Hey there, florist friends and fellow artists!
I recently hosted a poll on my Instagram to find out what kinds of challenges florists face when it comes to sourcing flowers, vessels and materials. I noticed a common theme that many of you wanted to know —
How do I source products that are unique, special and high-quality without emptying my bank account?
So I decided that I would devote a post to covering this topic. While there is no magic solution for finding unique, quality, one-of-a-kind vessels that don’t come with a premium price tag, I do have good news for you: You can still purchase and use those high end flowers and vessels without cutting into your profit.
Here are my best tips for battling that dilemma ALL artists face, which is how to balance budget with our love for the finer things.
Tip #1: Have Your Own Artist Collection vs. Client Inventory
Not every client needs the hand-thrown pottery and bespoke candlesticks. Likewise some clients won’t notice the difference in a $3/stem garden rose from a standard rose, and could care less whether you use real beeswax tapers or coated ones. Some fine details are simply for your own personal enjoyment as an artist. Use them and honor them in your personal art, and let them serve their artistic purpose, in the setting where it matters: your own private creative space.
Have your event inventory be suitable for events – where they are enjoyed for a brief moment by a crowd of people, are often roughed up during transport and repetitive use, and in many cases will likely not even be captured in photos in a way that truly honors them in all their glory.
It will serve you (and the artists and makers you support) to understand the difference between creating for art and creating for an event where, inevitably the pieces are not always going to be appreciated in the same way.
Tip #2: Consider Your Market and The Client You Are Serving
While often it is apparent that certain clients do not value quality in the same way that we do, the same isn’t true for all clients. There is always going to be a certain clientele that would be willing to pay more for these fine details. But from a business perspective, it’s important to distinguish between the two.
If the budget is there, then of course, splurge for the hand-poured candles and reach for that handmade ceramic compote. You don’t have to be thrifty with your materials if you are charging the right amount for them. If you value the finer things, it might be time to consider strategizing a plan to break into a more luxury market.
Or, you might find yourself in a market where you enjoy serving both types of clientele. I select my flowers and vessels differently depending on what each of my clients values most: style or savings (or a healthy balance of both) and I make sure and get a read on this in our first meeting together. I keep a range of items in my collection so that I can serve both these types of clients.
Tip #3: Purchase Premium Vessels With the Intent of Rental & Re-use
If you don’t want to have to sacrifice style for savings, you can consider renting your vessels. You can earn back your investment if you are smart with your selections and choose versatile pieces that are unique but still versatile enough to use again and again.
The pieces that are both affordable and stylish are inevitably going to become known and pop up everywhere for that reason. There is no such thing as a best-kept-secret (and the practice of keeping such secrets would only be doing a disservice to the artists and vendors that we are buying from, who deserve to be known about and be able to grow and profit from their art.)
The only way to own truly unique and special pieces is to pay a premium price, and the only way to be profitable in your investment is to purchase with the right strategy and intent. Some pieces may pay back their value in ways other than a direct profit return. There is a purpose behind every expensive purchase, whether it is furthering your artistry, expressing your personal brand or raising the value of a product you’re selling. If it is not going to deliver on its investment in some way, it’s not a good purchase.
Tip #4: Price Honestly & Fairly
While sometimes we purchase for art and enjoyment, and other times for business, as business owners we have to be careful about blurring these lines. You will never go to a restaurant and be served a premium cut of meat with a value price tag, because the chef felt like serving up her most expensive dish for fun. Likewise, if the chef sells you that premium cut for a low price without you knowing it, just to get your positive review or to please her client (or herself), she is hurting herself and her business in the long run because even if she changes her mind later, she will never be able to ask the same group of patrons to pay the appropriate value for that dish.
Emotional pricing is a struggle that florists face, because we often feel pressure to please a world that doesn’t always see the value behind beauty that so quickly fleets away, no matter how precious and beautiful. But pleasing our client while being dishonest to them and ourselves about the value of a product is a habit that can hurt us both in the long run. Profitability and sustainability is how we keep our doors open and the only way to continue serving those clients we adore so much. Charging appropriately – whether it’s altering the materials to fit the budget or altering the budget to support the finer materials – is the key to long-term success and a fruitful business.
Tip #5: Educate Your Client
Many of us florists face challenges and questions on a regular basis surrounding the value and worth of our work vs. the budgets we have to work with. Questions like…
“How do I make all of this fit within the budget when my work costs more than what they want to spend?”
“How can I find clients that want to spend more?”
“How come I feel like my clients don’t understand the value of things?”
“How do I create a design that serves both my brand style and the wishes of my client?”
All of these problems can likely be resolved through a simple conversation with your client. As the professional, you have the ability to guide your client to their desired result through your own logic and expertise – which is why they’ve hired a professional to begin with. It’s important to set the right expectation. You can do so by simply saying, “If you love the work you’ve seen in our portfolio, I would advise that you go with these upgrades.” Or, “I can make this work with your budget, but we may need to make a few flower adjustments.”
Your client likely hired you because they already like your style, so if there’s a disconnect between your client’s style and your own brand aesthetic, you can bridge this gap by explaining the differences in their inspiration vs. your signature aesthetic, while reassuring your client of the role your brand integrity plays in achieving their vision.
If you believe your client wants fine details but doesn’t have the budget, educate them and explain the reason behind the costs. Then let them choose how important it is to them. It’s entirely possible that your client may not realize the worth of a garden rose vs. a standard rose until you explain it to them. Or, after learning the difference, they may decide to forgo it, which will save you from that unnecessary expense.
It’s not your job to make things cost less. Just to help your client understand the value of all that goes into the piece of art they’re getting.
Through training ourselves to acknowledge the value of the materials we use, working smarter and educating our clients on such value, we can enjoy the finer things while also making sure we continue to see healthy profits and sustainable growth in our business.