The infamous feast-and-famine cycle is a real struggle for freelance web designers and agencies. You’ll either find yourself working 12-hour days to meet strict deadlines, or working 12-hour-days to simply find new clients or prospects.
This is where working on a retainer agreement can offer numerous benefits.
In plain terms, a retainer agreement simply means you’re “on-call” to work a pre-specified amount of hours per week or month depending on the client’s needs. This mutually beneficial partnership offers you long-term work and income stability, while it offers the client a lower rate on the work performed. It’s a win-win.
For example, let’s say a client wants you to develop a website for their business. Since the website will need continuous updates and management after the initial launch, you can’t simply hand over the project and call it a day.
This is a good opportunity to pursue a retainer agreement with your client. Instead of charging a fixed price and invoicing for every little update, you can negotiate a retainer fee to encompass the full suite of work needed.
Let’s break down how you could calculate your retainer fee. Suppose your hourly rate for web design work is $50. Next, you need to estimate how many hours of work it would take to upkeep the website’s updates and general management on a weekly or monthly basis.
Let’s assume dedicating 15 hours on a weekly basis would cover all of the necessary work. That equates to a $750 upfront retainer fee on a recurrent weekly basis. However, you may want to consider a slight discount since the client will be covering the upfront fee regardless of the amount of work done at a given time.
Consider adding a clause in the agreement for extra compensation aside from the retainer fee if the work you put in on a given week or month exceeds your weekly or monthly hourly estimate.
With a stable source of income from a client, you can focus more on delivering better work and less on the constant outreach and cold pitches to new clients. As a freelance web designer, the stability of working on retainer gives you peace of mind and greater attention to detail on the project at hand, which in turn improves the quality of your work.
Working on retainer with the same client for longer periods of time gives you better insight into the nature of their business. This leads to better quality work when you better understand the ins and outs of their business and become a de-facto extension of the internal team.
The dream of any freelancer is to land a reputable, corporate account that promises recurring big-ticketed projects. These kinds of high-quality clients typically prefer to work on a retainer agreement. Pursuing a retainer agreement is also a good way to avoid unnecessary stress and weed out low-quality clients who are typically looking for the cheapest possible websites.
Freelancers love the flexibility of their work schedules. However, when you land a retainer agreement you’re locked into your client’s schedule which can mean working nights and weekends if need be. This can lead to a less than ideal work-life balance not to mention a strained relationship with the client.
As a freelancer, you always have to keep an eye out for new clients and opportunities, while avoiding putting your eggs all in one basket. However, It’s easy to become overly dependent when one client is paying the majority of your income. This can leave you hanging out to dry if your retainer agreement unexpectedly ends before an agreed-upon time.
Being on retainer brings on considerable risk for the client that still has to cover the retainer fee regardless if there is no work to be assigned to the contractor within the predetermined time. There needs to be a considerable amount of trust between both parties for a client to consider the risk worthwhile.
Freelance web designers and agencies stand to gain considerable benefits by pursuing retainer agreements with clients. This includes job and income security with added peace of mind that can improve the overall quality of work and creativity. However, there are some downsides to consider as with everything.
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