Welcome to our third instalment of freelancing in the florist industry. Today we have the pleasure of speaking to Jera Quinn, senior freelancer and owner of Meadow and Wilder. With a wealth of experience, who better to chat to for first hand advice on how best to conduct yourself whilst on the job and get invited back for work.
Jera Quinn is a full time, professional freelance florist based in Kiama on the NSW South Coast. She travels to jobs across the Illawarra, South Coast, Southern Highlands & Sydney regions week to week. With over 5 years’ experience as a freelancer, she prides herself on her strong work ethic, commitment to building lasting work relationships and versatility switching between retail and event work and different styles of floristry.
“There’s so much to love about freelancing! The hustle and bustle, meeting with and working with new people, forging new connections, constant learning and being out of your comfort zone, varied work styles you can switch between that push your creative abilities. It also allows you to be in control of your work schedule in that you take on as little or as much as you like.
2022 in particular is a unique year for freelancers in the industry in that for the very first time ever I would say, you can easily pick up a full time workload Monday- Sunday as businesses are playing catch up from the past 2 years of pandemic postponements and cancellations. If someone is wanting to get into freelancing, now is a great time as so many businesses are seeking staff.” Jera says.
So if you’re thinking about ramping up your freelancing career, now is the perfect time! But how do you conduct yourself when you’re on the job? We’ve covered how to find work and best practice before and after a job – but what about the actual day? Jera talks us through some points to consider below:
Your professionalism encapsulates how you conduct yourself at work including your attitude and how you interact and communicate with others. If you are able to prove to a business that you are reliable, punctual, adaptable, friendly, trustworthy, honest, hardworking with a ‘can do’ attitude, you will make yourself invaluable within any workplace. Showing up to work prepared, dressing appropriately for the job, taking your own tools (snips) and going a step further by bringing a stocked tool kit shows your enthusiasm and commitment to your role. Your reputation precedes you, if you want to be paid and respected as a professional, you first need to become one. Experienced, skilled and eager florists are highly sought after in the current work climate with more opportunities than ever to work as a freelancer every day of the week. Retail and event florists have never been so busy!
Punctuality and Timeliness
Punctuality is extremely important. In the events industry in particular it is vital that you arrive to work whether that be at a studio, warehouse, or on site on location at the time given to you by the business owner. A wedding / event will not wait for you! Bump in’s at some venues don’t allow for tardiness. Some days you are working down to the very last minute allocated. Couples cannot be expected to wait past their promised delivery times on their personals (bouquets / buttonholes) for photos because you are running late. Make it a priority to arrive 10-15 minutes early to work. My top tip if you have trouble arriving to work on time is to set multiple reminder alarms on your watch / phone. Work backward from the time you need to leave home to make it to your work location, allow a buffer timeframe for unforeseen circumstances such as unexpected traffic on the roads, time for parking, grabbing a coffee on the commute in. If you know you have a tendency to procrastinate at home when you get ready in the morning, account for that time too. Be responsible and in charge of your punctuality.
Demeanour in Front of Clients
Always show up to work every day as your very best self. Be polite, courteous and friendly to everyone you encounter whether that be customers in a retail setting, staff at the venue you are working at on an event day, other vendors, wedding guests, and most importantly the business owner and their clients. Mind your manners and your tongue. Try to ‘read the room’ to determine whether it’s appropriate for you to engage in meaningful discussion with the client or whether you need to cut pleasantries short so they can focus on their day.
Showing up to your workplace every day with a positive, can-do attitude matters. The entire workplace can be impacted by one person’s mood, influencing others mental health, overall productivity and output. If you show up to work with a positive mind set, this is contagious and can influence the temperature of the work day to be a better one. Bringing positivity into your work place can be as simple as being kind, smiling, asking those around you how they are, asking what you can do to help and simply saying ‘yes’.
Openness to Receiving Feedback/Constructive Criticism
As a freelancer it is your job to complete work to the desired standard of the business you are working for to satisfy the client brief. Sometimes this means receiving direction on how to complete a given task or receiving criticism of the constructive kind. Whilst receiving criticism can be difficult, try to push your ego aside to be receptive to the advice or suggestions that are being made to you. The business owner is generally the person who has been working directly with the client for a long time and knows the exact vision that you are working hard together as a team to deliver. Most of the time the constructive criticism is not a personal attack on you as a person or your skills as a florist, it is a means to getting the job completed to the standard that is required. If you are working for a new business owner for the very first time, they may be inclined to give you more instruction or direction that you think you need, because they are unfamiliar with your work ethic and haven’t gotten to know your capabilities or skill set yet. This requires patience from both parties and a willingness from you as the freelancer to follow those instructions. Go into your freelancing work days with an open heart and mind and be willing to push your creative boundaries. There is so much to learn from every job you do. Through constructive criticism there are opportunities for great personal growth.
