What a Creative Services Retainer Is and How It Works

This post updated February 1, 2018

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.

This means you pay a monthly fee for a predetermined number of hours for a creative to deliver a set amount of work each month.

The details and scope of work are clearly outlined within a contract.



How a Creative Services Retainer Agreement Works

A retainer fee works like a monthly fee. Since its purpose is to “retain” the creative professional, it is paid up front before any work is ordered.

With an agreement for design services, you’re basically pre-ordering the designer’s time. He/she anticipates work coming from the client, and blocks out the appropriate amount of time in his/her schedule to accommodate said work.

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.


Who is a Retainer For?

A retainer may be for any business or company who does not require a full time or even part time creative employee. But they have ongoing creative needs and a retainer offers a viable solution. Essentially, retainers can assist in managing your print or digital assets and assist with your marketing efforts in support of growing your business.


The Benefits of a Retainer Agreement

Having a retainer in place can free up time so that you may focus on running your business. They can ensure your graphic design or print media materials are being addressed. And website updates or perhaps SEO are not being neglected either.

One of the other benefits to a retainer 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 time and the headaches of having to search for a new creative.

* Important Note: 
Additional work beyond the scope of an existing Retainer Agreement such as a new project must be negotiated separately. In that case, it will require a separate 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. One where mutual respect, courtesy and consideration are expected.

Due to what is often the virtual nature of the business relationship, communication is key! More often than not, this communication takes place via a digital space such as email.

Clients need to respond to questions, requests or other inquiries from the creative in a timely and professional manner.

They also need to recognize the creative professional is a business owner who serves other established clients. Thus it requires fair, realistic notice in order to attend to their requests and other client’s projects as well.

“Mutual respect is the foundation of every solid relationship — and the best way to create mutual respect is to first show respect.”


So please understand this:
If you do establish a retainer with a creative professional or studio, they are NOT a subordinate. They are NOT an employee. As business owners themselves, they are EQUALS. Think: strategic partners rather than just a “hired-gun”.


Retainer Contract Terms, Scope and Fees

Retainer contract terms vary and can depend upon what the graphic designer or studio offers. The details and scope of work are clearly outlined within a contract. This will  include how may hours per month, the tasks that will be performed and the fee.

On average expect a retainer to be about 5-10 hours per month. The fee may start at say $300 – but again this too will vary from designer to services being performed etc. Studios and or designers may differ in the actual length of a retainer agreement. It may be month to month or a minimum of a 3-6 month contract.

In general services performed could pertain to things such as:

This may change over time as the retainer contract may need to be renegotiated given a client’s needs and requirements may change.

To reiterate: a creative services retainer is paid up-front for a specified number of hours within a monthly time period. They can offer a solution to your ongoing creative needs.


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


eco-conscious graphic designer barbara rogersWritten by Barbara Rogers of Future Primitive Graphics. Helping businesses grow through better design and search visibility solutions. Creatively collaborating with those who genuinely want to make the world a better place with their products or services.