View Full Version : Photographers and Pastry Chefs

11-2-11, 2:17pm
A friend from grad school decided to start a facebook page for her photography business this week, so that triggered this post. I don't know how to express this exactly, but it seems like over the past few years all these people I know (mostly young women) have decided to become "photographers" or "bake cakes" for a living. I put these things in quotes because it seems like these people have no training in it, and generally don't do a very good job of it. Seriously, 3 people I know have gone into baking (no training) and I can count nearly 10 photographers!

I understand the faux pastry chefs coming out of the woodwork with all the TV shows about cakes and cupcakes, desserts whatever...but what is up with all the photographers? I can't imagine people who take fairly amateurish photos are making a living...is this just a creative outlet, and we've become so consumeristic people have to call it a business? People disillusioned with a traditional career? Or maybe its the realm of the housewife/stay at home mom, but those areas are also taboo now, so people now say they have a career in photography/baking???

Just thinking out loud here. Anyone else noticed this? Or maybe its been around all along and I am just now aware of the phenomenon?

Miss Cellane
11-2-11, 3:06pm
Or maybe these are both part-time jobs that can be done as a stay-at-home parent? Or they can't find a good paying job in their field right now? Or they are unemployed and desperately seeking some source of income? Or they are underemployed and need additional money?

If they are talented, their businesses with thrive. If they are no good at what they want to do, no one will pay them money to do it and the business will die.

11-2-11, 4:27pm
I'm not aware of a lot of photographers - I wouldn't think there was much money in it. How do they make a living when everyone has a digital camera?

As for baking, there has been a rash of books that celebrate women finding themselves through cooking, and mostly through baking. The general story line is that the woman is single or divorces and has fallen on hard times. Her one skill is making the best cupcakes/pies/cakes/ in the whole world. Whatever will she do? Can she really start a successful business and win the heart of the scruffy but adorable history professor who lives next door?

I am a feminist, and support women in whatever they do, but it would be cool if some of these women started an adventure travel company, or did web design, or, heck, black smithing.

Good luck to them all! I wish there were more flexible jobs for women - in homeschooling I'm letting my dd explore all sorts of skills - knifemaking, leathercraft (including skinning and tanning), gardening, architecture, construction, carpentry, as well as getting a good foundation in academics and arts.

11-2-11, 5:08pm
Well, I know several amateur photographers (pretty good ones) and I think that they appeal to people because they are cheaper. My DD had some wonderful pictures taken of her baby by a relative and the other one had a friend that took her wedding pictures cheaply since she was just starting out. The pictures lasted longer than the marriage :(

I would rather buy a cake made by someone starting out than a bakery. But then we don't have any bakeries around here. So it is Walmart, duh or the grocery stores.

Now I know that people get carried away and start something that they don't have enough experience in, but then how do you get experience if you don't put yourself "out there"?

iris lily
11-3-11, 12:01am
I haven't noticed it in my immediate group, but I am at an age where people aren't jumping into new stuff so much. A couple of decades ago, yes,I know more than one person who thought they could bake from home and make $$$.

Here in my city is a professional kitchen for rent that meets codes and that caters to these professional baker wannabes.

11-3-11, 12:48am
I have a friend, SAHM of 3, who does absolutely incredible cakes/cupcakes. She'd done it for her own family for years and then started branching out to others. It's still all very informal and word of mouth, but she goes to a large church and gets a lot of business that way. She specializes in special, very creative cakes for children, and seems to have a pretty busy time of it, from the pictures she posts on FB.

Her DH is a school teacher and she does this both for some extra money as well as for something fun and creative to do - that she gets paid for.

11-3-11, 2:55am
a friend of mine does photography as a side business. it started out as a hobby, and she's pretty good at it (and works at it), and so now she does it so that she can get more training and equipment as she wants it. it's a break even.

the big one in my area was everyone becoming a yoga teacher.

yoga schools make a lot of money soaking wannabes who aren't ready to take training. A studio in philly that I know makes $140k a year just on *teacher training* because they max out the number of people they train. These people -- many of whom are not ready to take training, let alone teach -- then flood the market and depress incomes for yoga teachers who are trying to actually earn an income from it.

which is why i started a studio and run it the way that i do, with fair trade yoga for yoga teachers (teachers take 60% of income, and we take 40% of income from a given class, which includes profit margin for us, so it's not like we are missing out on profits -- but it allows the teacher to make a living teaching).

anyway, it's pretty common for these things to happen.

i have friends cater my various events. I'm way too busy -- and paying someone a little bit to do something nice for me is. . . nice. :D

11-3-11, 6:08am
My DD has a side photography business she started about a year ago to supplement her income. She is good at it, enjoys it, and charges a very fair price. She has more business than she can handle these days.

