There are two questions I get all the time. The first question is what I do with all the cakes I make, and subsequently cut in my videos. The other is about cake orders!
Everyday I get emails, DMs, and comments asking how people can order a cake from me.
I also frequently have to answer this question when people ask what I do. I tell them I’m a baker, or that I make cakes (to keep things simple), and they start talking about an upcoming birthday they need a cake for.
Sometimes I think I should just say I’m a freelancer, or a content creator to avoid that tangent. Because as soon as I politely say that I don’t actually sell my cakes, I see the confusion in their eyes.
I know they want to ask, “then what do you really do? How do you make money?” And I totally get it…how could I be a baker and not sell my cakes?!
People usually phrase their next question as “Wow, how does you business work then?!”
This is when I go into my long-winded explanation about what I do.
I’m a jill of all trades, and have a lot of irons in the fire. While I no longer make money selling cakes, I’ve learned that baking cakes can bring in money a lot of different ways, through:
- affiliate links (Amazon)
- teaching private cake lesson
- hosting corporate events
- monetizing my YouTube channel
- monetizing my Facebook videos (3+ minute videos)
- creating content for The Food Network
- paid partnerships on social media
But there’s a lot more to it then that. In this post, I’m going to share the details of everything I do with Chelsweets, and how I make money as a baker who doesn’t sell cakes 😛
A lot people think the era of blogging is dead. I’ll admit, I used to think the same thing. But it’s quite the opposite. Where do you go looking for recipes? I would guess most would answer “by searching online”. These days, people aren’t usually baking from cookbooks when google is at their fingertips.
People are also interested in trying recipes from a chef or baker they follow on social media. When they trust someone and their recipes, they’re likely to go back to that person’s blog time and time again.
I never thought I’d say this, but my biggest (consistent) revenue stream is from my blog. It wasn’t always like that though! After I decided to take Chelsweets full-time, I spent months learning how to optimize my blog and updating old posts to get chelsweets.com where it is today (about 300k pageviews / month).
I started blogging a few years ago, but didn’t really invest time in it until this past year.
Blogging is super time consuming. I had a hard time dedicating time to my blog when I was still working full-time. At that time, I had to dedicate all my remaining energy into baking, content-creation and video editing.
I love blogging, because I have control over it. While Google can change its algorithm and affect my SEO traffic, it’s still a reliable monthly income that I am able to generate on my own.
It isn’t like relying on brands to come to me for a partnership, or nervously waiting to see if a company wants to renew a long-term contract.
Different Traffic Sources
My blog traffic comes from three main sources.
- Roughly 20% of my blog traffic comes from people directly typing in chelsweets.com, or returning to blog posts they’ve bookmarked.
- About 40% of my blog traffic is driven from my social channels (Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram).
- The remaining 40% of my views come organically from search.
Clearly it’s important to make your blog SEO (search engine optimization) friendly. From picking the right keyword, to tagging photos correctly, to adding meta descriptions, there’s a lot to it.
I also work hard to create and share engaging videos that make people want to head to my blog. My hope is that they’ll be inspired to try making a new cake flavor, or tackle a new decorating style.
It took me a long time to learn how to properly write blog posts, and I’m definitely still working on it.
Turning Views into $
All of this is great, but a blog doesn’t magically make money on its own. I use WordPress (which I LOVE and highly recommend), which lets anyone opt into sharing ads on their blog, with google AdSense.
But it’s hard to make any real money through AdSense, even if you do have decent traffic.
Luckily there are companies that offer full-service ad management, and help you make a lot more. Some of the top ad management companies are Mediavine, Adthrive, and Ezoic.
You have to apply to be a part of these networks, and there are traffic thresholds you have to pass before you will be accepted.
I’m with Mediavine, and have nothing but wonderful things to say about them. They are amazing to work with, and super responsive. They also have loads of resources (from in-depth blog posts to their podcast, Theory of Content), which have taught most of what I know.
Affiliate links are another way I make money. I’m a part of the Amazon Affiliate program, (or Amazon Associates), which is an affiliate marketing program.
It’s free sign up for this program, and I get a small referral fee whenever someone clicks on a product link I’ve shared in a blog post (if they end up buying that product on Amazon).
I like affiliate links, because I feel like it’s a win-win for everyone involved. It encourages me to link the products that I actually use in my blog posts, which can be very helpful for my readers.
It’s nice to be able to direct my readers to the products they need for different recipes and cake designs. Whether I link a unique silicone mold I used to make a snake skin pattern, or a specific cast-iron cake stand that I swear by, people know exactly what I’m using and how to get it.
