Can designers sell retainer engagements?

Sent by Jonathan Stark on March 15th, 2019

Here’s a question that was sent in to me recently:

”I want to sign up retainer clients, but I’m a designer. Will it work the same?“

The short answer is yes. But first, let’s talk a bit about what retainers are... 

To me, a retainer is advisory. It’s not prepayment for hours, you’re not going to be building stuff. You’re doing brains work, not hands work. You’re answering questions or perhaps proactively making suggestions based on the customer’s context, but you’re not executing.

So, if you’re a designer, can you advise people? Can you answer questions? Can you make suggestions? 

Of course. 

But you need to be viewed as an authority to land a retainer client. You need to have some sort of street cred, you need to have credibility. Prospective clients need to trust you to land a high ticket advisory retainer for which you’re paid monthly for access to your smarts.

You could be a logo designer or a UX designer or a golf course designer or whatever kind of designer... really any kind of authority can sell advisory retainers. 

The trick, of course, is to figure out how to become an authority. More on that tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Yours,

—J