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Planning for the Chaos: 5 tips to survive busy seasons in your baking business

Can I tell you a secret? Up until recently, when people would ask what I do, I would answer: "I stay home with my kids." But why? I've been taking cake orders for just as long as I have been a SAHM. I could kick myself from downplaying my cake business all these years. My answer now? I own a cake business, but I'm always mom first.

Those words though: I'm always mom first. It's so important for me to be present and be where I'm needed for my kiddos while they're still young, so a couple years back I came to the decision to limit the amount of orders I take each week so I can still be the main dropper-offer/laundry doer/school event goer/meal maker in our house. The hubs has a stressful job so handling most of the household stuff is very much my priority, which makes time management my priority.

You know what though? Sometimes I don't follow my own rules. Sometimes I take on more orders then I know I should, during the last couple weeks of the school year, when we have activities most nights. I'm not perfect. (Also, that happened in May.)

The thing is, if you go into it knowingly you can have a plan so you don't wind up in a ball on your kitchen floor in the middle of the night, crying out of exhaustion and stress because you've taken on too much.

Here are 5 things I do to make those SUPER busy times less chaotic:

1. Know your limits. That's right. You have to know how many orders you're comfortable with, how many is a lot, but still doable, and how many are just way. too. many. Unless there's some kind of big reward or incentive for it, don't go into that third category. You're taking time away from your family, you're stressing yourself out, and your quality of work usually suffers too.

2. Take time off. As a small business owner, you can and should give yourself time off. I find I work best when my schedule ebbs and flows. Busy weeks surrounded by light weeks, or weeks where I don't take custom orders at all. This is especially true if you have a time that you know you will be crazy busy (holiday specials, graduation season, etc.), take a week or two off in advance of that, then make sure your schedule lightens up afterward. No one can go full steam ahead, 100% of the time. That only leads to burn out and we don't need that.

3. Plan Ahead. Ok, you've realized that you have a busy time coming up, how can you make it go smoother? Take a day at the start of the week to make sure you have all the supplies you need, figure out some easy meals for your family, and order everything you can online! The less time you have to spend walking through stores, the more time you have to get your work done at home. And when I say easy meals, I mean something you can throw in the slow cooker with minimal prep, chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, whatever works for your family to get you through the week. Like I said, this is not what life should look like all the time, so a few not-so-great meals are not going to harm anyone. We just don't want to be spending all of our profits on take out.

Time management in busy baking seasons

4. Stay On Track. This goes hand in hand with planning ahead, but it deserves its own spot. While I'm planning out those meals and ordering supplies, I also grab my planner and make to-do lists for each day. I keep all of our activities and my orders in a Google calendar, so my planner is just for my day-to-day tasks that need to get accomplished.

Time management in busy baking seasons

You can see that it's very simple, and there's plenty of space to write. I divide everything up into 3 categories: Top 3, Work, and Home (in three separate colors, because I like color coding.)

The Top 3 are things that MUST get done that day, and can be either work or home related. Even if the rest of the day goes down the crapper, those things take priority.

From there I write a list of tasks that are work related, and a list of tasks that are home related. Some days it's all work, and nothing home, or vice versa. Ebb and flow, right? I also try to stack the first part of the week heavy with tasks, instead of putting things off. That way if my kids need me, something comes up, or I fall behind, then I'm not in too bad of shape by the end of the week.

5. Batch your work. Especially on busy weeks, I try to batch my work as much as possible. Here's what an ideal week looks like for me:

  • Monday: Make all my lists, take care of any emails (more on that in a second), schedule social media posts, order supplies, get groceries, etc.

  • Tuesday: Bake everything and make all of my frostings.

  • Wednesday: Make any fondant decorations for my cakes and prep my cake boards.

  • Thursday: Begin crumb-coating and frosting my cakes.

  • Friday: Complete each cake in the order they're going out. Some of them will go out on Friday, some not until Saturday or Sunday. Then photograph and box up each order.

Bonus tip: Delegate. It wasn't until the beginning of this year that I was really able to delegate some of my business tasks, and it has made a HUGE difference. My assistant, Emma, started in January to fill in some gaps that I knew I had. She now handles customer email responses, invoicing, my order calendar, and my Instagram account. Before you go on thinking that you aren't in a place to hire someone right now, let me tell you that she only works 5-6 hours a week for me, and she does it all from her computer while she's away at college. It's worked out well for both of us, and I know that my customers are getting better communication because of it. I'm not above telling you that I've forgotten to add orders to my calendar, or missed responding to messages all together. I can now use my time to create their orders, and pour into other areas of my business.

So there you have it. All the things that work for me to get through the chaos. Again, as with all things, what's right for me may not be right for you and that's ok. I don't even follow this all the time, but it works well when I do. Find a system that works, don't be afraid to say no to things that take away from the people/things that you love, and ROCK YOUR BUSINESS!

PS, If you found this helpful, I would LOVE it if you saved the image below on Pinterest!

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