May 20, 2021

5 Tips to Help Cottage Bakers and Makers Avoid Burnout

Dawn Belisle turned to baking full time in 2014. A lawyer turned boozy baker, Dawn jumped headfirst into the cottage food world. Today, while running Delights By Dawn, she also teaches new cottage food operators about cottage food laws, rules, regulations, and helps new artisans set up their businesses. 

At the virtual conference for cottage food artisans, Dawn shared her tips for avoiding burnout and managing stress. Spoiler alert: it’s all about scheduling and time management. 

“We will all get to a point where we’re burned out — most of us are doing this by ourselves,” Dawn said. “Legally, you are the only person who can produce the products you make, but others can help you with other aspects. Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster, going up and down, and burnout can happen either frequently or infrequently.”

Time Management for Cottage Bakers

Time management is key, Dawn shared. If you already consider yourself organized, but you’re still feeling like you’re behind, you need to reevaluate your schedule, or you need to ask for help. 

“Be more organized than you already are,” she says. Dawn recommends that cottage food operators use one or two days per week to organize and prepare for the rest of the week. 

“Take note of when orders start to come in. I know that my orders usually start coming in more heavily on Wednesdays, so I use Mondays and Tuesdays to organize and check on emails,” Dawn said. “I reach out to partners and reply to emails on Monday. I’ve found that Monday is the best day to reach out to someone and get a response or result. I also check my inventory for the week and shop for things on Monday.”

“You must take a day to sit down, be still, and organize the business side of your business.”

Planning Ahead to Manage Stress

Planning out your week before it starts is one of the best ways to manage stress and get a handle on your workload. 

Dawn shared her baking schedule with us to show how she manages her time.

“On Tuesday I’ll prep the batter, on Wednesday I’ll make the decorations, Thursday I’ll bake the cake, Friday I’ll assemble and decorate,” Dawn said. 

“You know your schedule and what’s best for you. Prepping ahead of time is a must. There’s nothing wrong with baking the layers of your cakes ahead of time and storing them properly ahead of time,” she said. 

Dawn usually dedicates a day of her week to making frostings, which she can store until she needs them. This means that when orders are due, she can frost the cakes and move on. 

On Saturdays, she makes deliveries — and she saves Sunday for self-care. 

How to Manage and Avoid Stress

Dawn’s biggest piece of advice for cottage food operators? “Find a mentor who is in the business or who has had some sort of business. They can be a shoulder to lean on and can provide advice.” 

Ideally, your mentor will be someone who’s working in a similar space. They’ll give you advice, share stories of times they had to overcome problems you’re facing, and help you bring down your stress levels. 

Outside of mentorship, Dawn recommends that food artisans “try meditation or treat yourself to a spa day, or exercise. Take a day or two away from your business every once in a while.”

Part of managing stress is setting clear expectations with customers. 

“Train your customers to abide by your hours. Set boundaries for when you’ll reply to messages, emails, texts, or phone calls. Set boundaries for the types of products you’ll make so you don’t get overwhelmed. Be clear in your communication, and you won’t run into as many issues.”

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