Is It Cake? Even Better, It’s a Side Hustle. How She Makes $1,000 a Month Baking One Cake a Week

Courtesy of Michelle Heston
Michelle Heston, a PR and marketing executive, got her start baking custom cakes when she baked one for her niece in 2018. The hobby, which she now calls "productive therapy", makes her between $500 and $1,000 a month.
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Your hobby or passion project could be making you extra money along the way.

“My sister assigned me cake duty for my niece’s birthday, so I started calling around and getting prices,” says Michelle Heston, a marketing executive based in San Francisco who now bakes hyper-realistic cakes on the side. “The quotes I received were ridiculously high, so I decided to try and tackle the project myself.” Heston’s cake was a hit, but more importantly, she had discovered a new passion — one that would also eventually become a side hustle.

After the birthday party, Heston volunteered to make cakes for family and friends when they had special occasions, and eventually created an Instagram account,  Heston Cakes. “I usually bring in about $500 to $1,000 [of income] per month,” she says, “and I only take about one commission cake a week.”

Four out of 10 Americans have a side hustle, according to a recent report from Zapier, a marketing automation company. If you’ve thought about a side hustle, but have a demanding day job, here’s how one corporate professional makes it work.

Managing a Busy Career While Starting a Side Hustle

Heston has a demanding corporate career overseeing PR and marketing communications for an international luxury hotel brand. She says baking is her solace—her outlet.  

“I love presenting a cake gift to friends and family, a special cake baked just for the recipient,” she says. “Most of my cakes tell a story. My first customers were friends of friends.” After years of baking for loved ones and the occasional referral client, Heston started an Instagram page for the side hustle in 2018 and registered the business. She says that’s when her side hustle took off. 

A round cake that gives the illusion of berries sinking into water. (All photos courtesy of Michelle Heston)
A recent cake for a client that emulated a Chanel bag.
A cake that emulates an oversized Big Mac from McDonald’s.

“People I didn’t know reached out through my network and said, ‘I’m a friend of so and so, would you consider making a cake?’” she says. During COVID, the side hustle picked up considerably as inquiries rolled in. 

How She Sets Her Cake Prices

Heston charges per cake based on the intricacy of the cake, how large it is, and how much time she thinks it will take. She starts with a minimum fee, then factors in the design effort that will be needed. She’ll also take occasional bigger projects; for a recent client, she made a cake that looked like a Frank Lloyd Wright building, and charged $1,000.

The money she makes gets reinvested back into the side hustle. Heston doesn’t plan to open a commercial bakery, but she does plan to leverage partnerships. She’s currently pursuing a partnership with a regional chocolate company in California because she bakes with their product.

Heston also likes to use her side hustle to help others in need. Heston Cakes creates and donates cakes to Cake4Kids, an organization that supplies birthday cakes for youth in foster care and low-income families. 

“We anonymously create cakes and deliver them to a partnering agency that delivers them to a child,” she says. To give that to a child and see the joy it can bring gives me immense pleasure. Baking is how I express my love — it’s my truest form of self-expression.”

Let a Side Hustle Fund Your Passions

Heston says baking cakes will always be a side hustle, and is not trying to make Heston Cakes into a full-time business. She loves baking, but also loves her career and what she does professionally. She says her side hustle compliments her career. 

A side hustle can be a way to reach your financial independence goals sooner. It can also be a way to help you connect more deeply to a hobby or passion you enjoy. 

“I’ve always believed that baking is a productive therapy for me,” says Heston. “If you love what you do, it’s not really work—I’ve found that both in my side hustle and my full-time career. Both bring me great joy and push the limits of what I can accomplish.”