How to get the most out of your design retainer

Design retainers are great, you essentially get yourself a remote designer on your team ready to help you with visuals without having to wait in long waiting lists. The agreed amount of hours are usually on a use it or lose it basis, so it’s important to get the most out of your retainer. Retainers can vary depending on who provides them but here are a few tips based on mine…


Get familiar with

Using emails for regular work leads to long, confusing, email threads and a messy inbox. It’s exhausting! Relieve the stress and add a little more structure into the mix by becoming familiar with Trello.

A Trello board is a list of lists, filled with cards, used by you and your team. It’s a lot more than that, though. Trello has everything you need to organize projects of any size.

Private board(s) are set up with multiple users able to join. An unlimited amount of cards can be added to each board, with different details, attachment and people added to them. You can use these cards to request new projects and updates can easily be made – including the relevant team members in the process.

It’s also free, woo!


Plan ahead

Retainer clients are able to jump the waiting list (which is usually 2-3 weeks) for their set amount of hours but my minimum turnaround is 2-4 working days depending on the type of graphics required. The graphics need to be created, drafts sent, reviewed, possibly revised and then final files saved. Whilst I expect a few late briefs it doesn’t mean you should aim to provide the briefs 2 days before they’re required.

It’s good practice to make a plan for the month ahead for the items which can be started in advance. It benefits everyone, I can fit it into my work better and you have it done and dusted well before it’s needed with no mad rush before the deadline – this is how it should be because life takes some unexpected turns (also, I am a freelancer and do not stick to a 9-5 like most companies I work with).

If you have several items which are essentially the same (10 quote based social posts for example) you could provide your briefs on the same day and they can be knocked out in bulk which is much more efficient than starting up 10 different times. Then they’re ready and waiting for you to schedule their use. 


Provide a good brief

The better the brief, the fewer revisions will be needed. A bad brief can lead to wires being crossed, targets not being hit and a generally muddled project. Here are a few items to consider:

  1. Static or motion graphics?
  2. Size(s) and format(s) required
  3. A rough sketch may help some projects, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. They can be really helpful in seeing what you have in mind in terms of placements and layout
  4. Brand guidelines
  5. Imagery and/or video
  6. Copy (check spelling and grammar as it’s usually copied and pasted)
  7. Deadline


Are you thinking of starting a design retainer?

Upgrade your business, remotely! You could get started with a minimum of five hours a month. Send a message to find out more.