retainer clients

Retainer Clients: Dream or Reality?

When you’re a freelance designer, one thing you always have to worry about is money. How is money coming in? How much money is going out. Who is the majority of my money coming from? All of these questions are in the back of our minds each day as we work. One thing we want to make sure of is that we have a steady flow of money coming in from somewhere. One way to take some of the stress out of the process is to have a handful of retainer clients that you provide services to on a monthly basis.

What are Retainer Clients?

Retainer clients are clients you work with on a regular basis, performing regular tasks and services for them. Usually, this is because they like what you do, and you’ve proven yourself to the point where they feel comfortable leaving certain tasks in your hands. They know you’ll do what you’re supposed to, and you know how they like having things done. These tasks could be anything from regular website updates, to social media management, regular promotional items such as event posters and flyers, and special items.

The Pros of Retainer Clients

Steady Paycheck

The pros of having retainer clients can far outweigh the cons. You’ll receive a steady paycheck from that client each month. You’ll have piece of mind knowing that you’ll have a certain amount of money coming from a specific course. This takes the pressure off of you, from having to hunt down new clients.

A Pre-set Amount of Work

Upon your agreement of terms, you’ll likely have a set amount of time allotted to that client for necessary tasks. It’s up to you to negotiate good terms before solidifying anything.

You can Be More Selective

If you have enough retainer clients, you can be more selective of the new projects you will take on. You won’t have to worry about taking on undesirable projects “just for the money”. You also won’t have to worry about working with “sketchy” clients who might not pay you everything they owe you.

Long-Term Business Relationships

Let’s face it. Long term business relationships look good to other businesses. It solidifies you as more than some fly by night side business. Other businesses are likely to trust you when you’ve been working with a umber of other businesses for years. People hate being the 1st to do anything, so if they can see your track record, they are more likely to jump on board.

The Cons of Retainer Clients

There are a few cons to retainer clients, but most of them can be avoided with a little forethought and sticking to your own guidelines.

Scope Creep

A lot of retainer clients will try to tack on more work than you agreed to. It’s important to set up an agreement that has room for adjustment is the volume of work changes. Clients don’t want to pay you for nothing, but on the other hand, you don’t want to have all of your time absorbed by one client.

Payment Issues

Just like regular clients, retainer clients can slack off on payments if you let them. Make sure your invoices show a specific due date. You can set it to net 10, which gives them 10 days beyond receipt to pay you.

Constant Emails, Phone Calls, Etc.

This can get out of hand quickly. Make sure that clients know they need to set aside a specific time, like an appointment, for phone calls or office visits. Emails are fine, because you can organize your time to answer them all at once.


Retainer clients aren’t a bad thing. We all want steady money coming in. The only real way that retainer clients become a hassle is if we let them. If we set boundaries and guidelines, we can avoid most pitfalls. How many retainer clients do you have? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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