Everything You Want To Know About Retainers

A retainer can be an excellent tool to add consistency and predictability to your client work and revenue—and many clients actually prefer them to hourly billing. But when you structure retainers correctly, they will also fuel your move up the value chain.

Jonathan and I explore how to use retainers, avoid the trading time for hours trap and adopt the mindset required to shift to advisory retainers:

How to structure—and think about—advisory retainers, including the role/importance of a guarantee.

Operating as a fractional CXO without committing to hours.

Designing extra pair of hands retainers that focus on outcomes—including productized services sold monthly.

The landmines to avoid when structuring your retainers.

The mindset shifts you’ll need to make as you move along the retainer continuum


“In this context you’re selling insurance…that’s what an advisory retainer is. It’s not about showing up and coding.”—JS

“When you’re used to being paid for using your hands, being paid to sit on them instead feels really weird.”—RM

“The people that designed my Subaru Outback are different from the people who built my Subaru Outback and are different from the people who changed the oil.”—JS

“You’re not going to be able to deliver a home run to somebody who can’t figure out what that looks like.”—RM

“If you’re earlier in your career…and you do want some kind of stability or predictability in your income you could sell productized services on a sort of ongoing monthly basis.”—JS

“There’s no shame in doing the work and creating some kind of a retainer where you can get stability, you can get some continuity and you can build your credentials in the course of working for those organizations.”—RM

“What are you guaranteeing with an advisory retainer? The thing that I would guarantee is the response time. So what they’re buying is good answers fast.”—JS

“The whole idea behind advisory retainers is they’re buying access—to your brain and to good answers fast.”—RM

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