She loves to travel with her kids and is now able to thanks to the extra income....

11-3-11, 12:10pm
The bakers/caterers are also getting inspired by Paula Deen, HBO's reworking of "Mildred Pierce" (very inspiring, but a few anti-feminist messages in there as well) and the movie "Julie and Julia." Plus, of course all the millions of cakes and cupcake shows, as the OP mentioned. I don't know about the photographers...perhaps they're taking seriously all the "oohs, ahhs" and "likes" on their Facebook pages when they post a photo, and are getting a false sense of their abilities and talents, a la "OMG, that picture is awesome, you should be a professional!" But, as has been pointed out already, these are good service businesses that can fit in with family and other jobs, and could indeed grow into sustainable careers for people who work at it, have talent, and have the patience and drive to build a business for themselves.

In my old neck of the woods, ten years ago, everyone and his dog were getting trained as NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioners, Reiki Masters, Life Coaches and Aromatherapists! VERY few of them are still doing it professionally.

11-3-11, 1:00pm
From the 70's thru the 80's one of my many, many income streams was catering fancy tea parties and romantic dinners for 2 along with baking specialty cakes and pastries..I did quite well.
I put my self thu university in part by doing upscale clothing repair, adjustments and custom sewing. The feminist in me would have enjoyed horse-shoeing, but there was no real need for farriers in NY at that time so I also did wallpapering and wall stencils . What I could have accomplished if the web had been around then!!
My mother though that I was wasteing my education, but I reminded her who was paying her bills and putting my siblings thru school. Work is work, and if it pays the bills and you enjoy it what could be better?

11-3-11, 1:19pm
I do some nature photography mostly as a hobby and participate in some local shows where I make a few bucks. There are not many nature photographers who make a living doing it full time. A lot of competition. But the are little photography niches where I think people do pretty good and not a lot of competition, like kid's sports and team shots, pet portraiture, weddings and senior photos.

11-3-11, 6:34pm
Here among my friends, not so much with the baking, but lots of photographers. Some are outstanding and make a good living at it. Others, meh.

I keep trying to stumble on a good side business. Thing is, they all require work . . . ;)

11-3-11, 6:39pm
You make me laugh, Kelli. I agree, I'd love to start a "side business" if I could find the time away from my primary business. And I have worked too hard for too long to really want to go back to the 75 hour work week. So maybe there won't BE a side business. Oh, well...

11-4-11, 10:12am
Well, a baker and a pastry chef are really two different animals. I have worked at several bakeries, managing one, and none of the people who owned and operated those bakeries had any kind of formal education in baking. Most of them learned on the job at another bakery, or just started it up and learned as they went. To be honest, it's hard work, but it's not rocket science.

It's kind of like cooks vs. chefs. A lot of mom and pop restaurants, many of my favourites, are run by people who don't have a culinary degree. Even at a restaurant that has a chef, most of the people who cook are not usually chefs. Chefs are expensive. A gastropub I used to work at paid their two actual chefs over $100,000 a year. Most of the cooking was done by underlings. Mac's Fish and Chips (which I love), is run by a couple who know how to fry some fish.

I think there probably is a niche for people who bake from scratch. A lot of bakeries really don't anymore. A lot of them use mixes and have a pretty limited selection. Some focus on cake decorating instead of actual baking. Look at Cake Boss. There's a lot of prepurchased stuff in those cakes. Tubs of frosting, rolls of premade fondant, purchased cereal bars for filler and stuff like that. It's about how the cake looks, not how it tastes. Some of that stuff is practically inedible. Then you have bakeries that focus on volume. It's hard to bake high quality stuff from scratch in huge volumes. Some of them are more like factories than bakeries. It's not a common thing anymore to find bakeries that focus on quality.

The bakery I managed made things from scratch and sold them primarily to coffee shops and restaurants with a small retail outfit. It was owned by a woman who started out making just biscotti, really good biscotti, and sold it to coffee shops. She did really well until she had a nervous breakdown due to some extreme family drama. Honestly that was one of the most fun jobs I ever had. Waking up at 3AM notwithstanding. I've worked at several coffee shops that have had a difficult time finding bakeries who will deliver fresh, handmade baked goods every day. It's either factory style bakery delivered daily or handmade, but frozen, which definitely loses something in the process. If you marketed yourself right and hit the right customer base, you could do pretty well.

