Let me set the scene here. About five years ago I was in London, living in Wembley and working from home (in my undies as usual) and I picked up new client on Elance. It was a very small project for less than a couple hundred bucks. The client was in the US and looking for some quick banners to meet a late deadline. I low balled my bid knowing I could turn it around fast and I needed the cash for some bills. One thing lead to another and I got the gig.
I completed this little project which turned out to be the catalyst for a great working relationship and over the next five years, this client would spend over a $100k with me, all from a small two hundred dollar project.
You see, not only do I always ask my clients for testimonials and referrals but I also check in with them every few weeks to see if they need a hand with anything. Over a few months of doing this, my new client sent me more and more work to the point where they were using me regularly and directly and not bothering to post projects on Elance any more.
Now, they were a young company back then and growing at a steady rate. I wanted to make sure that some other crafty web designer didn’t come and undercut me or worse still, have them consider to hire someone full time in-house. In order to create a win-win situation for both of us, I offered them what I call “Studio Time” which gave my client the ability to hire me on retainer.
Here’s how I define and pitch Studio Time:
- Client gets to retain X number of my hours per month, every month (these hours are the Studio Time)
- Client gets to retain those hours at a discounted rate (e.g. bulk discount)
Some of the conditions for Studio Time are as follows:
- Client prepays for the Studio Time
- Client can draw upon retained Studio Time hours at any time
- Unused Studio Time hours only roll over from one month to the next
- Studio Time hours older than two months expire
Benefits of Studio Time
Studio Time is great for the freelancer because:
- It improves cash flow
- It can often be free money if the hours expire
Studio Time is great for the small to midsize company because:
- It’s cheaper and easier than hiring a full time employee
- It’s ultra convenient to have a designer “on tap”
Consider setting up similar retainer agreements with your clients to smooth out your cash flow and have more bankable hours every month.
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