Beginning to Freelance

Begin at the beginning, and stop when you get to the end.

How coincidental, that on the day that I begin publishing my blog posts on the topic of freelancing, a flower farmer friend emails me, asking about the ins and outs of freelancing for another flower friend of hers.  This person is just getting started out, and is hoping to gain some supplemental income and more experience through freelancing.

I have personally freelanced for several floral designers and event producers, and each time, I learn more or have a new skill tested.  Sometimes, I get to use flowers that I've never touched before, and sometimes I have to determine how to bind a bouquet together without any tape or wire. And in situations similar to the latter, I have some tips for folks who want to have successful and productive freelancing experiences.

 An elopement bouquet that I made on a Monday a few months ago at the flower shop.

An elopement bouquet that I made on a Monday a few months ago at the flower shop.

I began freelancing shortly after being hired at the flower shop.  My boss texted me about someone who was looking for help doing flowers for a store event, and since she was unable to assist, she encouraged me to pursue the lead.  It turns out that someone else we know was asked first, and they couldn't.  So then THEY referred someone ELSE the opportunity, and that person also couldn't do it.  So they sent the information to my boss.

Since then, I have freelanced for all of the people in that chain, and I've freelanced repeatedly for the designer who was seeking help in the first place.  

My first chance at freelancing was a bit more serendipitous than the hard work I put in to freelance more after that.  But what we can see is that sometimes opportunities will present themselves, and find you.  Don't wait for them.  But networking and being friendly can get you pretty far sometimes.

Reaching out to colleagues.

Is there someone with a particular floral designing style or technique that you love and admire?  Would it make sense to work together, geographically?  Are you ready to schlep for them, in exchange for possibly experience only?  

Simply say hello.  After you've found someone that you are interested in working with or learning from, write them an email to tell them what you enjoy about their work.  Why you'd like to learn from them, and why you would be a good person for them to hire.  

But be prepared to hear nothing back.  When I was seeking freelance work, I emailed approximately 30 floral designers and stylists.  I have all of their names written down in a notebook, and I checked off their names as I received a response.  The response rate was about 15%.  Not spectacular.  And it can sting, especially if you are enthusiastic and really admire someone.  I hold that feeling now as something I want to remember down the road, if someone new were to email me.  Perhaps an affirmative response cannot be given, but a response should still be given.

 At Falls Flowers, we participated at a quarterly open house at one of our favorite venues.  Love Me Do Photography did an amazing job taking photos of our work!

At Falls Flowers, we participated at a quarterly open house at one of our favorite venues.  Love Me Do Photography did an amazing job taking photos of our work!

Show your stuff.  (Or be ready to explain the lack of stuff.)

If you have a portfolio, in any form, send it to that person in your email.  Show them what you can do.  If you have no work to show, explain what you're already doing.  This can be tricky, especially if you don't really know how to do the work that you want to do, if you're seeking a teacher.  

Before I was even hired at the flower shop, I purchased flowers from a farmer's market and played around with them on my own, constructing bouquets and arrangements that I loved.  They weren't necessarily the best work I've ever done.  Far from it!  But they gave me something to show other florists, and it also showed initiative and enthusiasm.  I wasn't going to wait, I was going to do the work, even if I wasn't sure how.  

Know the limit.

Give some thought to what you are depending on the freelance job for.  Education or payment?  Possibly both?  Determine whether you are able to work for free, or whether you must be paid in order to work.  This isn't so much for you to demand, but rather a personal limitation.  The reality may be that while a florist would love an extra set of hands, they may not be able to pay you.  This might be for various reasons, which I can discuss further in some more business-oriented posts about pricing and money.  You are the only person who can decide whether or not you can take non-paid jobs, so figure out early on how much you're depending on freelance work.

For me, it's a supplemental income, as I work at the flower shop full time.  But I did have to determine what my freelance rate is, and how much I am willing to come down on it, based on the job.

Once you've been booked.

Congratulations!  You've successfully booked a freelance job.  If I were to ask, you should be able to answer the following questions about the job.

  1. Where will you be working?
  2. What time should you arrive?
  3. Who is your point of contact?  (It may not be the person who hired you!)
  4. How are you personally planning on getting there?
  5. How are you being paid?
  6. If you are being paid with money, what rate will you be paid - hourly, per diem, or other?
  7. If you're being paid with money, when will you be paid, and in what form?
  8. What do you need to bring to successfully complete the job?
  9. What should you bring with you to have a good day?

I'll be sharing more about my answers to questions #8 and #9 in my next freelance oriented posting, because there are definitely things that I want to bring along now, regardless of what I am told about the job, just because I know what I need to get the job done.