First, understand that there is no "project" here (there is no "there" there). The client seeks access to your smarts, pure and simple. (Thus it's not unusual for clients who have engaged you for several successful projects to request you on a retainer basis for the future, but it's unusual—although not impossible—to begin a brand-new client relationship on retainer.)

Contrary to the prior sections of this book, the results are not the key consideration here, although they are important. It's the access to your counsel that is the paramount issue. Do not mistake that fact. Your very relationship and the interactions resulting from it become the value, since there are no specific project results in a true retainer relationship.

Most independent consultants find this hard to comprehend: the mere access to your advice and counsel is of significant value to the client. Hence the degree to which that access is used is minor compared to the comforting knowledge that it is there. You are a life insurance policy, in a sense, and the more important the executive life, the more there is riding on it, the higher the premium payment.

Notice that I haven't said that a retainer represents your time. Nor have I positioned a retainer as the value of your presence. It's the client's opportunity to approach you—to approach you, not for you to approach the client—that is the great value here. In other words, don't worry about the nature of the issue, ...

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