Collaborating with a developer is a big topic on this podcast because it’s something that can free up huge amounts of your time. Up until now, we’ve focused on outsourcing full custom site builds, but that’s not the only way you can collaborate.
In fact, it could be even more beneficial for your business to have someone around for smaller projects on a regular basis. So today, we’re going over the ins-and-outs of working with a developer on retainer. We’ll cover why it’s a good option, what the process looks like, examples of tasks you can hand off, and things to keep in mind.
What it means to work with a developer on retainer
In short, when you work with a developer on a retainer basis, you have them reserved for a set number of hours each month. Sometimes those hours will be discounted, but not always. The guaranteed hours without months of waiting and rush fees is the big benefit to keep in mind.
Why having a developer on retainer is a good option
A lot of designers want to outsource development, but can’t quite swing the cost for custom site builds. A big benefit of a retainer arrangement is that you can choose your budget.
Instead of paying thousands of dollars for a custom site, you can likely get started for a couple hundred.
Working with a developer on retainer allows a lot of flexibility. You can get help where you need it on the specific tasks you need the most help on. In addition, you have the power to choose how many hours you want help per month which can be based off of your budget.
And finally, we all know how scary it can be to find a developer to jump in at the last minute to help with a task. You may find yourself settling for someone you’re not quite sure you can rely on simply due to their availability and willingness to waive a rush fee. But this can lead to sticky situations and extra stress.
With a developer on retainer, you have easy access to an expert. There’s always someone you can trust to take tasks off your plate without the rush fee or months of waiting. That way, you have more time to design!
The process of working with a developer on retainer
The process is going to vary based on who you choose to work with (this is based off of Krista’s experience), but you can expect something like the following.
1. Decide the number of hours you’d like to book per month
First up is deciding how many hours you’d like to book per month. You can base this on how much help you see yourself needing as well as your budget.
If you’re not sure, start small. Any little bit will make your job easier and you can always increase the number of hours as you go. Remember, a developer will be able to complete things a lot faster than you!
2. Decide on a place to communicate
It’s important that you have easy access to your developer to assign tasks, ask questions, and get progress updates.
Asana is perfect for this. You’ll have your own project with the developer where you can assign tasks, include details, set due dates, and ask questions.
3. Start assigning tasks
And now you’re off to the races! No more worrying about getting stuck Googling for hours or relying on a random developer you’ve never worked with before.
You can jump into Asana, assign your task, and expect it to be completed within a week or two at the most!
Below is a list of tasks Krista is commonly assigned in her retainer projects. Consider how each of these things could help you as well as what other tasks you could assign!
- Create a staging site for a new design project
- Transfer a completed design to a client’s live site
- Fix an issue with mobile responsiveness
- Add custom styling to an element
- Create a footer based on a given mockup
- Set up the contact page
- Custom develop a page based on a mockup
- Client support and monthly maintenance
Things to keep in mind
Next up are a few things to keep in mind before you start working with a developer on retainer.
Minimums – Make yourself aware of any minimums when it comes to booking. This can be both the number of hours booked per month and the number of months you need to book.
Platforms + Tasks – Be sure you understand what a developer will and won’t do before you choose to work with them. Maybe they only work on WordPress and not Squarespace. Or maybe they’re good with general techy tasks, but aren’t the greatest with custom coding.
Turnaround Time – Keep in mind that a developer likely won’t turn things around as fast as a virtual assistant would. Make sure your developer’s process will fit with yours.
Rollover Hours – Get a solid understanding of what will happen if you don’t use all your hours in a given month. Can you roll them over or are they lost?
Cancellation Policy – Ask the developer you’re considering whether you can cancel anytime or if you need to give notice in advance.
How to know a retainer setup is a good move for you
Working with a developer on retainer is a good move for you if:
- You find yourself doing more coding work than you’d like to
- You find yourself being taken away from larger projects to make small tweaks
- Development, even quick fixes, take you more time than you’d like
- You want more time to focus on design
- You like the idea of more free time without extra work
- Decide if working with a developer on retainer is something you’d like to try out
- Determine how much time you’d like to start with per month
- Reach out to a developer and see if they’re a good fit!
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