Are you wanting to know more about what it’s like to be a freelance florist? If so, then this post was written for you!
Maybe you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer, or maybe you’ve already been freelancing for a while now, and you’re wondering how you can improve your experience or increase your value as a freelance florist.
Whichever part of this journey you’re in… this post will answer questions like:
What is a freelance floral designer?
How can I become a freelance floral designer?
How can becoming a freelance florist benefit me?
How much should I be getting paid as a freelancer?
How can I improve my value and performance as a freelancer?
How can I book more freelance work?
What do shop owners think about when hiring freelancers?
Make sure you scroll through to the end, where I share my best Key tips for Surviving and Thriving as a Freelancer. If you are brand new to the concept of freelancing, you will find lots of helpful tips throughout this post. If you’re not so new to freelancing and you are looking to broaden or deepen your knowledge on the subject, you will find the most value in some of the later sections of this post, so scroll down a bit past the introductory topics and you’ll get to the real meaty stuff. 🙂
So, let’s dive into some of these topics!
First, a little background… Before I started doing my business full time in 2018, I was a freelance florist for about five years. Before that, I worked in a retail flower shop for 3 years, and even after I started my business I’ve continued to freelance from time to time. So in total, this equals about 11 years of combined experience in working for other floral companies. During this time of working for other shop owners, I learned a great deal about efficiency and productivity around the field of floral design. From small mom and pop shops to fast-paced design studios, the dynamic changes greatly. I’ve learned different ways to thrive in these different environments, learned valuable tips for how to be most productive, and most importantly, how to maximize my worth and become a valuable asset as a freelancer. Today I’m happy to be sharing all of that knowledge with you!
What is a Freelance Florist?
Let’s start by answering this basic question – what is a freelance florist? The most simple definition is someone who offers their design services as an independent contractor. This could be working for yourself or others, but most commonly, this term is used in describing a designer who works for multiple different companies.
What are the Benefits of Being a Freelance Florist?
Here’s another question… why should you be a freelance florist? There are two common professions around floristry – either you are a business owner and run your own flower shop or floral studio, or you are an employee working for a shop and making an hourly rate or annual salary. A freelance florist falls in between those two: you are an independent contractor which means you technically own your own business. But you are also working under the employment of others. In technical terms, instead of the shop owner being your boss, they are your client. You are providing them a service, and your job is to serve that client to the best of your ability.
There are a few main benefits of being a freelance florist, as opposed to a regular employee. First of all, since you are an independent contractor, you have the freedom to create your own schedule. You can take only the jobs that you want, and you can refuse others. Secondly, as a freelance florist you typically can be paid a higher hourly rate than a part-time or full-time employee. If you can fill your schedule and work a decent amount of hours per month, you have an opportunity to make a significant amount more than a floral designer who is employed part-time or even full-time.
The cons… You are responsible for working the amount of hours that you need to make a sufficient income. So if you are not staying on top of your calendar and making sure that you get booked every month, this can be stressful to manage. However, most freelancers find a good rhythm in the first year or so, develop relationships with certain shop owners and have their regular shops that they work for, making this a wonderful side or full-time hustle.
How can I Become a Freelance Florist?
If you are thinking you want to become a freelance florist but aren’t sure where to get started, the best place to start is to begin building up a portfolio. This can be arrangements you’ve made on your own time or while working for others. However, when taking credit for work as your own, make sure that you are including pieces that were 100% made by you. Your portfolio can be a digital or printed curation of images that you can share with potential employers for the purpose of being hired. You want to give them a clear understanding of your style and skill level so that they can decide where you would best fit on their team.
Once you’ve built up a portfolio, you can start reaching out to designers and shops to ask them if they need freelance help. Most often these shops will not have an immediate need, and will add you to some type of “list” that they will refer to for future events. During busier seasons, it’s more likely that someone will respond giving you some dates for you to come work for them. It is really all about timing, so if you don’t hear back right away, don’t let that discourage you and don’t be afraid to follow up! The more shops you reach out to, chances are someone will have a need. And the more you follow up, the more likely it is that someone will reach back out when they need help.
Your business will rely on building up a network. Once you get your foot in the door, it becomes easier to get more jobs through referrals. Make sure that other designers in your circle know you are looking to freelance, so that they can throw your name out to shop owners who have a need!
Common Rates of Pay for Freelance Florists
This is a question I get asked often about freelancing – How much does a freelance florist typically get paid? Here on the west coast, $20-25/hr is a typical range for a moderately experienced freelance designer. On the East Coast and in New York, this rate can be more in the 30’s. For a freelancer who has many years of experience and is considered high value and highly efficient (this may be someone who is in high demand with limited availability, or perhaps owns their own company) a designer of this caliber may charge $30-$35/hour.
On the flip side, for someone who is just getting started in floral and maybe has less design experience but is looking to be hired as more of an assistant, sometimes referred to as a “junior designer,” $15-$18 is an appropriate starting rate to test out their work and get a feel for their experience level.
As an independent contractor, you have the ability to demand or ask for your own rate. However, some shop owners may try and negotiate with you if they aren’t familiar with your work or your level of expertise. It is your choice if you would like to negotiate or not based on how badly you want the job. For a shop owner, the amount they are willing to pay you will be based on the value they feel you can add to their team.
