8 Reasons clients should welcome retainer agreements

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It’s not a pre-nup’

Independent professionals sometimes hesitate to offer a retainer arrangement when a client has recurring needs or a large project that will take months to complete. Clients can be reluctant to adopt them, thinking it will lock them in. A well-designed retainer arrangement is a winning solution that addresses each party’s main concerns and lets both get on with what’s most important — fulfilling the client’s goals.

8 main benefits

To boost independent professionals’ confidence to propose and clients’ openness to welcome such a business model, here are 8 reasons retainer arrangements are the winning deal for both sides.

1.      Cost

Retainer arrangements save the client money: independent professionals optimize fees in exchange for predictable turnover. Quotes for individual projects cost more.

2.      Cash flow

Clients improve their cash flow by spreading investments over several months rather than paying for them in one or two large chunks.

3.      Time

How much time to you spend on finding the right external partner? The process is long : assembling a list of service providers; briefing each one; asking and waiting for a quote; analyzing the quotes and selecting one; getting it and the T&Cs approved; pushing it through channels (purchasing, finance etc.); wiring the deposit and so on. This takes time. Time that has internal staff costs. Time that is better used getting ahead of the competition.

4.      Availability

Successful independent professionals who do good work are… busy (worry if they are not!). They may not be available when you need them. A retainer arrangement guarantees you a defined minimum block of time every month you can count on.

5.      Risk

A retainer arrangement protects the client against financial risks. Many independent professionals’ T&Cs specify if a client cancels or reduces an approved project, the client must pay 100% of the work performed and 50% of the rest. This is fair: they block off the time for the client’s project and cannot replace it instantly.

6.      Terms & Exit strategy

Clients sometimes fear retainer arrangements, viewing them like a marriage contract that is hard to break. Well-designed, such a contract is more flexible and safer (see point 5 for example). Clients can reserve limited hours and set the contract‘s duration (such as 3 months, renewable). 

7.      Loyalty

Independent professionals cannot serve two or more clients at the same time. A retainer arrangement nourishes loyalty. In a competitive environment, clients with such arrangements are served first.

8.      Human relations & Joy

Paperwork and payment issues can be stressful. A retainer contract allows both parties to invest in their professional dynamics in a more natural, trusting and enjoyable way. No need to renegotiate terms when a project changes. No stress resulting from late payments. No distractions. The project and a constructive collaboration take center stage.


What has your experience been with retainer arrangements? As a contractor? As a client? Are such business models welcome in your country’s business culture? What would it take to make them more popular?





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