The Natural Retainer Upsell Email

Written by Robert Williams

Client: “What if I need to update the copy on my website?”

You: “For small maintenance updates like that it would probably be best to do some sort of small retainer. For example, some of my clients pay $X00 every month to have me on call for up to 4 hours. They have that time reserved just for them no matter what.

Otherwise, I can still do it (at my normal $X00 hourly rate) — but you would just need to wait in my queue if I have other clients.

For companies of your size I usually recommend option 1 because I can sometimes be booked weeks or months in advanced, and in that case, updates wouldn’t be as quick to get done. The small retainer is discounted so it’s a better deal.

Why this email works…

When you send this off it radiates professionalism. You’ve not only answered their question, you’ve taken the initiative in providing two options for them to choose from.

Not only does this email position you as the in-demand freelancer you are, you also get to remain flexible to the needs of your client.

It’s great to have a handful of clients paying you thousands of dollars every month in retainers because you can count on that revenue coming in.

In fact, recurring revenue like this is a great way to kill the feast or famine cycle in your business.

Like I mentioned above, one of the key mistakes freelancers make is failing to recognize these opportunities completely. When they arise we’re unfamiliar with them so we miss our chance.

Instead of looking for a new client this week what if you focused on making more money from your current clients?

Specifically what if you tried to create a recurring revenue stream that you could depend on even during dry spells? Since you would be focusing on clients you already trust, this would also mean happier outcomes. But how?

Value comes in a lot of forms. It’s easy to think that you create and define value for your clients. That’s false. The truth is that your client defines what is valuable.

It’s your job to identify how you can deliver that value. Sometimes we miss out on these opportunities. Sometimes we don’t even recognize them as value delivery opportunities.

For example, when a client asks what it will cost to make a change to their website sometime in the future, what they’re really asking is for you to provide value in a new way.

They want to feel they can trust you. They want to know you won’t disappear the minute you hand off their project. They want a gaurantee you won’t leave them out to dry.

When we don’t pick up on these desires and address them directly, our clients suffer. That’s why you have to read between the lines of what a client is asking you.

A sign you’ve failed to do this is when a question appears annoying. You’re a professional, of course you’re not going to leave your clients hanging! Of course you want repeat business! Of course you’re going to take care of them.

But a client doesn’t know these things intrinsically. We have to spell it out. This creates a perfect opportunity to upsell a retainer agreement because you can position the retainer as a premium way of ensuring you’re available to them if they need help.

Written by Robert Williams

I help underwater design agencies fix staff shortages quickly and come back up for air. I run Folyo, a private referral community of product designers, and I host Freelance, a podcast about how to work independently.

Latest podcast episode

Get more articles like this one about fixing staff shortages in your business:

Robert Williams, Owner, Folyo

Hi, I'm Rob. I help underwater design agencies fix staff shortages quickly and come back up for air.

I started Folyo, a private referral community of product designers, and I host Freelance, a podcast about how to work independently featuring companies like Basecamp, ConvertKit, Highrise and more.