How to Become a Valuable Asset as a Freelancer
This brings me to the next topic – What makes you valuable as a freelancer? This is extremely important as it may determine things like whether or not you are asked to return to a particular shop after your first time working, how often you are asked to work, the rate you are able to charge for your services, how “in demand” you are or how busy you are able to become as a freelancer. The more you book your schedule, the more income you are able to make. So becoming a valuable asset can be an important component in growing your freelance business.
How is a freelancer’s value measured? This became more clear to me when I became a shop owner myself.
Not to burst your bubble, but when it comes to freelancing, it’s not about creativity.
Some others may beg to differ, and don’t get me wrong — yes I do look for a certain level of talent in my freelancers, but creativity not so much. When you’re hired to work for someone else, your main job is to get a task done well, efficiently, and in the way that they want it done. Every shop owner has their own style, and if you’re someone who is hindering the timely completion of a task in an effort to provide your own creative insight, it will most likely be unappreciated. Your personal advice will most likely need to be earned – and will probably be more welcome after you’ve established trust and a connection with that shop owner after some time of working with them. When they pull you from the pack and ask you to jump in on the Ceremony installation or the Bridal bouquet, that’s when you know you’ve made it.
The main thing that shop owners look for, besides the obvious factor of skill level, is efficiency.
As I said, every shop owner is different and some may want you to add your own creative pizzaz. If they invite you to do so, then by all means, let your personality shine! But if you get the feeling that it is more about swift production, then jump in line, put your head down and be a powerhouse. If a sample piece is provided, copy it to the best of your ability, make sure that you are honoring the style of the particular brand you are working for, stay on task, focus and work swiftly. I promise you, they will be happy to have you back!
Sometimes when you enter a new workplace, it can be overwhelming to know what is expected of you. But the best freelancers are the ones who focus on the end goal and work well as part of a team in achieving that goal.
In general, the most valuable freelancers are going to be skilled and efficient, but also intuitive to the needs and demands of the team.
Other Key Advice for Surviving and Thriving as a Freelancer
Be Open-Minded. You don’t always know what to expect when walking into a new shop or studio for the first time. Your experience will vary, and you have to be prepared to expect the unexpected. I’ve been on jobs where I got to design centerpieces and arches, ones where I spray painted leaves for 8 hours straight, and others where I was a bucket schlepper. Let’s just say that for the larger studios, I wasn’t stepping up to the designer’s bench until about the 5th or 6th time working there. If you’re going to work somewhere new, especially if you are someone with less experience, don’t expect that you are going to be designing right off the bat. But keep in mind that the more you hang in there and perform your tasks well, the sooner you will become a valuable and respected part of the team!
Read the room. The setting and scale of a project will determine your role and what is required of you. When you walk into a studio for the first time, read the room. Pay attention to things like the number of people there, their perceived skill levels, the pace at which they are working, the amount of chatter, and the overall vibe. Match your energy with the rest of the team, and follow their lead!
Take Care of Yourself. Your employer may not always tell you how to come prepared. It’s important to think about what the day might hold and bring what’s necessary to make sure you’re comfortable in your work environment. Have your own set of sharp tools. Dress comfortably, wear good, comfy, closed-toed shoes. If it’s going to be hot, bring a sun hat and sunscreen. If it’s going to be cold, bundle up! If you’re going to be outside or on an install, dress in layers. Bring your own water! And snacks. Snacks are always good, and also a good way to make friends! 😉
Take Initiative. The best thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to learn to anticipate the needs of the team. If you experience a lull or are waiting for another task, scan the situation and decide how you can make yourself most useful. When all else fails, pick up a broom! As a shop owner, I am hands-down more likely to invite someone back to work for me a second time if I see them as someone who is always making the best use of their time and the rate I am paying them.
Have a Positive Attitude. Attitude is so important when you are working as part of a team. And it’s not always easy to find! It is a breath of fresh air for me when I see someone working up until the end with a smile on their face, bringing positive vibes to the rest of the team and happy to be there.
Be Trustworthy & Build Relationships. Building and keeping the trust between you and your employers is crucial to maintaining a long-standing relationship. The wedding industry is pretty small and word gets around. You definitely want to make a good impression with those you work for, because chances are if you do something shady, word will spread and you will have a hard time finding work elsewhere. The more you can earn the trust of your employers, the more they will grow to respect you and they may also refer their own clients to you in the future if they are booked or unavailable. They will also be more likely to exchange favors, or put in a good word with you to other vendors. It can only benefit you in the long run. So keep those relationships strong!
Watch and Learn. Throughout my career, I’ve learned the most from working at different shops and seeing how different companies do things. Our industry is one that relies so much on resourcefulness, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking. So many business have become masters at this! And there is so much you can learn by observing the way things are done at the different places you are invited to work. Take all of those little secrets and tips with you, and use them to improve your craft. This is how you will become more knowledgeable and more valuable as a designer. Keep an open mind – there is always more to learn.
Follow these tips, and I have no doubt you will be on your way to becoming an extremely value asset in no time!
I hope you learned something from this post! If so, or if you still have unanswered questions, please let me know in the comments!