clear agreement between me and my customer. After searching the Internet, I found this really helpful post by Wicked Goodies that provided a basic template for a cake contract. I downloaded the file and edited it to suit my needs. Here’s what my contract says:
A deposit of 50% or more of the total cost of the order confirms and holds a reservation. The deposit is refundable in full 30 or more days before the event minus a P500.00 transaction fee for consultation services rendered. The remainder of payment is due no later than 14 days before the event. Late or no payment is subject to cancellation. Late payments may result in substitutions or modifications to the original order. Cancellations received on or within 14 days of the event date may not be subject to refund. Pink Plate Meals and Cakes reserves the right to exercise artistic license in order to guarantee the structural, visual, and creative integrity of a dessert structure.
I never thought that one day this simple paragraph would save me from a lot of trouble. In the middle of June, a customer who already paid me half of the total cost for an event on July 18 contacted me to say that she was backing out since her mother got another cake supplier. I realized that she most likely got a lower quote from that other supplier, thus the change of plans. Luckily, I could still withhold 500.00 as consultation fee from the refundable amount to pay for all the trouble I spent in planning the cake with her. I was sad at losing the customer, but I know that when a door closes another one opens. I am optimistic that I will get other customers who believe in my work and who respect my talent.
My cake contract still needs to be reviewed and revised. I am still working at including terms for rentals, deliveries, and pickups. I also still need to update my online ordering guidelines. I would really like to have all bases covered to protect myself and my business. I believe that it is not a selfish goal. The customer will also benefit from a well-written cake contract that lays out everything in black and white. A detailed description of the product, conditions and terms will also protect the client by ensuring that he gets value for his money. If I were a customer, I would see a detailed cake contract as indication that I am dealing with a professional and serious cake decorator who will make sure that he creates high-quality cakes and expects to be paid for it.