Ongoing Agreement Structure

As of 2021 we have started to shy away from one-off or a-la-carte hourly projects. This is because we focus on building long-term, quality relationships in which we can be truly accountable to the needs of our clients and thinking as a strategic partner for them.

Therefore, after a successful Diagnostic, we tend to set up an ongoing agreement with clients and work on a six or twelve-month plan where we can have a significant effect on their business.

The billing structure we like to use is to have a fixed monthly “Core Retainer”, and to charge on hourly for projects outside of that retainer, such as new websites or fixes and features within existing websites.

The Core Retainer includes all the work we do to evaluate the client’s needs and plan solutions for them. This is called “Strategic Account Management”. The client can ask us for insight on new features, or to think through a business problem you would like to address, without incurring any billable hours outside of the fixed retainer fee. Once we get a grasp of what will be necessary, we will propose ways to proceed through Planned Maintenance hours, or a separate SOW. Generally the Core Retainer and Planned Maintenance agreements are contained within a single SOW that defines the terms of the relationship.

We reserve time in our schedule to handle the anticipated needs of our Core Retainer clients. We also provide a 20% discount on our a-la-carte hourly rates.

The Core Retainer also includes “Emergency Maintenance” – the client’s security blanket. This means that they know that if there are any problems with the site, we are on call to fix them. They never have to wait for fixes based on our schedule. We include automated monitoring of the sites so most of the time we should know of a problem before they do, but they can always call us and we’re committed to responding promptly.

Core Retainer

Fixed monthly agreement

  • Strategy and pre-project planning work
  • Regular reporting on work in progress
  • 20% Discount vs. our a-la-carte rates
  • On-call availability for emergency response
  • Accountability to keep the client’s site(s) up and running
  • Automated monitoring of client’s site(s) so we know of any issues as soon as possible
  • The client Strategist’s availability to attend a company/leadership meeting with your team once a quarter to make plans for the websites
  • Reserved time in our schedule for anything you engage us for

What about non-website clients?

Planned Maintenance

(Billed Hourly)

  • Regular, ongoing site growth & changes
  • Codebase version upgrades
  • Server maintenance
  • Helping with third party tag implementation and maintenance
  • Small new features
  • Related Project Management
  • Etc.

Separate SOWs

  • New websites
  • Large features within existing websites

We offer the same relationship model for clients for whom we are not working on a website – we will vary the terms that we use in those cases, and potentially the cost since emergency maintenance may not be required.


The fees for the core retainer vary based on how much work the client anticipates wanting to do within the relationship. Our minimum as of April 2022 is $1,000 per month, which includes up to 4 hours of strategy work and up to 4 hours of emergency maintenance per month.

In Planned Maintenance, our default rate would be $200/hr which is a 20% discount from our normal a-la-carte rate of $250/hr.

What Goes Where?


Clients and staff often ask whether a given type of work should fall into the client‘s Core Website Retainer or Planned Maintenance. Here is a quick guide:

The work likely falls under the Core Retainer if...

  • If it is unclear who should be doing what and we are doing research/conversations to figure that out.
  • We are doing weekly reporting or backlog grooming
  • We are fixing an urgent defect or problem with a site

The work is likely Planned Maintenance if...

  • The work has already been planned and clarified and we are now getting it done. This includes project management to facilitate getting that work done.
  • If the work has a specific separate SOW that was written as a result of Core Retainer work

Harvest Setup

Setting up our

in Harvest is a little tricky, but with a few key conventions is very straightforward. There should be two Harvest projects per Ongoing Agreement. These projects are not specific to any given time period, and last as long as our relationship with the client lasts.


Core Retainer

  • Should be a fixed-cost project
  • The total cost should be equivalent to the client’s Core Retainer fee multiplied by the anticipated length of the contract.
    • Ex. If the client has a fee of $2k/mo, and their contract runs from January through June, the Core Retainer “Total Fees” should be $12k.
    • As we create invoices agains the Core Retainer each month, Harvest will deduct that amount from the outstanding fees displayed on the project. Once we have completed the contract, the outstanding fees will be $0.
    • If the contract term is amended, update the associated fees accordingly
  • There are two standard tasks within the core retainer project:
    • Strategic Account Management (Or similar)
    • Emergency Response (if applicable)
  • You may want to add other tasks within the project based on the nature of the client and what we do for them within Core Retainer, as specified in the SOW
  • The tasks should have estimates per task. The estimate should be the “cap” from the SOW on each type of service within Core Retainer.

Planned Maintenance

(Sometimes called Planned Creative Services or similar)

  • Should be an hourly project
  • The hourly cost should be whatever is specified in the SOW
  • The budget should reflect the stated anticipated budget from the SOW and should recur monthly