As the flower mama of this blog I get lots of emails from young designers or those hoping to start a flower business. As you have probably already guessed being of service to others or helping other businesses or people is something I enjoy doing and its something I believe in. However it’s really hard to read some of the emails I get.  The below email is from a young lady I adore. We have been communicating for almost 2 years now. Her very true and telling confession about her first year as a wedding florist, perfectly describes the harsh realities of being a floral designer…

Holly I wanted to give you an update of what I’m doing with my flower business.  Last year was a great first year.  I worked really hard and I did almost 20 events which was great for building up my portfolio.  I also did a wedding show, and had 3 photoshoots with a wedding magazine.  I got great reviews from my brides and MOBs.  A florist/flower magazine editor in Europe wants to feature my business.  These are all so rewarding.  However, in terms of income, I was earning a fraction of what I earn at my day job (which makes me sad).  I feel that very few brides in my community appreciate flowers enough.  At the wedding show another florist was charging way under market value for her bridal bouquets.  I was told that $12 for a boutonniere was way too expensive.  A bride emailed me yesterday and she wanted a Holly-ish style bouquet, a maids bouquet, 8-9 centerpieces, head table design, plus boutonnieres and corsages.  She specifically wanted garden roses and ranunculus and her budget was $200-$300.  I seriously thought she was missing a 0 or she just meant $200-$300 for a bridal bouquet but that was her total floral budget.  I now have a minimum of $1000 and I charge around $250 for a bridal bouquet and brides think I’m too expensive.  My work this past year confirms that I love flowers and people in the industry like you, and the other flower sisters I have met via social media, but I feel like it won’t ever be possible to make this a viable business.
I talked to other designers I know and my decision now is “wait and see”, which means I will continue to do my best, charge what I think I need to charge and have to accept it if brides walk away from me, and I’ll have to assume for now that this can only be a side job because I simply can’t afford to change to a career where I am actually making about $5/hour.  

I am sorry that I am sharing negative news Holly, but I really wanted to tell you a bit about the sad reality I am experiencing as I move towards my goal of being a full time floral designer. It simply does not make sense to leave an excellent paying job for one that is high stress, very physically draining, and one that offers very little profit and no benefits.  If you have any advice at all I would great appreciate it.

Reading my friends email nearly broke my heart, but I have to admit, all that she said is true. I hear this from floral designers all across the country. A floral designer is providing a service, a skill, and a knowledge that is valuable.  Thankfully most of my clients seem to respect this studio and our art. Our work seems to be cherished and appreciated but in general there is a lack of understanding for the process that a floral designer must go through, and a true lack of understanding that a flower is a miracle. Honestly this note from my flower baby, truly disheartens me as I think about the countless hours I spend working on pulling an event together. It takes hundreds of hours of skilled work to execute and bring an event to life. No matter how easy it all looks in the latest DIY article or blog post, its work and lots of it!! I truly do not want my budding flower followers to give up, but I can’t in good faith tell them that walking this path is an easy one. We have quite a few weeds a long the way!!!  I love my flower babies, don’t give up… just keep blooming!!!

  • Olga Says: (03.29.2012 | 10:34)

    Dear Holly,
    We very appreciate your florist work, and with a great interest read your articles with a beautiful pictures. Thank you very much fot this!
    We are from Moscow, Russia, and here we have the exact the same problem. According to national traditions, the most important thing on the wedding is to have a “large table” with a lot of food (numerous salads, snacks, main dishes and of course – drinks in bottles), a few budget goes to photographer and a wedding presenter with a DJ, and the rest of budget goes to flowers. And usually the sum is so small, that we refuse the order, or make our best in such an economical way, the the result even can’t be seen. But we keep working, discussing the orders with a brides and yes, watching the situation.
    Sorry for my poor English and good luck to us all! 🙂

  • Dana Hacman Says: (03.29.2012 | 01:30)

    Oh wow!! I so am going through this right now. I’m going to have my one year anniversary in just 2 days!.. Everyday I say to myself “Is it worth it”? But I just can’t seem to give it up! I just love Designing with flowers too much! I have to say that the only thing keeping me going is Faith that God will bring about great blessings if I trust in him daily and keep pushing for the breakthrough.. but i have to say that it is very tempting to just go and get a regular boring 9-5 job since I do have a bachelors degree in Business [with a minor in Accounting].. Haha! Who would have ever guessed that I would be doing flowers.. I think God has a sense of humor and I like it!! 🙂

  • Dani | Studio Fleurette Says: (03.29.2012 | 01:38)

    So sad, but so so true. I feel for her.

