What Services are Best Offered on a Recurring Basis?

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For agencies and freelancers, offering retainer services is the way to go. Unlike one-off projects, you’ll have a consistent workload, and more importantly, consistent revenue. It’s this steady stream of income that makes running a design business less risky.

But these aren’t the only perks. You see, consistent work will help you provide more results for your clients. Sure, you can work on a one-off project that boosts sales by a certain amount, but imagine what you could do if you doubled and tripled this number each and every month. Talk about a happy client!

These long term results and relationships that you build are what’s going to keep you in business and help your agency thrive, even during tough times.

Now that I have your attention, let’s take a look at which services work best on a retainer.

What is a Retainer Service?

Before we can move forward, it’s important that you understand what a retainer service is before you start selling them.

By definition, a retainer is “a fee paid in advance to someone, in order to secure or keep their services when required.”

Meaning of Retainer

Essentially, you’ll be your clients go-to whenever they need services performed. In return, they’ll pay you the same amount each and every month. That’s where the consistent income comes in.

However, unlike a one-time project, retainer services are a bit broader in their scope of work and they may even change every month depending on the industry and type of project you’re working on.

Because of this, many agencies charge a flat fee each month and include a list of possible services that will be performed. The entire list may be tackled during a single month, while other months may be spent focusing on one particular aspect.

Let’s take a look at which services work best on a retainer, so that this makes more sense.

Routine Design Work

Now, most clients won’t be redoing their websites every month. But chances are, some design aspects will need updating depending for the promotions or specials they’re running.

To use a few examples of monthly design work that changes each time, we can look at services such as HTML emails and website graphics.

To keep readers interested, clients will make it a point to customize their graphics with each email. This same concept goes for updating homepage banners. Design elements can get stale after awhile, which means visitors will start to tune that section of the homepage out.

That’s why a retainer comes in handy.

Each month, you and your client can brainstorm new design concepts that work for whatever you’re trying to promote. And if done correctly, the new design will catch the reader’s attention and keep your client’s website or emails looking fresh.

Screen showing the layout of a web page

Advertising Requests

Again, depending on the industry, you may need to come up with new ad concepts for digital and print media and promotional items.

If you have a retainer with your client, they’ll come straight to you for whatever design requests they need done. From experience, this part of a retainer is both fun and challenging since the designs and dimensions are always changing.

Keep in mind that when you’re using this type of retainer, you’re more likely to come across last minute jobs. It’s important that you set aside a dedicated designer for clients like these. This makes it easier to keep everything consistent, even when the requests aren’t.


Consulting is probably one of the most common forms of a retainer. You can think of it like keeping a lawyer on retainer: whenever your client needs advice, they’ll come to you in the hope that you’ll have the strategy they need.

Some agencies will split their retainers into two parts:

  1. Half of the retainer goes toward strategizing
  2. Half of it goes toward execution

Now your agency becomes a one-stop shop where your customers can go for both your advice and your method of execution.

Optimization, Blogging, and/or Social Media Services

You should offer a retainer for search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, and social media if your team has experience with them.

Consistency is the name of the game here; the more consistent you can be, the better the results will be for your client.

To keep an SEO retainer, you may want to exchange hours or specific tasks performed every month. As for blogging and social media, discuss a certain number of posts or articles per week as part of your retainer agreement with your client.

Keep this in Mind Before Moving Forward

As I mentioned before, the scope of work can get a little messy here, thanks to the fact that recurring services tend to be more broad.

This is why many agencies choose to offer a certain number of hours each month for a set price. As long as the project requests are realistic, this route is a fairly safe option. After all, your team is probably efficient at their job by now, meaning it won’t take them long to fulfill certain requests.

However, if your client comes to you with a time-consuming project request, things are bound to unwind. This is why some agencies prefer to take the task route instead of the hourly one. Using this option, you’ll clearly explain the type of services to be performed under this retainer agreement. You’ll want to mention that not every service will be completed each month, rather, they will be done on an as-needed basis.

Taking the task-based route gives you the option to say whether the request falls under the retainer’s scope of work or not. By contrast, if you deny the request when you’re following the hourly path, your client won’t understand why your team cannot complete the task in the amount of hours they’re paying you for.

Meet with Your Best Clients

If you’re ready to get started, check out our article on How to Turn Your Current Customers into Bigger Clients first. This will help you narrow down which clients will actually use your retainer services.

Once you’ve identified your client’s goals, you can craft a retainer proposal that clearly outlines what you’ll offer with these services. Remember, each service that you pitch should align with your client’s goals. Offering unnecessary services just to capture the consistent revenue is a recipe for unhappy clients and wasted resources.

As you can see, offering retainer services has its benefits, but it’s not free of challenges. In the end, your agency will be able to build long-lasting relationships with your clients and, in turn, they’ll start seeing the results they’re looking for.

The key is to evaluate which clients you can grow with and brainstorm with your team about the exact services to offer in order to meet their goals. Once you start showing your clients results, they’ll gladly pay your retainer fee each month.

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