Working on retainer is something that you may associate with lawyers and freelancers, but this concept is becoming popular in many areas of business. In fact, other professional service providers nowadays are using retainers as a way to secure their business and keep it afloat. But as Ergonomics Consultants, should we be looking to offer these types of agreements as well?

In this post, I’ll be sharing the opportunity of positioning our services via two methods: in-house ergo services vs. a retainer set-up. You'll learn about the benefits of each and whether or not it makes sense to you. This is something that’s going to be incredibly valuable for the workplaces that you serve, so read up and take notes.

Implement a Value Ladder

There are many ways that you can add value to your clients, including offering retainer and in-house services. But before you decide whether to offer full-time in-house support or provide ergonomic services on a retainer basis, there’s one important thing you need to do: build your own value ladder. 

A value ladder (a.k.a. client ascension model) is a system of mapping out all the services you offer in a way that ascends in price, from your lowest value offer to your highest priced service. This allows you to recognize the ascending value of your services. Implementing a value ladder gives your clients clarity on what they need to move forward with first and what other ways you can help them. Generating a steady flow of income can be difficult but using a value ladder strategy sets you up to position your services for the long term

Retainer Setup

A retainer agreement is a contract wherein a client pays for your services in advance. This concept is very common in the legal field—clients would retain an attorney’s services and they have an ongoing commitment to continue to work with you. The same is true with Ergonomics Consultants. Employers want and need ongoing access to somebody with ergonomics knowledge and skills to help keep their workers injury-free. 

There are two types of retainers that Ergonomic Consultants can benefit from: access to your expertise or for specific deliverables per month. The first one requires you to make yourself and your expertise accessible to the client on an ongoing basis. This means that employers pay a retainer fee in exchange for the opportunity to engage with you in the future when ergonomic issues come up. The second option that would work best for your consulting business is offering specific deliverable contracts. For example: you can offer 6 ergonomics assessments per month or 5 ergonomics assessments plus 1 training. 

A retainer setup is beneficial for both you and your clients. From your client’s perspective, a retainer gives them a sense of security because they know that whenever they need you to handle complex return-to-work cases or workers’ comp claims, they’ll always have access to you. Your clients don’t need to look for new consultants every time they need work done, and you don’t either.

When I explained this whole idea of retainer fee, many Ergonomics Consultants said, “It's a great idea, but it's not for me” and “I'm not a lawyer. I don't have all these high-end clients that are looking to get my expertise in time.” You’re going to need a solid plan to encourage your potential clients to hire you on an ongoing basis. That’s why it’s best to reserve your conversations around retainers for clients who’ve already seen success from investing in your ergonomic services.

Convincing a client to hire you on retainer is much easier when you’ve already proven your value and earned their trust.

In-House Support

An in-house ergonomics relationship is placed at a higher value as it requires more of your time and your expertise. I actually worked as an in-house ergonomics expert for an organization for many years. That full-time salary position allowed me to really dive deep into the types of services that I could offer. I’ve managed workplace ergonomics programs. I also did a short stint covering in-house compensable/non-compensable injury management for a year. I also helped that organization develop a return-to-work program to bring their injured employees back to work safely. 

The great thing about being an in-house resource for an organization is that you can really focus on that client’s needs and issues and deliver high-quality work.

 There's an opportunity cost with an in-house ergonomics role.

For instance, if there's another opportunity that comes your way to consult with other clients or expand your network, you’ll have to leave those opportunities alone because you’re working full-time at that one organization. 

I’ve seen many Ergonomic Consultants juggling an in-house ergonomic role while running a consultant business on the side. They’re able to manage this by either getting a subcontractor or hiring an employee to run the in-house ergonomic system of that organization. So that’s something that you might want to consider if you’re planning on being an in-house resource for an organization.

Level Up Your Marketing System

And that’s it! In conclusion, those two options offer similar benefits in the sense that you have guaranteed income, and you don’t have to continually invest in marketing your business in order to reach your clients for the next month.

Your decision on what to offer really just depends on what you want in your business and how you want to spend your time. No matter which method you choose, keep in mind that it must tie back to your value ladder and how you position your services.

The key to getting those clients that you love working with and then convincing them to move forward with you, whether you choose to work on retainer or as in-house support, is to market yourself. 

When you can successfully communicate your message to the employers in your community, not only will you have plenty of opportunities to make a positive impact on that organization, but you’ll also have that guaranteed income that you need as a business owner.

I’m hosting a three-part LIVE training next week, Thursday, December 2nd. If you want to know the tips and hacks on how to start or grow your Ergonomics Services, you don’t want to miss this training! Marketing your business is one of the most critical aspects of your success, so if you haven’t had a chance to sign up, just click here. 


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