8 Expert Tips on How to Use a Retainer as a Freelance Writer


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8 Expert Tips on How to Use a Retainer as a Freelance Writer

To help freelance writers maximize their retainer potential, we reached out to founders, CEOs, and other industry professionals for their top tips. From planning out tasks and bartering services to prioritizing clear communication, here are eight best practices these experts shared to make the most out of your retainer as a freelance writer.

  • Thoroughly Plan Tasks and Trade Assignments
  • Prioritize Retainer Clients and Their Work
  • Focus On Quality and Reputation
  • Set and Beat Personal Deadlines
  • Establish Clear Expectations
  • Solely Use Project Rates Over Hourly
  • Use Time-Tracking Tools
  • Maintain Clear and Open Communication

Thoroughly Plan Tasks and Trade Assignments

Instead of waiting for tasks to arrive in bursts, planning and setting aside specific parts of the day or week for writing can ensure consistent results, leading to better productivity overall.

You could also trade certain assignments with fellow freelance writers. If they specialize in an area more than you do, then bartering services could be a brilliant solution that leaves both sides satisfied.

Michael AlexisMichael Alexis
CEO, swag.org

Balance passion-driven work and flexibility

Promoted by Fiverr

Freelancing is the best way to balance passion-driven work and flexibility – giving people the opportunity to have full autonomy over their career and how they want to work on a day-to-day basis. Whether you’re working at home or on-the-go, freelancers can choose the projects they want to pursue, then craft their work experience around it. As a freelancer, you have the freedom to travel the world, spend time with your family, and manage your own schedule.

As we continue to navigate a volatile economy plagued by layoffs and firings, independent work is a great vehicle for financial security. By not being tied down by a singular employer, you can take on more projects, be your own boss, and further develop your own service offerings with new skills – such as AI. With businesses relying on freelancers more than ever before, freelancers today can expand their horizons and work on projects of all shapes and sizes.

shai-lee spiegleman fiverrShai-Lee Spigelman
General Manager, Fiverr Pro

Prioritize Retainer Clients and Their Work

Treat them as special. Honestly, that’s the only thing you can do to make the most out of your retainer clients because the content writing world is getting demanding, and so is the competition. It’s difficult to find good clients on retainer. If you find one or two, it’s a significant achievement.

I would advise you to prioritize their work, be available, try to reduce the turnaround time, and do a great job every time to win their hearts. It’s important to show them how much you value their work, and they’ll keep you busy with more work at better rates. Plus, they’ll promote you through word of mouth.

Remember, your retainer clients are your backbone, so treat them very well.

Shaun ConnellShaun Connell
Founder and CEO, U.S. Dictionary

Focus On Quality and Reputation

Focusing more on quality than quantity is optimal, as this may be the beginning of building a strong reputation and a long-term relationship with your client. By establishing a strong reputation and lasting partnerships, you’re more likely to receive repeat business, referrals, premium rates, and positive feedback.

To prioritize quality, freelance writers should understand the client’s needs, conduct thorough research, edit and proofread their work, and maintain open communication throughout the writing process. By following these tips, freelance writers can build a strong reputation and position themselves for success in their field.

Tristan HarrisTristan Harris
Demand Generation Senior Marketing Manager, Thrive Agency

Set and Beat Personal Deadlines

I cannot stress enough the importance of sticking to deadlines. I once took on a project crafting regular newsletters for a local fitness center. The agreed-upon deadline was always the last Friday of the month. But instead of waiting until the last minute, I set my personal deadline to the preceding Wednesday.

This gave me a safety net to address any unexpected issues. It was like a game, where Wednesday was my finish line, not Friday. By consistently “winning” this game, I gained the trust of my client, which led to more work and referrals.

A simple shift in perspective made a world of difference in my freelance journey. So, with retainers, create your own deadlines and beat them. This practice can turn you into a highly sought-after professional.

Hafsa UnnarHafsa Unnar
Executive Assistant, On-Site First Aid Training

Establish Clear Expectations

It is best to establish clear expectations and goals with clients at the beginning of the retainer agreement. This includes discussing ‌work, deadlines, communication methods, and any other important details that will affect the success of the project.

By establishing clear expectations and goals, both the writer and the client will have a better understanding of what is expected of them, which can help prevent misunderstandings and miscommunications down the line. This can also help the writer better manage their time and resources, allowing them to work more efficiently and effectively.

In addition, it’s important for freelance writers to communicate regularly with their clients throughout the retainer period, providing updates on their progress and addressing any concerns or issues that may arise. This helps to build trust and maintain a strong working relationship with the client, which can lead to future opportunities and referrals.

Irina PoddubnaiaIrina Poddubnaia
CEO and Founder, TrackMage

Solely Use Project Rates Over Hourly

I recommend using project rates rather than hourly prices as an ideal practice. Retainers‌ function best with clients who are already providing you with a steady workload. One client asked me to create several blog pieces each month.

We established a retainer where I would produce three blog pieces each month for a predetermined sum of money. We amended the contract to include a provision specifying the fee for any additional work that would be required.

Even when working with clients on a retainer, I solely use project pricing. With a project fee, you can increase your earnings as you work more quickly and effectively, and your client will always know what they can expect to receive and how much it will cost.

It’s often a hint that a customer doesn’t yet have a handle on the proper task they want you to complete if they press you to use an hourly rate. Before you sign an agreement, work with them to determine the deliverables and work scope to avoid frustration.

Joe LiJoe Li
Managing Director, CheckYa

Use Time-Tracking Tools

For freelance writers, time is a valuable asset that should be managed effectively to reach maximum productivity. Using time-tracking tools can help you create a clear picture of exactly how you are spending your time while working on your retainer.

With this information, you can then allocate your time more efficiently, ensuring that you are prioritizing enough time for the most important tasks and that you are not wasting valuable time on low-priority tasks.

Time tracking tools will allow you to see how much time you are spending on different tasks, helping you to identify patterns and adjust your schedule accordingly. Besides increasing your efficiency and productivity, these tools can also help you bill your client more accurately while providing data that can negotiate higher rates in the future.

Basana SahaBasana Saha
Founder, KidsCareIdeas

Maintain Clear and Open Communication

As a blog owner that relies on freelance writers, I can’t stress enough the importance of clear communication to make the most out of a retainer. In my experience, the most successful freelance writers are those who proactively maintain an open line of communication with me. This helps avoid misunderstandings and ensures that their work aligns with my expectations.

The ability to ask questions, clarify requirements, and provide regular updates goes a long way in building trust and fostering long-term professional relationships.

So, if you’re a freelance writer looking to make the most out of your retainer, I highly recommend establishing a clear communication strategy with your clients. This could be through regular check-ins, weekly progress reports, or even just a friendly email exchange. By prioritizing communication, you’ll not only improve the quality of your work, but you’ll also set yourself apart as a reliable and professional freelance writer.

Khamis MaioufKhamis Maiouf
CEO, Book of Barbering

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