The Real Poop
If you're a lover of flowers, this career path could be Heaven-scent.
Flower power is so much more than it seems to outsiders. The work is hectic as all get-out, with strong and potentially conflicting personalities all around you. Schedules are tight, both because flowers are perishable and because the events and holidays that they're intended for are time-sensitive. To make matters worse, the pay isn't all that great, clocking in at an average salary of just $24,000 (source).
But there aren't many unhappy florists or floral designers out there. There must be something about floral design that draws its victims...er...career-oriented floral designers in, and keeps them going in an industry where the only green they see is the green of the rose stems. Being surrounded by beautiful blooms all day probably helps.
The work can be both hectic and tedious at the same time. The hectic aspect comes from the "hurry up and wait" nature of the commodity involved. Larger projects for weddings and other events may take months of planning, but because flowers need to be fresh on the big day, the floral arrangements can't be completely assembled until only a few days or hours before they're needed.
Then, after waiting to get started, but just before the tedium of assembling all those flowers comes in, there's the big rush to get the job done. It sure would be nice if more people used fake flowers in their weddings—that way, there would be no last-minute scramble.
But then you'd also be out of a job. On second thought, maybe the scramble isn't as bad as it's cracked up to be. (Is anyone else suddenly hungry for eggs, or is that just us?)
Floral designers have perfected the ability to stomach this professional rollercoaster. Ironically, it's this combination of craziness and boredom that usually makes projects so rewarding. Commissioned to build a float for the Rose Bowl? You're going to work yourself silly getting all those flowers, but boy will it be worth it when you hear the float being complimented on national television by Al Roker.
Weddings, funerals, and all sorts of other big events pop up throughout the year. When you're not building custom-made arrangements, you'll be selling random mixed bouquets and bunches of seasonable flowers—which, though not artistically challenging, will definitely bring in a bit of much-needed retail sales.
There will also be lots of opportunities to do themed floral design throughout the year, thanks to plenty of holidays. You'd better have all hands on deck when Groundhog Day rolls around—that shop of yours is going to be a madhouse.
Themed floral design is neither as exciting as the big jobs, nor as dull as the common mixed bouquets. Planning for them is easier because they all have specific dates on the calendar, as well as specified colors. Some even have specified flowers.
Certain holidays demand potted plants instead of cut flowers, such as poinsettias for Christmas, Easter lilies for Easter, and Venus flytraps for Administrative Assistants' Day. (That last one has been unverified.)
Mothers' Day is the biggest one for cut flowers, and demands more red roses than any other holiday—as single roses, in bunches, and in elaborate bouquets. Roses continue to sell the day after, but are neither as crucial nor as lucrative. They're mainly purchased by shame-faced children who had to be reminded by their fathers and still didn't get to your shop until it was too late. And after all she's done for them, tsk tsk.
Scheduling is important all the way around. The flowers need to be ordered from growers to arrive at the design studio when needed, then arranged on schedule, and finally delivered to their venue or made available for retail sales fresh and right on time. There's no room for error. Lives are at stake. (The lives of the flowers, anyway.)
Even random mixed bouquets and bunches of flowers that aren't designed for any particular holiday need to be sold as soon as possible after being assembled or brought into a florist shop. Like any other fresh produce, they're perishable. Although not nearly as delicious as a Granny Smith.
To complicate things, flowers have minds of their own. They don't care about your schedule. They'll bloom whenever they feel like it, and no amount of begging and pleading will get them to open in time for the Finkelmeyer-Sudsbury wedding.
Although many flowers are available all year long, they bloom in their own particular seasons, meaning that they're cheaper or more expensive depending on the time of year. Buying a whole wedding's worth of lilacs in November is going to take a serious chunk out of your budget—if you can get lilacs in November at all.
Floral designers are like grocers who work with perishable fresh produce. They're also horticulturists, working with horticultural commodities. They need to be good at retail sales and business. Yet, most of all, they need to have artistic flair and an eye for design. Believe it or not, floral design is an art form.
It may seem a tad grandiose to refer to them as artists, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Bonsai, the other great horticultural art form, involves a plant that's intended to last for centuries. Landscape design, although regarded less as an art form and more for its function, is indeed an artistic design job.
But no other horticultural discipline is as fleeting as floral design is. It's like a muralist or baker who pours their heart and soul into crafting a beautiful painting or cake (respectively), and then has to see it be painted over or eaten (also respectively).
The difficulty with artistic careers is that they get paid like...well, like artistic careers. There's not much money in the floral design industry. Floral designers do what they do because they enjoy it so much.
For many, the ultimate goal is to one day own your own flower shop. Working for someone else in an industry that already pays bupkis is not where you want to be. When you start out working in your first studio, you either want to be assured that there's the possibility that you might be given a managerial (or ownership) position there some day.
Then you might actually start turning a decent profit while you pay other people bupkis to keep your business going. Just make sure to explain to them how lucky they are to be working around so many nice smells.