At a certain point in building a freelance or consulting business, you may find that you’re doing more and more work for a few important clients.
Eventually, one or more of them will realize it makes sense to offer you a job or put you on retainer. Or it may occur to you that it’s time to talk about moving the relationship beyond a project-by-project level. If you’re committed to the flexible schedule and varied clients that come with the freelance life, you may find that a retainer arrangement is ideal. When clients put you on retainer, they will typically pay you a recurring monthly fee for a certain number of hours of work, for completing particular tasks or for managing an ongoing project. Sometimes, retainer fees can be close to what you would earn on salary, only you don’t get benefits. Because you’re still a contractor, you usually can determine when and where you work.
These arrangements can be wonderful for both parties. As a freelancer, you don’t have to invest as much effort in marketing yourself each month if you know you already have a certain amount of work lined up and some steady income. That gives you more time to work on projects you enjoy. And in many fields, it’s customary to discount your services a bit in a retainer arrangement, so the clients may save money over your hourly rate. Even if you don’t offer a discount, they benefit by knowing that you are available when they need you. Given how hard it can be to find great freelancers, that’s no small thing.
In our latest story for the AARP’s Work Reimagined site, we offer tips from seasoned business owners and consultants on how to attract retainer clients and build successful ongoing working relationships with them. Even though I have retainer clients, I learned a lot from these folks, who were very generous in sharing their insights. If you’re wrestling with the challenge of how to build a steady income as a freelancer, I hope you’ll read this piece. It may offer you some answers.
If you have any tips of your own on attracting retainer clients, please post them here to help other freelancers who are trying to take their own businesses to the next level.