A retainer contract is an employment agreement based on set hours and predetermined rates. It’s needed when a client wants to hire an independent contractor or freelancer for a set amount of hours, usually per month. The service provider will always be paid the agreed hours, whether or not they are fully met by the end date of the retainer contract.
If you plan on having more than one client, you’ll also want to set up a retainer agreement template. This is basically a draft version of your retainer agreement and preloaded with all the terms and conditions that are your must-haves for every job.
Note: Need a retainer contract now? Sign up today with Bonsai and start creating your own personal retainer agreement template for free.
Where a retainer agreement or contract can be for any specified date, a monthly retainer contract is for a set amount of hours over a period of a month's time. This allows a lot of flexibility for both parties, as every month can be renegotiated and the set hours can be changed based on the projects involved.
A monthly retainer contract is going to benefit you for five main reasons:
Because you’re being contracted to work a set amount of hours and being paid a set amount each month, there’s a lot of flexibility involved with your monthly retainer arrangement. The client is guaranteed the independent contractors time and skills, while the independent contractor is guaranteed cash flow.
A monthly agreement of this type is fundamental in establishing communication and outlining key tasks and projects needed to be completed. Because the client has to be aware of the projects at hand each month, communicating with the independent contractor becomes easy and efficient. This will help to eliminate any conflict and misunderstandings while helping to secure your partnership together for the future.
Also, because of the nature of a monthly retainer agreement, a new one will have to be regularly negotiated. If you plan on having a freelancing career, knowing how to negotiate is going to be a key skill to master. By doing it each month, you’ll be consistently honing and improving this skill.
All your retainer agreements will need a section that outlines the work and services you provide. The descriptions of the work may change with every monthly retainer agreement, so it’s important to be as detailed as possible and only list key responsibilities that apply for that month.
No retainer wants to jeopardise their future work with a client, so being clear and detailed about your responsibilities will also have you meeting deadlines and keeping your client happy.
Give a timeline or scope of delivery for all tasks and projects for the month — both parties will need to decide what these are to determine any deadlines. The client can use this to plan the retainer model for any future work they’ll need to do.
This section will outline what the client pays and when. This can include your retainer or monthly fee, your hourly rate if you go over the set amount of hours, the advance payment, any reasonable attorneys fees that you may have to pay, and any other expenses incurred.
You and your client may want to come to an agreement on any performance-related payments, which can work as an incentive to get the work completed faster.
It’s always a good idea to include a section on any intellectual property and copyright pertaining to the work you produce. This can include permission to use the work for your portfolio after it’s completed and handed over.
Any non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) and non-compete clauses will need to be included here. These are important for both parties so that any confidential information, such as personal details or social security numbers are legally protected to remain private.
Depending on the state or country you’re in, you should always seek legal advice for any applicable or governing laws that may affect an NDA or non-compete agreement.
Even a monthly retainer agreement needs a termination clause. This will usually become effective on a specific date and is agreed upon by the two parties involved. The termination of this agreement isn’t always the end of your working relationship together, however, for legal reasons you’ll need to end the contract after the month is up.
You should also include any reasons why the contract may terminate early, and if written notice is needed.
Determining any other factors involved will always be dependent on the type of work you do and the project involved. This could be around access to tools, liability waivers, or even a specific section around expenses incurred — anything you believe to be necessary to protect your rights.
Below you can find our retainer agreement sample, which will give you an example of what the document will look like.
There's a lot of paperwork that goes into creating your own retainer agreement template. There's time, effort, and even legal fees involved to make sure it's a verified contract. With Bonsai’s retainer agreement template, all the necessary information is there, right off the bat, for retainers to get a fair agreement. It’s also completely vetted by other professionals and legal experts, so you won’t have to spend additional money legally verifying your contract.
Choose our specialized contract template, or start with a blank template. Add your client name, project name, preferred currency.
Next, fill in your basic information. This includes your location (country and state/province), your legal entity (if you operate via an LLC), and your client’s legal name (company or person), and contact details.
Describe the scope of work in as much detail as possible. You can also attach a separate statement of work file here if you wish.
Determine how, and how much, your client will pay you for your services here. You can choose from a flat fee, milestone payments, or hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or per-word rates.
You can also outline payment terms (net 15 days for invoices, for example), late fees, and contract start and end dates here.
You’re ready to review your fully fleshed-out and vetted retainer agreement. If you want to make any edits to the template, you can do it at this stage.
And if you’re happy with the finished contract, you can click “SIGN CONTRACT” to e-sign it with legally binding electronic signatures from both parties.
As we said, it’s simple! Now you can return to your Freelance Dashboard to track when the contract has been delivered, opened, and signed.
A retainer fee is simply an amount of money that an independent contractor will charge their client upfront. It’s an advance payment that helps to secure the services of the retainer for the client. It’s separate from the total amount charged at the end of the contract or project, and in some cases, partially refunded if the services end up costing less.