It's that time of yeeeeaaaar!
No, not the holidays. Fuck the holidays. (Just kidding, I LOVE the holidays.) (Ugh, a jolly asshole like me would.)
Rather, it's the time of year for you to announce to your clients your intentions for your 2021 rates—and perhaps (perhaps???) a switch over to—drum roll—retainer. Dun dun dunnnnnnnn!
RETAINERS!!!!!! THEY'RE FREELANCE O'S!!!!! (YOU KNOW WHAT THE “O” WORD IS, BUT I FEAR THIS EMAIL WILL GO STRAIGHT INTO THE S-FOLDER IF I DARE SAY IT ALOUD.)
And I get asked about them a lot. (Retainers, not O's, though I'm not opposed?) Here's what most people say:
“Ash, retainers sound like a dirty dream…but how do I switch my clients over to one?! Who willingly pays monthly?! Wouldn't they rather pay per project?! By the hour?! In the form of a barter in which client trades you for thirty-two blessed and spiritually cleansed hairs from the butt of her dog?”
To which I respond: you should always refuse hairs from the butt of one's dog. However, if you'd love to have a predictable revenue stream where your clients pay you a fixed amount each month allowing you to relax and breathe and maybe plan your finances (for once in your daring, hilariously unorganized creative life), then you gotta get on this retainer train. And even better?
It's not hard to pitch.
It's allllll about the way you word it, grasshopper.
(Speaking of grasshoppers, the other day I was washing my face and I looked down and there was a giant one in my bathroom! Here in Philadelphia! On the third floor! In the freezing cold! A real and giant grasshopper! And I'm like: WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?!?!?!?! And of course, the grasshopper said nothing, but that's okay because then I just started having a conversation with myself. I was like, did this come in the suitcase from Costa Rica…months ago? Did it come up the drain pipe in the bathroom? Can grasshoppers even swim?! Maybe it's fake. Maybe Carlos planted it here because he is an evil bastard who loves making me scream. (Not tied back to O's but definitely could be.) (She's so inappropriate.) And that's when I realized where the grasshopper really came from. You know where this fucking monster came from?
THE CHRISTMAS TREE.
THEEE CHRISTMASSSS TREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
We had just brought in a Christmas tree the day before. And I've decided it must have come in on the Christmas tree, because basically it's the only way I'll sleep at night.)
Every year I start sending out helpful scripts around this time so you can have money conversations with clients in time for the New Year, because the New Year is the best time to change your ways / raise your rates / revamp your pricing / change the way you work / announce that you're moving to Ireland, etc.
So today, I thought I would send you a copy/paste email script you can use if you want to attempt to transition your existing clients over to retainer for 2021. The script is robust and fun-filled because I wrote it and I'm robust and fun-filled, but I'm also highly effective at getting people on board with my ideas so I think you should definitely give it a stab, edit ‘er up, see how you can tweak this to make it work for you and fit your personality.
Without further ado, here's a lengthy and fun-filled but entirely effective script you can use to change your clients over to retainer, baby!
Hi, [Client Name]!
Please imagine this email being delivered with a giant red bow and tin of figgy pudding—which, lucky for all of us, just happens to be more cake than it is pudding. (I didn't know this until I just Googled it, because mentioning figgy pudding in December just feels like what you do.)
Anyway! Before the holidays get ~too~ crazy, I wanted to take a moment to, first of all, say THANK YOU. Working with you this year has been the equivalent of riding side-by-side into battle on a couple of meaty unicorns, slaying dragons, unknown viruses, and, you know, HTML. [Insert a fun reference to what you work on daily! i.e. Flash photography / window treatments / Instagram captions.] Thank you for being here through it all. Doing business with you has not only been a joy, but an honor. GO TEAM #______________!
The second thing I wanted to do is announce a few fun operational changes happening in 2021, and give you what I like to call “favorite client first dibs.” Doesn't that sound like fun?! YES, dibs are so much fun. Here's what that's all about!
