Retainers and You: When Is a Retainer a Good Idea?

Recently, we at Hop Studios raised our rates in order to stay competitive and to better handle the increased demand for our services.  As we did this, we mentioned to several clients that it was possible to arrange a lower rate if they paid a retainer, and though there was interest, there were enough questions that I thought I’d put together a short blog post about what a retainer means.

What is a retainer?
Well, it was a little plastic-and-wire tooth-stretching device that I had to wear in my mouth at night when I was a kid.  But more relevant, I think, is the other definition: It’s work time you reserve from Hop Studios, paid in advance, for which you pay a discounted rate.

How does it work?
Think of it like season’s tickets to a sports event.  You pay less in advance to buy a whole series, but if you don’t use them, they just expire.

Here’s an example of a basic retainer: you pay us a retainer for 10 hours a month, for 12 months. We give you a 20% discount on those hours. Note: These are not exact numbers—it’s just an example.

You pay us at the beginning of each month.  That month, we would be available for you to perform that work, (within reasonable constraints, of course—no midnight calls!)  As a retainer customer, you would get priority over people who call us up with last minute requests.  If you don’t give us 10 hours of work in a month, at the end of the month, that time is still used up, and we start fresh with 10 hours the following month.

So, it’s like a project?
No, a project quote from Hop Studios gives you a fixed price for a specific bit of work.  A project gives you price protection like a retainer: If we take too much work to finish, we don’t charge you extra.  But a retainer agreement doesn’t specify the work we’ll be doing in advance. We simply keep track of the time we spend on your requests. It can be anything from search engine submission to photo gallery creation to blog migration.

Why is this good for me, the client?
It lets you budget more accurately.  You get priority, you get better service overall, and you end up paying less. It also locks you in at a lower rate in case we change our rates—but we don’t plan on doing that again soon.

Why is this good for Hop Studios?
Well, we can do a better job of estimating our monthly work load, we end up with smoother cash flow, and so we can staff appropriately and reliably.  In a retainer situation, everyone benefits.

When isn’t this a good idea?
It’s not for everyone.  If you think there will be a big variation in the amount of time you need from us from one cycle to the next.  If you can’t afford to pay until the work is done.  If you just don’t have that much work.  If scheduling work in equal parcels over time just doesn’t fit your style. If your website has a limited time span and you need the work done immediately.

So, I’m interested.  What now?
Contact us. We’ll work out a plan that fits your needs.


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