One of the best ways to earn continuous income as a freelancer is to create retainer agreements with your clients. A retainer is where a client makes use of your freelance services on an ongoing basis, month after month. An example might be a freelance social media manager who looks after the Facebook and Twitter accounts of a company, 365 days a year.
Retainers are an excellent way to earn recurring and consistent income, as opposed to one off projects which can leave you scrambling to find new clients. However, it’s imperative to cultivate a good relationship with clients on retainer, so they get the best work out of you and you continue to enjoy a ‘safe’ monthly income.
In order to maintain this positive freelancer-client relationship, it’s vital to ensure the retainer agreement fulfils the needs of the client while also allowing you to do your best work for the right fee and within a sensible schedule.
With all this in mind, here are some of the ways to maintain a good relationship with clients on a retainer:
Set clear expectations
A healthy long-term working relationship always begins with clear expectations. It’s important to set out exactly what the work provided will include and also what it will not include. By doing this you avoid the dreaded scope creep, which is where a client gradually adds more and more tiny requests without paying extra for the added work.
After a while, this can become a huge burden on your time and lead to negative energies when it comes to your relationship with the client. Make sure your monthly retainer agreement includes exact prices, payment dates, the precise scope, invoicing procedures, communication channels, cancelation procedures, and other data relevant to project fluidity.
Set a predetermined payment schedule
A clear benefit of having clients on retainer, apart from a regular stream of income, is the ability to automate invoicing and payment processes. Instead of manually sending out an invoice every week, month, or quarter, you merely set up a reoccurring invoice and let specialized invoice software automatically bill the client.
The benefit is that you not only save time but also ensure your invoices are sent out promptly, without any delay. The client becomes familiar with the process and isn’t left wondering why a retainer invoice is either early or late.
Another facet of smooth payment is providing your client with their most ideal method of sending you money. For example, with Invoice Ninja, we provide over 45 payment gateway integration options including Stripe, PayPal, WePay, and even Bitcoin.
Maintain open communication
Good communication is key with all clients but it’s particularly important when working on long-term projects. With an ongoing client, it’s vital to ensure you update them on things like current progress, results, and any modifications required to the initial retainer agreement.
Communication can be planned in advance. In your project proposal or contract, you can stipulate when you will meet with the client, online or in person, as well as contact hours and expectations. For example, you don’t want a new long-term client expecting to have your attention in the evenings or over weekends, so it’s vital to set a precedence as early as possible.
Make use of shared tools and portals
Part of good communication with a client on retainer is sharing up-to-date information and data regarding the progress of their project. Many freelancers do this via email, which is fine, but it can be cumbersome and time consuming to write up reports every week. A good alternative is to directly share your project progress reports and related data with your client in real-time.
This can be achieved by giving your clients access to a ‘client-side portal’. Many apps, tools, and software services allow you to share varying amounts of information with other people, which is highly beneficial when it comes to collaborations. The same benefits apply when allowing clients to see progress reports, including Kanban boards, tracked time data, and past and upcoming invoice payments.
Clients love this transparency.
Keep and share accurate records
Sharing information and progress reports with a client on retainer can only work if you’re accurately keeping a record of the work you do and the time you’ve put in. When you’re unsure yourself of what’s been finished, what still needs to be completed, and the overall progress of the project, then it’s difficult to give the client any helpful or reassuring information.
This can cause them to question what’s going on and leave you on the defensive. Accurate record keeping, especially when it comes to time tracking, can help you – and your client – ensure every project is completed on time and provide you with a full account of all the hours you’ve devoted to the project and the related fees.
Creating a solid freelancer-client relationship using Invoice Ninja
Our Invoice Ninja invoicing software provides all the tools you need to maintain a good working relationship with clients on a retainer. You can create reoccurring invoices and auto-bill clients, month after month, and on the same date, with just a few clicks of your mouse.
You can also co-manage Kanban boards so your client is able to view progress reports, suggest changes, and see any relevant time tracking data.
Finally, your client can gain access to a client-side portal which allows them to view their received invoices throughout your time working together. This data includes total amount paid, payments pending, and when the last invoice was received, plus a lot more information.