Freelancer income can be unpredictable. One month you could be looking at 4 or 5 figure month and the next, you could be barely making enough to cover your bills and rent.
To make matters worse, when your entire work is based on individual client projects, you have to spend crazy amounts of time marketing yourself and booking clients from scratch, each and every month.
What if there was a better way? What if you could have a reliable income every month that would allow you to cover all your expenses, leave enough money for all the fun stuff you want to do, and put some into savings for rainy days or your future retirement fund? What if you had enough money coming in so that you don’t have book a new project and still live comfortably?
The good news is that this isn’t some wild pipedream. The above can become a reality… when you implement retainers in your design or development work.
In this post, we’ll briefly explain what retainers are, talk about retainer benefits, and share how you can successfully land retainer gigs to create a consistent income stream in your business.
What Exactly Is a Retainer And How Does It Work?
A retainer refers to a monthly fee for a set of amount of hours during which you perform services you agreed upon earlier with your client. Retainer services can include:
- Monthly website maintenance package that includes backups and security scans of their site
- General on-call availability for site updates or minor design additions such as swapping out a background image, creating a second version of a page for A/B testing or putting together a quick landing page
- Website statistics monitoring, SEO audit and SEO improvements
- Updating their store with new products or uploading content for their blog
During some months, your client may use up all of their hours, for example, if they need a sales page designed for a new program they are launching.
There may also be months where your client only uses the bare minimum of their hours and you still walk away with the same amount of money.
The basic idea of a retainer is to make yourself available to your clients in case they need work done on their website without causing you to scramble to fit their project in or tell them because you are overbooked.
A retainer gives your client peace of mind that you will be there for them when they need you. In essence, they are paying you to be available and on call for a reasonable amount whenever they have a need for your services.
Top Five Benefits of Retainer Gigs
Retainer benefits have several benefits for both you and the client.
The most obvious benefit of having retainer projects is the fact that you will have a steady income. You can set up your retainer gig to be billed on a month-to-month basis but a wiser choice is to create retainer packages with varying month duration so you have more financial security.
You determine how much you’d like to make with your retainers and whether the retainer income should cover all your expenses or just supplement your main income that comes from client projects.
Less Time Marketing
When you have retainer clients, you don’t have to spend as much time marketing your services or book as many projects as you do without a retainer package.
With a retainer package, you can book 1 client project a month as opposed to having to book 2 or more clients to make ends meet. Needless to say, you don’t need to spend as much time on the phone vetting clients to book one client as you do to book multiple clients.
More Time For Other Projects
Directly tied to the point above, spending less time on marketing gives you more time to spend on other projects. This means you could be working on creating other types of services, expanding your skillset or creating projects that compliment your services.
More free time also means that you can focus on partnering with others in your industry or finding ways to grow and scale your business through outsourcing, bringing on new talent or simply enjoying your free time.
No Need to Find and Train Another WordPress Freelancer
When it comes to your clients, the main benefit for them is that they don’t have to waste time trying to find another WordPress freelancer. What’s more, they don’t have to spend any resources or wait until the new freelancer is familiar with the inner workings of their website to get the job done.
In addition to that, they won’t have to work on establishing a trust relationship with the new freelancer as they already have a person they trust readily available.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that because of the fact that you’ve worked with them before, you will be able to complete the project or the job in a much shorter time frame. You are already familiar with their website, you understand their business and product, and you should be familiar with the client’s systems and procedures.
Because of this familiarity, you can complete the project with minimal interventions from the client and very few to zero revisions.
How to Successfully Land Retainer Gigs
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of retainer gigs and what they are, let’s talk about one major objection that clients have when it comes to retainer gigs and go over ways to remove that objection.
The Number 1 Client Objection to Retainer Gigs
When it comes to retainer gigs, clients usually have one major objection at the start: they don’t like committing to something they are not sure will bring value to the table. Retainer gigs require a financial commitment on an ongoing basis where benefits aren’t immediately tangible or visible.
Selling your existing clients on the idea of giving you money on a regular basis is the wrong approach. As such, your job isn’t to sell monthly retainers. Your job is to focus on answering the ever-popular question of “What’s In It For Them?”
With that out of the way, let’s discuss how you can successfully land client gigs and pitch the idea to your client in a way that removes the objection.
Retainers Work Best After The Trust Has Been Established
The most important thing to keep in mind is that retainers work best after the trust has already been established. As mentioned earlier, retainers are a financial commitment and financial commitments always require trust.
Pitching a monthly retainer to a client you’ve never worked with before won’t yield the results you’re hoping for. That’s why using retainers as an upsell after you’ve designed and developed their website is a much better approach.
Always Pitch a Retainer
Keeping the above in mind, always pitch a retainer when you wrap up a client project. By offering your services immediately after you’re done with their website ensures your pitch will be met while they are still going through the positive emotions from having their dream website done and launched.
However, if you’re currently in between projects, that doesn’t mean you have to wait until a new client rolls in to start pitching retainers. Reach out to past clients, ask them how they’ve been and mention that you’re offering a new type of service and wanted to give them first dibs.
Emphasize Value Not Time
The crucial part of your pitch should never focus on billable time or money spent. It should emphasize the value clients will get when they sign on for your monthly retainer. In particular, here’s what you should mention:
- Explain they won’t have to look for another freelancer and train them on how your website works or what systems and operating procedures they use
- Make it clear they are paying for you to be available whenever they need you instead of reaching out to you and facing rejection
- Emphasize the trust relationship that has been established
Make Your Retainer a “Take it Or Leave It” Option
Make the retainer option the only way to guarantee they will be able to have you complete minor projects for them, whenever they might need them. Without a retainer, they will have to find someone else who won’t have the knowledge and understanding of their business the way you already do.
While this might seem hard and counter-intuitive, the truth of the matter is that by doing so, you will be pointing out the pain points your retainer package helps them avoid. You’re emphasizing benefits again but in a way that reminds them what they are missing out on by not signing on.
Establish Trust and Provide Value
The last tip is to start establishing trust and providing value on your website long before your clients start working with you. This is the best way to turn them from readers into subscribers and then clients or encourage them to make that first contact and book a consultation session.
Your website should do more than simply look amazing because you are the developer. Your website copy matters a lot too and is the primary way to establish trust and provide value.
Through blog posts and case studies, you can make yourself irresistible to potential clients, especially if you show them you understand their pain points and have the solution for them.
Landing retainer gigs can help boost your income and get out of the feast or famine cycle as a WordPress freelancer. They are a great way to continue collaborating with past clients after the initial trust has already been established so use the tips in this article to help you land retainer gigs.