Your Choice: Monthly Retainer vs. Project-Based Fee Structure

Since opening our doors almost five years ago, we’ve operated with a dual model of retainers and project-based service fees. Depending on a client’s needs, it’s relatively easy to determine which model will work best.

Retainer Agreements

With retainer agreements, clients get a built-in accountability partner to help determine what’s working or needs to change in a particular area of their business. Companies can outsource a specific role, responsibility, or ongoing project to us, like developing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) manual. These agreements typically last six months to a year, and it’s common for additional projects to make their way into the scope of work.

A retainer client wants to “set it and forget it.” They don’t want to be entrenched in the day-to-day details of hiring, marketing, payroll, or policy development, yet they’re not quite ready to invest in full-time professionals to fill these roles.

An excellent example of an outsourced retainer client is a company with digital marketing needs. Rather than hire a full-time marketing director, they outsource their marketing to us for an extended period. Typically, we take on the monthly responsibilities of social media, digital advertising, and website updates, although that can vary. To effectively develop content, we communicate regularly with the business owner or a designated operations employee who keeps us apprised of news and events.

Retainer agreements satisfy businesses wanting to lock in a partnership for a set period. Though one year is the norm, we’ve had retainers last three years or more.

A best practice we like to deploy is transitioning from outsourced HR or Marketing Director to consultant. Our goal is to help our clients grow and improve in these roles so that they can manage them independently while we remain just a phone call away.

Project-Based Agreements

Project-based agreements have a defined set of deliverables and scope of services with a pre-determined deadline. Though this model tends to be slightly more expensive, it’s ideal for a company that only needs help hiring one person or developing and executing a single event. Such one-time projects have a clear start and stop.

It’s not uncommon for a project to lead to a second project or for a project-based agreement to turn into a retainer agreement. Still, projects come and go, and outsourcing is a positive solution when you don’t have the time or capacity to oversee every detail, even if it’s only for a few months.

Things to Consider

  • Retainers provide consistency for the hiring client and create a deeper investment of time and business relationships.
  • Retainers don’t always have to have a defined stop time.
  • Retainers allow clients to spread the billing and establish a monthly budget amount.
  • Project-based agreements create a trial run opportunity before committing to a long-term partnership.
  • Projects-based agreements are defined by immediate, high-priority needs.
  • Project-based agreements are solutions to immediate priorities; tasks that need completing when no one is available to do the work.

When considering outsourcing a short- or long-term function, outline your needs, goal, budget, and timeline. Preparing will make it easier when we meet to discuss how we can help.

— Kat & Ashleigh
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