Finding a balance…seems to be the ultimate challenge in life, right? Balance to me has never been about finding “the answer” to the problem, but rather learning how to juggle this and that in a manner that seems somewhat successful. Haha. I’ve also realize that what feels balanced right now can easily feel out of whack a week later. That constant adjusting is actually a really smart thing to do and it’s also important to know that you’re never going to figure “it” out fully. Knowing that is actually really reassuring. We’re all juggling.
I’m a huge planner and someone who likes to have a say in how things are going to take shape. I know that’s silly because I can’t control the universe, but I sure do try. The beauty and the beast of freelance/consultant work is that you have to live in a world with very little to no certainty or set path. That uncertainty will constantly be swirling around the timeline of your next paycheck, who going to hire you, and how your going to evolve your brand over time. That uncertainty is also the guide to many unexpected awesomeness.
Uncertainty is just going to be part of it and I’ve found “retainer clients” to be the biggest help when creating a little bit more certainty in my daily routine as well as in my finances. If you’re unaware of what a “retainer client” is, they are clients who ask you to reserve a certain amount of time each week/month/year to dedicate towards their projects, no matter what. In most cases, there’s a pre set amount of hours you agree upon before each month starts and you usually a good idea of what tasks they’re going to need help with. From my experience, retainer clients develop out of brands I have a long standing relationship with and they just need someone on their “team” to help them maintain the beautiful things you’ve helped them design/create. They’ve worked with you and now they trust you to keep that brand moving. It’s kind of a win-win solution, for all parties involved. Knowing who and what kind of work you’re going to be doing for some of your time is really helpful in settling all that nervous energy. It also helps you be able to budget a little better because you’ve already agreed up what they’ll be paying you for that month.
A few tips I’ve discovered along the way
1. If you can acquire 2 retainer clients who need your help for about 15-30 hours a week, you’ll be set. This allows you to have that consistency while still allowing time to take on new projects and work with people you haven’t previously worked with. I like to envision my schedule being quartered. Half of my work week dedicated to retainer clients. One quarter being dedicated to a non-retainer client, and the last quarter being dedicated to maintaining the business side of things/blogging.
2. Choose your retainer clients very carefully. You’re going to be spending a lot of time working with them back and forth. If you’ve worked with them in the past, you should know if they are good at communication, pay their invoices in a timely manner and respect your time as a designer. If the answer is yes AND you like the work, go for it! If you’ve seen red flags in the past, it might not be worth that frustration in the long run.
3. Don’t only have retainer clients. I’ve found this to be a good rule of thumb. Although a fully jam packed schedule with regular paying clients sounds amazing, you give away any opportunity to work with a new brand and grow. It’s important to leave room to explore, even if that means living a little uncertainty in the equation.
I could go on and on about this topic, but I’ll stop before I start a draft on my first novel. If you’ve had experience with retainer clients (good or bad experiences), I’d love to hear about them. I’m no pro by any means, so share away! Anything to watch out for? Any tips?
I’ve been getting asked quite a bit about the topic of balance and gaining clients, so I hope this helps a few of you. Any other freelance specific topics you’ll like to chat about here on Veda House?