What it means to work on retainer as a virtual assistant & get a steady income

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We talk a lot on this blog about how you can make money from home, and one stay at home job that I’ve noticed has been really growing is a virtual assistant.  It is a wonderful way to work remotely from your home for other businesses and entrepreneurs and do specific tasks such as social media management.

But how exactly do you collect money when you work as a virtual assistant?  Well, a great way to do this – and to keep getting in a steady income – is by working on retainer.

So what does working on retainer?

So, basically a retainer is a contract you will enter in with your client what you’ll do is you’ll be able to bill your Client for a fixed amount upfront and then track times towards the Retainer.  At the end of the month, if you end up working more hours than was originally covered in the Retainer, you can send out a one-time invoice (on the flip side, if you end up working less hours, you wouldn’t have to say pay back your client; the hours would just start over the next month).

Why is working on retainer beneficial?

There are a lot of great reasons for you to work on retainer as a virtual assistant:

  • Steady Pay: This is by far to me the best reason to bill clients this way.  It’s much harder to budget for your every day life and make a living if you are just doing one time gigs because you won’t be able to really have money you can count on each month.  You may have one good month here, but then a bad month there and so on.  But if you have clients on retainer, you can start budgeting for every day items.
  • Simpler Pay Structure: As a virtual assistant, you may be doing multiple things for clients, and having every item individually billed can get quite complicated, both to you and explaining back and forth with your client.  By having a very simple, direct billing method, it saves you and your client time.
  • Easier to Sell to Clients: Not only does the simpler pricing make it easier to sell to clients, but you can also offer a discount for your services if you are on retainer and bring your hourly rate down.  But it’s still worth it to you to do that because of all the time you save not having to spend time collecting multiple payments and having the peace of mind of having a steady income.
  • Core Clients: It is easier to keep working with the same clients then constantly having to work with new clients who may or may not be difficult.  By getting into these agreements with customers you already know and who already know (and like) your work, you won’t have to be so dependent on getting new clients.

How Do I Get Started?

Luckily, this is one of the easiest parts, because you can use FreshBooks.  FreshBooks is a (pun intended) refreshingly great option when it comes to billing customers.  Their software is easy to understand and they offer a lot of tutorials that help you.  You’ll be able to use their software to easily bill customers on retainers and send out invoices if you have to bill customers for extra hours, and since it is also an all-in-one accounting software, you’ll be able to use it to do the books and it will just make things a lot easier for you in general.  And it’s very affordable, too, given everything they offer.


Working on retainer is definitely a great option for billing customers if you are a virtual assistant, and if you want to do so you should use FreshBooks.