TL;DR – retainers rock and here’s why:
Lasting client relationships
Predict your income and your workload and work with awesome clients month after month? Uh yeah – sign me up!
I started using retainers in my freelance business about a year into it… and honestly, I wish I’d done it sooner!
Retainers made my business sooooo much more enjoyable. I got to work with higher quality clients at better prices, and I finally had the time to build my website, start a blog, and do all the work needed to build a sustainable business for myself. No more staying up til 2am writing pitches! I actually had clients coming to me.
Adding a retainer model to my business made my clients respect me as an expert and a professional. I offered them custom monthly packages to suit their needs and sold them on the value of working with me long-term. It was a win-win for both of us.
If you aren’t sure if retainers will work for your freelance business, read on my friend. I’m going to share some of the benefits of using a retainer model, and what kind of freelancers can benefit from it. Let’s dig in.
What is a retainer?
A retainer agreement is when a client pays a pre-determined amount each month.
This can be for a set number of hours or deliverables.
For example, 10 hours each month for $80/hr or $800/month OR 3 blog posts written plus a social media promo image for $800/month.
What kind of freelancers can offer retainers?
The great news is, retainers can work for most freelancers! Anyone with ongoing services or clients who ask for repeatable work could benefit from offering retainers.
Retainers can be ideal for:
- SEO specialists
- Social media managers or content creators
- Web developers
- Facebook ads specialists
- Digital strategists
- Graphic designers
- Virtual assistants
The benefits of retainers for freelancers
Steady, predictable income every month
One of the biggest issues with freelancing is not having a predictable monthly income. So many freelancers find themselves on the income roller coaster. One month you’ve got loads of projects and paycheques coming in, the next month… not so much.
This happens all. the. time. When you’ve got a ton of projects and client work to do, you don’t have time to market yourself or pitch new clients. Then you have a down month, so you ramp up your marketing again until your schedule is filled with clients. Then you stop marketing yourself… It’s a vicious cycle. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
When you’re working with retainer clients, you have a guaranteed and predictable income from those clients without having to go out and find, pitch, and sell to anyone.
When I moved the majority of my client relationships onto retainers, I knew how much money I could expect to make every month. Plus, I could predict in advance if I’d have a down month and work to quickly replace it with new clients or work.
It’s almost like having a steady paycheque you can rely on… but without the cubicle, commute, and coworkers.
Higher quality clients
When a client is open to a retainer agreement, it’s likely that they understand the long-term benefit of working with you. They aren’t looking to get the cheapest work possible, but rather they’re looking for a freelancer who can consistently contribute to their team. They want an expert, and they’re willing to pay for it. This is absolutely the kind of clients you want to work with!
When you start working with clients on retainers, you will be able to weed out the cheapo clients. Your income from retainers will rise to a steady point where you feel comfortable kicking those cheap one-offs to the curb! And let me tell you – it feels SO good to be able to turn down projects that aren’t a fit or don’t pay well enough.
Long-term client relationships
Like I said in the previous point, retainers are all about the long-term benefit. This is true for both you and the client.
Lasting client relationships are a successful freelancer’s bread and butter. Repeat clients keep your business running, and keep a steady income coming in. Plus, your repeat clients are the most likely to make referrals and become advocates for you.
Retainer clients are the ultimate repeat clients!
Plus, working with a retainer client is just easier. You get to know their business and their personality. Pitching, selling, negotiating, and onboarding becomes easier every time. Projects run more smoothly.
And the more you work for them, the more valuable you become.
Predictable (but flexible!) schedule
When you have retainer clients, you know how much work you will be doing for the month ahead of time. A predictable workload lets you make your own schedule and plan in advance.
With retainer clients, you can adjust your schedule to suit your needs. If you have a retainer for writing a blog post each week but you want to go on vacation, you could easily write all 4 articles in the first week or 2 of the month and take the rest of the month off. (Just be sure to communicate your plans with your client!)
Less time chasing new leads
Another HUGE benefit of a predictable schedule is making time for your own business. When you’re not constantly hunting down new leads, or doing super quick turnaround gigs for new clients, you can plan out your own marketing and business activities.
Retainers = steady and guaranteed work = less need to always be pitching.
When I moved to retainers, I finally had enough control over my schedule to focus on my business. I built my website, I started a blog, I engaged with people in Facebook groups and on social media, I started building my email list.
And for the first time, clients started coming to me! I was attracting dream clients and they were more than happy to pay my retainer rates. I no longer had to spend my time scouring job boards or finding clients to pitch.
Time to create other income streams
With more control over your schedule (and less time pitching) you can build time into your schedule to create content. Or create a digital product like an ebook or online course. Or create multiple income streams for yourself. The opportunities for your business will start to grow exponentially and you’ll stop feeling like you’re always scrambling, and can finally breathe in your business.
Free up time in your business to work on other priorities, like marketing or creating scalable sources of income.
If you can land a couple of retainer clients in your freelance business, you’ll have more control over your time and your income – which gives you the power to make moves in your business for growth.
What questions or stories do you have about retainers for freelancers?
Comment below or DM me on Instagram.