It’s undeniable that there’s been a rise in the number of agencies increasingly prioritising retainers over new business, and for good reason.
As an agency, retainer work allows you more creative freedom, the chance to build positive and productive relationships with your clients and gives you the opportunity to improve and increase the effectiveness of your work over time.
By building these long-term arrangements, agencies are no longer considered as one-off contractors, but become trusted advisors, often considered as an extension of a client’s own internal team.
As a client, a web retainer can be the perfect solution to managing your ongoing needs, affording you the flexibility and expertise you require at a fraction of the cost of hiring someone in-house to do the same job.
WHAT IS A WEB RETAINER?
A retainer serves as an ongoing agreement between an agency and their client, to work together across an extended period of time. i.e. the agency charges a set rate and puts aside a certain amount of time each month to work on the clients ongoing project.
This affords the client priority treatment and regular focused attention, as well as a more cost-effective way of working, as retainers are usually set with a fixed fee at a slightly reduced hourly rate.
A typical retainer will outline the key project objectives, activities and tasks to be completed for the project under the retainer, specifying a set timeframe and deadlines. For a web retainer this could include aspects such as:
– SEO strategy
– Onsite optimisation
– Link building
– Competitor research
– Keyword research
– AdWords campaigns
– General website maintenance and updates
– Adhoc change requests
For the average agency, retainers can range anywhere from 1-40 hours per month. They can roll over from month to month, but most often agreements are set to cover longer periods of time like 6 months to a year.
It is the agencies responsibility to track the number of hours spent on the project and ensure that if too little or too many hours have been spent that the client is notified and this is then reflected in the retainer for the following month.
WHY SHOULD YOU WORK ON RETAINER?
1. It’s cost effective and secure
For clients: Managing your needs under an ongoing retainer can mean a huge saving when you compare it to the cost of hiring someone in-house, or even on a freelance basis, to do the same job. With aspects like holiday, PAYE and HR responsibilities, hiring new employees can be time consuming and expensive. In fact, on a salary alone you’re likely to be paying around double the price of a retainer every month, to cover the same amount of work. Not to mention the flexibility and wider more varied skill set available at your fingertips, through working with a larger team within an agency.
Even if your monthly requirement is minimal, you’ll still be making a saving compared to paying for work as and when it comes up, as your retainer will afford you a reduced hourly rate.
For agencies: working with clients on a retainer basis can be one of the best ways to guarantee a predictable source of regular income. For smaller agencies, it can really help to relieve some of the pressure surrounding regular monthly outgoings like rent and salaries. It can also help you to budget your teams time more effectively.
2.Developing a strong partnership
For clients: Your agency will get to know your business and brand inside out, meaning that work can be completed at a greater speed and with a greater degree of accuracy, understanding and insight. In fact, your agency will most likely be able to anticipate your needs ahead of time. It will also mean you have priority access and won’t need to worry about booking time out way in advance when work arises.
Building a solid long-term partnership, means you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your client’s business and long-term goals, allowing you more creative freedom and opportunity for experimentation to really get the best out of your projects. You’ll become an expert rather than a one-off service provider. This free-flowing type of relationship allows projects to run more smoothly and can create a more positive working environment for your employees.
It can also lead to working with new clients, through ongoing recommendations.
3.A reduction in admin
For clients: Your agency will already have a great background knowledge of your company and your projects, you’ll spend far less time briefing work out and explaining every last detail. Your agency will also be overseeing your project month by month, tracking work completed and hours spent, so it means less time spent on day to day project management and more time on your overall strategy.
For agencies: Without retainers, a big chunk of an agencies time is spent in the sales process of sourcing, pitching and putting together proposals for new clients. Avoiding the back and forth process required for estimating on and churning out small jobs, means you can turn your energy away from selling your services and back into completing work.
WHAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN A WEB RETAINER AGREEMENT?
An outline of exactly which tasks and services are covered under the retainer and anything that falls outside the scope.
There should be an outline of how additional work, outside of the retainer, will be handled. Including hourly rate and time-frames. Permission should always be sought from clients prior to carrying out work above and beyond the agreed scope.
Pricing, payment terms and Time-frame:
Your agreement should specify exactly how many hours of work per month will be included in the retainer and when this work will take place. A fixed price should then be agreed in relation to this.
As with any type of contract, payment terms should be clearly outlined and adhered to
As always communication is key. An agency should clearly specify the lines of communication available, as well as arranging times and means for regular updates on work completed and time-spent.
An agency may work over or below the specified monthly hours depending on the work requested from the client, so it’s important to agree upon how this will be handled. Most commonly, hours will simply be added onto or deducted from the following month.
Before signing up for a retainer, the client or agency will need to have reviewed the website and gained a solid understanding of the goals and objectives, otherwise it can lead to needs being under or over estimated. This in term can result in unplanned hours weighting down the agencies work load, or clients wasting money and agencies desperately searching for projects to fill their time
Retainers are relevant for when you know there will be a steady stream of work. It will allow everyone to get passed the paperwork and dedicate their time to executing the projects objectives. It allows client and agency alike to improve their work, increase their output and grow their businesses together.