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Coming Soon: Manage Retainers in Harvest

We have heard from many customers who need to track retainers in Harvest. You can invoice for a retainer today in Harvest – say, you invoice a client for $5,000. That works, but there’s no easy way to invoice the hours you worked, and draw from that $5,000 and keep track of remaining balance.

Today, we’re excited to announce a new feature to support retainers is coming this week. Here is what it will look like:

Our team has been hard at work on this feature for well over a month. The goal is to make it simple to track retainers, while at the same time offer enough functionality and information to make it useful.

How Will The Feature Work?

To start, there will be a new Invoices > Retainers section. You can create a retainer by creating a retainer invoice, and when you collect a payment on that invoice, the amount will go into the retainer funds.

To invoice the client later and draw from the retainer, you will simply create an invoice for the project hours, like you normally would. Harvest will show you a list of retainers to draw from. All you need to do is to choose the correct retainer, and Harvest will automatically draw from the funds, and update the retainer balance.

We’ll let you know when the feature is available later this week, and we’ll have a video showing exactly how to utilize it.

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This was posted in New Features, Online Invoicing.
  • This sounds great, and will no doubt be awesome for those using retainers. But can I ask a clarification, for those who may see a related (but different use)? Or maybe we just don’t use that name but it’s the same concept.

    I offer an option for prepayment for hours (at a discounted rate), so this has been challenging to deal with in Harvest. I’ve used the project budget feature to track the pre-purchase, then when hours are used I’ve created an invoice and marked it sent (but never really sent it). Finally I’ve used the “project status” report to try to stay on top of who has what hours left . Perhaps this new feature is the way to solve that problem?

    But when you say “Harvest will draw from the funds”, do you just mean in terms of marking down against the dollar total (received)? As opposed to actually moving money in any real way? And would you agree that what I’m doing is what the retainer feature is intended for?

    Perhaps you can address this here (as a follow-up comment) or in the announcement or video about the feature later this week. Thanks.

  • Matthieu Beauchemin on July 22, 2010

    We’ve got a very similar type of situation, but we mostly talk in terms of hours remaining “in bank”, not dollars remaining in the retainer. It would thus be helfpul if, on the invoice, there was a way to let the client know they’ve still got X hours in bank, rather than X dollars.

    I guess this would also work if you are planning to add the option to create a report based on the retainer, but that would bring another problem for us since we’d need to translate the report into French, which is not currently possible.

  • cyndibrown on July 23, 2010

    YAY! Dealing with pre-payments @ a discount and monthly retainers has been sooooo challenging to deal with in Harvest. The solution your team came up with seems like a good one. But it would be nice to be able to customize the language on the new invoice (for those who don’t actually call their transactions ‘retainers’ — even if they behave that way in Harvest. But it would be nice to have the option to show a report of hours left or dollars left. Clients often ask for a snapshot of where we stand financially at a given point in time. Some want to know how much time they have left. Some want to know what they’ve spent so far? Etc. From an internal stand point, I like my team to know how much time remains on a project — so we don’t go over budget for things we pre-biil with a price on the whole project. (Clients pay in advance for services — before the work can begin. Or sometimes they give us a deposit toward the work, so we can buy materials and get started without being out-of-pocket. I think this new feature will help a lot with these kinds of things. Hope there will be a tutorial on the various ways we can use the new ‘tool’ — Like one for each of my scenarios!! Thanks so much for continuing to strive for excellence.

  • Awesome. Been waiting for this.

  • I got really excited when I saw this but I just tried it and I’m sad to say there are major drawbacks:

    1. Serious: I made a retainer for $10,000, marked it paid. I then created an invoice for $4,000 drawn from the retainer. The amount on the invoice due is $0 and it is immediately marked paid. But on the Payments Received Report it shows $14,000. We didn’t receive $14,000, we only received the $10,000. This is very bad. We use these reports to determine how much money we made for Taxes and Profit sharing.

    2. On the second invoice (drawing from the retainer) it doesn’t show remaining amount left in the retainer. That, for me, would seem to be the most important piece of info the client would like to see: how much pre-paid money is left?

    3. I cannot “draw from” a retainer unless it is paid. This does not follow real life, where we bill a client up front and then need to track hours against that pre-paid amount right away *even if they haven’t actually paid the pre-paid invoice yet*. Need to be able to draw from a draft or unpaid Retainer invoice (rather than bill a client twice).

    I love the idea, It’s almost there but it just seems a little half-baked at this release. Sorry :(

  • Thanks for all the feedback, guys.

    @Jessica – #1 is fixed. Thanks for spotting the bug and sorry for the trouble. #2 Yes, we agree, and we’ll figure out how to display that info.

    As for #3: from the customers we spoke to, and from the rules of how retainers work normally – the original retainer payment should come way before you start invoicing for your hours. As in, the retainer invoice should’ve been sent before you even put in any hours, and you should’ve received the payment way before you have any hours to invoice to draw from it.

    We’ll keep an eye out and see if there are any customers with similar use case as you.

  • Wow, thanks for the quick response! I really appreciate it :)

  • Our team love using Harvest! I’m really intrigued by the Retainer function as I’m desperately trying to streamline and manage client billing/tracking through Harvest as well. The only this is that our studio works on a fixed fee basis. Charging a deposit with progress billings along the way. The retainer structure is close to doing what I need it to, however, it won’t let you draw against the retainer before hours are logged to the project. Is there a way to draw from the retainer (our total fixed fee) to invoice the deposit? If you could reply, I would really appreciate it. I’ve spent all day trying to make it work.


  • Hi Jenn, right now, you can only draw from a retainer with project-hour-based invoices. I’m afraid as it is, it won’t work for you – but we’ll record your work flow as a future improvement to the retainer feature. Feel free to write us to elaborate on this:

  • Hi,

    We set up a retainer when all we needed was a reccuring – how do I delete a retainer??



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