Five Ways to Tell if Your Business Needs a Design Retainer

Every month it's the same story;

you have a new promotion, menu, or event coming out and you need some design work done, so you reach out to Hayley, the freelancer who designed your logo a year ago. She promises an estimate, but days pass with no word. Alright then, fine. You'll just go and find someone online. You search and search, only to find the usual crowd: Fancy branding agencies charging $150 + per hour, more freelancers who are either booked solid or who, like Hayley, have fallen off the face of the earth, strangers 3,000+ miles away who are charging less per hour than your breakfast bagel set you back, and swarms of "designers" offering five-dollar pieces that look like they were thrown together in MS Word. This won't do. It sounds like you need a design retainer.

A design retainer is a guarantee that you'll have a designer on hand every month, for a fixed monthly cost, who is dedicated to your business and available to help in any way they can for whatever business throws your way. You pay for each month in advance, and in return, you'll get better rates, faster response times, and prioritized service. Here are five ways to tell if a design retainer is right for your business:

1. You have recurring design requirements each month

If you're in an industry that has regular promotions, events, social media activity, price, menu, or procedural changes, then a design retainer is likely to save you time and money. Rather than paying a freelancer full rate and waiting days for design work, for the same amount of monthly expenditure, you could have a dedicated designer on call to address customer facing design requirements, and staff training / educational materials to boot. Whether you need a new sign designed, a promotional flyer, or an operational-diagram for new hires, all you have to do is make a phone call.

2. You have a fixed monthly / annual budget

Most businesses can afford quality design work, but few business know they can. Because many business owners don't have a background in design, it can feel like a nebulous process. Who knows how many hours a project might take? That's where design retainers shine. With a design retainer, you have one fixed monthly fee. That's it. If a project is too far outside the remit of the retainer, your designer should let you know, and discuss your options with you.

3. You have time-critical design needs

To respond to the actions of your competition, and for events, promotions, and service changes, quick work is a necessity. Clients on retainer will often receive prioritized service and responses, and never have to wait for estimates or proposals. You'll get quality work faster.

4. You don't want to have to pay a designer to figure out your company

With a design retainer, you'll be working with a dedicated designer or team, who will learn your company inside and out. They'll get a feel for your target demographic, your ongoing requirements, and your brand style and image. While it may take any designer a bit of time to figure you out, when working with the same team, you'll only have to go through this process once.

5. You need a real professional

The success of your business relies on many factors, but for better or worse, much of your annual turnover rests on better representing your business than your competition represents theirs. To convert leads into clients and passers-by into patrons, professional, results focused design is crucial. Rest assured, your competition has either hired talent, or is planning to do so. Under these circumstances, a hobbyist or staff member who is 'good at photoshop' won't do. With a design retainer, you get a serious professional on call for a predictable monthly cost. So, while a retainer isn't going to completely eliminate your need for project-based work, such as re-brands and web-site builds, It will ensure higher quality, faster work for recurring design needs at a lower cost year round. You'll be able to respond quickly to business changes and challenges, with no surprise costs.

If this sounds like your business, we'd recommend you contact a professional to discuss how a design retainer could benefit your business.

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