A retainer is a fee paid for a pre-determined amount of time or work. Most commonly, a percentage of a retainer is paid up-front for a specified number of hours or days of work within a time period.
Benefits of a Retainer
A retainer benefits both the graphic designer and client. For a graphic designer, a retainer is a safety net, a guaranteed amount of income over time. For this reason, it is recommended to always have a contract spelling out the terms of the agreement. With much of a freelance income often based on sporadic projects, a retainer is an opportunity to know how much money will be made from a particular client.
For the client, a retainer guarantees that a graphic designer will provide a certain amount of work, and potentially prioritize that work. With freelancers often pulled in many directions, it gives the client consistent hours from a designer. In addition, clients will often get a discount on the designer’s hourly rate. Since the client is pre-paying and guaranteeing a certain amount of work, a discount is often given in return.
Common Retainer Arrangements
Monthly – A designer is paid a monthly fee, often in advance, for a certain numbers of hours worked. The designer tracks hours and bills the client for work beyond the amount agreed upon, either at the same discount or a full rate. If the designer works less than the agreed amount, that time can be rolled over or lost.
Annual – A designer is paid a certain amount per year for a specified number of hours or days worked. An annual agreement does not keep the designer on as strict a schedule as a monthly contract, but the same conditions apply.
Project – A designer is paid to work on a continuing project, for a specified amount of time or until the project is finished. This is similar to working for a flat rate for a project, but generally more for ongoing work rather than the development of a new project.
No matter what the specifics of the arrangement are, a retainer is often a great way to guarantee some ongoing income, while often giving the client a discount and establishing a long-term relationship.