Top Reasons Why I Decided to Get My AIFD Floral Accreditation
There are many different paths a florist can take towards floral certification or accreditation, and one program or path isn’t “better” than another. Being a floral designer is a journey that’s constantly evolving. I’m not the same designer I was when I started my floral career in 2007. My style has changed, my skills have grown, and through it all, education has always been an important factor for me. I started in floral school, learning the basic foundations that I’ve built my design style upon over the past 12+ years as a florist. I’ve journeyed through many different facets of the floral design community, from working retail to running my own wedding design company. There have been ups and downs, goals accomplished and failures encountered, but I’ve learned to always trust myself and learn through any hardship I might face.
While completing my basic floral training and starting my career as a shop assistant, while there are many avenues for training and certification, I set for myself the goal of becoming a wedding designer and ultimately earning my AIFD accreditation. As a fresh-faced, up-and-coming florist, this seemed like the gold standard to strive for. I’ve since learned that there really isn’t any top “gold standard” in floral design; the standard can be whatever you make it. I’ve met many talented self-taught florists throughout my career, and we all have amazing strengths to bring to the table. Each person must choose what feels right for them and achieve whatever mastery they desire, and I set myself a goal of testing for AIFD. After more than ten years in the industry, I decided to go for it in 2017.
The testing process for any accreditation path is full of challenges. In my case, I had to go back to my basic floral training and revisit the elements and principles of design. While some of the elements and principles come easily to me, I find that I struggle with a few, so I had to go back to the basics and study. Testing for certification or accreditation also requires practicing areas of floral design that you may not be comfortable or familiar with. As a wedding designer, I can make bridal bouquets and boutonnieres all day, but sympathy work is something I rarely create. I did learn how to design sympathy arrangements in floral school, but that was ten years ago, so I had to practice and relearn different types of designs. While I did a large amount of hands-on learning and studying, I also had to revisit my old textbooks and read up on the history of floral design. Not only did it challenge me to dive into more education, but it also reminded me of the evolution of floral design and the design basics that make everything come together.
As a mother of two young kids with a thriving wedding business, finding time to work on my floral skills was challenging to say the least, and I often felt guilt over either neglecting my family or my studying time. It was a no-win situation. Late nights and full weekends packed with events, kids’ activities and mock test practices dominated my life. Reflecting on that time, I wish that I had chosen a less busy time of my life to pile on one more responsibility, but I do not regret the time I spent achieving my accreditation in the spring and summer of 2017. If anything, it gave me a fresh perspective and reminded me of the need to slow down slightly and enjoy the process more in life, which is something that I have been working towards ever since.
In addition to the time investment, becoming accredited also costs real money. From extra classes and mock testing to the entire certification process itself, the costs can add up. With that said, the process was well worth the expense for me, as I have had opportunities (both paying jobs and not) that would not have been available to me before my accreditation.
As humans, we can be hard on ourselves. I talked myself in and out of certification many times over the years. My path towards certification finally really became a reality when, at a floral conference in 2016, I met and became great friends with a fellow florist who had been through the process herself. Having a mentor to chat with was vital as she helped me navigate the entire process. She introduced me to many people in the AIFD community—which was invaluable for an introvert like me—and she gave me insight into how the testing process would go, which helped calm my nerves. Her friendship helped me blossom as a designer and we now often assist each other in design work.
After reading about all of these challenges to obtaining certification, you might ask why? Why would I go through all of this for floral accreditation? I think for most people it is a very personal question. For me, it was about achieving a goal I had set out for myself at the beginning of my career. And if I'm honest, deep down I also just wanted to see if I could do it. Perhaps that’s not the best reason for taking on such a challenge, but it’s true. Could I pass a rigorous design test? Am I worthy? Since then I have realized that there are many reasons and benefits to why this was the right path for me, both personally and professionally.
While my husband would say that my work and reputation speak for themselves and that my clients “aren’t going to care about my accreditation,” I have to disagree with him. While my portfolio of work and great referrals do factor, I firmly believe that my floral accreditation helps build trust with my clients. It gives them a feeling of stability and security, knowing that I have been in the business for a long time and am part of a national floral organization. It tells them that I care about education, that I am always learning, and that I have the skills and experience to achieve this recognition. Since becoming accredited, I have noticed that my weddings have become bigger and more intricate, and while I can’t say that my accreditation has directly caused this, it has given me confidence and the tools to accomplish these more significant events.
In the past few years, I have attended many educational seminars, workshops, and conferences. My design skills have grown and changed. The elements and principles of design seem to come out more in my work, and my toolbox of tricks has increased significantly since starting the journey toward accreditation. I have more design opportunities now too. I am being asked to assist other designers at floral shows, I am helping to write floral-related articles, and I’m starting to teach others. During the holidays, I freelance for retail floral shops and my accreditation has helped me get jobs and higher salaries as the owners know they are getting a seasoned designer. My floral family has grown immensely, and I am constantly learning new things from these people. I also have a tribe of highly skilled floral designers that I can reach out to during times of need or hardship. I felt very alone for the first few years of my floral career, and it’s beautiful to now feel like part of a vast floral family.
I have noticed the personal benefits of becoming an accredited designer as well. I struggle with imposter syndrome, which I think is common in our field. It’s easy to doubt yourself when surrounded in an area of amazingly talented designers, all that have their own style. Achieving accreditation helps me recognize I am a good designer, that I worked hard, and that I was capable of passing a rigorous testing process. I also reached a personal goal which raises my self-esteem and makes me feel good. I have grown a lot through the process, from meeting one of my best friends to just believing more in myself. I know that I don’t need a test to show that I am a sound designer, but it helped propel me into working harder and developing myself, my education, and my craft.
Reflecting on the decade-long process it took for me to achieve my accreditation, I realized that I would do it all over again if I had to. This was the right choice for myself and my career. Its benefits outweigh the challenges, and it taught me countless great skills and lessons that I now use daily. It also has introduced me to some of the most amazing people—and for that, I am forever grateful for my journey to accreditation.