Retainers vs. Projects

Retainers vs. Projects

There are many ways to make money in the virtual assistant business, and how you do it can look very differently. In this post, we’ll be discussing retainers versus projects and which one may be right for you.


So, let’s talk retainers first. A retainer means a client keeps you on for a time period that is recurring. So, you stay with them for a few months or until you or they want to end the relationship. If you are on retainer you are probably doing similar services every month for them such as social media management where you schedule a few posts a week. 

Or, you may help manage their systems, so you help them set up anything unique for their sales funnel or design their pages. Just because a retainer is recurring does not mean that the task is set in stone. Your work could be determined by what the client needs at that time.

The Good Part of Retainers 

Recurring income is the number one best thing about retainers.  It is stable. You can rely on that money coming in every single month. That is why retainers are nice especially when you are first starting out because it is hard to get multiple clients in the beginning, and having one that is recurring is helpful. 

Another great aspect of having retainer clients is that you will become more experienced as a virtual assistant by having recurring tasks. This gives you time to really practice and get stuff right. 

And, last but not least, retainer clients are more likely to leave great testimonials and reviews for you so that hopefully you can bring in more clients.

 The Bad Part of Retainers 

Unfortunately, retainers can also limit you.  You more than likely have a set price for your client each month or a set number of hours you work for them. This creates a limit to the amount of money you are making.  

You also have a limit on how many clients you can have per month. You may not be able to keep track of five different retainer clients. Your limit may be only three per month. Can you pay your bills with only three retainer clients? 

Another negative aspect of retainer clients is the constant communication back and forth. Retainer clients can ask you to do basically whatever they need at that moment. So, you’re probably on the phone with them or emailing them everyday. That can get old. 

The tasks that you are asked to do could also change day by day and they may be tasks that you don’t enjoy doing at all, but because it’s a retainer client you have to do it anyways. 


Unlike retainers which are recurring, project clients usually only want one thing to be done for them. They usually are not hourly, meaning you quote for the entire project up front. Projects are harder to get when you’re first starting out because you don’t have those testimonials and social media proof yet. 

But, once you do gain experience and grow that testimonial list, you can start getting projects. 

What I love about Projects 

Projects are a great way to make a lot of money fast. You almost always charge a higher price for project type work than you would for a retainer client. And, projects can be done quickly and you can move on to something else. 

Another great aspect of projects is that you know exactly what is expected of you so there is no need for constant communication with the client. Also, once the project is done, you are done with that client. Yes, you might do another project for them, but if you find a client that is just a nightmare to work for, guess what? Once the project is over, so is the relationship. 

Projects also give you opportunities to pick and choose what you want to do. You can accept projects that you feel excited about and something that will help you learn and grow as a virtual assistant.  

The Downside of Projects 

Projects can also be tough though, because you must keep getting clients and keep marketing. Once that two week project is done, you are also done getting paid. There is nothing recurring about it. 

This means you have to market yourself and your business a lot more because you have to constantly bring in new leads in order to make more money. 

So, Which One Should you Choose? 

You may be thinking – “wait, so which one should I choose?”. The great news is you don’t have to do either or, you can do both. 

My best advice is to try both and see which one you like best. If you want to do a mixture of both, you can. If you hate working with the same clients over and over, just do projects. Figure out what works best for you and run with it. 

Was this helpful? Let me know below and don’t forget to join my Facebook group, Become a Tech VA, for more community, tips, and trainings.

– Jess

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