How to Negotiate and Secure a Retainer Fee with a Client

Are you a freelancer or contractor constantly looking for new projects or new clients? Do you have a roller-coaster income that changes from month to month?

If your answer is yes, then consider negotiating for a monthly retainer. A retainer contract is an agreement between a freelancer and their client for ongoing, monthly services for a set fee. The client pays monthly for your services in advance.

The benefit to the freelancer is consistent, guaranteed income. The benefit to the client is secured services with someone they can depend on.

The client prefers to work with a freelancer or contractor with the skills they need, but it takes time to find a freelancer-client relationship that is the right fit.

Freelancers with a high-demand skillset and sharp negotiation skills know how to negotiate and secure retainer agreements with their ideal clients.

Benefits of Retainers for Freelancers

A tremendous benefit of a retainer fee is a guaranteed, steady income. Freelancers who work project after project face a lot of unpredictability with cash flow and budgeting.

They need to negotiate a 25 percent or 50 percent downpayment at the start of a project and remember to chase down clients for final payment when a project is incomplete. When working with new clients on projects, they also deal with unpredictability. Bad clients might not pay on time or at all, citing bad freelancer work as an excuse to withhold their pay.

With a retainer, the freelancer’s monthly income is stable. Instead of constantly searching for new clients and new projects, you have more time and energy to dedicate to your retainer contracts. You aren’t frequently checking your bank account to ensure you have enough funds for unexpected expenses.

Retainer contracts are similar to the steady income of having a job.

Just how steady is a retainer fee income? If you have just three retainer clients, one paying you $3000 a month for services, another paying $2500, and a third paying $1500, you would have an income of $7000 at the start of each month.

When you can focus your energy on providing quality services to ongoing clients, you can also build your reputation and take on more retainer work… if you have the time.

Benefits for Clients Who Are on a Retainer

Just like how freelancers enjoy the stability of a steady income, clients prefer the stability of reliable, high-quality services. It takes time for freelancers and clients to build rapport and find the perfect fit. A client likes to do things a certain way and prefers to find someone who understands their approach to projects.

To close a client on signing a retainer agreement with you, you need to be clear about what benefits you are providing them. These benefits should match what they are looking for.

They may need marketing services, website maintenance, content writing, or graphic design. They will expect their services to be delivered on time and at their desired quality.

They anticipate you to be available for a specific number of hours per week or per month and dedicate your time to their projects and meeting their business goals.

Unlike a per-project client, a retainer client won’t need to wait weeks or months until a highly skilled freelancer is available to work on a project with them.

Another benefit you can offer a retainer client is extra value services, such as a few bonus hours of meetings, a report, free consultations, or a discount on a smaller, one-time project.

When Should You Negotiate a Retainer with a Client?

A client with an ongoing need for your services is a great candidate for a retainer agreement. For example, retainer clients may require services such as website maintenance, weekly blog posts, daily social media engagement, or regular administrative assistance.

You may have started with one project with the client and decided you both work well together. They value your work and see a need for you to continue providing services at a fixed budget on a monthly basis.

You may have liked working with the client on the project:  they pay on time, are clear with expectations, and don’t micromanage your every decision. The logical next step is to propose a retainer fee for steady, ongoing work with this ideal client.

On the other hand, proposing a retainer agreement with a new client can intimidate freelancers. You haven’t built any rapport with a new client. They haven’t seen your skills at work, and you don’t know if they would be a dream or hell to work with. Should you even suggest starting with a long-term partnership?

One way to begin working with a new client is a short term project. For example, you build their website. Upon completing the project, you propose a retainer fee to assist with website maintenance and future IT issues.

Another way is to find retainer clients through referrals. A new client recommended by one of your clients would be more likely to trust you before working with you. Similarly, you would be more likely to trust a new client if a client referred them to you.

That referral will help you close a retainer agreement with a new client from day one.

Why Should Clients Pre-Pay Before Seeing Results?

