ASH AMBIRGE

Author, CEO & Founder

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Hourly or Retainer OR….

In: Money Talk

»  Cash flow challenged?

»  Do a bunch of work you won't get paid for until you bill next month?

»  Burned in the past by clients who disappear & never actually pay the bill?

No, this is actually not the opening to an infomercial, as much as I'd love to show up on my ex's television screen at 3am.

But it is a problem that a lot of creatives have.

And so, a lot of creatives turn to the retainer model at one point or another:

Hey, you pay me X per month, and I'm all yours. (That's a death sentence, by the way.)

It's assumed that, at the very least, they'll be able to predict their cash flow, get paid in advance, and not have to track pesky hours anymore.

There's just one problem:

Most people forget to outline what, exactly, this so-called retainer includes.

»  Does it include 24/7 “access?” (You're calling me at 3am because inspiration struck? No problemmmmmm. *clenches teeth*)

»  Does all the work get thrown at you at once, or last minute, causing you to constantly scramble to rearrange your schedule?

»  Does consulting come with the package? Or just the actual deliverables? In other words, what are you agreeing to do? Is your entire brain up for grabs? Or just your particular skill set?

If you don't define these types of things, guess what? Your client will. And hopefully your client is not Fran Drescher.

Next thing you know, that cute little retainer fee you quoted (awwwww), based on the approximate number of hours you had logged for them in the past (awwwwww), or how much they “estimated,” (awwwwww), is now LOSING you money. Big money. Because once people feel like they have all the access, they'll take advantage of all the access.

Just ask boys.

An alternative worth considering?

Try letting your clients know you'll bill them hourly—but—that you require, say, $X amount of a retainer fee up front that you'll put in an escrow account. Then, each hour you work gets deducted from that, which means you get cash flow up front, an insurance policy against non-payers, AND the benefits of having a retainer—without having to become an accidental slave.

Sort of like pre-paying a credit card.

Because there really are some things money can't buy, and that's your fucking SANITY.

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Money. You have enough, or you don’t. Over the years, I’ve do-si-doed around both sides of that dichotomy. As a pre-teen, my mom and I sometimes had to borrow money to buy a roll of one-ply toilet paper to get us through the weekend. Scott brand. I remember it was Scott, because it was always […]

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2014

Caution: Stop Masturbating With Your Money.

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Last year I had $224,225.77 in business expenses. That’s a metric fuck ton of cash for a small business to be throwing down, and probably more than my mother ever made in her entire life. And yet, I’ve never been so pleased and here’s why: When you do it right, your expenses aren’t expenses. They’re […]

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Nov 1

2019

Pricing Your Stuff: THE DEEP, DARK SECRET YOU NEVER KNEW

Nov 1, 2019

Isn’t pricing a GROAN? Like, you physically groan when it’s time to “figure out your pricing,” because WHY DOES IT SEEM LIKE THE MOST ARBITRARY THING ON EARTH? How do I know if it’s right? Is it too high? Too low? Will anyone buy it? Am I selling myself short? Does the price match the […]

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Jun 14

2017

Spending Money is Not a Sacrifice, But a Strategy

Jun 14, 2017

Spending money is not a sacrifice, but a strategy. Most people don’t look at it like that, though, and so they spend less—and end up making less, too. But money is like a lever—which, not so coincidentally, comes from the French word, “to raise.” If you think of a seesaw, on one side you have […]

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May 31

2019

How to Be a Bitch About Money: The 8 Money Policies Every Freelancer NEEDS to Avoid Getting Burned Like a Ham Sandwich—Including the Rock-Solid Refund Policy That Slays

May 31, 2019

Eight-thousand dollars. Eight-thousand dollars! EIGHT-THOUSAND DUH-OLLLL-ERS. That’s the (actual) amount of cold, hard cash one designer recently had charged backed by a client—and her credit card company sided with the client. Mother of ouch. More than that, though, this kind of crisis can be absolutely devastating to a freelance business that’s operating paycheck to paycheck, […]

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Apr 16

2019

29 Creative Ways You Can Find Some Extra Money on the Fly, In a Pinch, When You’re Strapped and When You’re All: SOS, Cash Flow Where’d You Go?!

Apr 16, 2019

The other day I urged women: do not let them money shame you. Do not! Even though they’ll try to. Even though, because you’re a woman, you’ll be deemed “delusional” and “scammy” and “self-serving,” the more money you charge—even if it’s the going rate. And yet, when a man charges the same thing, they are […]

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Jun 9

2015

Making Money is Not as Hard as Most People Make It

Jun 9, 2015

There is a distinct and profound difference between people who make money and people who don’t: the money. Hard, cold, beautiful bendy stacks of cash. I know there are a lot of people that say money is evil and your nostrils will catch on fire if you want anything other than world peace, but usually—and pardon […]

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I'm a Bad Influence on Women

Hey, I’m Ash! Twenty years ago I was a small town girl growing up in a trailer park in rural Pennsylvania. Fifteen years ago, I lost my family and everything I knew right as I became the first to graduate college. Fourteen years ago, I found myself leaving everything behind for a new life in the city where I could be “normal.” Ten years ago I realized normal was the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me. Nine years ago I quit my job in advertising and pursued my dreams as a creative writer. Eight years ago, I built a 6-figure business doing what I love using nothing more than the Internet and my voice. And now, today, I’m the founder of The Middle Finger Project, an irreverent media co. that helps other women find their voice and teaches them to use it to build whatever the f*ck they want to. With a book coming out with Penguin Random House in February 2020 (YASSS, WE’RE A PRODUCT IN TARGET!) I’m proud to be a bad influence on women and guide them into doing something disobediently brave with their life and their career.

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