I can't speak to photographers. I think a lot of people are starting businesses with low overhead and a low risk factor like app development, small scale baking, etsy sales, ebay sales and photography. In addition to being low risk they are results-centric instead of credential centric. I don't care if the person who developed my app has a computer science degree. I care that it's an app I'll use and it works. I don't care if the person who bakes my cookie is a pastry chef, I care that it tastes good. Photographers are hired based on whether or not a client likes their portfolio, not on whether or not they have a photography degree. Or the pictures are purchased after they are taken because someone likes it. I personally think this is good. IMO credentials don't necessarily add a lot to the quality of many of these kinds of jobs, but they add significantly to the cost.

Just as an aside, I find it strange that people would be bothered by women starting businesses in traditionally feminine fields, which baking, BTW, really isn't. Many, many, many men have owned bakeries. I think the same is true of photography and tailoring. Just because they are considered femine doesn't make them inferior to something like blacksmithing or computer programming. It's a sore spot with me that to be feminists, we must be more masculine. Women kick @ss. We are strong and smart and capable whether we're baking cakes or building a house. In my mind real equality would be giving equal respect to all things "feminine" and "masculine" rather than steering women away from things because they are not manly enough.

steve s
11-4-11, 1:27pm
I sometimes present myself in society as a musician. If I had to live off what I make at music, maybe I'd be able to make a few thousand dollars every year. That's it.

It isn't necessary to make money at the work you love to do and for which you want to be recognized. What you do need is a means of support,which can often be mutually exclusive from other work you love.

11-4-11, 11:30pm
my favorite bakery (http://www.houseofclarendon.com/) in the whole, wide world (based on bakeries that i've experienced thus far). the owner is the new owner, but he was trained by the original owner, who was apparently highly trained in confectionary and baking cakes. cool stuff. i love martine (the new owner).

Now, my opinion on things. Because I'm opinionated.

What gets me is yoga teachers.

Ok, not in general. I'm glad that people want to become yoga teachers -- it's a good thing.

But what bothers me is studios taking advantage of people to make money. Teacher training is a cash-cow for a lot of studios. Most studios who run trainings are interested in filling the trainings, not interested in whether or not the people filling their trainings are ready or able to teach yoga. They use a lot of techniques to convince people to take the training from "you'd be an amazing teacher!" to "just use it to deepen your practice!" and ultimately walk away with $3-6k per person who takes the training.

One studio that I know of teaches 3 trainings a year at 20 students each charging $5k per student. Do you see the income? 5,000 x 20 = 100,000. Now multiply that times 3 trainings. That's $300,000 (before taxes). What about the expenses, you might ask? Well, the studio is already self supporting (just as mine is right now), and usually already turning a profit (mine is nearly there), and so all of this money? pure profit.

But what about the expense of the teacher, running the training -- the value of her/his time? I get this, I truly do. But here is another space where things get "hinky." The lead teacher doesn't lead most of the teacher trainings -- the "mentor teachers" do. Guess how much the "mentor teachers" get paid?

Nada. Nothing. "It's an honor to be asked to mentor our new teachers and to learn how to teach this training." BS!

So, the lead teacher -- who may teach 20 of the required 120 "contact hours" of the 200 hour program -- gets the whole $100,000 per training (less taxes), times 3 trainings a year. 60 hours of work for $300,000 (before taxes). That's $5,000 per hour. Really?! REALLY!?

And here's the kicker.

It wouldn't bother me if these were people *ready* to be trained. People who

1. have experience with yoga -- at least one year of consistent practice with THAT teacher, and preferably yoga with other schools besides. I prefer for people to have 2-5 years of *documented* yoga experience before joining training with me AND I want them to have at least 6 months working with me before I take them into my training.

2. have asserted that they are interested in teaching yoga -- I wait until a student approaches me about training, and then I interview them extensively to find out why they want to teach yoga and what they think it's all about, and/or what the lifestyle is actually like. I try to disavow them of the notion that it's a "get rich quick" scheme. You can get rich, and you can do it without using people (like the studio above), but not every yoga teacher is going to, nor should they expect to.

3. have demonstrated a dedication to learning yoga and learning to teach -- this is amorphous, but i like people who look beyond their classes for experience and study. people who read books, do their own explorations, and ask intelligent questions. And yes, a person PRIOR to teacher training can do this.