From the freelancer’s point of view, clients who pre-pay are serious clients. You know they aren’t going to ask you to provide your services,  then disappear without paying. Also, if they pre-pay, you know they are invested in the results.

However, before you pocket that pre-payment, you must convince them of your value. To do that, you first need to establish rapport with the new client and make them confident that you have the skills they are looking for.

Have a portfolio of past work and a list of testimonials or references to show the client. Your portfolio should have examples of the skills they need.

Be clear about what services and value you will provide, from monthly deliverables to monthly results. Show that you understand their pain points and how you will solve those challenges for them.

Explain that a pre-payment is needed to reserve your time for them because you’re currently taking on new clients and have limited availability in your schedule.

Common Objections to Monthly Retainers

A new client may object to starting with a retainer agreement for many reasons. Find out what is holding them back.

Are they unable to pay the price you are asking for? Are they concerned about your skills because they haven’t worked with you before? Or are they worried that you won’t deliver the results they want?

If the concern is price, work with their budget and decide what you can offer them for that price. Some freelancers offer services at various pricing tiers. You can add more value to your services at the price point you agree on. For example, adding some hours of free consultation or additional services.

If the concern is your skills and the results, suggest a paid trial period. At this point in the discussion, you’ve already shared with them samples of your past work and testimonials from clients. They’ve seen your skills, and you can negotiate your value for your price.

Emphasize that with a retainer, a set number of hours each month of your time is dedicated to providing services to that specific client. They will have peace of mind if they need work completed on time.

Steps to Follow to Close Your Client on a Retainer Agreement

Closing a current or new client on a monthly payment model can be done in person or online. It may be easier to close a client in person because you can build rapport and trust first. However, with the global economy and remote work, it’s also possible to close a client in another city.

First, introduce the idea of a retainer agreement at your in-person or virtual meeting. This can also be done over the phone but with fewer visual cues. (Some people find it easier to judge a client’s reactions based on facial expression and body language, not just verbal cues.)

Then, clarify the details by email and written contract. Some points to cover:

  • Meet with the person who will make the final decision on the retainer agreement details.
  • Discuss what they think your expected deliverables, volume of work, and expected results will be. What are the client’s goals? Be prepared to discuss the value of having a retainer agreement.
  • Confirm what monthly services you will offer and suggest additional services that you may provide.
  • Discuss your flat monthly fee for these services. If you have a package of services that you offer at tiers, share these offers. For example, Tier 1 is $1000 for x, y, z services, and Tier 2 is $2000 a month for x, y, z, and a.
  • Explain how a retainer agreement works and include the benefits of having a retainer agreement.
  • Follow up with an email proposal with your rates and retainer options. Include any add-on services. Set a date for the follow up on your proposal. Then formalize a retainer contract for yourself and your client to sign.

How to Keep Your Retained Clients Happy

Managing expectations keeps both clients and freelancers happy. When you’re working on the details for your retainer agreement, clarify what you expect from each other.

For yourself: What day of the month do you expect to receive your monthly retainer? What is the specific amount you’ll be paid? How will you be paid? For example, through an app, etransfer, or third party service?

For your client: What deliverables will they receive? What results will they see? If they aren’t detail-oriented and don’t track results, you can keep track of that data for them. Report on your progress and results. Have you met the monthly goals set out in your contract?

Keeping a record of what you’ve accomplished for your client demonstrates your accountability. It’s also effective when you need to raise your rates because you can show that you are worth the value that you deliver.

Also, your happy client is more likely to provide testimonials and refer other clients to you. It is much easier to negotiate retainers with a referral than a cold lead who knows little about your skills and value.

Key Takeaways

Negotiating a monthly retainer agreement is the best payment model for a steady income for freelancers and contractors.

You benefit from regular cash flow, so you can focus on providing value to your clients instead of constantly looking for new projects and clients.

Clients prefer to work long term with someone they trust who provides the value and skills they need to meet their business objectives.

You can negotiate a retainer agreement with an existing client after the end of a project. Or you can negotiate a retainer agreement with a new client on a trial basis.

