The basis of all great service work is good relationships.
Think about your personal life. When you hire somebody like a car mechanic, accountant, or plumber, and you find someone that delivers great work, you keep going back to them.
In some cases, you might even keep them on a retainer, like with a lawyer, therapist, or accountant.
There’s a lot of great reasons to invest in a monthly retainer agreement with your web developer or web agency.
If you find a great web developer, chances are you’ll want to keep working with them.
Businesses go through a lengthy process to hire a web consultant or web agency for large projects, and the next step should be to keep that relationship going.
But once you find somebody you like, someone that you trust, someone that you know is going to deliver good work consistently, you don’t always have big projects.
The way a lot of web development and design projects work is there’ll be a large project at the beginning, and then smaller tasks that are ongoing after that. These ongoing tasks need attention, too. So how do you ensure they will have time on their schedule for your ongoing tasks?
Monthly service agreements or ongoing web design retainers are the answer.
Awesome web developers and consultants are always in high demand. Time is a finite resource. The top web consultants I know are consistently booked out months in advance. If you’re dealing with the web designer that’s really good at what they do, it’s in your best interest to have some sort of monthly retainer agreement with them. You might not need to retain a lot of your web developer’s time each month, but it needs to be enough to cover your ongoing needs.
One misstep I see a lot of business owners make is they find a great web consultant, but then they refuse to commit to a monthly retainer, even a small one.
As a result, the consultant will book up their time, because there’s no sense waiting around for work that may or may not happen. Then the company owner wonders why the web developer doesn’t have time that month for their ongoing initiatives. Bear in mind: digital agencies, web consultants, and web developers everywhere sell their time on a first come, first serve basis. If you do not retain a bit of their time and attention each month, you risk going to the back of their queue.
The smallest ongoing retainer I offer here at Lockedown Design is for up to two hours of work each month. For many small businesses that have already completed a large web project, this is a good fit. For growing businesses, start-ups, or technology companies, a larger monthly retainer makes more sense.
There a couple of reasons that ongoing web design retainers are good for everyone.
For the client business, it ensures consistency. It’s very tough to start a project with one web developer, and then have pick up with another one in the middle of ongoing initiatives. As you may already know, your website is never done – it is always evolving and growing to fit the needs of the business.
Having an ongoing relationship with a consultant or agency is the best way to make sure your initiatives are following a linear path to success.
For the web consultant or agency, a monthly retainer means you are as invested in their success as much as they are in yours.
Few people realize that the number one priority for a web development shop is to stay in business so that they can continue serving their customers far into the future. But every year, there are agencies that fold, or freelancers that have to go find a day job at a web studio.
There is nothing more stressful for a client business to go through the process of trying to find a new web consultantcy to work with. There are many sub-par web developers out there, so finding a good one is like finding a gold nugget in a heap of trash.
Why do businesses avoid committing to ongoing web design retainers?
I have several theories about this.
In some instances, the business may have been accustomed to hiring the first person they Googled, or the first college student that applied to the job. If you do not know how to evaluate a web designer, it can be difficult to discern the difference between one and another. The criteria for hiring for many small businesses may be who is most available or the lowest price.
Here’s the thing about hiring a freelancer who is immediately available: Why don’t they have any work lined up?
In web design and web development, you usually get what you pay for.
The experience and effectiveness of a web agency or consultant usually lines up with their pay scale.
But for many businesses, who are not web-savvy, choosing a web developer is a difficult process. When you are unsuccessful at finding a quality web consultant once or twice, it sours you on the experience for years to come.
It’s then little wonder why business owners are reluctant to put a web consultant on a monthly retainer, even if they desperately need to.
Some businesses may opt to hire the boss’ son/daughter/niece/nephew. While it may be more convenient to have these people close at hand, it generally takes a lot longer to get a project done, and the results are almost never as effective as those of a professional. There are exceptions to this rule, but they are extremely rare.
The main issue with hiring a family member to maintain the site is that they don’t have the time to keep up with the changes in online marketing and web development that a professional does. What worked five years ago is not what works today. Keeping up with changes in web development and SEO is a full-time job, and in-sourcing it to a family member doesn’t usually work out in the long-term.
The same thing goes for hiring a college intern to take over maintenance of your site. They often lack the real-world experience to keep your site running at peak efficiency. Having a warm body in a seat is not the same as delivering consistent results.
Another reason that businesses may balk at monthly web design retainers is that they want to keep one person on staff, under control, and as an employee rather than a trusted advisor.
These type of prospects are often a bad fit for high-end consultants, because the focus is not on long-term goals, but rather on having a subordinate instead of a partner.
A good web development consultant is worth their weight in gold to your business over the long-term. And because freelancers or solo consultants are self-employed, they are actually more cost efficient than even low-wage employees.
Remember that independent web consultants are more than outsourced employees. They are independent businesses, and they are strategic partners, there to help you improve your business, if you let them.
One way to ensure your web consultant can help you out each month is to ask if they offer a monthly service retainer, and see if an ongoing monthly retainer makes sense for your business.
While mediocre web designers are everywhere, specialized web consultants that drive results, like an SEO consultant, are rare.
If you’ve gone to the trouble to find one of the good ones, and you have ongoing web development tasks, it only makes sense to keep the relationship going with a monthly web development retainer.
Consider it an investment in the ongoing success of your business.