  • Terri Says: (03.29.2012 | 03:46)

    Sometimes what one needs is a good customer…one who knows what is important to them. If it isn’t the flowers, they only want a bouquet for the bride. Florists have my utmost admiration–along with photographers. Gotta’ be a labor of love!

  • Jessica Jones Says: (03.29.2012 | 04:27)

    Holly- I’m going through the SAME thing! Last year at this point I had many many weddings booked. Now, I can count them on one hand. Flower prices have exploded in my area-probably due to transport costs-and of course that price increase means my quotes are more. I recently had a bride tell me that I was way too expensive (you got that email from me…) I was shocked! I now have a new design space, a handful of weddings and creativity is oozing from my ears…and nowhere to put it. But thank you for illustrating the weeds of this business! I heart my flower mamma!!!!

  • Andria Ibanez Says: (03.30.2012 | 04:37)

    Thank you for sharing- I can totally relate! Thank you for being so real. This post was helpful and made me feel like I’m not alone. Thank you Holly- I feel like I know you! I have been reading your blog for a while now, and it has blessed and helped me in many ways! You are inspiring!

  • Nancy@ Southern Traditions Says: (03.30.2012 | 06:34)

    Holly, I so admire your work, and also the way that you mentor other florists. It honestly breaks my heart to think that your friend is so discouraged. All of us have to face the fact that floral work doesn’t pay well and that its really hard work. Can we open some dialog to help this struggling florist?

    I’ll begin with a suggestion for your friend: simplify.
    Another suggestion: Start a garden.
    Another thought: Tell her to bring along, teach, and appreciate some young people who want to learn and are willing to work with you to help grow a business.
    And lastly,…trust the God who gave you this talent, and trust yourself to know it is the right endeavor for you. There are so many blessings in this work!

    • Holly Chapple Says: (03.30.2012 | 12:12)

      I will make certain she reads your advice. I have encouraged her to keep her incredible day job and only do the events that will be both financially and creatively rewarding. As she builds here portfolio she can increase her pricing and perhaps some day quit her day job. What I don’t want her to do is drop her prices, lose money, and confuse the market. Each time a young florist sells their designs way below industry standards it sends the message that floral designers are not valuable.

  • Rachel Gregory Says: (04.01.2012 | 08:23)

    I agree with Nancy @ Southern traditions, there will always be people that undervalue your work and make it tough for you, sometimes people think that because you can grow it in a garden it is the same thing, but it’s not, that’s like saying a master chef is the same as a cafeteria cook.
    There are great delusions in price.
    Don’y be afraid to charge what you are worth, because you are. Tell people their price is unrealistic, if they love your work they will find the money.
    Good luck! lets make Chapple Designers World Wide!!!

  • Carolyn Says: (04.02.2012 | 10:16)

    Unfortunately, many designers go through this issue. You will find your niche and the right clients who appreciate your talent and product.

    The general public, in my opinion, has the notion everyone can be a designer. Just take a class- and you too, can be a designer! We know it is much more than that- there is talent involved.

    Everyone can be a designer, because anyone can stick a few blossoms in to a mason jar or bind a bunch of flowers with raffia. Or so they think.

    The real skill is knowing how to combine those flowers to maximize a budget, not wasting a single stem or inch of ribbon. The skill comes in knowing how to make the most visual impact and do that within a reasonable budget. But, it is also knowing when a request does not match the given budget; and knowing how to not lose that client, but redirect them to a realistic affordable choice that does not disappoint them or compromise your reputation. It is also knowing when you and a potential client are not a good match- we’ve all had that red flag wave at least once. And, sometimes even when we don’t want to, we just know this might not be a good match. Trust your gut.

    Education is the key for the designer and client. Don’t give up. Ask for advice- as you are doing. Surround yourself with like-minded floral creators and always believe in yourself.

  • natascha Says: (04.25.2012 | 11:31)

    Having not been able to afford your services and reading this blog makes me that more at peace. I knew how hard you and your team work, it shows in every single picture you post. I have to say to everyone on here, you were so willing to still work with me and to no end did I appreciate that; but I knew how much effort and passion you put into everything you do. I was not at peace with you getting any less than you deserve for all of your hard work. To this day, you are part of my morning routine. I get my morning started, get to work, turn on my computer and follow Holly and all these amazing stories you allow us to be a part of and share all of these special moments that you create for everyone. I am truly touched by this story and so many others. Thank you for not only being a fabulous florist, but an amazing, honest and true spirit!! You inspire me <3

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