The word side hustle has been bandied-around a lot recently, but it does what it says on the tin and for me baking – be it wedding, birthday or baby shower cakes – helps to support and top up my income as a freelance journalist.
I’ve been officially freelancing since October and it’s given me the flexibility to bake during the week, whereas before I was setting alarms at ungodly morning hours in order to pop a cake into the oven and staying up late to finish the buttercream.
It also means I need to be a lot more disciplined about how I manage my time (still something I’m learning to do).
Here I’ve listed the four main things I’ve picked up so far and if you’ve got any top tips please send them my way.
Learn to get organised
A side hustle takes time, dedication, and hard work and the key to not letting it overwhelm you is to try and stay on top of it.
For me, this involves a lot of lists to make sure I’m not forgetting or overlooking anything. Whenever I have an idea – which is usually while in the supermarket or on the tube – I make a note of it on my phone. This goes for things I need to get done as well as know telling myself to do the thing later won’t work as I’ll forget it.
I also have a long list at home which includes everything I have going on at any one time. For day to day (or this could work weekly) tasks, I’ve learnt to only ever have three things on my list (a tip I picked up from @clemtineappuk). This way you’re more likely to clear the list rather than getting stressed out by a mammoth set of tasks you know you’re not going to finish any time soon.
Baking is only a small part of my side hustle. The other (less fun things) such as updating my blog, planning new ideas, giving my social feeds attention, replying to potential customers, and filing invoices and receipts also take up a lot of time. As these aren’t as fun as baking, I’ve made myself set aside certain time during the month to tick them off.
With social, I use Instagram every day and try and do this first thing, rather than endlessly scrolling and wasting time on it during the day. For anything involving paperwork I do this once a month (unless it’s something urgent) and reward myself after with a treat (last week this was an Oreo doughnut filled with cream cheese from Doughnut Time).
Sort your finances out
I’ve been a personal finance journalist for the best part of eight years and one thing I’ve learnt is that nobody likes to think or act on their finances – me included. Spending a day sorting through your insurance policy, savings account, or receipts is not enjoyable and it’s also the reason most people put it off.
However, it’s also one of the most important things you can do with a side hustle and you can’t really overlook it. To make it more bearable I find doing it little and often helps.
I try to instantly file invoices when they arrive and reply to customers as soon as I can after they’ve contacted me.
Then once a month I check my credit score is looking ok (Experian make this a very easy and quick process with its free credit score) and go over my incomings and outgoings with everything to do with my baking business.
Be open to new opportunities
One of the hardest things I’ve found with my baking is attracting new customers. There are lots of websites around where you can pay for new customer leads but as a new business, this isn’t something I have the budget for.
Instagram is a good avenue for business, but it’s not the only one. I’ve found that saying yes to new opportunities and going along to things you usually wouldn’t is a good way to tap into potential new customers.
Through my day job I’m asked along to lots of events and even though these are to do with consumer affairs or personal finance – they’re with people who like and buy cake (who doesn’t!).
Therefore, I see these as a chance to get new ideas and stories for future articles, but also to spread the word about my baking and word of mouth has been one of the main ways I’ve managed to bring in new business.
It’s ok to say no
For my first few cake commissions I said yes to everything because I was desperate to get new business. However, this meant I was really pushing myself (cue all-night baking sessions and mad YouTube video watching to learn new piping techniques).
Now, I only agree to things I know I can actually do. I don’t ever make cakes with fondant icing, for example, as it’s not something I especially enjoy and I’m not very good at it!
I’m not in a position to say no that often but if a cake request comes in and I know there’s no way I’m going to be able to fulfil it without finding a time machine I say no as it’s far better to do this rather than killing yourself trying to get something finished on time.
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