One major operational change coming in 2021 is a transition from project-based and hourly-based work, over to what I call “magic monthly retainer.” What does this mean? It means I'll be able to deliver work faster for you, as you need it, on-demand like Netflix, because your time will already be carved into the schedule like a perfect holiday ham. So instead of us going back and forth with new requests and me having to tell you heinous things like “yup, I'm available to start on that in two and a half weeks 😬” you submit a request and the response is, “Awesome, consider it done—will have it to you tomorrow!” And isn't that prospect lovely? Absolutely lovely! I can't WAIT. Looking forward to being able to supercharge our work together—better, faster, more effective and more seamless.
In order to pull off this fantastic feat, however, this also requires a change to our billing structure. Instead of sending you random invoices at unpredictable intervals, making it hard for everyone except aliens to plan, we'll send you one flat fee invoice each month that will cover everything. (There are a few small exceptions, but I'll lay those out.) This allows us to reserve your time in advance, and it also allows us to bill you less money for that time, since it's all wrapped all up in a package.
So! While we'll be performing this transition throughout 2021, I wanted to give you first dibs on the new “magic monthly retainer calendar” 🎉—if you make the switch to retainer billing now in time for January 1st, you'll get priority choice for availability and turnaround, especially given that client roster for this is expected to fill up quickly. A good problem to have, especially right now! But a concern, nonetheless, with only 24 in a day. *attempts the figgy pudding*
Here are the new retainer options in all their glory: [Note: The following is just an example of how you could work this. Feel free to package your retainers however you see fit, according to your industry and how long things normally take, etc. This is just to give you some inspo! And FYI—the price should always go down as the level of commitment goes up.]
Retainer Package #1: 24-Hour Turnaround
You send it over a request, I'll l have a draft in 24-hours. Shazam! 🔥
You need a call, you can book one right away. Shazam! 🔥
You need advice, a response is in your inbox within 24 hours. Shazam! 🔥
$ _____ / mo.
$_____ / mo.
$ _____ / mo.
Retainer Package #2: 3-Day Turnaround
The same as above, but delivery / access within three ultra-fast days. 💥
$ _____ / mo.
$_____ / mo.
$ _____/ mo.
Retainer Package #3: 7-Day Turnaround
The same as above, but with turnaround /access in just one week. ⚡
$ _____ / mo.
$_____ / mo.
$ _____/ mo.
If you're keen to get one of these spots to continue riding the coolest unicorns throughout 2021, just hit reply and let me know which magic package you'd like to begin for January, and I'll fire up your account! If you do not wish to switch over to retainer right now, that's okay—but know that we will be phasing out our project-based service by the end of next year.
If possible, kindly pick your poison by [DATE]. This ensures we can reserve availability, just for you. ❤️
Talk soon, favorite client! We're going to crush 2021!!!!!!!!!!!
And look at that—done!
You didn't even need to procrastinate by telling yourself you need a formal sales page, and all of these fancy graphics, and all these amazing buttons…
…all you've got to do is send one email. ⭐ 💌
And by the way? You don't have to phase out your regular project-based and hourly-based work if you don't want to: you can leave that part out and just make an offer to take you up on one of these retainer options, emphasizing the speedy turnaround, the on-demand Netflix access (I love that positioning, don't you?), the predictability of billing and budgeting, and the fact that there are only so many spots…and it's going to be fun as hell working with you this way.
Because retainers really are the best. They're sooooo helpful when it comes to helping YOU plan and manage your income, as well as your workload—and by default, your sanity. And we like sanity! Especially when it's so hard to stay sane right now! That would be a fun way for you to pitch this to your clients: LET ME HELP YOU STAY MORE SANE….here's a retainer option. 🙂 Which is not a lie, retainers are the best for everyone I've ever met, which is only a modest handful of humans but still kind of substantial?
And with that, I shall leave you to ponder all the retainer-ey things, AMEN.
Hope this is helpful, you creative, money-making thunder machine!!!!!
Sending more soon for those of you on our email list—keep your eyes peeled. (Next script comes with imaginary SUGAR COOKIES…and who can resist those?)