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5 reasons you need a creative retainer on your menu

5 reasons you need a creative retainer on your menu

As a creative freelancer, I’m sure you’ve been told (too many times) that you’re trying to build a career in an incredibly difficult industry.

As a creative freelancer, I’m sure you’ve been told (too many times) that you’re trying to build a career in an incredibly difficult industry.

If you struggle to put a dollar amount on your time, click here to grab my Free Pricing Calculator here and run your numbers for yourself.

It’s the best way to work out your unique recipe for your prices.

Well-meaning family or friends may have advised you to break into something a little more “secure”, worried that you’ll never have a steady paycheque.

While freelancing can be a bit give-and-take as far as work goes, if you’re clever about what you do, it doesn’t have to be.

Wait, what’s a creative retainer?

There are so many different ways to price what you do, and if you’re familiar with my work as the Pricing Queen, you’ll have a good idea of what they are. One option I’m particularly passionate about is creative retainers. This is where a client signs on to work with you for a minimum amount of time, and pays a set, recurring fee.

What they receive for their money is based on each client’s individual needs. They might be purchasing a specified number of ‘hours’ per month, or a certain quota of deliverables. Some clients know that they need your services on an ongoing basis but might not know exactly what for in advance. This is where a creative retainer may be exactly what they need to hit the spot and satisfy their hunger.

Here are 5 reasons why you need to put creative retainers on your menu.

1. It gives you a regular paycheque

Let’s start with the most obvious reason; a retainer gives you steady, reliable income. While the price the client pays per ‘item’ (eg per hour or deliverable) is generally less than what’d you’d charge for ad hoc work, the fact that they’re in a contract to pay you each month means you end up with reliable and predictable profits. Clients who are needing your services so regularly are generally in a position to still pay you a handsome sum.

Just because you’re offering them a ‘deal’ for agreeing to a retainer, doesn’t mean you have to work for nothing. The initial contract time is entirely up to you, but having clients sign on for 3 – 6 months up front is pretty standard.

2. It builds and solidifies priceless relationships

I can guarantee that if you were to ask a successful freelancer what the key ingredient in their success is, they’d say it’s building relationships.

In business, relationships are everything. If your toilet broke and your best friend was a plumber, you wouldn’t think twice about choosing THEM to fix it. While I’m not telling you to necessarily invite your clients to join your bridal party, the same concept applies here.

By building strong relationships, your clients never doubt your value and worry that you’re untrustworthy. As soon as additional jobs arise that you could do, they’ll hand it to you without giving it a second thought. It also means they’ll have no hesitation recommending you to others, and before you know it, you’ve got a thriving freelance career built almost solely on referrals.

3. It provides opportunities to upsell or add-on

It can be helpful to think of the client’s retainer as the bare minimum you can offer them. Often people don’t realise what they need until they’ve got the ball rolling. Someone who initially signs on for 20 hours per month may end up realising that they actually need at least 30.

This gives you opportunity to increase the deliverables and, therefore, the price. The more work you do for them, the more you may identify other areas of their business you can help with. Sometimes people don’t know the variety of skills you have. By working with them closely and regularly on a retainer, you’ll get to know them and their business quite intimately.

This can open doors for you to do additional work that they may not have realised you’re qualified to do.

Grab my free mini guide!

Wanna know more about Creative Retainers, how to set pitch them to your clients and a peek into my own process of adding $96k in 2022 from introducing retainers?

4. It reduces ‘fluff’ time

When I say ‘fluff’ time, I’m talking about the mind-numbing, time-sucking tasks that you don’t directly get paid for. When you’re a service-based business, time literally equals money.

The number of ‘free discovery calls’ that don’t result in new clients are significantly reduced. Time spent drafting up proposals and quotes (that may or may not be accepted) can be halved. This frees up your time and energy to do things that actually result in you being paid.

5. It makes you more appealing

A freelancer who offers high-value retainers appears professional and stable in their business. If they’re confident enough to lock someone into a contract for a certain amount of time, they must have pretty polished skills and processes. Business is not necessarily the time to be modest.

While you certainly need to be humble, honest, and approachable, appearing to lack confidence will result in your proposal not being given a second glance. If you’re not confident you can fulfil the brief, why would they be? The clients that you really want generally don’t make decisions based on price. They choose the freelancers who demonstrate how they can confidently get the job done.

If you’ve been wracking your brain on how to turn your business from a basic slice of bread to a gourmet dish of French toast, offering value-packed retainers might be the missing part of the recipe. I can tell you from my 15 years in this business that doing so means you’ll rarely be without dessert….

… and when it comes to dessert, I never speak anything but the truth.

If you want to know more about Creative Retainers, how to set pitch them to your clients and a peek into my own process of adding $96k in 2022 from introducing retainers, head here to download my free Mini Guide on the subject.

Craving a recipe for how to serve your clients perfectly?

Take a seat at the table, my Hungry Creative! I’ve got a meal that’ll leave you stuffed.

Introducing Recipe for Serving Clients, my tried-and-tested meal plan for building trust and landing loyal clients.

Still hungry? Check these dishes out…