The problem is that many of these teacher trainings are taking people who have no experience in yoga and not only taking them (as in accepting them into their programs), but ENCOURAGING it. At one studio where I worked (not the one above, because I never worked there -- i was asked to "mentor" in their program, though. What an honor!), we were encouraged to "Notice what people were wearing -- their clothes, their jewelry -- and also their cars and cell phones. If they are fancy and new, then these people have money to spend. Encourage them by saying their yoga is Amazing! and that they "should take X workshops/teacher trainings!" in order to 'deepen their practice" and "share their natural talent for yoga."

The goal? get rich ladies/gentlemen to feel ego-puffed enough to plunk $5k into your bank account.

It's crap-tastic.

And it leads to industry problems too.

One studio where I worked, I was asked to come in from the ground up. It was a starter studio, and he said he couldn't pay me normal rates. Ok, wanting to help out, I made an agreement with him that when the classroom reached "critical mass" (a number we determined together), then I would jump in pay grade (from $35 to $50, which was the normal rate at the time), and then when it reached "profit margin" status, I would get a profit-share ($2 per student). The max of my income from a given class would be $80. I thought this was fair, since I"m good at building classes.

I started working and my classes go from 0 to critical mass in three months. Instead of a pay raise, he tells me "i really need your talents at another time" and moves me to another 0 class (that he was teaching) and he takes over my class times. the students divide out (some staying at the convenient time, others coming with the teacher -- me), and then i build those classes up to critical mass. He moves me again, giving those classes to his new girlfriend (also new yoga teacher). I build those 0 classes up to critical mass in about 8 weeks, and it turns out that there are no more 0 classes. I effectively built his whole studio in about 6 months.

I ask him to increase me to $50 per class, and he says he can't afford it. I know that I'd gone through the numbers with him (i helped him write his business plan!), so I knew that he COULD afford it at this point (assuming he wasn't faffing up the accounting or overspending and being stupid -- turns out he probably was, but whatever). Bottom line is that he DIDN'T want to pay me.

So he says to me "look, you'll either accept the $35, or i'll fire you and hire someone who will. There are no less than three teacher trainings in the area ending this month, and people are looking for positions. There are at least 20 people that I can go to right now an doffer $35 and they'd be THANKFUL!"

yeah, because they don't realize that in 2000, teachers got paid $50-90 per class (depending upon experience -- beginners getting $50), and today, they get paid $25-35 at the same studio, and the "experienced" teacher MIGHT get $50-75 IF the studio thinks they are valuable.

but IF the studio is training their own teachers, they have a lot more control over the "product" of the classes (as well as the emotional manipulation of the person because of the relationship they'd built), and those people -- if wealthy -- "aren't in it for the money!" and therefore will take less income.

while the studio owner -- who talks a big game about "not being in it for the money" -- is actually raking in a TON of cash (e.g., $150k per year AFTER taxes in the case of this particular studio -- and it's currently earning about $300k as it's grown since 2003 when it started).

Jivamukti yoga -- last i'd heard which was years ago -- trains teachers at $5k over several years, and "honors" them with a class at their NYC studio for $25 per class. $25!!!! in NYC!!!!!

For anyone who wants to be a teacher, as a profession, the reality is that these folks are out there depressing the amount of income that we can demand.

Which is why I started the yoga studio in the way that I did. My profit is built in -- i take 40% of the income from every class -- but the teacher takes the remaining 60%. Everything else is my own efforts. My classes at 1/2 full supports the whole business (half full for the 4 weeks in a month). So the other 1/2 of the students -- profit. Franchising -- profit. Teaching yoga private lessons/workshops/etc -- profit. Teacher trainings -- profit. Other practitioners renting/utilizing the space -- profit. On site business -- profit.

Lots and lots of areas of profit.

I don't have to take advantage of teachers to make a profit. I don't have to take advantage of students -- forcing them to pay for more and more things through manipulative language and behaviors -- in order to make a profit. I can offer what I offer, and people who are interested will step up and take advantage of it. And guess what? it turns a profit!

So yeah, i want to make a profit. . . but not at the expense of other people.

Ok, ranting over.

A lot of folks get involved in teaching yoga as a "side business" and it ends up being unrewarding and more expensive than they know. It can take YEARS to pay yourself back for your $5k training earning $15-35 per class ($15 is what gyms pay you). If you are teaching 2-5 classes a week, how long will it take? And then there's your own expenses -- yoga clothes, mats, classes, continuing education, books, gas to get to classes, etc. Most people don't break even teaching yoga -- they spend money teaching yoga.

It's not worth it. Seriously.

