Like my expertise on call?
Retainer clients work with me on a regular basis. They receive my services at a discounted rate in exchange for this ongoing commitment.
A retainer is paid at an agreed fixed rate, so they work well if you need consistent(ish) volumes of copywriting, editing or communications support across the month. Retainers are also the perfect way to outsource a regular task (like a newsletter) that you wish would 'magically happen' each week or fortnight.
The possibilities are endless!
#1. Guardian of brand's voice + tone
My client was a marketing manager running a massive rebranding project and needed intensive support for four months. She had a team of younger writers on the content, and an advertising agency on the brand, but needed a strategic eye cast over every new document, to make sure it was in line with the new (evolving) branding.
Her weekly retainer let my client tap into my 20+ years of strategic comms consulting expertise and extensive experience in setting up new brands. We communicated mostly by email, with the occasional lives meeting.
As well as supporting the team with edits, or updating content so it worked with the new brand, I sat in on meetings with the external ad agency. My presence ensured there was one person in the meeting with the sole focus of ensuring any change of direction in words/voice/tone didn't inadvertently create any wordsmithing problems.
#2. Handling overflow for comms managers
In my 20 years as a strategic communications expert I've have held a number of communications manager roles. However, I always inevitably head back to freelancing and remote work - it really suits me and lets me fit a lot in.
My client was a busy communications manager who realised the demands of her job meant she was becoming a bottleneck for her team: she simply didn't have time to do all the content approvals, fix writing that wasn't up to scratch, or provide guidance for younger team members AND do the rest of her job, which required her to be in alot of meetings and working on solving big, strategic problems. It's a classic middle management problem and I was part of the solution.
She hired me for a day a week and threw me whatever the most urgent tasks were needing solving each week. If we were doing this today, we'd probably communicate mostly through Click Up or a Trello Board. Back then, it was email.
Could this option buy you the extra breathing space you need? Or the 4-day work week you've been longing for?
#3. Coaching staff new to communications roles
Perhaps you have a full-time employee who is amazing but is new to their communications role. Or perhaps they've been working in comms for a few years. Now they are ready to step up, but they need some extra guidance and you just don't have the time.
My 15 years of mentoring writers and decades of expertise as a comms manager and consultant means I am the ideal person to help you skill up your newer team members, help build their confidence, and see them fly.
#4. Content solutions without handholding
Postpone hiring a junior. Use that budget on 20+ years of expertise. My weekly retainers run at about the cost of a fulltime junior staff member. What do you need done each week? How would it feel to just have it done right, without needing to coach, mentor or support a younger staff member? How much time could you save for the same output? Me + retainer = a solid creative solution.
#5. Newsletters people will want to read
Have a regular writing task that comes up every week but finding you're too busy to give it your full attention? I can make it magically happen. I'll create a system that is smooth, make your final product engaging and incredibly readable, and make you, your client and your CEO look good!
#6. CEO messages, corporate blog posts, op eds
Find yourself with plenty of ideas for blog posts, op eds or news stories for your website but with no time to write them up?
Have a CEO who is amazing but needs help turning their paragraph long thought bubble into an engaging all staff message?
These are perfect jobs to have me sort out for you on a retainer basis. Some clients use my expertise to kickstart these projects then, down the track when they feel ready, they take it back over themselves. That's fine too!
How I work with retainer clients
Working with me on retainer has many (so many!) benefits, but it's not for everyone.
I work at strange hours. Due to caring responsibilities, I'm often writing between 5am and 8am. (You may or may not be surprised that when I send emails at this time - forgetting to schedule them for a civilised hour - I get plenty of responses from others doing the same!)
What this means is I CAN do meetings in regular business hours but I won't be keen on lots of them. I usually prefer a solid setup meeting at the start of a project, a semi-regular check in to ensure everyone is happy and to discuss anything needing adjusting or explaining, and in between - email. I find it's much faster for everyone. I may also set up your project on a Trello board or Click Up (your preference) so you can easily see where projects/tasks are up to.
I will eat your deadlines for breakfast (delicious)
Those who've worked with me previously, or have been on the receiving end of my call outs for my SMH/AGE stories, will know I'm super organised. As my retainer client, you get the benefit of this every single week!
Naturally, I have all the usual life problems your team members do (slow days, stressful days, days where life seems overwhelming), but as I'm not your employee, you don't need to support me through these, or feel frustrated if you're sneaking a look over the cubicle and it doesn't look like much is happening. That's because you're my client; I have to meet your deadline. If I don't, you're not going to hire me again.
Plus, meeting deadlines is in my DNA. Journos live or die by their ability to do this, and I've had nearly twenty years getting good at it.
We'll find a great rhythm, quickly
Even though we may mostly communicate over email, with the occasional call or meeting, as we work together over time you'll be surprised at the strength of the relationship we develop. Fun fact: I worked with one editor every week for five years and he never spoke to me on the phone. Just email. I'm good at this.
Sorry, no hourly rates
Something else you'll want to know about me is that I don't like hourly rates. I work on project rates and my retainers are typically a weekly price. (More on pricing below.)
Here's how we will work that out. First, we will define the scope of what you need done. Then I'll send you a quote, which you'll either accept or you'll come back to me with questions, and off we go.
If the agreed work takes me longer than I'd thought, that becomes my problem not yours. We'll check in every month to make sure everyone is happy.
We'll sign an agreement for 3-month to start with one-month rolling extensions built in. Each party can terminate the agreement with 30 days notice. Within days we'll be ready to start solving your problems!
How much does it cost?
This is hard to answer because every job is different. To cost your retainer package I'll ask you to send me examples of what you need done and how often, and ask a few questions about process.
But as a VERY rough guide...assume it'll cost you $1000(ish) to $1900(ish) +GST per week. If your budget is smaller than this, you probably need someone with fewer runs on the board (sorry to be blunt!). Although, I would say, don't forget to put a price on something being easy. You WILL find it easy to work with me, I can almost guarantee.
So, back to money...
If you need a straightforward newsletter crafted or a couple of short, tightly written pieces of content each and every week, your retainer cost will be towards the lower end of the above range. If there's more involved, or it's super strategic work that requires lots of chasing/talking to people or time-specific interactions (like meetings, interviews, or coaching), the price moves up accordingly.
Either way, you don't have to pay my taxes, my holiday pay, or keep me inspired to do a good job. You just allocate the tasks, and know it'll all happen with minimal fuss. Bliss!