Keep freelance clients coming back

Consistency. It’s what most freelancers seek. They want consistent work with consistent pay so they can fall into a rhythm with their work.

Monthly retainers help freelancers achieve that glistening dream of consistent work and pay. They give freelancers security, but they have some downsides. So, what are monthly retainers and why should you care? Here is a guide for freelancers for retainer contracts.

What is a Monthly Retainer?

A retainer is an agreement between you, the freelancer, and a client where you work for a period of time and the client pays you a fixed rate. Typically, retainer agreements are paid on a monthly basis. Freelancers receive their pay for a predetermined number of hours or projects every month.

Retainer contracts exist to ensure you keep working for your client and your client keeps paying you. Simple, right? But there are some upsides and downsides you should be aware of.

Pros of Monthly Retainers

The freelancer world can be shaky, but retainer agreements make it less so. Freelancers who work on monthly retainer fees have recurring clients that pay money they can count on.

You can also plan your time better, because you know what steps you need to take to accomplish your client’s tasks for the next few months.

Monthly retainers take away the stress of being constantly on the lookout for new work. Plus, retainer clients tend to pay bills on time because they need you to do future work.

Tips for retainer contracts for freelancers

Cons of Monthly Retainers

One of the most common problems with monthly retainers is that it is difficult to adjust your rates once you set them. Clients who agree to a certain rate are less likely to raise that amount over time, even if you could offer them more.

Freelancers with retainer contracts tend to settle into a feeling of security that is not 100 percent secure. No matter how long you have worked with a long-term client, they could cut you. Businesses reviewing their budget might see your monthly fees and wonder if they still need your services.

That sense of security also means freelancers with retainer clients are less likely to be on the hunt for more clients who, perhaps, could offer better pay. If you fill up your schedule with retainer clients, you will also hit an income ceiling. You have no room to grow.

Some people might like knowing who is paying them and what exactly they will be receiving for the next few months, even if they are missing out on other work. Just remember to take the positives and negatives into account when deciding whether or not to pitch a retainer contract.

How to Sell a Client on a Retainer Agreement

Clients will feel more comfortable signing a retainer agreement with you if you show them what you can offer them first. Sell one or two of your services to them for a one-time fee, then throw in a freebie with an added service.

From the get-go, treat the client with the mindset that they will become a long-term client. Ask them what their goals are and explain clearly how your services will help them accomplish those goals.

Package your services to highlight the cost savings on their part, too. Show them the discounted rates they will get if they opt for a monthly retainer rather than if they pay for projects here and there. Remind them that consistency will help them hit their goals.

You should also know what services work with retainer agreements and which do not. Here is a list of some services you could offer in a monthly retainer contract.

Web Development

  • Posting/managing recurring work on the website, including articles
  • Troubleshooting problems with quick turnaround
  • Technical support
  • Being aware and implementing best practices
  • Keep plugins up to date


  • Creating SEO optimized content
  • Regularly update content for keyword optimization
  • Consistently obtain backlinks
  • Keep up to date on SEO changes and adjust content

Digital Marketing

  • Writing/posting blog posts
  • Creating landing pages
  • Social media posts
  • Strategy planning/execution
  • A/B testing

How to Write a Monthly Retainer Contract

When proposing a monthly retainer contract, you need to clearly specify what work you will be doing and the length of time of the contract. Outline the services you will be offering and propose different packages with distinct rates.

A good retainer contract also spells out the specific goals of the client. This established goal will help both you and the client stay on track and work toward something together. You can say, for example, that at the end of the six-month contract, you will help generate x amount of leads or y amount of revenue. This reminds your clients what their ROI will be at the end.

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You should agree to a reporting system, too. That could be a phone call at the beginning/end of every month to check in, or it could be certain metrics that you provide in a written document monthly.

Within the contract, it is also good to lay out some boundaries. When are you available? What happens if you are asked to do more work than was originally proposed in the contract?

Finally, spell out what the steps are to end the contract. If the relationship is just not working for you or the client, you both need a way to end the contract in a fair way. Make sure it is written in a way that you still get paid for the work you did.

To wrap up, here is what you should always include in a retainer contract:

  • The start date/end date of the contract (if applicable. Sometimes, it is on a month-to-month basis)
  • The specific services you will offer
  • You and your client’s end goal with the contract
  • The amount you will be paid
  • How you will report on the work you did that month
  • A clause about how to end the contract
  • The date you will be paid/how you will be paid
  • Any boundaries you wish to set with your client