Q&A :: Affording Continuing Education

The Question

Thank you so much for bringing up pricing on Flirty Fleurs. With all the gorgeous pictures on Instagram and Pinterest, I am always curious about the real life costs.
I recently returned to floral after many years away from it. I left because of low pay and hard work. Now I am back and with the Internet it’s possible to see all the floral art from all over the globe. I am inspired daily!
I am so impressed with the new generation of designers and their fabulous work. It seems in the last few years floral workshops and classes have really skyrocketed in price. The little Flower School and Ariella are 2 that I follow and would love to participate someday. They seem to sell out and I am so curious how working hourly florists can afford these classes.
Saw the pictures from the Florabundance workshop that you attended recently and I’m sure it was an incredible experience. ( did not find the cost of that (from Alicia, the cost was $1,100 for three days) ).
Please educate me since I am jumping in later and am so curious about the investment of continuing education vs. how it reflects in ones income. I do floral work as a labor of love but I also need to make a living wage, truth be told, I am not making a living wage!
Also would like to know what the wage range is across the country. Is it possible to make a living with events only, not having a retail space?
Clearly teaching is a new way to increase income.

Looking forward to hearing back,
Anonymous in Oregon

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The Answers

I don’t see it an expense…. I see these workshops as an investment in my business. I save up for it or set goals to book X many events before I can sign up and go. I will honestly say my business has grown and flourished thanks to all of the people I’ve met at these workshops and the connections I’ve made. They refer me business, they are someone to reach out to when I need to bounce of ideas or they are someone to talk to when I need floral mechanics help. I’ve also learned about suppliers,
wholesalers and other vendors (that save me money!),Yes, it is expensive after you add up travel, lodging and meals…. but in the end the return on investment is huge. Put it as a goal for next year to put a line item in your budget of $3,000 to attend a workshop.
Alex, Exquisite Designs, Illinois

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YES! You can absolutely make a living as a florist and afford to relish in a workshop or two. My shift into floral from a former life as a teacher was a complete and welcome whirlwind! Our seasonal resort laden location has played a huge part in our success in event work ,which we now do exclusively without a retail location.

For those designers just beginning, here is a snapshot of what we did to get started. Begin by assessing your local market for event (or retail) work, make sure what you are hoping to accomplish is indeed relevant in your location. I recommend connecting with as many local event venues and vendors as possible if event work is your goal, keeping your target market in mind. Bring them flowers, business cards, invite them to lunch, whatever it takes to get your business cards on their desks. Perhaps attend a few bridal shows to practice your elevator speech and build connections with other vendors, select a few key shows that are in line with your target clients. Build a solid website and engage in social media of course; 90% of our business comes from web avenues. And as all of your efforts meld and grow, decide how truly busy you wish to be. Once you have saved enough of your hard earned money, no one ever said this biz was easy you can spoil yourself by attending an amazing workshop or two or three.
Jennifer, Bloom, Michigan

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Funny thing is you left the floral industry because of hard work and low pay!! Things have not changed a bit. STILL such hard work and long hours. But if it’s in your blood it’s always gonna be there.
I call it an investment in me. I belong to the Michigan Floral Association and take many classes and have had an an amazing mentor to guide me. Keep reading, looking on line, reading magazines – invest in yourself. It will pay you back tenfold.
I have known Holly Chapple for about 5 years and although we have never met in person, we have talked on the phone and emailed over the years. I have wanted to attend her workshop since the birth of it, but have not because of family, time and money. This year I am going to NYC. I am breaking the bank and just doing it. It may be the only year I attend, but I really want to meet up with all the great designers I have known for so long via the internet. Maybe just save up and plan to attend one next year. I can say as a wedding designer only and in such a seasonal place like Michigan I am not in a spot where I could support my family on just the flowers. Maybe if I added a linen line, did more holiday work and such I could support us all, but with that means adding more employes, longer hours and added cost as such. For me I am happy it’s a “part” time fun, great dream job. As far as wages here in MI for the designers I have it depends on their experience. I start out at $14.00 an hour and they do get bonuses and raises, too. They also are part time in season help.
Tracy, Park Place Design, Michigan

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I have the same question – I can’t wait to hear the answers. I haven’t been able to afford any of the classes and training I want to take let alone airfare and hotels.
Every penny I make needs to pay the bills! I wish there were grants for us little companies to be able to attend these amazing seminars and workshops so that we can improve our business!
Andie, Dandie Andie Floral Designs, Ontario

