Creative Agency Retainer Agreement: The Best Shot at Recurring Revenue

A retainer agreement is a contract between an agency and client in which the client pays at least one installment before any work begins. The amount of time, resources, or both required for the project are not outlined in advance by either party.

Creative Agency Retainer Agreement: The Best Shot at Recurring Revenue

Creative agency retainers provide a way for clients to purchase your resource without the risk of not knowing what they will get.

It is an excellent way to build a consistent customer backlog by selling your labor and resources at discounted rates, which can be paid in full or on a monthly basis.

Marketing agencies have been using this type of agreement for years, but creative agencies are just now catching up.

A creative agency retainer can be an excellent method to lock in recurring revenue while also providing value to your clients.

Agency Retainers are also a great way of getting recurring revenue from clients who don't want big projects outside of their monthly retainer agreement.

This is especially helpful if you're just starting out, as it allows your clients to be less worried about how much money they'll need for each project.

What is a Creative Agency Retainer Agreement?

A retainer agreement is a contract between an agency and client in which the client pays at least one installment before any work begins. The amount of time, resources, or both required for the project are not outlined in advance by either party.

Creative retainers allow agencies to work with their existing clientele on a more consistent basis so that they can maximize the amount of time spent working together and deliver great results!

This type of arrangement requires that you have several projects on your books to ensure that there are always clients who need work done.

This can be quite risky, especially if you don't have a good way to communicate with your clients about updates and changes to the scope of work. This is where Creative Retainers shine!

How to design a creative agency agreement?

For designing an agency retainer, you need to follow the following steps:

1. First of all, think about what value your services/products bring to clients. It should be something that is beneficial for them and provides a competitive advantage in their industry.

By doing this research, you can better understand where your ideal client resides on the Experience Curve and what type of services you should offer.

2. Design a retainer agreement that helps to create the kind of long term relationship your ideal client would need in order for them to switch from their existing agency/vendor.

This involves understanding what they are currently paying, why they are choosing an alternative vendor over working with their current team member(s), and what you can do to help them solve that problem.

3. Finally, work with your team on the creative agency retainer agreement so that everyone understands how it works!

This is especially important for designers or other creatives who are just starting out because they may not have much experience within this type of arrangement.

By having a clear plan in place and talking about the process, you can build a better relationship with your clients before starting work.

Keep in mind that there are many different ways to structure an agency retainer agreement! It might be best for you to experiment with several options until you find one that works well for both parties.

Types of Creative Retainer Agreement:

1. Time and Materials

This is the most basic type of retainer agreement within this industry. It's a good place to start, but it may not be ideal for everyone because you'll have to keep track of how much time has been spent on various projects in order to get paid at the end of each month or quarter.

You might also need to send a creative invoice for each project, which can make it harder to keep track of hours spent and money earned.

2. Percentage Retainer

This is similar to the time and materials retainer except that you'll be paid at a fixed percentage rate instead of an hourly or per project fee.

In this case, clients will pay a percentage of the total project cost (for example, it might be 20% or 30%) and you'll keep track of how much work has been completed in order to get paid.

3. Fixed Term

This is another option for creative retainers that requires a flat fee up front in exchange for your services throughout a specific timeframe.

There's usually a minimum number of hours that must be worked in order to receive the full payment at the end.

4. Combination

You might find a combination retainer agreement works best for you, which means clients pay an initial fee and then additional fees if certain milestones are reached throughout the project timeline.

This is usually when they want updates or changes made to the project or they would like additional features added.

Retainer Agreements can be hourly, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly! There are no set rules here so it's up to you to decide what works best for your particular situation.

As long as both parties understand the process involved with retainer agreements, then there should never be any issues.

What are the benefits of creative retainer agreement?

Creative retainers agreement become an integral part of any creative agency's workflow because they offer value in many ways:

1. Advance Payment

One of the most common problems with creative agencies is that they have a hard time getting paid on their work.

Clients are incentivized to wait until an invoice lands before handing over more cash, which can be extremely frustrating if you're running out of money and need to pay your employees!

This leads to very difficult conversations and the occasional (and very public) rant on social media.

This is where creative retainers shine! Clients will often pay up-front for work if they feel that it's something of value to them, which can make your cash flow a whole lot smoother and more predictable.

Retainers also keep you from losing business by allowing your clients to prepay for work. This also means that they are less likely to shop around if you have a good relationship with them, which helps build your brand loyalty even further!

2. Effective Client communication

Creative agencies knew that how difficult it can be to get in touch with someone who knows what's going on.

You can spend months working on a project and not hear from your clients until it's time to make changes or start the next one, which is extremely frustrating as an agency owner!

This is where creative retainers shine even more; because you're constantly talking about what needs to be done with each client (it only makes sense that they would be part of the conversation), you can ensure that there are no surprises or misunderstandings.

This is especially important if your client has a tight deadline, as it's much easier to keep them in the loop when everything is up-to-date and accurate!

Creative retainers allow for ongoing communication with clients by taking away the risk of getting paid late.

It also means that you can better manage time and resources, which helps to eliminate wasted hours on projects where nothing is happening because your client isn't ready for it yet!

3. Scheduled Working Hours

One of the most important benefits to consider when creating your agency retainer is that you get complete control over how much work you can do.

If each client has a set number of hours per month, then it's easier for them to estimate what they're spending on your services and adjust their budgets accordingly!

It is important for creative agencies to allocate the appropriate time for the task at hand, so they can deliver the best results for their clients.

By scheduling and tracking the working hours, you'll also find that it makes life easier when it comes to invoicing and reporting!

4. Consistent & Stable Workflow

One of the biggest reasons that agencies lose money is because they have a hard time maximizing their efforts.

Creative retainers allow for an agency to do just this, as you're able to work with your clients at all times so you can be sure that there's enough work being done!

It also means that if anything comes up unexpectedly (client emergencies, etc.), you can work with them to make changes without throwing your entire schedule off.

This consistency and stability will help you grow as an agency owner by allowing for more predictable cash flow!

5. Better Customer Service

Creative Retainer  Agreements are just one of many ways that you can offer value to your clients. They allow for a more collaborative relationship where both parties have the opportunity to voice their concerns and work out solutions together!

This means better communication, which leads to fewer mistakes (which is great news for everyone!). It also means happier customers who get what they need when they need it, and the agencies that provide these services get to take on more clients!

This is one of many ways creative retainers can help you build a stronger brand by working with your clients throughout their entire journey.

You'll be there when they're in the initial stages of finding out what's going on, continue to service them as long as they need you there, and even help them find new solutions when it's time to move on!


A Creative Agency Retainer Agreement is  one of the best ways to increase stability and revenue for your agency. It allows you to work with clients throughout their entire journey, even when they're not working on a specific project!

This type of agreement is especially great because it's recurring; meaning that once we've established what needs to be done, there will always be consistent income coming in as long as you're providing value to your clients!

As an agency owner, it's important that you constantly evolve and improve. Creative retainers are one of many ways to create a mark in the industry and take your business to new heights!

Running an agency?

Clientvenue is an all-in-one client portal and client requests management software.

Learn more