Here are some of the lessons I've learnt:
- Do not bake when overtired. I've messed up 2 chocolate ginger cakes (same batch) and a chocolate malteser cake in the past few days. I had assumed I could bake them with my eyes closed by now but it turns out that when staggeringly tired I forget raising agents or miscalculated when scaling recipes up or down.
- Do the accounts every month, not every 6 months. This ought to be a no-brainer but as work, builders, decorating and general family stuff ate up all available hours I got dreadfully behind. It's a tedious process catching up that much and it's possible I've forgotten some cash purchases so am not accurately reflecting my true earnings. I also hadn't realised I was owed £300! That's been paid now, I believe - I can check on Monday (Nice surprise though!)
- It is not a good idea to experiment with recipes or new techniques when overtired (are you sensing a theme?) To use up one of those wrecked cakes I did some experimenting. The same bleary-eyed hard-of-thinking befuddled state of mind that caused me to mess up a cake in the first place pretty much ensured the experiment was a disaster
- Green and Black's white chocolate does not melt to a thin enough consistency to make a good dipping coating. Adding butter to thin it curdles it, adding a tiny splash of milk makes to go a horrible colour. I think cheaper chocolate might be worth a go.
- It is OK to say no to commissions. If I am overtired (ha!) or over-committed (double ha!) it could be the smart move to turn down some work, whatever Mark says. (Mark is a keen fan of Always Accept Work but as I am the one working myself into something of a stupor, I have decided not to take his advice.)
- If a customer changes the rules at the last minute it is OK to say No to the whole job. I'd accepted a job for a Sunday which, on the Wednesday before, was changed to a "I need to collect it tonight and forgot to tell you." I was already baking 14 batches of cakes and cookies that day and it was demented getting a celebration cake made as well. It was nice to satisfy the customer and she's a lovely woman but I pushed myself to tears of fatigue getting it done. Not smart.
- I need to account for my time when costing things, and do so at a proper wage. Earning £5 a hour when I am an experienced, skilled professional is ridiculous. That's under the minimum wage.
- as a self employed woman, does that mean I'm exploiting myself? probably!
- It is good practice to ask for some detail about the person for whom a cake is intended if the customer has no design brief other than "make it nice." Having a selection of themes to get me started on a design is a big help.
- I am not a lazy person. I think I am, because I hate exercise and am a messy slattern in some respect. However, my Mum pointed out that I work pretty much non-stop from waking up until 8 o'clock ish most nights, and that is not being lazy.
- It is very important to keep my laptop calendar and my iPhone calendar synched. I nearly missed 2 appointments and did miss a talk at the school because the calendars weren't synched when I assumed they were both up to date.
See? Isn't that a lot of important stuff to have learnt? I think so. But then, I've not managed more than 5 hours sleep for most of the last month, so it's possible my judgement is impaired!