There is a long list of challenges that our industry is facing right now including decreased production levels due to Covid-19 shutdowns, supply chain and logistic issues, the significant increase in demand for both retail and event work, and, some may say the biggest of all, labor shortages.
The good news is that the list of ways that designers, shops, and studios are showing resilience and reinvention is longer than the list of struggles. It’s been encouraging to watch florists get resourceful with their sourcing, while still elevating their brands to a sounder and more streamlined way of doing things. The ability to continue to create community engagement and client satisfaction, basically doing more with less, has been nothing short of revolutionary for our industry.
However, the times will inevitably come where we will need to do more with more. Whether those times revolve around holidays or heavy event weekends, these are the times when extra sets of experienced hands can mean the difference between success and failure. These are the times when it’s helpful to have a list of freelance designers that you can call on.
Folding freelancers into your staff can be overwhelming. Where do I find freelancers? How can I be sure that they will be experienced enough, or uphold my signature design aesthetic? What do I pay them? What if they don’t mesh with my in-house core staff? How long before the event do I need to book them? The list of questions you may ask about this process is long. Let’s look at some answers:
Any business owner will tell you that finding good help is usually done by exploring many different avenues, and finding freelancers are no different. Start by asking your current staff if they know any designers in the area that are freelancing. This will also give you an opportunity to open the conversation with your in-house staff about the possibility of temporary help coming in. While we want to think that everyone would be thankful for the help, to lighten the load for all, in reality, many may see this temporary help as a threat to their positions. It’s important that you let your current staff know how appreciated they are and that the reason you’re bringing in freelancers, is to avoid burn-out of your core staff.
Social media can be another platform to finding freelancers, specifically if there are private florist Facebook groups that feature members from your geographic area. Checking hashtags like #freelanceflorist and #freelancefloristry on Instagram can be helpful. Posts on Indeed can result in applicants, as can asking your local and trusted wholesalers if they know anyone available.
The good news is that, like the rest of our industry, the freelance facet is a small world. Once you find one that you trust, generally that one can direct you to other designers that may be a good fit or may be available to cover dates that you need covering.
Once you find a freelancer that you’re considering working with, it is highly suggested that you bring them in for a few hours of design work, or on a small event that you have a good grasp on, to test them out. The freelancer should be happy and willing to run this session with you as they will want to test you out too! Not every shop is for every designer and vise versa.
How can I be sure that they will be experienced enough, or uphold my signature design aesthetic?
It’s important that your signature style is portrayed for every event, this is what sets your brand apart and will bring incompatible clients. This is even more reason to have a trial day or week with any new designers you’re considering working with. The money that you spend paying the designer for the trial time will be worth it for peace of mind when it comes time to the actual “go time”.
Taking a look at the designer’s social media or another portfolio that they provide to you can be helpful in knowing, right away, if they are going to be a good fit for you. Of course, their work history and references should be checked as well.
Generally, depending on your market, an experienced floral freelancer can expect to be paid anywhere from $25-$50/hour. That’s a wide range; it really starts narrowing down once you start looking at years of experience, the type of job you’re asking them to do, etc.
Keep in mind that the freelancer must pay their own taxes, insurance, and other not-so-fun behind-the-scenes business stuff out of this hourly wage. Additionally, as you aren’t having to bring them on full-time, in the long run, it will be a lower investment to pay a designer more than you might expect to for a limited time, than having to bring on more full-time core staff and pay them a, potentially, lower rate, 52 weeks a year.
If you are bringing a designer in from out of your local geographic area, be prepared to pay for travel expenses and lodging, in addition to the hourly wage. Make sure that expectations are clear from the beginning on this type of arrangement by creating a written contract stipulating exactly what you’re paying for before the work dates arrive. For example, will you pay for their travel and the time that they are traveling? That’s up to the owner and the designer to work out.
Going on an afternoon coffee run, or ordering take-out for a late-night design session? Consider offering these small perks to your freelancers as well as your core staff. This will go a long way in creating a bond that will keep the freelancers coming back time after time, limiting the amount of procedural and logistical training you have to do on each event.
This is a crucial element that needs to be worked out early on. Generally, there is a harmony that settles in with core staff members as they get to know each other. It’s no secret that we all spend more time together at our design benches than we do at our homes, so it’s important that everyone has respect for each other. Bringing someone new into the mix, even if just temporarily, can go a long way in undoing any harmony that may have existed.
Disrespect and toxicity can not be tolerated. If an owner or manager sees a freelancer acting in a way that is outside the normal bounds of comfort for the rest of the staff, they need to be pulled aside and made aware that their behavior can’t continue. If it does continue, the freelancer needs to be dismissed before irreparable harm is done within your everyday flower family.
How long before the event do I need to book them?
This is where long-term organized planning can work to your advantage. Most freelancers book 12-18 months out. You read that right, 12-18 months! The holidays are a given, we all know how business swells then, so they are generally the first dates to book up. Then, the busy spring and fall event seasons come next. Once you have a deposit on an event, and you can already tell it’s more than your normal crew can handle, this is the time to start booking your extra help. This will give you plenty of time to work out all of the contractual items, try a test run, and include them in the big picture planning before they arrive. Allowing the freelancer to have an idea of what kind of event or design work they’re walking into before they arrive, can help speed things up at the start, and, it can help spur ideas of even more efficient ways to create the work that needs to be created.
On a related note; it may seem more prudent to bring the designers in strictly for the heavy design days. However, you may find it easier on your workload to bring them in a day ahead. This will not only help everyone settle into a comfortable work routine earlier on in the week, but it may allow you to spread the workload even more, once again, paying for your peace of mind, and perhaps, a few fewer late nights. And, don’t forget about the tear-down, clean-up, reorganize and reset cycle that happens in the days following an event or a holiday. Might it be best to ask them to stay an extra day to help your tired team?
These are just a few of the items to consider when thinking about bringing in a freelancer. The biggest question you need to ask yourself is, do I want myself and my team to be overtaxed simply to boost the bottom line by a few hundred dollars? Or, is the peace of mind and lighter workload worth it?
"Flower nerd...yup, that's me!"
Renee Tucci hails from the suburbs of Philadelphia and loves all things flowers, especially learning about them and spreading her flower know-how. A few decades in retail has fostered a fierce customer service background. Ten years of management has shown her what it means to be a true leader and how to utilize the strengths of those around her. A dozen years of immersing herself in network circles that include designers at the top echelon of their craft has lead her to strive toward that too....something she will always be reaching for as there is never an end to learning.
Now an international educator, a presenter, a traveler, a bud to all flower friends that she meets, a freelancer, and a connector...this industry is truly her life!
Oh yeah....and Renee is a proud member of the American Institute of Floral Designers and the Professional Floral Communicators International!
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