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I’m weighing in on today’s question. First, yes, I do believe you can make a living wage and support yourself in this business. I supported myself during my 10 years of Bella Fiori in Colorado. I was a single youngster when I launched my business, with a mortgage to pay on a condo and rent to pay for a studio – and I did it. Later on, when my husband was laid off from his job in 2009, I buckled down and worked harder – he worked for me as much as he could and we started the rental division. Point is, yes, it’s possible to make a living doing this, although not always easy!
Granted, what is easy? My husband got laid off from a “stable job”, as did most of our non-self employed friends in the year of ’09. My dad always said to me that the good side of being self-employed is the owner is always the last one out the door. *little shout out to my dad for telling me today how proud he is of me, and he brought up 2009*
I will also say that I’ve studied with The Little Flower School and Ariella – they are both extremely inspiring, so save up your pennies and take a workshop with them some time.
As for teaching the workshops as another income stream. Yes, it can be good money if done well and if expenses are kept down (as with all things in business). However, I don’t think this is the only reason so many people have started teaching. I teach because I want to surround myself with like minded people. Obviously I can sell flowers to brides – but, let’s face it, each new bride is a new job interview. You are always selling yourself to the next client. When I teach a workshop, I don’t have to sell myself like I do for a wedding. Instead glorious people who love glorious flowers want to come and hang out with me! That’s fun, and easier than the bride/job interview.
PS – DandieAndie, there will be scholarships in the future… I’m working on that.
Alicia, Flirty Fleurs & Bella Fiori!

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Do you have a question you’d like to ask for a Q&A session? Email it to me at: info@flirtyfleurs.com

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Comments

  1. david dahlson says:

    First of all Alicia, I do not know how you do it. This site, everyday – awesome. Currently, you have touched on some of fundamental reasons of why we do this. What Jennifer at bloom says is key : How busy do you want to be? Definitely define that first, it just makes saying no to projects that do not measure up financially or that you do care to do, that much easier ( or yes depending…).
    It reminds me very much of a thread Nancy of Nancy’s Brown Bag touched on in 2010 June and July. At the end of the day, one’s happiness and enjoyment of life should be at the top of your priorities. IMHO.
    David

  2. Great question and great answers. I do find it hard as a very small company to afford the workshops as well, but I am going to budget for at least one in 2015. I agree that it can be worth it, not only for the learning but for the spirit of the soul and to refresh our own thinking, but it can be a hardship money wise.

  3. Oh, workshops. I love them – and they are SO expensive and SO worth it. It’s just a matter of having the funds (and the time!!) making ends meet in this industry is possible, but incredibly hard. Depending on your area, there may be workshops that are in driving distance. I also wouldn’t overlook the smaller classes offered by small shops. I think every designer has something to offer and we can all learn from each other. Maybe if there are no classes in your area and you can’t afford to leave you can organize a “play date” with amazing designers in the area. Everyone splits the cost of materials and get together and make fun arrangements!

  4. Workshops, education, networking with other designers= soooo worth the time and expense! Our shop opened in 1983– started just plants, evolved today to more corporate, party, wedding floral designs. Dropping the wire services finally, two years ago has afforded me more time to network and take classes. We are less stressed, I don’t have to carry flowers i do not normally sell and I am a designer again. Me, not a picture in a book. I started the European Master’s Certification Course, I took workshops, attended seminars and shows! I and less busy AND making more $$. Yes, it is costly, but you will be rewarded with happier customers and a happier you!

  5. I’m responding only to the workshop/education question. Another alternative to consider is attending the annual AIFD Symposium (American Institute of Floral Designers) which is held in a different location every year. It is OPEN to all. You do NOT have to be an AIFD member to attend. It combines the best designers in the industries with newbies who are attending because they want to see what AIFD has to offer. The shows are spectacular, the education invaluable, the inspiration is awesome. You can see the Rock Stars of the floral industry do their thing in various stage shows, workshops, meet and greets, etc. It is 4 days + of non-stop florals. It is not cheap and you must consider it as an investment in your business. http://aifd.org/upcoming-events/2014symposium/
    For those who are interested in what AIFD does, please consider attending a symposium, which is usually held in July. This year it’s Chicago.

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