By definition, a retainer is a “fee paid to a person or firm to secure the privilege of obtaining its services as and when required”. But, the important difference here is that retainers reserve agencies for a certain amount of time. Unlike projects, which usually last up to six months, retainers imply long-term commitment between a client and an agency. For a fixed (and lower) rate, you’re getting not one, but a number of different projects and ongoing activities, depending on the scope of work that needs to be done.
Types of Retainer Models
While agencies reap a lot of benefits from retainer-based work, there are some scenarios in which clients can come off short. For example, you might pre-pay ongoing services of a financial consultant, but end up needing their advice only twice a year. For the rest of the time, you’d basically be donating your money for no real output in return.
There are 4 types of retainer models, of which at least 3 address this concern. By putting an emphasis on value instead of time, they guarantee that none of the money you pay goes to waste. You should always choose a model in accordance to the nature of services you’ll be obtaining, but that still doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t insist on having your needs answered, too.
Retained contracting/consultancy services: With this one, you’ll be obliged to pay a set monthly fee for a certain amount of the agency’s time. In case you don’t use up that time, it will be transferred to the following month.
Classic retainers: This model might as well be called “what you pay is what you get”, since no surplus of time is being transferred to the next billable period. However, the same goes for the agency’s delivery. In case you need them to do some extra work, you won’t have to pay an additional fee.
Retainers where the deliverable is value: Instead of a set amount of the agency’s time, this retainer model defines an end value that the contractor has paid for and has to provide.
A retainer to gain access to sought-after services: Finally, with this type of retainer contract, the thing you’ll be buying is the privilege of being a contractor’s client – even if you seek the expertise and services the agency provides only once or twice a year, you’ll be paying for them on a monthly basis all the same.