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How to become a floral designer

Becoming a floral designer

There are many pathways to becoming a floral designer. 

Maybe your passion for flowers had a humble beginning. You were grocery shopping and impulsively reached for a pre-made bouquet – it just looked so fresh and beautiful! Then, you started gathering individual stems at the farmer’s market and putting together arrangements at home. Or, your passion for flowers started in childhood. You’ve always been drawn to the outdoors, and your mom had a green thumb. Or, maybe you worked at a flower shop for a summer and started learning the basics. 

Our founder at Poppy, Cameron, got serious about her passion for floral design in 2013, when she began volunteering for the Chief Floral Designer at The White House while working her day job as a policy communications pro. 

A couple years later, Cameron left her day job to put flowers center stage, and helped scale one of the biggest floral gifting companies in the country. After fielding requests from dozens of friends to help understand their wedding floral proposals — and figure out how they could possibly afford it all — she started Poppy to bring technology, ease and affordability to the event floral industry.  

You may be experiencing something similar. You’ve had a few years of practice and you’ve started getting really good at creating floral designs. Friends have started asking if you would consider designing the flowers for their events.  

You think about the way flowers make you feel. The delicate weight in your hand. The impossibly soft texture of the petals. The nuance of their colors when you hold them against the light here, and the light over there. You feel restored around flowers. Suddenly, you’re wondering: could floral design be your calling? 

What does a floral designer do? 

A floral designer creates bespoke flower arrangements. Using information about the customer’s budget, occasion and venue, as well as considerations of seasonality, availability and time, the designer devises a floral plan for the event, writes the recipes for the arrangements, sources the flowers and hardware, then builds and delivers the arrangements. 

For complex arrangements, like the luxe floral arches trending now, the designer completes the floral installation onsite at the venue. Finding inspiration for floral designs can be as simple as scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest, or even paging through books of vintage floral specimen illustrations. Attending events or visiting museums, galleries and restaurants that decorate with flowers will be an immersive education in floral trends and spark your creativity.

Learning floral design skills 

Now, let’s talk about execution. To learn floral design skills, you could seek a local florist who’s willing to take on an intern. If you’re eager, interested and reliable, there are plenty of opportunities to find an entry into the industry. You might begin by sweeping shop floors, processing flowers, and prepping the mechanics for arrangements. These are introductory skills every floral designer needs. 

As you spend time around customers and listen to their orders, you’ll gain market insights and build your floral knowledge.

For example, imagine it’s a Monday in May at a florist in Atlanta. Flowers have arrived from the wholesaler, and you begin opening boxes to find armfuls of fragrant peonies. You process the stems by stripping them of leaves, giving them an angular cut and putting them in buckets with clean water and flower food. Next, you move on to the mechanics of the morning. For example, your task could be gridding 5x5 glass vases with tape so that flowers stay in their carefully place position and are secured for transport. 

While you’re taking care of these tasks, you overhear conversations about orders for a home and garden tour that takes place every summer in the city. You wonder, “Who’s photographing these flowers on location? We could use the images to capture new customers participating in next year’s tour.” Just like that, you’re thinking like a savvy floral designer. Your business is nothing without a steady stream of customers!

Working on your first event as a designer 

Your next test is putting your floral design skills to use for a real event. Think small and intimate, rather than high stakes (like a wedding). Could you help a family member or friend with a baby or bridal shower, or an engagement or dinner party? 

Find the right person and right-sized occasion to experiment with. Prepare your designs, and keep them modest. Tablescapes, centerpieces and bud vases will allow you to showcase your skills and keep you operating within a realistic timeline. Seek honest feedback after the event, and self-evaluate, too. Did every arrangement reflect your vision? Did you deliver on time? Did you stay within budget? And, honestly, did you feel like you were part of something really special? 

Skills can be learned and honed, but you’re responsible for your passion. If you have a genuine desire to feed your creative craving, keep reading. Floral design might be your calling, so learn what it’s like on the job – with real stakes this time. 

Finding the right floral design role for you 

Every arrangement represents important choices and expert craftsmanship, even if it looks beautifully effortless. The effort is actually enormous. Floral designers are logisticians on the backend. As a floral designer, you can work with an established florist or independently as a freelancer, and there are good reasons to consider both paths.  

There are countless trade-offs to freelance work in any industry. You can manage your own schedule and take on just the customers who best align with your expertise and vision, or pick up freelance event jobs from other florists in your area. 

The flexibility of a freelance lifestyle can have its challenges. You are every department: billing, logistics, delivery, marketing, purchasing. Oh, and floral design. The big one. The reason you got into the industry. When you take on jobs, the front-end work of defining the scope can be an exhausting series of calls and emails – or there’s very little communication upfront, and you arrive onsite the day of the event with a series of surprises that sends you careening through Plan B, Plan C and even Plan D. 

In an established floral design shop, you might have a hand in everything, and there’s a system and a customer base. You’ll be assigned jobs and execute according to the order. You will become very knowledgeable and skilled, no question. The drawbacks? If the shop has a signature style or partners with specific venues, you might find the work repetitive or find that it is challenging to learn many different kinds of styles. 

If there’s a middle ground between working for an established business versus striking out on your own, it’s becoming a Poppy designer. 

Becoming a Poppy designer

Floral design is at the root of everything we do at Poppy and we have built a nationwide network of independent designers. Jobs immerse you into the best part of any celebratory event: the flowers. Poppy has already handled the customer and the logistics before you get the job offer.  

With most Poppy events occurring on weekends, designers can anticipate a regular schedule. Once you accept the job, Poppy prepares you with design guides so there’s time to study before the flowers and hard goods arrive. A typical job begins Wednesday with flower delivery and processing. Thursday is for mechanics prepping, and Friday is design day. 

Patrice, a Poppy designer, shared her experience, "Being a Poppy designer allows me to take on events that fit into my busy schedule. As a mom of two small children, it was getting difficult to juggle the kids, my clients, and all the backend work that is required when it comes to being a small business owner. Poppy makes it so easy. Poppy takes care of the clients and all I need to do is what I love –  design wedding flowers!  The Poppy team sends everything I need to my house. They are always available to answer questions and give me feedback.  Joining the Poppy Designer Network was one of the best decisions I made for my floral creativity."

On event day, you’ve got load-in details, floor plans and a connection to the onsite planner – all coordinated by Poppy. You’ll load in flowers, deliver personals to the bride, groom and wedding party, then set up the ceremony and reception spaces. Depending on the job, a single freelancer or small team will be assigned to the event. When you’ve completed the work, you leave and submit your invoice to Poppy. You’re paid within a week. 

Because Poppy is growing its network, there is real community among designers and plenty of opportunity to share feedback. What’s more, Poppy offers real-time support from team members who can answer questions, clarify information and be your in-case-of-emergency contact on the day of the event. 

Every job adds to your experience and brings you into the fold of the Poppy mission: making beautiful flowers accessible and affordable for everyone. 

Are you interested in joining the Poppy Designer Network? Apply here

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