Private Cake Lessons
It’s been an amazing way to connect with fellow bakers. The one-on-one setting in my kitchen makes a world of a difference, and I can really help people improve their cake decorating skills. I also get the chance to demonstrate different techniques that people want to learn.
Teaching private lessons is another revenue stream that I have control over. I can pick how many lessons I teach a month, and determine what days of the week I teach.
If a month is slower, and I don’t have any partnerships going on, I can take on a couple extra lessons. Or if I’m traveling a lot for work, I can take a few weeks off. This flexibility is incredibly refreshing, and great since my schedule is different every month.
I also teach larger groups at the Institute of Culinary Education every couple months.
Corporate Events / Live Demos
When I realized how much I loved teaching, my private cake lessons slowly evolved into corporate cupcake events. Someone approached me about doing a corporate event, and a light bulb went off in my head.
Corporate events are a great way to scale. I do cupcake events onsite, which means I get to utilize a company’s conference rooms and not worry about hosting a big group in my tiny kitchen.
It’s also fun to teach a lot of people at once! While it’s a lot of work to prep and clean up after big events, they’re totally worth it.
I usually do one corporate event a month, but I am really at the mercy of companies reaching out to me.
Monetizing My YouTube & Facebook Channels
While you can’t monetize videos on Instagram, you can monetize videos on YouTube and Facebook. However, you need to jump through a couple hoops before you can place ads in your videos.
You can monetize a YouTube channel once you have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time (within the past 12 months).
On Facebook, you can monetize videos once you have 10,000 followers and 30,000 one-minute views on videos that are at least 3 minutes long (in the last 60 days).
The content I share on YouTube and Facebook is a lot different than the videos I share on Instagram and TikTok. I make long-form videos for YouTube and Facebook, which are in-depth tutorials.
They range in length from three to twelve minutes long. The videos are usually shown in real time (aren’t sped up at all), to show exactly how I make different cake batters, or to demonstrate various decorating techniques.
I don’t make a ton of money on every YouTube and Facebook video I share. However, some of my videos have gone viral, and they continue to generate solid revenue.
While you never know how well a video will perform, if you continue create good quality videos, the views should follow suit.
Money adds up the more videos you share. Once you have a solid library of videos, you will start to see consistent returns.
To keep myself sane, I really try to focus on revenue streams I control. However, sometimes I get approached for paid partnerships.
These are agreements with companies to create content and share it across your social channels. Usually paid partnerships are centered around raising awareness for a brand or product, or to drive sales.
While you can try to reach out to brands you’d like to work with, usually the cold call approach doesn’t get you very far. A lot of times there simply isn’t budget allocated for random partnerships, so even if a brand wants to work with you, there isn’t any money for it!
It might sound a little lazy but I prefer to wait for brands to reach out to me. When a brand reaches out, it means they have budget for an activation, they know and respect your work, and want to partner with you.
These are great if it’s a brand/company/product you actually like and care about! This isn’t always the case though. Sometimes you have to say no to partnerships that aren’t aligned with your brand.
Some content creators/influencers have agents, to help them negotiate partnerships. Agents can help you get better terms, build long-term relationships with brands, and in some cases they can get you more money. Agents aren’t free though! They usually take a percentage (15-20%) of all incoming partnerships.
I am still independent at this point, and negotiate all of my partnerships and contracts.
In my last job, I worked in corporate finance in the digital department of a PR agency. As part of my job, I reviewed influencer contracts from a financial perspective. I feel very comfortable reviewing and negotiating my own deals because of this experience. I also don’t want to give a cut of my money to an agent.
Digital Content Contributor
My final source of revenue comes from creating content for media companies. Over the past few years I’ve had a few longer-term contracts with different companies.
This differs from a paid partnership because you aren’t obligated to share the content you create on your channels. I bake and decorate exciting cakes, and film the process in my kitchen. The deliverable is simply the footage.
These monthly deliverables are fun and challenging, and help push me out of my comfort zone. Usually I’m proud of content I create, and I almost always share the footage on my channels once I’ve edited it (even though I don’t have to).
That’s It Folks!
So there you have it, that’s my business model! It is by no means traditional, or consistent. I’m constantly on my toes, and happy to say that I’m never bored!!
Things feel like they’re constantly influx, but I try to take it in stride. I embrace the busy months, and focus on content creation and strategy when things are quieter.
If you have any questions I didn’t cover, please leave them in the comments section <3