Retainers are a huge part of Krista’s business and she can’t imagine not having it included in her business operations. We can’t believe we haven’t talked about this topic before already!
This subject is something that came up a lot in this year’s online summit, so today’s episode is all about retainers. We are covering what they are, the benefits, a few ways to offer them to a client and what exactly goes into them. We will also be taking a look at how Krista has her packages set up!
What are retainers
Retainers are usually monthly packages with a set cost per month. For a retainer, you’re either working with a specific number of hours or delivering a certain number of final products to a client.
So instead of a usual one off project that you may be accustomed to, this is a package that you’re working with a client on every month.
One of the benefits of retainer work is that tasks tend to be easier and faster to complete since you are working with the same client. You can develop a relationship with your clients and get really excited about the work you are doing.
It is nice to have smaller tasks on your plate that provide recurring, guaranteed (mostly) income. If you’re used to custom branding, design or development – these are great tasks to include in your retainer work.
Ways to offer retainer services
There are a few different ways to package your retainer services for clients. This may take a little bit of adjusting here and there to find the right combo for your business, but it will be worth it in the end.
Set number of hours per month
One of the package offerings you can include in your retainer services is through a set amount of hours per month. Your client can choose from a number of packages you create or just let people select how many hours they want.
You can also offer a client a slight discount for when they select a larger package. This provides an incentive for them to pick the higher offering and gives you the advantage of the additional income.
With the available retainer package you offer, you can position each tier by providing examples of the types of work you can do within each package. Maybe within your smallest package you can cover their monthly social media images or your mid-tier could include social graphics, PDFs and workbook design. The highest tier could be all of the previous tiers plus promo graphics, launch material, etc. You get the idea!
Specific deliverables per month
Specific deliverable contracts are another available package option for your retainer clients that could work best for your business. However, this will only work if you do a very specific thing.
For example: 20 social media graphics per month or 10 graphics plus one 5-page workbook design. This package is based off of line items.
For those of you who don’t love the idea of hourly packages, this is what you should go with. Price this package based on what the client will be provided through your services.
What goes into these services
There are a few different factors to consider with building out retainer services as an option in your business model. Keep all of these in mind when developing your plan!
How many clients to take
You have to set aside time in your schedule for these retainer clients. This really is the only way you can offer this type of service without it driving you nuts. Plus, having a structure to your schedule for these items will help with avoiding going over time and messing up your other work tasks.
Having this schedule will also determine how many clients you can take on at a time. For Krista’s business, she sets aside 2 hours, 3 times a week for the retainer work. She also guarantees her retainer clients a 5-day turnaround for small projects and a 10-day turnaround for larger projects. Krista usually high balls her estimated time for project completion, but this allows her the chance to overdeliver to the client. She can also have a better grip on her workload thanks to this time buffer, especially if she has multiple clients assign things to her at the same time. Krista knows she’s covered thanks to this schedule set up.
We recommend blocking out spaces in your schedule and starting with a low estimate on how many clients you can take on. Whether you move forward with hourly rate packages or deliverables. From there, you can always increase your client roster after a few months of seeing what the process is like.
Consider turnaround time
We’ve covered a bit about what turnaround time looks like for Krista, but you’ll also need to think about this for yourself. How quickly will you turn around material? Don’t offer a 24-hour turnaround if you can’t offer that same courtesy to all of your clients at the same time.
Determine how your hours will work from month-to-month
What happens if someone doesn’t use off of their hours – will it carry over to the next month? Some client may use up all of their hours consistently while other clients barely make it. Determine if there will be a certain number of hours that can carry over or if you will allow an unlimited amount to be transferred. If you don’t want to allow hours to be carried over, make that very clear to your clients.
If someone ends up wanting more hours than what is included in their contract, handle it on a case-by-case basis. Don’t guarantee it anywhere. If you have room in your schedule and you are fired up about the work, you can consider it, but don’t always make it a yes. Be smart about what is on your plate!
Make your policies clear
Whatever you determine for the above topics, make those policies clear in your paperwork and information to your client. You can incorporate this info in a FAQ page on your website or within an introduction/welcome package. Absolutely include this information in a contract. Cover your bases! An onboarding video covering this could also be a good idea. As needed, be sure to remind your clients as well of your policies.
Positioning your packages
A topic that we hear a lot from designers is that they are worried that they aren’t delivering enough value with their services. Retainers are a great way to add value to your client experience. They make your clients lives easier and solve specific problems for them. The package your offer, if not just doing hourly, will be a specific solution for who you are working with.
For example, Krista has a designer on retainer that saves her a TON of time through her work. Each time she does something, not only does she save space in Krista’s schedule, but her work looks way more professional that whatever Krista could have created.
What Krista’s packages look like
These packages include maintenance for past clients mainly through hourly retainer packages. She includes a minimum hourly offering as well as a maximum. It doesn’t really serve her any benefit to working with a client who wants my services for less than 2 hours per month. It can be dangerous for Krista to have more than 8 hours per month for a client in case someone decides to use all 8 hours at work.
The hours available to her clients can roll over up to 1 month. So for example, if they book 2 hours, they can carry over up to 2 from last month. Any hours over 2 are lost when the new month starts.
Krista includes a 5-10 day turnaround for the tasks, but if a client needs a quicker turnaround she will bill double her rate. She does this when she has to fit in additional work outside of the usual business hours or if a client takes advantage of my overtime. If she can’t fit it into her schedule or it’s not worth the rush rate, Krista just tells them she can’t do it.
From Krista’s perspective, she likes an hourly rate setup. A lot of people argue that you aren’t getting paid for what you are worth with hourly billing, BUT if your hourly rate is high enough, you do get paid your worth.
Krista has a pretty high hourly rate and she does tend to get things done insanely fast. She has had a client tell her that tasks she’s completed in a matter of minutes would have taken them hours. One time, Krista finished a task for a client in literally 11 seconds was something they had fought with for 3 hours the night before. There’s your value displayed right there.
Retainers are a great way to add recurring, reliable income to your business. While you need to take some time to set up proper policies and packages before you dive in, there is a lot of flexibility in how it can work for you!
- Consider if a retainer offering is something you’d like to add to your business
- Brainstorm what your packages options will look like
- Decide on your policies and implement them in your process