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What's it really like?
Jo Rivers, 42 is an independent florist operating from Hampshire and servicing events all over London and the UK from her independent florists joanna rivers flowers.
How long have you been in the florist industry?
About 15 years. I began by taking a Jane Packer course; that's a big florist up in London. My first full-time job was working in a shop in Guildford, and after that I set up on my own, after about a year. I was able to do that so quickly as in between other things, I had worked for various freelance florists, similar to what I do now; you learn so much on the job.
What did you do before this job?
I worked in the holiday catering industry. I was a chalet host and worked on yachts in the Mediterranean for a few different catering companies. I spent about 6 years doing that.
What do you do in a typical day at work?
Well, we operate out of a barn in Hampshire and therefore do not have a shop front as such. We only do contract flowers and events, weddings etc. We are not in the market for one-off bouquets, so each day is different. I buy my flowers directly from Covent Garden in London; some days I do contract flowers for private houses and businesses; I also meet with clients to discuss events; I arrange flowers in marquees, churches and venues all over the country (mainly in London and the South).
What do you like about the job?
The variety of different events and being creative with flowers. Each day is different so there's never a dull moment. Being one's own boss too is definitely a plus.
What do you dislike about the job?
Dismantling arrangements at the end of an event - clearing it all up! That's hard work.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of doing this job?
It is a lot more physical than people imagine and not as 'girly' as some might think. For example we carry heavy trees in and out of venues as well as concrete blocks and huge urns of flowers in order to get the look we need.
I don't really want to do anything else; I want to keep going as I am but there is the possibility to expand my business into event organising. Over the years I have met a lot of people in the marquee business and catering business and so forth and you get a lot of experience in seeing how the whole event works together. It's a possibility.
What other inside-information can you give to help people considering this career?
You should try to get as much practical experience as possible and offer your services to other florists to get a taste of different styles.
A florist works with flowers, plants and hand crafted flower arrangements, selling them to the general public or attending functions to create flower displays.
Since time immemorial, flowers have held a special place in human society. Different flowers are used to celebrate special events all over the world such as weddings, funerals, births and festivals. Some flowers are historically imbued with a particular meaning, while others are valued purely for their fragrant or decorative properties. In the UK, over 6,000 florist businesses employ nearly 29,000 people. The value of this to the UK economy is estimated at £1.5 billion and statistics show that over half of this is comprised of people buying flowers for themselves. The huge range of flowers and plants available, each with its own particular set of requirements and properties, means that a fully qualified florist is a highly trained professional.
The day to day duties of a florist would include the following:
There are a great number of qualifications available to prospective florists at school leaver, college, university level and beyond. To begin work as a florist you don't need an official qualification; however, it takes between 5 - 7 years to become a truly professional florist due to the depth and breadth of knowledge required. Below are just some of the training options available.
Aimed at young people aged 16 - 24, apprenticeships allow you to gain valuable work experience in the industry while studying for a nationally recognised qualification. To learn more about apprenticeships visit apprenticeships.org.
NVQs and SVQs
College and University
Professional Florists qualifications
These qualifications are awarded by the Society of Floristry for experienced florists already working in the industry. Level 5 represents the highest professional qualification available to florists in the UK.
To succeed as a florist, the following personal skills and attributes would give you an advantage:
Florists usually work from a retail store where they can design, prepare and then sell their creations directly to the public. Taking orders by the telephone or Internet and sending deliveries of flowers is also common. Many florists opt to work from a stall where they can take advantage of a busy passing trade. Additionally florists may travel to special events such as funerals, marriages, christenings or large corporate events to create flower arrangements and displays.
Florists work fairly long hours, usually starting early in the morning to buy fresh flowers from wholesalers or markets. As a retail business, florists are usually open to the public from 8 - 6 pm. Longer working hours can be expected around busy periods such as Christmas and Valentine's day. Working as a florist can be a physically demanding job due to early starts and being on one's feet all day; there may also be some heavy lifting involved - pots, plants, urns and other display accessories can be heavy. As in all retail jobs, dealing with the general public is one of the most rewarding but also most tiring aspects of the job.
As a florist, you will be working with the general public, so any retail experience, or customer services experience would be advantageous.
You may be able to help out at an independent florist to gain valuable work experience.
To demonstrate your love of and ability working with flowers you could consider joining one of the UK's many flower arranging clubs. You can see a list of these clubs here - National Association of Flower Arranging Societies.
Florists and garden centres are generally small self contained businesses, and approaching these directly is your best route to finding employment.
Commercial flower delivery services such as Interflora are not actually florists in themselves but in fact a delivery network putting individual florists in touch with the general public. As an independent florist, joining such a network can be highly rewarding.
Experienced florists often go on to manage a retail outlet or even to start up their own business. There are professional qualifications aimed specifically at florists looking to expand their skills, and these are covered in the qualifications section.