Quick poll here... hands up everyone who has a pile of photos, scraps of paper with names & phone numbers, and only a vague idea whether or not you're even making money on any given cake?
Up until fairly recently, I was in the same boat. I did have (most) of my photos in a scrapbook, and I had actually managed to tame the scrapheap of paper into one pile. When I put my website together, I got a LITTLE better with the photos (they're all in one place!) but created a new problem. A client would call me wanting exactly the same cake as I had produced before, and what was the price? ... ... ... uh oh ... I don't remember what I charged!! And I had no idea if it was enough or too little to even cover my costs! Or they had been at a party and had one of my cakes, and wanted the same flavour... UH OH!! What recipe did I use?!?
A dear friend of mine (thanks Judy!) had the solution! She has a binder, filled with page protectors. Each page protector contains everything she needs to know about each of her cakes. As well, she keeps a master list of all the cakes. Judy knows EXACTLY what she charged for each cake, and how long ago that was!
Each cake pouch should contain:
- all contact info for the client.. name, address, phone number, e-mail, etc
- how they heard about you
- date & time required
- delivered or pick-up (and where to deliver it to)
- what you charged
- who & what event the cake was for (be specific... Carol's son George's 12th birthday which is actually on the 14th though the cake is for the 12th)
- how many servings
- size & shape of pans you used (even if you carved the cakes!)
- what recipes you used, how many batches, any modifications, any issues, etc
- what colours you used (specific again... what brand, approx how much, etc.)
- A PHOTO OF THE FINISHED CAKE (or several if the back is interesting too!)
- customer comments
- notes about what you would do differently, or things that really worked for you
- notes about the weather / humidity, etc if they might be an issue.
- especially for large cakes (though it's not a bad idea for any cake!) a copy of your contract, and a record of the deposit paid (how much, cash or cheque, cheque number, date received, etc)
- any sketches you made, any sources of inspiration, swatches of fabric, reference to a page in a book or magazine, anything!
** and on the topic of "sources of inspiration"... make sure any time you save a photo of someone else's work, record the cake artist's name & web site! You definately want to be able to give them credit for the inspiration, and you may want to contact them at some point! My experience is that many decorators are happy to give you a few tips on reproducing a certain technique (especially if you're in a different part of the country or world that you're not competing against them with their own style!)
Your master sheet should be a relatively simple list:
* name or number of the cake (I name each one, but I've alse started assigning them numbers for ease of reference)
* client's name
* date of the cake
* any critical notes (like NEVER bake for this person again! LOL! Seriously though... just critical notes... the details will be in the pouch, remember?)
* how much you charged (dollar value, free, just costs, whatever!)
You may find over time that there are WAY too many "FREE" cakes (yes... record them too!) If that's the case (and you're trying to make a business of your hobby) then you should re-evalutate your answer the next time someone wants something for nothing!
Of course, if you're handy with spreadsheets, that's an even better way to track your info, but make sure you have hard copies organized as above (or whatever works for you!) 'CAUSE CRASHES HAPPEN!!!