Monday, September 23, 2019

The Monthly Retainer: A Smart Way to Hire a Freelance Copywriter

I've mentioned before that there's more than one way to hire a freelance copywriter in San Antonio, Austin, or anywhere else in the world. It's a simple matter to engage a freelancer whenever you need a particular piece of marketing content written. But is that "piecework" approach the smartest way to go? Not always, I would argue. Many organizations can enjoy some important benefits from signing their writers to monthly retainer agreements instead. Let's examine why you might want to pursue this method of outsourcing your content writing needs.

If you've ever engaged outside professionals by paying them a set amount of money in advance, then you already have some idea of how retainer agreements work. If you need a lawyer who bills $100 per hour, for example, you might pay that lawyer $1,000 to do 10 hours of work for you. If the project at hand takes exactly 10 hours to complete, you've gotten your money's worth to the penny. If your lawyer needs a couple more hours to finish the job, you might receive an additional bill for $200 before work can continue. If the work took less than 10 hours to perform, you might be given credit for 2 hours of future work. Or if you're hiring the lawyer on a monthly basis, the extra money you paid can be justified as the cost of guaranteeing the lawyer's availability for that month.

A monthly retainer for a copywriter works pretty much the same way. You agree to pay the writer X amount of dollars at the beginning of each month; that money then guarantees that your writer is available to you for X number of hours. If you need more hours of the writer's time before the end of the month, you can purchase them separately, either right then and there or on a supplemental invoice at the beginning of the following month.

This arrangement works just fine when your writer charges by the hour -- but what do you do if your writer charges flat per-project rates? I've always used the per-project pricing method myself, since it gives my clients a firm idea of exactly what they can expect to pay for any given job. (It's also great for marketing agencies, since they can easily plug my numbers into their bids on larger marketing projects.) You can still use a monthly retainer agreement with this kind of writer; it's just a matter of pre-purchasing a total dollar amount instead of a total number of hours. You've now secured that writer's services to produce as much work as that total dollar amount will cover. If you need more writing that month, you can purchase another job or two at whatever fixed rates the writer normally charges.

Why would you put a copywriter on a monthly retainer when you could simply purchase individual jobs at the same rates, without any risk of overpaying? There are actually a couple of good reasons:

Guaranteed availability: Remember, you've bought those jobs on the condition that they will also hit your inbox that month. Your writer has already taken the money, so your writer has to deliver per the terms of the agreement. You don't have to ask yourself that dreaded question, "Gee, I wonder if he's gonna be available for this one?" The retainer ensures that we're on the hook to give you what you need, when you need it.

Minimal invoicing: Imagine being a marketing agency who needs to produce a wide range of marketing content for multiple clients each month. Now imagine having to process a fresh invoice and make a fresh payment for each and every one of those jobs. Doesn't sound like a smart use of your time and effort, does it? With a monthly retainer, you pay one bill at the beginning of each month. If you ordered additional work the previous month, you may also receive one other, smaller invoice. Any organization that expects to run through a fair amount of content each month will find this arrangement much smoother sailing.

Limited Risk/Obligation: Of course, there's always the possibility than you might not need or want the same volume of marketing content 6 months or a year from now. Fortunately, you don't have to lock yourself into a long-term retainer agreement. Some writers (including me) offer the option of a month-to-month arrangement. This setup allows you to say, "Okay, this is the last month we're going to need a retainer," and then go back to ordering individual jobs as needed the following month.

Ready to learn more about the process of hiring a freelance copywriter on a monthly retainer agreement? Contact me and let's discuss the details!