Two of things I often hear after a customer has asked me to quote them for a bespoke tribute is “I didn’t think it would be so expensive” or “really, that’s dear?” They're the ones that actually take the time to reply; so often I get asked to quote for items via email and never receive a word back.
Don’t get me wrong, I do get where they are coming from; I often shock myself when I work out the costs for an item, yet what they don’t realise is just how much the raw materials cost me. A spray or posy in foam has minimal cost – the tray to hold the foam and the foam itself working out to roughly £3 – which is why they can be so much cheaper to make than say a 3D Submarine can be. I can’t just go to a wholesaler (or other business) and purchase the frame for a bespoke piece in the same way I can buy a packet of spray trays or dishes and a box of foam. A bespoke tribute has to be made from scratch.
Below I've added an example of what I mean – before I continue please be aware I am using the recent Thomas the Tank Engine tribute I made as my example; the customer who ordered this did not once quibble the cost of it and has emailed me a lovely 'thank you' for making it. I’m using it purely because it is the most recent bespoke item I have made and I have a copy of my costs close to hand. In fact I’ve screen shot my actual working out figures I kept as I was making it for you to see exactly how much the tribute cost me.
Shocking, isn’t it? These are not retail costs either; they are the price I paid for the materials. I also never included the ribbon I used on the edge of the design sheet, the wires, the paper, printer ink or laminating sheet. You will also see I have not included my time. This is the bit that really gets me when I am told I’m “ripping off” someone or over charging them. I charged my customer £225 for this tribute. That leaves just £20.21. This amount is my ‘profit’ if you’d like to call it that. However, what about my time and hourly rate? That has to be factored into the equation also and in this instance is grouped in with the 'profit'. Let's face it, in reality I made no profit at all on this tribute and my hourly rate works out at just £5.52 per hour (the tribute took in total roughly 4 hours to make). That’s £1.68 below minimum wage for someone of my age (I know, I know, hard to believe I’m over 17 J ) That remaining £20.21 isn't wages either though for out of any money left there are bills to pay. Electric, Phone, Internet, Water, Sewerage, Business insurances - shop, personal liability, building and contents; there is rent to pay, drivers to pay, an accountant, hmrc, bank charges, credit card charges, rental for the credit card terminal we process debit/credit cards through.There are website charges, online payment charges, council tax, fire extinguisher servicing. The list is endless and it all has to come out of that small amount made on items we make.
Now, let'a just say I was to add a 50% mark-up to the cost of my raw materials – this would become the retail price (I am aware many businesses have more than a 100% mark-up from their wholesale to retail prices) – that takes the total which should have been charged to £306.03. Then let’s add an hourly rate for a skilled worker; this is where it gets tricky. How much is my time worth? I actually did some proper research into how much a skilled worker with decent qualifications in their field of work should charge. I could only dream of such money. If you look below you’ll see that I’ve listed some different average hourly rates for people who (aside from the builder) aren’t even creating anything. Some of them are extortionate yet we all pay without too much complaining because we know they are providing a service we want - remember this is just their hourly rate; the amount does not include any raw materials they use, it is purely the cost for their time. I figured with my experience, qualifications and the fact I am providing a bespoke service I could easily command £55 per hour (if not more) although for the purpose of this example that’s the figure I’m going with. Add 4 hours at this amount and you get £220. This figure then gets added to the material costs and we have a grand total of £526.03 - £301.03 less than I charged.
I am sure there are people out there who could make the item’s cheaper if you are happy to have gaps in between their flowers exposing the foam, or you are ok for their spray paint not to cover all the flowers. I’ve heard of some floral creators keeping costs down by reusing foam from tributes/arrangements they (and others) have previously made that they've taken from the church/crematorium after the mourners have left – yes, really, there are some very unscrupulous people out there. I could never do that; neither could/would any decent florist.
The same principle and costs apply to anything that’s not every day run-of-the-norm, including weddings. It’s not just limited to funeral tributes. Every single wedding is individual and unique to each bride. While we can give a ball-park figure on average costs, until we have met our brides to discuss their requirements it’s very difficult to give an exact figure; we have to factor in the time of year (how easy/difficult it is to get the flowers they require). We have to factor in how big we believe the demand may be for their specific flowers (certain times of the year the demand for specific colours/flowers can be massively higher than other times). We have to try and allow for the exchange rate fluctuations (I got caught out after Brexit having quoted for several weddings to then find when it came to purchasing the flowers they were costing me anywhere between 35% – 289% more than previously - I lost a lot of money on at least half a dozen weddings because of this). We guarantee our brides the best quality flowers for their big day, often ordering weeks in advance having spoken to growers and wholesalers about the best length to purchase to get the size flower head we need. We could just take a chance a day or 2 before and hope to get what the bride requires (or substitute with something similar) in the way I know a lot of the cheaper wedding flower makers do (I’m sorry I can’t call them florists for they really aren’t) but I’d rather lose a bride to one of these cheaper workers than supply them with anything less than the very best for their big day. No bride deserves 2nd grade flowers.
Next time you ask a florist to a quote for something a 'bit different' or that is specific just to you, please try to remember that no decent, self-respecting, hard working florist will ever set out to rip you off. We are all just trying to keep the wolves at bay (like everyone else) by ensuring we can cover our bills and maybe, just maybe, take home a few pounds each month for ourselves (I believe these few pounds are called 'wages'?). We don't like the costs involved any more than you do.