Considering a retainer arrangement?

Ilise BenunIf you like the idea of steady cash flow but just can’t bear the thought of a job, maybe you need to look for clients interested in a retainer arrangement.

Sharon Bending, of Chicago-based, Bending Design (attendee at CFC 2008), has retainer relationships with a few of her clients in the financial services and association markets. Here’s how she structures them:

Timeframe: the client must commit to a minimum of 6 months and a minimum of 10 hours per month. Less than that is hard to get anything accomplished and you’ll spend more time  checking your time than getting work done.

Payment: they get charged an hourly rate which is a benefit because normally we charge by the project. We agree to a set number of hours ahead of time and they pay that full amount before the month begins (reasoning is I have to set aside the hours)

Prioritizing the work: I set the schedule of work as much as possible in a weekly call to review priorities. Otherwise they may throw stuff at us and expect everything to be done at the same time.

Reporting: They get a report of the hours including descriptions at month’s end so they can evaluate if they need more. (I don’t even think my clients read this but they feel better knowing you are doing it. Helps them to be comfortable.)

Overage: If we are running close on hours I let them know and I always get their permission before going over. If we go over on hours they’re billed at a higher hourly rate.

What other details would you be sure to include?

Listen to BTW: [audio:]

There’s a good conversation going on this topic over at the Creative Freelancer LinkedIn Group. Join here if you’re not already a member.

One thought on “Considering a retainer arrangement?

  1. Lisa Lehman

    I don’t particularly like the “selling” aspect of working for myself. I found that I was spending entirely too much time “selling” only to gain small projects. So, I launched a campaign specifically for retainers. From that, I gained one retainer client who has been with me for three years now. I would say it was a success!