How to Use Writer Retainer Agreements to Keep Your Business in the Black by Jennifer Brown Banks

How to Use Writer Retainer Agreements to Keep Your Business in the Black by Jennifer Brown Banks

—“Time is money.”

Would you like to experience fewer of the feast and famine cycles that are so common for freelance writing? To have more accuracy ( and certainty) in creating income projections for your business? To operate more profitability and efficiently in times ahead?

Writer’s Agreements can be the ticket to economic stability and freelance success.
And I should know. Over the years, I have been able to cultivate a relatively steady flow of income, have less client turn-over, and greater peace. And you can too.

But before I “show you the money,”  let’s take a look at what Writers’ Retainers are and the advantages they afford you and your clients.

WRITER RETAINERS are simply an arrangement whereby a client pays you, (the writer and service provider), X amount of dollars per month, to retain your services for a set amount of hours or project scope.

Though the terms may vary, most agreements are set up for periods of 6 or 12 months.


* A discount typically provided for their repeat business
* The opportunity to work with a writer who has a proven track record, and is familiar with their business and professional objectives, (thereby saving them time and hand-holding)
* Stability, consistency, and reliable access to your expertise and services, without delays due to scheduling conflicts


* More accuracy in your month to month income projections, based upon contractual agreements, as opposed to editors’ promises, speculation or hopes.
* The ability to control your workflow and schedule better, based upon your existing roster and routine assignments
* Consistent cash flow
Here’s a case in point. In October, I reached out to a few of my existing clients to let them know that due to some major book projects in the works, I would have limited availability in 2017.

I informed them that I could not guarantee that I would be as “accessible and flexible” as before, and that I would like to know if they wanted to “book me” for long-term assignments now.

It worked. So far I have one client who paid a deposit and will receive 2 hours of monthly, professional blog coaching, another who is seeking ghost writing assistance, and another one who has hired me to manage her health site.

They all paid a deposit toward future work, and will begin monthly installments effective January, 2017.
Of course this does not represent my entire client roster for the year; but it’s an impressive start.
Word to the wise: it works if you work it.

Award-winning blogger of Make A Living Writing, (and author) Carol Tice, is a big advocate of Writer Retainers. She states: “As a writer, you get peace of mind knowing you have steady work, (and a steady paycheck) month-after-month.”
Accordingly, here are a few practices and principles to observe for optimal success.

1. Plan ahead. Ideally, November or December is a great time to connect with clients to plan for 2017. Why? Because the beginning of the year is usually when people try to formulate New Years’ resolutions and are typically optimistic about what they can accomplish. January represents a clean slate.

2. Get the details in writing. This includes the payment terms, the nature and scope of the project, the beginning and end dates, and if/how the contract can be terminated by the parties involved. For informational purposes, here’s a sample to guide you:

3. To enhance your efforts, make sure to keep accurate records and project-related calendars. Color coding also helps. This will ensure greater efficiency and encourage repeat retainer assignments for future years.
Writers Retainers are a smart way to keep good clients, maintain consistency, and keep your business in the black.

Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, columnist, award-winning blogger and author of “The Science of Choosing the “Write” Clients.” Her work has been featured extensively online in publications such as: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, South 85 Journal and The Well Fed Writer Ezine.  Find out how she juggles it all and still finds time for shopping, by visiting her “Top 100 Blogs for Writers” at



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2 Responses to "How to Use Writer Retainer Agreements to Keep Your Business in the Black by Jennifer Brown Banks"

  1. Barbara a Martin  January 5, 2017 at 9:59 am

    Jennifer, you may have uploaded the wrong contract sample, although you wrote it was for informational purposes, as this one does not contain a retainer clause. For anyone who needs to know, the retainer clause would look very similar to the wording of the fourth paragraph of the article.

  2. Wendy Jones  January 4, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    My company gives retainers for 6-month periods all the time. It simply makes good sense. Many projects only need 1/2 to 1/4 time work for this period. If you are willing to do it this way (reduced time commitment on their part) many good workers will say – ‘Yes’ – even if they are busy. They have other clients and don’t want to quit working with them so, when your work agreement expires, it is a ‘win – win’ for everyone.