Freelance / SEO Writers: How to Earn More Money by Putting Clients “On Retainer”


Written by Yuwanda Black

Every 12 to 18 months or so, I raise rates at my SEO writing company. This past January when I did it, I moved to a retainer-like option for two of the firm’s most popular services – blog and article writing. With even a few clients on retainer, you can stabilize your income significantly as a freelancer. And let me tell ya, it’s a nice feeling to get “chunks” of money at one time.

How I Moved to a Retainer-Like Fee Model

Now, I wish I was so smart that I could claim that this was a well-thought-out plan. But it wasn’t. I was doing research (as I always do when I change rates) just to see what others were charging. In conducting this research I found a lot of SEO writing services were charging for packages, eg, monthly packages, a certain number of articles packages, etc.

So I thought, “Hmmm, let me try this and see how it’ll work.” Really, it was a simple as that. And lo and behold, the first client of the New Year to sign on with us didn’t even question the “package” option. This surprised me, because I didn’t expect anyone to just “sign on” without asking any questions. But, so far, no one has questioned it.

They’ve had questions about other things (eg, delivery time, payment methods, etc.), but nothing about can they order just one article or one blog post. Speaking of . . .  

How to Sell Your Services on Retainer as an SEO Writer
At New Media Words, we still deal with a lot of clients who use us for “as needed” jobs, eg, they’ll order three blog posts one week, the nothing for a couple of months, then 5 articles one week, then nothing, etc.

These are mostly old clients who’ve been with us for a while. So, I don’t/won’t push them into the new pricing model. Of course, I have let them know about it. But no old ones have signed on to the new pricing models.

I think this has to do with the fact that the vast majority of my firm’s clients are SEO companies, which means they’re not the end client for the content. Usually, we’re writing content for their clients. I haven’t delved much into the why simply because I stay so busy.

With all of that being said, here’s some info on . . .

How to Sell Your Services as a Retainer-Based Freelance SEO Writer

I don’t have a lot of experience putting clients on retainer, but if I was going to do a real push to move my firm all the way to this pricing model, following is how I’d go about it.

1. Sell Your Value: The first thing I’d do is write up a special report detailing the value my firm could bring to clients, eg, how effective content marketing is, the number of firms that are investing in this, how it puts their content marketing on auto-pilot, how using one SEO writing company/writer can give their blog/website a consistent “voice/tone”, etc.

2. Distribute Report: Then I’d make it a free download from my site WITHOUT requiring any sign-up information. This makes it much more likely to be downloaded.

3. Discount: In the report I’d make sure to offer a discount for the first month or two to make it more likely that they’d at least consider giving this a try. If they did, they’d (hopefully) get used to the consistency of having content show up – on time – without them having to ask for it.

Editor Note: Did you catch yesterday’s post on Inkwell Editorial about 10 unusual ways to make money writing on the web? If not, click on over and check it out!

4. Bundle Services: To sweeten the pot, I would throw in an additional service like distributing the content my firm created via their main social media account.

5. Easy Opt Out: Finally, I’d make it easy for clients to cancel the service at any time.

For example, the way things are set up now, if any of my clients want to opt out of the monthly article packages we offer, all they have to do is let us know. We simply bill them for any content we’ve written that hasn’t been paid for — and that’s it.

FYI, we get 50% of all orders up front for content due in the coming month, so we’re never in the hole for more than two articles/blog posts at a time.

Make It Easy – to Say Yes!

The idea with retainers is to make it easy for clients across the board, ie:

Easy to get the content they want, on a regular schedule.

Easy to process the invoice – it’s once a month, as opposed to once every time they order a piece of content.

Easy to opt out: You never want a client to feel stuck, just like you wouldn’t want to be.

By doing all of this, you make it . . .

Easy to say YES! – to becoming their SEO writer / writing firm of choice.

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Working on Retainer as a Freelance Writer

You can use this pricing model for all of your services, or just some of them. I did it with just my most popular services.

Carefully think about your pricing before setting this up, eg, it should be more economical for clients if they order from you like this, not more expensive.

Send out billing on a regular schedule. One of the reasons clients like retainers is that it simplifies a whole bunch of things; pricing is one of them. At my firm, we bill clients at the beginning of the month, and at the end (when the last piece of content for that month has been written and distributed).

Get everything in writing. This ensures that you and the client are on the same page from the beginning.

Examples of Freelance Writing Retainer Agreements & Proposals

FYI, here’s a very helpful article that gives more detail about working on retainer as a freelance writer, including links to what a retainer agreement looks like and how to write a monthly retainer proposal.

Share Your Thoughts

As I don’t have much experience with this, how do you handle this if you’ve worked on retainer before? If you haven’t, share your ideas on how you would you go about doing this.


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How to Become an SEO Consultant

P.P.S.: FYI, did you know that the average salary of search engine optimization writers is $66,000 as of this writing. That’s $15,000 above the median household income in the U.S. right now.

SEO Content Writer Average Salary, Fall 2012

Remember, when you learn how to write SEO content, you learn so much more than this one skill because it gives you the knowledge you need to take control of your financial future.


1 Comment so far

  1. […] look at putting your SEO writing clients on retainer. Even though my SEO writing company still accepts “one off” jobs, the way our pricing […]