11-5-11, 5:08am
Wow, Zoebird -- you should write an ebook version of that post above. YOu would do a lot of people considering yoga as a career a huge service. And it would be another side income stream :) You'd probably want to do it anonymously, though. I could see how shining some bright light on this ugly side of such a "spiritual" business would make some people angry, and possibly even vindictive. Kudos to you for sticking to an honest, right-livelihood way of running your own business.

I personally LOVE many of the food blogs that have popped up in the past few years -- many of them seem to be ways that women and men with some good cooking and photography skills have found a way to work from home, often when raising kids. A lot of them have come out with books, which are on my list to buy (some already bought). If they can make a living and give people pleasure and satisfaction with good recipes and good food, why not?


11-5-11, 2:10pm
I like the idea of selling little arty items on Etsy or eBay. I have supplies--do I have supplies!--so my overhead would be small. I started thinking about it in earnest when I spent more money on a fashion doll dress than I would likely spend on one for myself. My sewing skills are nothing to shout about*, but really--I could do it myself. Even if I don't make items for sale, I can certainly make them for my own enjoyment. And to stay on point, that's how it starts, I imagine.

*I inherited what you might call "a good eye," so my design skills are OK. If only I had an assembly crew...

11-7-11, 3:01pm
Oh, I don't know why I was so negative in my first post. I guess I was sick that day of having yet another photographer wannabe asking me to "like" their facebook! I really do want people to succeed and totally support entrepreneurialism! Its just that this photographers work is...soo...bad. Its really poor quality! Not poor quality to take pics of your own kids and help take shots at a relatives wedding, but its really not good enough to be charging money for. But, I guess the poster who said if the work is good they will succeed, and otherwise not is probably right.

Also, I totally support women doing anything - masculine, feminine, whatever. In my initial post I wondered if we as a society had so diminished the value of SAHMs that these people were having to say they were doing something else in addition. I didn't mean to imply that I thought being a SAHM, photographer or baking was in some way not a good enough path. I felt that there might be some pressure to be "more" than a SAHM...and I considered that a bad thing.

So interesting about Yoga Zoebird! You also do massage, right? I have a friend who went to massage school and had what seems to be similar experience. She gave up on it :( and is working in an office now even thought she loved it.

11-7-11, 3:10pm
DH does photography on the side - for love, not money. He uses old film cameras almost exclusively but noted recently that with the advent of digital cameras, everyone thinks they are a photographer now.

11-7-11, 3:30pm
jennipurr: i do thai massage. i haven't gone to massage school -- just several trainings in thai. it's good stuff, honestly. :) but, i prefer teaching yoga. :)

massage schools here run everything from weekend courses to two and four year degrees. so it really depends upon what you want to do. some people have natural talent, other people simply want more education.

11-7-11, 3:38pm
Also, I totally support women doing anything - masculine, feminine, whatever. In my initial post I wondered if we as a society had so diminished the value of SAHMs that these people were having to say they were doing something else in addition. I didn't mean to imply that I thought being a SAHM, photographer or baking was in some way not a good enough path. I felt that there might be some pressure to be "more" than a SAHM...and I considered that a bad thing.

That could play a part in it jennipurr. I know for myself I did feel a lot of pressure from my mom and sister the first couple of years to be more than "just" a SAHM. Seven years into it I'm not worried about that anymore, but there was a time when that was a concern. I agree that is a bad thing. It should be OK for either parent to choose to be home without feeling like that isn't enough. I think, too, that sometimes relationship dynamics make the at-home parent feel like they have to make money. A friend of mine who is a SAHM was talking about how her husband complains about money she spends on art supplies and baking stuff for the kids and when she mentioned that he smokes he told her that was OK because it was "his" money. He's lucky he's not married to me. That wouldn't have ended well for him. :)

OTOH I know a lot of SAHPs who've started side businesses just for their own enjoyment. A friend of mine who's a SAHD does some part-time freelance graphic design. It's a different kind of challenge for him. It gives him an opportunity to do something that feels finished. :) Parenting is rewarding, but a lot of it is kind of on-going. Teaching, laundry, dishes, discipline and those sorts of things just have to be done again the next day. I think it's why I like sewing and embroidery. There's a point where I have finished something concrete. I can see how selling it might add to the feeling of having accomplished something.

11-7-11, 4:04pm
most SAHPs i know also do side jobs for enjoyment.

11-7-11, 6:24pm
Hey, I want to write ebooks!

And sell on Etsy!!

And do all these side jobs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Not sure why self-employment is very attractive . . .