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Lesson Learned: Acquiring Retainer Clients

If you are a well seasoned freelancer or a creative venturing into this work, you’ll know (or soon know) the important of retainer clients. I was fully unaware of this genius idea until a retainer client came along my path and wanted to work with me. Essentially all this means is that you are a clients go-to when they need help with any creative needs. In my case, my retainer client contracted me to work a certain amount of hours each week for them and each week’s deliverables would change a little bit. If you connect the dots, this means that the client likes you enough to have you on speed dial AND that you’ll have guaranteed work (and money) coming in the door.

Here’s what I’ve learned about retainer clients so far (always still learning)

( photo – Veda House )

1. Do Have a Few:  Ideally have 1-2 retainer clients in your work routine to elevate the stressor that come along with finding new client work and paying the bills.

2. Don’t Over Do It:  Having a retainer client means that your time is locked up and you’re contracted to a company or individual. If you stock you routine with ONLY retainer clients, you loose the flexibility to take on the awesome projects that might come through your inbox. 2 is a good number. More might get tricky.

3. Build Relationships: Your retainer clients are super important, so treat them as such. Little gifts of gratitude, snail mail notes for fun or even a friendly email are simple ways to grow those relationships further.

4. Keep Track: It’s easy to lose track of the financials and book keeping when you’re in such a groove. Don’t forget to keep track of the weekly payments, work completed, signed contracts, etc.

5. Not Always Peachy: Sometimes the appeal of  a stable job can get the best of us. Only take on retainer clients that you know you’ll love because you’ll be spending A LOT of time with them.

6. Test Things Out: Retainer clients give you the perfect opportunity to test things out. Maybe you’d like to explore photography more in your business. Offer some free photography work to your retainer client. They’ll most likely be extremely grateful and you’ve received the chance to build your portfolio with a brand you love!

14 comments on “Lesson Learned: Acquiring Retainer Clients

  1. When I quit my full time job most of my freelance work WAS retainer clients, which gave me a great start. However I soon realized not all of them were my dream clients and I was sometimes spending too much time on work I still wasn’t super crazy about, so I upped my fees and weeded some out.
    Now I have more time to take on awesome little projects and do fun collaborations 🙂

    1. I’m glad I could help with a few thought starters. That’s what this freelance world is all about right? Sharing the information as we gather it 🙂

  2. How perfect! I didn’t know there was a name for these life-savers. Because of a lovely retainer client, I was finally able to leave my boring full-time job and go for design full-time around this time last year. I feel like it’s the only way to make it in the beginning unless you have a really steady flow of clients (which, of course, is unlikely if you’re a beginner) or an extra job on the side!

  3. Thanks for this insightful post. Not having retainer clients makes me really nervous and unsure of the future (I know it’s lame but I can’t help it!), otherwise I’d prefer working a j.o.b to get the bills paid until mu business takes off the ground.
    P.S I love your blog! I’d be featuring you very soon in a list of my weekly must reads!

  4. I’ve been freelancing for a while now and I have a retainer with a client that I work with. This is both good and bad. Good part is the obvious, consistent paycheck and work.

    Bad part, living in NYC, alot of times clients want you to go on-site to work on a project. Having a retainer client, makes it a bit harder to take on other projects that require on-site work since you can’t really work on their stuff at another studio.

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