How To Go From Getting Paid Per Hour Or Project To Ongoing Retainers [Roundup]

It’s sad that most digital marketing freelancers and consultants never make the transition from side-hustle to self-employeed

That’s because there are too many “feasts and famines” in their business. One month they’re flying high, the next they’re maxing out credit cards.

That’s no way to grow a business

But how do you overcome this?

By charging your clients an ongoing retainer for your services. (Meaning they pay you month after month.)

So to help you make the jump from one-off projects to recurring retainers, I brought together a group of thought leaders and fellow marketers who are in the trenches just like you, and asked them this question:


“What advice would you give to someone who wants to go from selling their services per hour/per project to a monthly (high-ticket) retainer?”


Want to know what they said? Continue reading…

Free 5-Day Challenge: Click here to join the “Your First (Or Next) Monthly Retainer Marketing Client” challenge! This challenge kicks off Monday, November 13th 2017. Plus, you’ll get instant access to my brand new 9-page PDF when you signup…


Firstly, Do it!

On a more practical note however for most freelancers/one man agencies the best advice I can give is to base numbers on what you want to achieve in terms of total revenue and time needed to service clients.

I.e if you want to make $10,000 p/mth and only want to work with 10 clients you’d need to be charging a monthly minimum of $1000 each.

Knowing this you now know that the types of clients you should be working with need to be able to make enough return to make that a good investment.




It all comes down to the value you place on a project.

It might take me 15 minutes to get a project done but I can charge $5,000 for that. Where if I was charging $500 an hour, that’s only $125.

The advice that I would give is it’s all based on the value of the end-product, not how awesome you are or how long it takes you to do it.

That’s why the positioning of what you’re selling is key.

Lastly, raise your prices and go after higher-quality clients.




You are going to go broke if you don’t. There’s two reasons to do it.

  1. It allows you to serve the client and their needs properly. If you are just offering project based services, they’ll see a return for a short period but then nothing which looks bad for you and leaves them frustrated.
  2. It breaks that feast and famine situation we’ve all been in. It gives peace of mind and you know what your income and expenses (roughly) will be each month. You don’t constantly have to search for brand new clients. This also makes it easy for them to refer you to someone else. You build a solid relationship with them. Wins all round.





I think first of all it is going to be a mindset shift to move away from charging dollars for hours and looking at the overall impact of what they do. What is the real value to the client?

Even my assistant who comes into my office a few times a week I have trained her to focus on the quality of her work. She gets paid a certain amount per day and I dont care if she takes 4 hours to complete the tasks or 8 as long as the work is at my standard.

Separate from that I think it takes matching your talents to needs and the ongoing process of handling those things for each client. So if its managing FB ads for example charge a monthly fee to manage the process. In other words start thinking in terms of process which means on-going instead of shipping one thing and being done with it.

If you’re a website developer for example there is great value in managing updates etc – making sure the website is being backed up etc this gives the business owner piece of mind. Bottom line instead of thinking in units think in terms of on-going “process”. Every business owner knows they need processes in their business especially marketing they just don’t know how to create them.

When you’re pitching to a client you have to focus on the value and the end result. I had a client come to me last week and she kept asking me well how many hours do you need for this and that and how do you know what you are charging is fair?

Even after I explained my process fully and with testimonials of my existing clients. I made the decision to decline that client. Her mindset is her mindset – I can’t change it and having her in my practice long term will end up costing me money.

I know that clients like this typically cost more in time as far as managing and I made those bad decisions in the past. But I am over and done with that.




My advice is to focus on VALUE, instead of the “cost of labor”. So if your work is bringing in $4,000 worth of new business per month for your client, then $1,500 / month is a no brainer. It’s super important to think more “big-picture”… like, if I can make my client an extra $20k/ month with this service, that’s $240k extra over the year.

