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Since I was self taught as a florist and started my business on my own, I learned a lot of things the hard way. Some of these lessons were big and were helpful to figure out from experience. But many others it would have been nice to learn from someone else before I jumped in head-first!
So I wanted to share with you three of my biggest learning curves over my years in business.
I keep my contracts in pretty simple language instead of using fancy legal jargon that can intimidate people. All that matters is that after you’ve written it up, you have a lawyer look it over and make sure it is worded appropriately so that it protects you.
A few different-but-important things I now have in my contract (from experience) are:
- I will be the only florist providing flowers for the event, no other persons or businesses will be allowed to provide florals. This is to ensure cohesiveness at your event. (Example here would be a sister or aunt of the bride that wants to make flowers for the wedding too, or a caterer who brings arrangements for food tables)
- I am not responsible for damage to flowers caused by extreme weather conditions. (I’ve had a few crazy weddings in extreme heat, wind, or rain, and after that wanted to protect myself from any repercussions if the flowers were to be ruined).
- Additional hours spent by me or my staff on location doing things that were not listed in the invoice will be billed after the event at a rate of $40/hour per staff. (Example here is when we had to pound 40 shepherds’ hooks into the rocky mountain ground so that we could hang our flowers from them. The rental company was supposed to do this, and it was very clear in both my invoice and theirs that this was their responsibility.)
- I can take photos of the flowers at the event, and can use photos from the photographer. (I have a few lines underneath this section in the contract where the client can write notes about what they want or don’t want shared such as if they don’t want their name or face used, etc.)
I get a lot of emails asking for a “price list”. A person who emails with no information about their event and wants to see a straightforward price list from me is not likely to be a person I want to work with, but I do get a lot of these requests. I usually explain to them that prices vary heavily depending on what they want, the season, etc. If it does seem like a job that I am interested in, or it is a planner inquiring about my services, I’ll explain the same thing, and then send them a general price list that shows the range each of my designs can fall within. (For example: Boutonnieres range from $10 - $40 with an average of $25 each. Large statement arrangements start from $300 with an average spend of $700.) I like this list because it doesn’t really commit to anything, and it educates potential clients in showing the ranges that flower prices can span. If they understand what I do and respect me design, they will come back to me and ask further questions. If they are turned away by this response, they were not the right client for me.
Learning how to appropriately price what I do - and stand by my pricing - has taken years. I was so afraid to raise my prices past rock bottom, but once I got over that fear I have been so much more successful in so many ways.
Billing for labor is something that I did not do appropriately for a long time. During my first year, I would have a small “delivery fee” but that didn’t usually cover what I was paying my helpers. Honestly, I was just nervous to charge for it. I was working with brides on tight budgets, so I assumed they would fight me on it if I asked them to spend as much on labor as they were spending on their bouquet. So for a while, it cut into my profit margin.
Later, I realized that labor is actually the one cost that people really should understand! They don’t work for free at their job, so why would they expect my assistants to? It wasn’t until pretty far into my career that I finally figured out how much labor I was using, and billed appropriately for it.
I don’t want to just finish the job, I want it to be perfect. I want time to fuss over the details, work with the photographer to get the right shot, touch up my brides bouquet, light the candles, and not be completely frazzled during all of that. I like to think that I provide much more of a service to my clients than just providing flowers for them, and that requires additional help.
An in-depth exploration of Sarah Winward’s floral philosophy, design, and execution.