Working on retainer...

Can anyone give me some advice about working on retainer. Anything would be helpful.


…doesn’t anyone have some info? Lauren G? Anyone? Anyone…?

Don’t you get paid less while on retainer?

I’ve never worked on retainer but my understanding is that you are basically guaranteed a certain amount of billable work in a predetermined period. I don’t think the company pays you the cash all at once though. My guess is there is some kind of payment schedule.

(On the weekend fewer people respond. Also, the unregisterd forum is not as active as the others. You’re much better off registering and posting under the general section.)

I work on retainer for a small start up company while we work out their initial product line.

The previous guest poster is correct, in that a retainer is a contract that binds you to working on the specific clients project for a predetermined amount of time. Depending on how you set up the contract you can make more or less than standard pe-project quoting. Generally it does provide a more reliable and steady flow of work if freelancing or moonlighting. Generally you will be paid in monthly intervals, but this is dependent on the contract. It is also important to have a legal contract written up, so that the client can not find a loop hole and get out of paying. IE have a lawyer look over their contract or use one of your own.

first job out of school was freelance haggled into retainer. monthly set fee for one year. came n went as i chose except for client meetings. max 40 hr week. o/t separate. went great. more they need you the better the contract.

Thanks for the replies.

So, on a retainer, is it common to be paid in advance, or is this out of the ordinary. I’ve had clients ask if I would work on retainer, but have usually negotiated a project fee based contract because I’m not really familar with the ins and outs of retainers.

Sounds like a good way to go though. Can anyone pass a sample contract this way?


You try to make things as far to your benefit as possible in case things go poorly. Like the company goes bankrupt and pulls the plug.
Most ideal is for example you obtain say a $5000 retainer, then bill them every two weeks if possible versus every month.

This makes it harder on their accounts receivable, but if you worked say
30 hours for 4 weeks at $100. That’s a bill for $12,000.

If the company is slow paying and you work another month and have not been paid yet, you are now up to $24,000.

The company goes bankrupt and you get left as an unpaid creditor.

If you billed every two weeks your bill is now $6,000 which is better because it’s a smaller number and then you expect to be paid in 2 weeks no excuses.

Even better is you bump your billing rate and give them an incentive to pay on time. Say you tell them your bill out rate is $110. Then your bill is $6600, but you give them $600 off to pay within 7 days. It cost you nothing and you get paid faster because of the 8-9% discount.

If you don’t get paid promptly, cut it off quick. Do not cut them any slack.
If they miss a tradeshow of deadline, it’s their fault for not paying you on time. A key thing to learn, which is often after you have been burned once is keep on top of your billing. Be professional and polite. No payment, no CAD files, no printouts and key is to write in a few clauses as far in your court as possible.

If things go wrong that the dispute is settled in your jurisdiction, you own all rights until you are paid in full. You paid 80%, not good enough, you still own the intellectual property.

People are lazy. You write the contract, that puts things in your court. If they write the contract, then it puts things in their court. This puts you in
a better situation to put in as much as you can.

If you have the risk tolerance you could pay for any models and mark them up 25%. It’s some fairly easy money, but if you don’t get paid, you have a nice $13,000 worth of urethane castings of a gardening shovel or laptop mouse.