Creative Services Retainer

What is a Creative Services Retainer?

creative services retainerA creative services retainer is a fee paid up-front for a specified number of hours of work within a given time period. Usually it’s monthly.

For businesses that do not require an actual creative employee (but have ongoing needs), a retainer offers a good solution. They can assist in managing, maintaining your print or digital assets and with your marketing efforts in support of growing your biz.

Having this relationship in place can free up your time for other important matters you may need to address (like running your business). And it can ensure important things such as website updates, maintenance or SEO are not being neglected.

How a Creative Services Retainer Agreement Works

A retainer fee works like a monthly fee, but since its purpose is to “retain” the creative professional, it is paid up front before any work is ordered. In essence, you are pre-ordering the designer’s time. The designer anticipates work coming from the client and blocks out the appropriate amount of time in his/her schedule to accommodate said work. However, the client still needs to provide appropriate notice to the designer about work coming down the pipeline. Otherwise, additional last-minute rush charges/fees can apply.

Benefits to a Creative Services Retainer

Retainers are generally for basic ongoing needs. These may pertain to:

A major benefit is, if other large-scale projects* pop up you already have an open line of communication with a designer. This fact alone can save you the time and headaches of having to search for someone!

* Important Note: 
Additional work beyond the scope of a Retainer Agreement such as new or large-scale projects must be negotiated separately and will require a separate Agreement/Contract.


What a Retainer Agreement Isn’t

Creative Services Retainer agreement

A Retainer Agreement contains parameters which are based on a collaborative, professional relationship of business equals where mutual respect, courtesy and consideration are expected. Thus, it’s important to understand that whoever the creative professional may be, they are NOT a subordinate, NOT an employee, but an Equal. They ARE business owners with policies in place. Think strategic partners rather than just a do-er or “hired-gun”.

Due to what is often the virtual nature of the relationship, the client needs to understand the importance of communication! More often than not, this communication takes place via email. They need to agree to respond to questions, requests or other inquiries in a timely manner. The client also needs to understand that the creative professional IS a business owner with other clients to serve. Thus requires fair, realistic notice in order to attend to their requests and other client’s projects as well.

A Solution for Your Ongoing Creative Needs

To reiterate, a retainer is paid up-front for a specified number of hours (to be determined) within a monthly time period. For businesses who don’t have enough hours available to bring on an employee, establishing a retainer may be the solution for your ongoing needs.

Do note: studios may differ in the actual length of a retainer agreement with a minimum of a 3-6 month contract.

Think a retainer may be a good fit for your business?
Contact Future Primitive Graphics to learn more.


If you enjoyed this post, also consider:

How is your website cctually performing? Is it an oasis or a desert?
Is being a DIYER with your website really saving your money?
The cost and negative impacts of bad design.
Website maintenance for optimal performance.


eco-conscious graphic designer barbara rogersWritten by Barbara Rogers of Future Primitive Graphics. Helping businesses grow through better design and search visibility solutions. From creating your business identity, designing and maintaining your print/digital assets to the importance of SEO for your website.

Creatively collaborating with those who genuinely want to make the world a better place with their products or services.