So how can I create a pricing model that conveys my true value, without gauging them or anything. It’s definitely tough at first when you’re making that transition… but for me it’s been the most helpful to look at it on a “big-picture” scale like this.




The move away from charging an hourly rate to a monthly retainer is one every coach, consultant, or service provider must make if they want to really grow and scale their business.

The good news is that it’s surprisingly easier to charge higher monthly retainer rates than it is charging higher hourly rates – but to do so you need to focus on 2 key things.

  1. Monthly retainers should ALWAYS focus on the results you’re able to provide and not the amount of work that goes into getting them. Keep the conversation with the client centered on the outcome and value your services provide and not the inputs and hours that go into it. (Side note, you still need to show that works is being done but focus on the big picture rather than the tiny details of how every minute is spent)
  2. Start your transition by starting small and creating 1 or 2 monthly retainer packages which will allow you to transition your business away from an hourly/project business and into the more desirable retainer model. This will allow you to begin to grow this new area of your business without cutting your hourly rates off completely which you may need to keep going while your retainer model builds momentum. Over time you can transition more of your clients towards your retainer packages while simultaneously raising or removing the hourly option completely.





Look for ways to document everything and create procedures early.

Create forms, videos, and other content of things you do often.




When starting out as a freelancer/consultant, one of the most difficult tasks you’ll face is in establishing your value.  Not what your time is actually worth, but rather what you BELIEVE it is worth.  Many entrepreneurs struggle with this.  I struggled with this.  So, don’t feel bad about it, it’s normal.

Our time is the one thing as entrepreneurs that we can’t scale . It’s limited…even if you choose to “hustle” and work 16 hour days.  But, if you don’t want to burn out, you need to find ways to earn top $$ without having to put in more hours.

At the end of the day, the clients you are serving will hire you for the RESULTS you can provide, not the “work” you put in.  So, the sooner you can package up the value you can provide, without tying your revenue to tracking hours, the sooner you will be able to meet the revenues goals you aspire to.

The hardest part will be convincing yourself you are “worth” it.  But, always remember, your time is your most valuable asset.  So, don’t undervalue it.  And, move quickly towards a “retainer” based model that will allow you to deliver the results your clients are looking for, while earning you top $$. Believe in yourself…you are worth it! 😃




OK, so my thoughts would be:

  • Have a strong brand in place
  • Work to build case studies which showcase proven results
  • Partner with sales people
  • Consider white label to partners/agencies
  • Niche down and become the solid go-to guy
  • Adjust your mindset from churn to growth (inc planning for scale)





Focus on the value and benefits of what you can do for their business.




Even if it seems nerve-wrecking to switch from hourly billing to retainers, there actually are some significant advantages. And the first step is to convince yourself of these advantages because you can’t sell someone else until you sell yourself.

One big advantage for you (the service provider) is you can plan accordingly. You know the exact amount of resources to devote to that client and it reduces the chances that you won’t have the resources/staffing power to support that client.

From a client’s perspective, perhaps they get a discount and they also get certainty that the provider will be available to meet their needs. The client can plan accordingly. The provider is more dependable.

And the client can budget accordingly because he/she knows what to expect in terms of costs.



BOOM! Was that some solid advice or what…?

I hope that you’ve learned a thing or two about what it takes to charge clients a monthly retainer.

Want to keep up your momentum?

Click below to signup for my FREE 5-day challenge that kicks off November 13th and get instant access to my 9-page PDF when you join.

Join the 5 day challenge!

Free 5-Day Challenge: Click here to join the “Your First (Or Next) Monthly Retainer Marketing Client” challenge! This challenge kicks off Monday, November 13th 2017. Plus, you’ll get instant access to my brand new 9-page PDF when you signup…
Brian Downard

Brian Downard

Hey thanks for being here! My name is Brian Downard, I'm the Founder of BD Ventures, a digital marketing consulting company that helps entrepreneurs and business leaders get the advice, tools and resources they need to win online.
Brian Downard