Design Retainer: A Good Fit for Your Business?

If you’re a business owner, you’re probably really busy, probably DIYing several aspects of your business, and probably getting tired of being really busy and DIYing everything. Amiright?

The solution? Figuring out which aspects of your business you can outsource. 

If you’re currently:

  1. DIYing the design work and marketing pieces your business needs (and you’re not a designer, nor do you feel comfortable using the programs or confident in the designs you’re creating), or

  2. you have the know-how but design isn’t something you love and it’s eating up a bunch of your time, or

  3. you’re realizing you have a bunch of design pieces that need designed regularly or for a big project (like an ecourse) coming up and you don’t have the time to learn the fancy design programs.

Well, you’re in luck because this post is going to talk about outsourcing design work so you can take some of those DIY tasks off your plate and instead focus more on what you’re passionate about. Today we’re talking about design retainers!

What is a Design Retainer - Blog Post from Gillian Tracey Design


So, what is a design retainer exactly?

According to the New American Oxford Dictionary, a retainer is, “a fee paid in advance to someone in order to secure or keep their services when required.” So, when put in terms of a design retainer, you’re paying a designer each month to be able to use their sweet, professional skills and services when you’re business needs it.

Here are a couple examples of what a design retainer would look like for a couple different businesses:


Let’s say your business is serviced, like a business coach. You could hire a designer on a retainer basis to create blog post and social media graphics, layout content upgrades and ebooks, design a newsletter template, create a pricing PDF for your coaching packages/services, design a welcome packet or workbook for new coaching clients, etc. 



A retainer for product-based businesses could include creating print collateral for packaging, like stickers or labels, designing graphics for products in an Etsy shop, or creating other on-brand marketing materials, like a postcard, product hangtags, info cards to be mailed with the product, thank you cards, business cards, etc.


Online Entrepreneur/Course Creator

A design retainer would definitely come in handy for you if you’re planning on launching an e-course or some other kind of online education component to your business. While you’re focusing on recording videos, writing content, planning webinars, and strategizing your marketing plan, a designer could be creating any visual components of your course. A retainer would cover the creation of opt-in leading up to the launch of your course to snag email leads, PDFs of workbooks/worksheets for the actual course content, webinar slides, video graphics, social media promos, and more. 


Why go with a design retainer?

Having a designer on your team frees up your time to work more on building your business, working with clients, creating more products, or producing more content—basically, all the things you do best and are the whole reason you decided to start a business in the first place.

Hiring a designer, particularly one who understands your brand and how to keep all the collateral consistent, will

  1. ensure all your collateral looks professional, polished, and on-brand

  2. guarantees you a set number of hours each month to work one-on-one with a designer

  3. saves you time so you can get to work on what you’re most passionate about.

But you also want to make sure you’re hiring a designer who will be a good fit for your business and your brand’s aesthetic. Here’s how to find the right designer for your business:



First of all, you need to find designers who offer these kinds of services. Hiring a virtual assistant would also be an option, but make sure they have the design chops to create the kind of high-quality collateral you’re looking for. Branding designers are a great option for a retainer since they eat, sleep, and breathe branding design and consistency. 



Whoever you hire, make sure they’re proficient in InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator. This is important, especially depending on the type of brand collateral pieces you need created. If you need an e-book designed, you’ll want to hire someone who’s proficient in InDesign since that’s the program that is best suited for layout-type work. So, if the person you’re hiring doesn’t know how to use InDesign that could be a sign that you need someone with a broader skill set. 



Take a look at their website to see examples of brand collateral they’ve created for other clients, and also see if there are any testimonials that speak to the quality of work, timeliness of turnaround, etc. If they don’t have examples on their site, go ahead and ask to see past work that show how they’ve created various pieces of on-brand collateral that work seamlessly together. As I mentioned earlier, you want to make sure that a designer can not only deliver high quality work, but also work that will compliment your brand’s visuals and aesthetic.

So, is a design retainer right for your business? I’d love to help answer any more questions you may have about this particular service, so be sure to leave them in the comments below! And if you want to talk one-on-one with a designer to see if this is a good fit for your business, my digital door is always open! Feel free to shoot me an email at, or fill out the contact form here.