The first thing I’d like to pose to you is a question. Are you sure you want to be a floral designer? The reason I ask this is because in truth once confronted with the reality of what the job entails many people change their minds. I’ve seen a lot of rapid turnover of flower shop employees through the years. To help you with your decision let me provide you with some information I’ve learned in my 17 years as a professional floral designer.
This is a feast or famine industry. Either business is coming in at breakneck speed or at a trickle. The majority of American flower shops allow no sitting on the job so be prepared to spend up to 16 hours on your feet during busy times. During the holidays ( and you’ll get precious little time off for the holidays, usually only the day itself) you’ll work possibly as much as 70 hours a week and you will stand for nearly every hour of it. Things will be fast paced and you’ll be under pressure to perform. Because many customers come out of the woodwork strictly for holidays there will be more complaints and unrealistic expectations from clients. The hours, while long during the holidays are also unpredictable and make things like childcare and family relations difficult to plan.
During January and the summer months business can become very slow and in many shops this will result in a lack of labor hours. You may not get enough hours to live on during these times. This can be a real problem as floral design positions do not pay well for the amount of skill required. Health insurance and other benefits may be non-existent due to the small size of the business and the seasonal lack of hours. You won’t get rich being a florist – it’s a labor of love.
A typical day working in a flower shop might be about like this:
You have been working at a flower shop for several weeks now and you are beginning to get the hang of answering the phones and waiting on customers. Hopefully soon someone will begin training you in the art of floral design. In the morning you wash flower buckets with disinfectant and set them aside to air dry. Then you go out into the store and sweep up any mess that may have tracked around the retail area of the store. If it’s a slow day you might mop the retail and cooler floors. Once the flower buckets have dried you fill a number of them with preservative water and set them out in the design area in preparation for today’s shipment of flowers. When the flowers arrive you remove their wrappers, strip off their lower leaves, give them a fresh cut with a flower guillotine and put them into buckets separated by color and variety. After the flowers have had some time to hydrate (one of your supervisors advises you on this) you display them in the cooler. Afterward you take out the big pile of garbage created by the flower waste. Then you go out into the store and dust the shelves…………….not very romantic, is it? You can plan on about 6 months to a year of similar work.
You will get dirty and ruin plenty of clothes. The frequent exposure to moisture, the handling of floral product, and the almost constant use of tools will make your hands chapped, callused, nicked, and sometimes sore. You may come home footsore and tired. You may need to pick up an extra job to supplement your income. The work environment may be extremely chaotic due to the constantly changing priorities balancing the necessity of answering phones, waiting on customers, and producing the arrangements on a tight schedule.
If you aren’t daunted by these obstacles and have a profound love of flowers, an eye for color, and artistic sensibilities – floral design might be for you. For me, it’s all worth it. After 17 years in the business, I still get as excited as a kid on Christmas morning when the flower shipment arrives. While it’s not a peaceful occupation floral design can allow you to express your creativity and bring joy and beauty into people’s lives.