Graphic Design Retainer Agreement

Graphic Design Retainer Agreement

Last updated February 21st, 2023

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graphic design retainer agreement is a contract used to access the services of a freelance graphic designer with an upfront fee. The agreement sets the amount of work that the client can expect from the freelancer in exchange for the retainer. The retainer fee amount, whether it is refundable, the client’s service requirements, and the duration of the contract should all be relayed in the document.


What’s Included

A well-composed graphic design retainer agreement will include provisions that ensure a mutually beneficial working arrangement between the freelancer and their client. Terms and conditions regularly found in an agreement include the following:

  • Services – The graphic designer and client should describe in detail what services will be provided to the client. If the freelancer is to set aside a set number of hours or tasks for their client, it should also be detailed in the contract.
  • Term – When the freelancer will begin their services and when the contract will expire should both be relayed in the agreement.
  • Payment – The agreement should state whether the freelancer is to be paid upfront, per hour, on commission, or another method.
  • Retainer Fee – How much the client must pay upfront to secure the freelancer’s services, and if that fee is refundable, should be provided in the document.
  • Confidentiality – The document will state the graphic designer’s responsibility to keep their client’s proprietary and business information confidential.

Benefits of a Retainer

Retainer agreements have many benefits to both parties and are usually used to create long-term, ongoing working relationships.


Many graphic designers have set packages they provide to their clients, which may be too restrictive to some clients’ needs. A retainer agreement allows the parties to tailor a solution to the client’s specific needs.


Signing a retainer agreement allows a freelancer more financial stability in an unpredictable industry. It also allows the freelancer to take on fewer clients to maintain their income.

The hiring party is also provided stability as they don’t have to spend time continually hiring and training new freelancers. A long-term graphic designer on retainer can learn the client’s needs and branding to provide consistent, high-quality work.


The two parties can agree on how much time the freelancer will dedicate per day, week, or month to their client or the number of tasks they are expected to complete in a certain timeframe. Once established, the client can rest assured knowing that their needs are prioritized, and the work will be finished in the agreed-upon timeframe.

Pay Rate

Many graphic designers will be willing to propose a discounted rate to clients that offer them a retainer. This offer is usually presented because the designer can save precious hours by eliminating the communication, research, and project prep that comes with new clients.

Types of Retainer Agreements

The type of retainer agreement used in a client-contractor relationship will be determined by the client’s unique needs. Graphic design retainer agreements generally fall into one of two categories:

  • Traditional – A traditional retainer is usually based on the number of hours the designer agrees to set aside for their client or the number of projects they will complete. Some retainers will have a provision that allows unused hours to be rolled over to the following month.
  • Expert Access – An expert access retainer agreement allows the client to have an expert available on-call whenever the client needs support.