Continue to provide value and reliable service to your retained clients. Keep them updated on your progress and results. In the long term, you will have a reliable income and your clients will have the value and skills they can trust.

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5 Time Travel Movies for Our Success

Have you ever wished that life had a Redo or Rewind button? Do you ever wish you could go back and change a moment in your past? Many people would answer Yes.

Time travel would be an ideal answer to fixing past mistakes. Life is a harsh teacher. If we could fix awkward moments, an error in judgement, or most importantly, regrets, life would be less painful.

Anyone who has made career decisions that took them off course or tried to start a successful business would agree that being able to correct the past would come in handy.

In reality, we don’t have the luxury of a rewrite or a redo. Still, we can experience time travel from the safety of our couch and learn valuable lessons to apply to our own lives. Here are five time travel movies that teach valuable lessons about careers versus experiences.

Constant Improvement Creates Major Results

What if you found yourself in a time loop, reliving each day because you couldn’t have the love of your life? In Groundhog Day, the main character wants to win the heart of his coworker, which he discovers is a lifelong mission.

Repeating the same day can be hell or a huge bonus. Since you can’t die in a time loop, you’re pretty much invincible, knowing everything will reset in twenty-four hours. Jumping in front of a car can’t be all bad.

However, should you find yourself in a time loop, you shouldn’t waste the time you’ve gained. After all, you’re not going to age, and everyone around you won’t know about your secret.

Our protagonist takes advantage of the perpetual Groundhog Day to learn new skills. He learns to play the piano, speak French, and help others.

Instead of focusing only on winning someone’s heart, the main character starts to approach life with an open mind. He takes the time to get to know the people he interacts with each day and puts other people before himself. As a result, he becomes a better person and wins the love of his sweetheart.

The protagonist’s formula for success is worth repeating. If you want to move forward in your career, increase your income, freelance, or start a company, first, work on building your skills. If you want personal success, also work on improving yourself. Take the time to appreciate the people around you as well.

Constant improvement through small changes each day will add up to major results. You may not notice it at first with each piano song you master, or each new word you acquire in a foreign language. But when you look back, you will see the total value of what you’ve accomplished.

Learning from the Past to Improve the Future

Imagine dying over and over just so you can learn how to defeat the enemy. Would it be worth the pain and the sacrifice? In Edge of Tomorrow, the main character is also stuck in a time loop, but it is paramount that he remember each detail from the life before. No pressure at all.

The lessons he learns with each repeat of the day are key to strategizing how to defeat the enemy: going left or right on the battlefield, striking or ducking. Each detail is vital to achieve success in the long run. Otherwise, all the losses are for nothing.

Imagine having that same advantage if you want to succeed in your career or business. Instead of regretting a decision you made, you can keep repeating the day until you get it right. If you failed job interview questions, you could keep redoing the interview until your answers are perfect, and you get to hear the desired words “You’re hired.”

It would be such a relief to a business owner who has made a bad decision to have a chance for a do-over. He could try different ways to market and sell his products until he finds the method that gets him the most sales. Or she could repeat a client negotiation that went badly until the conversation results in a contract.

The possibilities are endless. You can re-evaluate all your past decisions. Money lost in a bad investment could become be money gained. All you need to do is try different scenarios until you find the winning combination. Depending on how much patience you have, you could try this tactic to discover the lottery’s lucky numbers.

Live through the day, analyze, strategize, and learn from past mistakes to get the best possible results for the future.

Try and Try Again Until You Create the Ideal World

Each day, we find new inventions on the market that solve a problem, whether they save us time, money, or effort. Many entrepreneurs strive to create an invention that customers desire to buy because it improves their lives.

In this next movie, an inventor creates a time machine that has the power to make our lives better… or worse. In the Back to the Future movies, we see the best and the worst of time travel. However, when we invent something, it’s hard to tell at the moment what will happen. Time machines can’t predict the future.