Crisis Management and Staying Calm Under Pressure
On the job, you will inevitably encounter situations that are stressful. A freak weather event last minute for example can de-rail a carefully thought out plan for how the day will play out. The business owner is going to need you to be the calm in the storm. Not everyone can handle stressful situations, and that is ok. Take some deep breaths to re-centre yourself. Ask yourself, ‘what you can I do right now to help’. Jump in on problem solving your way through a new plan together with your team and get to work. You have to learn to be comfortable in the chaos, the events industry is fast paced and at times unforgiving, requiring you to think on your feet and problem solve on the go. If there is one thing I have learnt, our job as florists is 80% problem solving. With anything, practice makes perfect and over time you will know how to handle any situation that unfolds with complete calm and clarity.
Being a Team Player
As a freelancer you will find yourself working as part of a wider team. Everyone in the team will have a dedicated task, with the shared goal of completing the work of the day within an allocated timeframe. Get to know the people you will be working with, actively listen, be attentive and communicate clearly and effectively (especially when sharing instructions). Lend a helping hand if you see someone else in your team is struggling or the task would be made easier with two people instead of one. Be positive and encouraging and always respectful.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions and Develop New Skills
By asking questions we are improving our emotional intelligence and learning. No question is too silly or farfetched when you are attempting to broaden your knowledge or improve your skill set so you can do better at your job. Get comfortable with asking questions. Freelancing is the perfect way to absorb new knowledge, identify different ways of doing things to make the job easier and learn all of those handy tricks of the trade!
Familiarise Yourself with the Style of Flowers of Each Business Before Work
If you are freelancing for a new business for the very first time, try to take some time to look through their socials to see their past work to gauge a recurring or dominant design aesthetic. Every business is different, but you will be able to pick up on a ‘style’ they tend to repeat within their design work. To break this down, an aesthetic could be ‘garden inspired with lush foliages and rambling roses’, or ‘artistic and minimalistic with heavy groupings’, ‘traditional and abundant with clear shapes and lines’. In doing some research you can prepare yourself and adjust your design eye to suit the desired aesthetic of the day. If you work for multiple different businesses on a daily or weekly basis, it is also good practice to check in on your employers socials pages to see what work they are posting to gauge the desired look you will be working toward. Generally on the day your employer will guide you either verbally or show you a mood board or inspiration pic to work from to help with this.
Scheduling Freelance Working Dates
When it comes to booking in work dates with business owners, you need to be on top of your own personal admin which includes staying organised and across your scheduling and bookings. Things you need to be mindful of include, not accidentally double booking yourself and potentially over committing yourself by not allowing any rest or personal down time in between work days. This is why it is important to have a organisational system for your own scheduling in place.
Most businesses will try to work forward in 3 or 6 month blocks for wedding seasons with scheduling freelance staff to ensure that their future event days will be covered. If you freelance for multiple businesses, scheduling can be challenging when considering the means of contact being made via multiple streams (Facebook, Instagram, email, text messages, phone calls), numerous work dates being thrown your way from different business owners at all times of the day and night and your own life events happening in between.
Whilst it is great to respond immediately with an eager ‘yes’, make sure you sit down and thoroughly cross reference new incoming work dates with existing bookings in your calendar. There is nothing worse than realising after the fact that you have accidentally double booked yourself and having to fess up and disappoint a business owner.
I personally like to use a hard copy calendar as a visual reference when booking in dates and cross reference this with my electronic calendar in my phone to keep on top of my bookings to help future plan.
It pays to be flexible with your bookings. It is common that the business owner won’t be able to tell you approximately how many exact hours you will be needed on any particular work date, or even provide start or finish times. You may be contacted a few months or weeks in advance with dates they need to book you and the only information they have to share with you at the time of booking is that you will be there for either be a prep day at their studio or warehouse location or working out on location.
Often, you might set an entire work day aside for a particular business or event and only end up being needed 3-4 hours where other bookings might provide you with a 8-12 hour work day. So that expectations on both sides are managed, ensure that you discuss personal preferences for minimum / maximum work shift timeframes and distances you are prepared to travel for work days to accommodate for these common instances.
As a casual contractor you also need to be prepared to have work dates moved or at times even cancelled last minute on you in the current climate which is still unpredictable with Covid postponements.
A very big thank you to Jera for her words of wisdom – we hope you enjoyed reading her insights as much as we enjoyed chatting to her.
If you have any more questions for Jera, we will post her details below this article, she is incredibly generous with her time and knowledge and is passionate about newer freelancers finding their way, conducting themselves with professionalism and loving their freelancing career!
We love to see support and guidance in the industry, so again, a very big thank you Jera.
The FQ xx
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