What is an agency retainer?

Agency retainer definition

An agency retainer is a contractual agreement where a client commits to hiring an agency for a set period, often in exchange for predetermined services at a fixed monthly or quarterly fee. This arrangement provides agencies with a consistent revenue stream, allowing for better financial forecasting and resource allocation. For clients, retainers ensure priority service, consistent access to the agency's expertise, and often better rates than project-based engagements.

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Types of agency retainers

Transitioning from project-based engagements to a retainer model can be beneficial for both the agency and the client. Here are some common types of agency retainers:

Monthly retainer: A standard agreement where the client pays a fixed amount monthly for agreed-upon services. This is the most common type.

Project-based retainer: Clients pay for a specific project, but with the advantages of a retainer such as prioritized service.

Performance-based retainer: Compensation is tied to meeting specific KPIs or objectives, incentivizing the agency to achieve results.

Rolling retainer: A flexible retainer model where unused hours or services roll over into the next period, providing flexibility for fluctuating workloads.

Full-service retainer: Covers all agency services, providing an all-in-one solution for the client's needs.

How to set up an agency retainer

Embarking on a retainer relationship signifies a long-term commitment between the agency and the client. Establishing this partnership effectively involves a series of methodical steps to ensure clarity, trust, and consistent service delivery. Here's a breakdown of how to set up an agency retainer with a new client:

  1. Understand client needs: Begin by gauging the client's ongoing requirements.

  2. Assess agency capacity: Determine the agency's capability to meet these needs.

  3. Discuss scope of work: Engage in a dialogue to finalize the extent and specifics of the work, ensuring both parties share clear expectations.

  4. Determine pricing: The pricing should mirror the value delivered and can be compared against market rates or previous project-based engagements.

  5. Draft retainer agreement: Prepare a thorough agreement that enumerates services, costs, and any additional stipulations.

  6. Schedule regular reviews: These sessions are crucial to ensure that the client's and project's requirements are continuously met and allow for any needed modifications.

  7. Utilize management platforms: As the partnership matures, leverage platforms like to enhance service provision and encourage transparent client interactions.

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