A graphic design retainer agreement is a contract where a client hires a freelance graphic designer for recurring work for an upfront fee. The agreement will allow the client to set a determined number of tasks or hours for the freelancer to set aside for them for a specified timeframe. How much the retainer fee is, whether it is refundable, the client’s service requirements, and the duration of the contract should all be relayed in the document.
Retainers benefit freelancers and their clients in that the freelancer can work with their client regularly, providing some stability, and the client gets to work with a professional they like rather than continually hiring new freelancers.
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 two parties to agree to an ongoing, tailored solution for the client.
Signing a retainer agreement allows a freelancer more financial stability in an unpredictable industry. The agreement also allows the freelancer to take on fewer clients to maintain their income.
The hiring client is also given stability as they don’t have to spend time continually hiring and training new freelancers. The graphic designer will already know the client’s needs and branding and can more easily provide their client with 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 decided, the client can be assured that the work required is prioritized and finished in the agreed-upon timeframe.
Many graphic designers will be willing to offer a discounted rate to a client that offers them a retainer. The designer can save precious hours on the communication, research, and project prep that comes with new clients.
A properly executed graphic design retainer agreement will include several provisions that ensure a mutually beneficial working arrangement between the freelancer and their client. Some included terms and conditions in the agreement may be:
- Services – The freelancer and client should describe in detail what services the freelancer is expected to provide to the client.
- Term – When the freelancer will begin their services and when the contract will expire should be relayed in the agreement.
- Payment – The agreement should state how much and how often the graphic designer will be paid for their services.
- Retainer Fee – Whether a client will be required to pay an upfront fee, how much that cost is, 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.
Graphic design freelancers may negotiate a retainer agreement with their client based on their individual needs, and designer retainer contracts may often be divided into three (3) types:
- 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.
- Rolling Hours – Some contracts will require a freelancer to work a certain number of hours that are counted over the course of a month, and if there are any unused hours, then they will roll over to the following month.
- Expert Access – This retainer agreement allows the client to have an expert available on-call whenever the client needs support.