What percentage do you require from a client for a retainer?

MIXMASTERMACHOM

DJ Extraordinaire
Oct 16, 2011
1,138
60
I know some call it deposit and I call it retainer. That's what our contract states. I set the retainer to be 50% of the full amount to do the event for a client. Do you think that's fair? I'm asking this because I have questioned if that's too much? Should it be a lower percentage? What are your thoughts on this? What works best for you?

I thought of this also because of the issue that was talked about in another thread about when to request final payment.
 

DJ Ricky B

DJ Extraordinaire
Mar 9, 2015
3,868
36
MIx, since your prices are pretty low for events, your clients should not have a issue with paying 40% to 50% up front as a deposit. Very lowest I would go with in your price range is 25%.

I was 50% FOR YEARS up until the last 5 years or so. Back when my booking were almost all below $1,000 I had no problem getting 50% , and I never felt that asking that much was hindering my sales in any way. ...I started to feel that I was asking too much of a deposit amount when I was quoting above $1,000 regularly. Booking a $500 birthday party and getting $250 as a deposit was quite easy. Booking a $850 wedding, and getting $425 deposit was very typical.

I went to 33% for a while, and now I am down to a set amount of $200 to $350 depending on if it's a party, or a wedding, and if it's a budget package, or higher price package.

I don't know if it was the higher price point, or that my clients expectations were changing (or both), but I got the feeling from clients that asking 50% up front was 'asking for too much" in order to book around 2014. So I went down to 33%, and that seemed to work for a while. And now I just do set amounts.

I feel at $350, if the wedding cancels, $350 is enough to walk away with for doing very little work up until that point. ...Smaller parties are usually booking less than 75 days in advance, so the lower deposit feels justified in those situations, and it's very rare that a birthday party cancels once they have paid a deposit on it any way. I don't think I have ever had a birthday or anniversary party cancel before. I have had weddings cancel though.
 
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steve149

Veni, Vidi, Lusi
Staff member
Sep 26, 2011
33,151
Prospect, CT
MIx, since your prices are pretty low for events, your clients should not have a issue with paying 40% to 50% up front as a deposit. Very lowest I would go with in your price range is 25%.

I was 50% FOR YEARS up until the last 5 years or so. Back when my booking were almost all below $1,000 I had no problem getting 50% , and I never felt that asking that much was hindering my sales in any way. ...I started to feel that I was asking too much of a deposit amount when I was quoting above $1,000 regularly. Booking a $500 birthday party and getting $250 as a deposit was quite easy. Booking a $850 wedding, and getting $425 deposit was very typical.

I went to 33% for a while, and now I am down to a set amount of $200 to $350 depending on if it's a party, or a wedding, and if it's a budget package, or higher price package.

I don't know if it was the higher price point, or that my clients expectations were changing (or both), but I got the feeling from clients that asking 50% up front was 'asking for too much" in order to book around 2014. So I went down to 33%, and that seemed to work for a while. And now I just do set amounts.

I feel at $350, if the wedding cancels, $350 is enough to walk away with for doing very little work up until that point. ...Smaller parties are usually booking less than 75 days in advance, so the lower deposit feels justified in those situations, and it's very rare that a birthday party cancels once they have paid a deposit on it any way. I don't think I have ever had a birthday or anniversary party cancel before. I have had weddings cancel though.
Just remember that even if you classify it as "non-refundable deposit", or "retainer" or even "payment" .. there needs to be some parity of the amount with the work done pre-event or you'll need to convince someone of the value of you holding a date .. or you may not be able to keep it all.

Ideally, you want some amount low enough that it can be explained in court (if needed) and high enough to make someone think about cancelling. No right answer for everyone.
 

DJ Ricky B

DJ Extraordinaire
Mar 9, 2015
3,868
36
Just remember that even if you classify it as "non-refundable deposit", or "retainer" or even "payment" .. there needs to be some parity of the amount with the work done pre-event or you'll need to convince someone of the value of you holding a date .. or you may not be able to keep it all.

Ideally, you want some amount low enough that it can be explained in court (if needed) and high enough to make someone think about cancelling. No right answer for everyone.

I agree. Also, I was getting that kind of feeling from some of my client interactions in the past when I asked for 50% deposit on a $1250+ wedding that was 9+ months out. Nobody ever told me that they felt asking for 50% up front was too much, BUT...I had read a number of people in forums at the time say that they thought that wedding vendors asking for 50% down was asking too much, and felt it was rediculous. ...I also did not book a few weddings and thought it could be because I was asking too much deposit too far out.

33% seemed to fair better for a while...then I thought, just keep things simple....Every day should really have the SAME deposit price so to speak to hold the date. ...Just because one wedding is $2,000 doesn't mean I should get a $1,000 deposit, and have a right to that amount if they cancel 6 months out. ...and I don't want to have to return $1,000 either in that situation.
 
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MIXMASTERMACHOM

DJ Extraordinaire
Oct 16, 2011
1,138
60
Thanks so far for the feedback. I love the idea instead of a percentage, just make it a certain amount for the retainer and be done with it. Either they can pay that much or look for another DJ to do their event. The saying is K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid. Never thought of just having a set price depending on the type of event the owner client is having.

Now the other question that causes a lot of controversy on here is how do you get a person to pay up after you get the retainer money? My partner mentioned getting me a Square account I think it is. He mentioned a device that you can take a payment with a CC. Sounds great to me. As far as the service fee, I say if you're charging enough you should just eat the fees. The way I see it someone pay you a thousand dollars or more you should just eat the fees. I say be thankful they are agreeing to pay you that much. Certainly there a bunch of Djs who would love to get paid 1k or more for a job. I know I would and please no sly remarks.
 

djtaso

DJ Extraordinaire
Apr 4, 2017
4,487
32
NJ
www.djtaso.com
Retainers are either check or credit card. On $300 a square processing fee is $9 which I’ll easily sacrifice for a quick and secure form of payment. 3/4 of my retainers are paidwith credit. Final balances are in the thousands of dollars, so I won’t eat up $100-$150 per event on fees. The client usually pays with a personal check mailed ahead of time, or certified check or cash upon their arrival to the event. Almost always it’s paid by check ahead of time. Only 1-2 pay by credit card and are willing to pay the fee.
 
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adj2ent

DJ Extraordinaire
Oct 20, 2006
1,131
59
Long Island NY
Most of what I do is universities, colleges & county orgs so receive I checks, about 25% coming in before, the rest after the events. For individuals, 25% is due on signing the rest due at the event. In some cases I do require payment in full if I feel something is questionable. Usually those are events given by a group or promoter. Most of my clients are referrals or recurring clients. So, taking on a new client who doesn’t know one of my clients already of belong to a association or group I am in Is rare.
 
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