At the end of the first movie, we find the lives of the main character’s family much altered from the beginning of the story. The bad guy gets what he deserves, and the main characters are more confident and live more successful lives. All these changes result from a past event when one character decides to stand up to a bully.

The effects of a single event can ripple through time, causing a domino effect. In another Back to the Future movie, possessing a book with sports scores gives one person an unfair advantage, resulting in a dark and sinister world.

If we possess a time machine, we can venture into the past and change the present. We can choose the road not taken and experience endless possibilities.

We can correct past mistakes, erase a regret, or try the career path we turned down. We can create the ideal reality for ourselves by changing our careers, bringing back a lost friend, or stopping a tragedy from occurring.

If you dislike shrimp, you could make them disappear from this century. No matter what path you choose if you have a time machine, the main lesson is the same: learn from the past.

Work to Live or Live to Work

Would you want to be a millionaire or billionaire? In this century, there are more millionaires than in any other time in history. It isn’t everyone’s goal to be rich, but almost everyone wants a life outside work. An exception is a person whose only love is money.

Life for this person becomes all about the acquisition of wealth. Family isn’t important. Relationships and people don’t matter. Money is what motivates people obsessed with wealth.

In this movie, a wealthy business owner would have lived a life surrounded by his money if three powerful ghosts hadn’t visited him one Christmas Eve. They show him what he has lost in life and what he still could potentially lose.

Many versions of A Christmas Carol have the same valuable message. Modern versions have switched the protagonist to a wealthy woman, but the story is the same. Like the original movie, she is also visited by three ghosts in one night.

Each main character wakes up on Christmas morning with a new outlook on life after their experience with the ghosts.

As we build our careers, we can become so focused on achieving our next goal that our jobs become our life. As business owners, it’s easy for our business to swallow us whole and become our life: long hours to reach monetary goals.

We can live from one day to the next without realizing that our careers are slowly devouring us. We don’t realize the change until we look back and see what our life was like before. It takes a lot of hard work to be successful.

It’s possible to reach six figures in one year if we have the skillset or offer the right product or service to the right target market.

However, as the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future point out in the movies, we need to step back and rethink what we want from life: wealth in money or wealth in experiences and relationships. Some people are rich and happy. Others aren’t rich but they are happy.

If we are visited by the ghost of Christmas future, what would we want that ghost to show us about our future accomplishments? What relationships would we have with friends and family? Like they say, all that glitters is not gold.

What Comes First: Family and Self, or Career and Community

It is difficult for anyone to give up time with their family to serve the greater good. Sometimes, people don’t get to choose. What if they are the one person who can save their family – and the condition is never seeing them again?

Our careers can define who we are and what we must do. In the movie Interstellar, a father of two is the only person with actual flight experience in space. He is chosen for a mission to save humankind. The price is a quick goodbye and never seeing his father or son again. He leaves his daughter when she is a child and is reunited only at her deathbed.

The movie is a reminder that time can slip away on us. In the movie, a poorly made, split-second decision results in the loss of decades.

We lose time just as quickly in real life. The daily drudgery of the 9 to 5 from week to week can drag on forever. In the blink of an eye, a year passes, another year, and then you look at a photo of yourself and your loved ones, and to your shock, you realize you’ve aged.

What do we choose: family or career? From Monday to Friday, most of our day is spent at our job, away from family and friends. We cherish the experiences with the people we see on weeknights and weekends. For business owners, even more of their week is spent with their business instead of family.

We cannot put time on hold or freeze the people we love until we have the time to spend with them again. Children grow up.

How do we balance our careers with our personal lives? A movie like this, which accelerates time, is a strong reminder that we should think about what’s important to us. The average person with an average career spends 94,000 hours in their lifetime at their job.

Are the thousands of hours spent on our career worth it?

Key Takeaways

Everyone has moments they wish they could redo to vanish mistakes, improve themselves and create better a future. The ability to relive the day or jump forwards or backwards in time can do wonders to change our present lives.

If you had the opportunity to time travel, what would you do for self-improvement? How would you help others? What world would you create for us?

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