At CIFL, we've gone through a 3-phase progression of pricing models:
- Project-based (circa 2017-18): I'd build a bunch of custom Sheets + BigQuery analysis templates, then spend long stretches of time traveling, camping and hiking. If you're looking for long stretches of time off, tough to beat project-based work - but it's no way to build a team.
- Retainer-based (2018-2019): We offered the 'Agency Data Pipeline' as our only service - a 3-6 month commitment, where the CIFL team built + maintained our clients' data pipelines, for a single flat retainer fee. Great business model, but we left a lot of money on the table by requiring the long-term commitment.
- Sprint-based (2020): We offer 3-week development sprints for $5k flat (at current rates), then offer maintenance + support for a discounted monthly retainer (~$2k / month). We do not require clients to commit to any size of contract up front - this allows them to get up and running, and build confidence in our partnership over time. So far, it's been great for business, and retention has been strong.
If you're starting your data consulting business today, I highly recommend offering sprint-based pricing (with maintenance retainers) up front.