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New Feature: Manage Retainers in Harvest

We’re excited to announce that you can now manage retainers in Harvest. Here’s a short video of how the feature works:

Create Your First Retainer

  1. Go to the new Invoices > Retainers section.
  2. Click on Create Retainer
  3. Fill out your retainer invoice like a normal invoice.
  4. The payment you record on the retainer invoice will be saved into the retainer funds.

Invoice and Draw From Your Retainer

To invoice the client your hours and draw from the retainer, 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 retainer, and Harvest will automatically draw from the funds and update the retainer balance.

What is a Retainer, Anyway?

A retainer basically works like a deposit for future invoices. The tricky part is: the money you receive for a retainer/deposit is not an income (yet). The money becomes income later, after you put in the work.

Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you and I are on a retainer agreement. You invoice me for a $5,000 deposit, and I write you a check for that amount. That $5,000 should not be counted as an income in your books. Now let’s say you work for 20 hours for me in July, and you invoice me for those 20 hours – which comes to $2,000. You will then draw from the retainer amount I paid you, producing:

  • An invoice for the $2,000, and a $2,000 draw from the retainer. So the invoice should have a $0 balance.
  • An income of $2,000 from this invoice.
  • A balance of $3,000 left in the retainer.

Some of our customers have asked for an initial deposit for new projects – and you can use this new retainer feature for that purpose by creating that initial invoice as a new retainer invoice.

We have heard from many customers who need to track retainers and deposits, and we’re really excited about this new feature. We know that many of you are also looking for a way to track monthly retainers, and we will look to implement that as well, in the near future.  As always, don’t hesitate to share your feedback and suggestions with us.

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This was posted in New Features, Online Invoicing, Product News.
  • Excellent feature!
    We use retainers and pre-payment on projects a lot and have been coordinating the “credit” of the customer in spreadsheets to know when and how much to bill.
    Make for some interesting accounting.

    This will be great.

  • Awesome – this is exactly what I’ve been waiting for!

    Thanks for continuing to make harvest awesome.

  • This is a great addition, its good to see that you guys take on board the feature requests in the forums.

  • wow, I *JUST* started a retainer engagement.
    your timing is perfect!


  • wow this is going to making things allot easier for us… THANKS!

  • Fantastic new feature! The majority of the work I do is under retainer, which until now I had figured out a Harvest workflow to suit, but it wasn’t ideal. This will make things a lot easier, thanks.

  • would be nice to use the same process for non-complete invoice payments which should appear in the next invoice as outstanding amount. it would also allow to close invoices once the difference has been added to the next invoice. what do you think?

  • Is it customary to send the client the $0 due invoice (work performed subtracted from retainer)? Anyone have tips on how to enter a retainer agreement into Quickbooks?

  • I’ve been waiting for retainers for quite a while, and it looks like I’ll have to keep waiting. Creating a retainer acts like an Invoice, which messes up Quickbooks, and retainers must have a quantity & rate to get the total, which is not how my clients prefer to use retainers (they provide a check for a flat amount each month, which does not evenly divide)

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  • The feature works but it only works once per client. I’m trying to input two retainers from a client since this is what they wanted to do but I can only enter one retainer for the client. Once I have input one, there name is not visible for the second retainer. I’m assuming this is because the first retainer is not exausted yet.

    Please look into this as this feature was greatly needed by our team.

  • Nevermind, I just found that you can add funds to a retainer.


  • THANK YOU! I really want to commend the harvest team for providing such excellent support and enhancements based on community feedback. You guys rock!

  • Love the new retainer feature!

  • Sorry- this feature misses the point for me. Perhaps we’re unusual, but we use Harvest for time tracking, rather than managing invoices (it makes more sense for us to do that in our accounting system). I appreciate that having an all in one estimate, time tracking and invoicing system might be handy for some and simple is good, but Harvest invoices misses a lot of features that some companies need. So far you’ve done a good job of keeping things modular – so if we don’t need invoices we don’t *have* to create an estimate or an invoice to use the time tracking.

    The problem we face with retainers is keeping track of hours. Each month we have a X hours that we’ve agreed to do work. Right now you can create a project and set the total number of hours available. What would be great for retainers is if this could be monthly as well.

    Does anyone else have this situation?

  • Thank you! Please get the monthly retainer soon. That’s the one that we really need.

  • Perhaps a better way to describe this feature would be “credits” – I think “manage retainers” is a bit misleading. This feature allows you to manage prepaid amounts, charge invoices against the credit amount and see what is left.

    Although some retainer arrangements might work on prepaid credit, I don’t think this is true for all (none of ours do – we bill at the end of each month).

    A retainer arrangement allows our client to spread their spend over the year, and we guarantee availability (since we can reserve people’s time). Hence why we’d like to be able to use Harvest to track this time (we manage invoices separately).

  • Thank you thank you thanks yous.

  • This was the ONE THING I requested, and now you guys did it! Thanks for listening – awesome.

    Now all I need is to be able to setup a RECURRING retainer. What do you think – in the works? =)

    Keep up the great work – Harvest rocks!

  • Thank you for listening to the user feedback you receive and adding this super feature.

  • Many thanks for adding this. It was so awkward sending out my first invoice on a case and adding “payment received” at the top and manually putting in a note “less retainer received.” I actually do draw against the retainer and this will make it so much easier to track that and bill on it when its exhausted, rather than when I close a case and have a huge balance due. This way they can keep up with my activities in real-time, and I don’t get stiffed or have to wait so long for my receivables. Thankyouthankyouthankyou!

  • Glad to see this added, everyone of our retainers are ongoing monthly projects. It would be nice to have it work with those sooner than later

  • I agree wholeheartedly with Ben. This is a credits system not a retainer; as I would recognize it.

    We have retainers where we have agreed a set fee per-month (lets say $5000 per month) which buys the clients a discounted day rate for services – let’s say $500 per day). So the client gets 10 days.

    In reality the ebb and flow means some moths go-over and some under each month. These situations need to part of the client/agency agreement; but I fail to see how this new feature helps this kind of retained services agreement.

  • This is nice, but it doesn’t really work for me. We use Harvest for time tracking (not invoicing) as well.

    We have clients that purchase retainers (aka set dollar amounts or hours per month) but those need to be applied across multiple projects within a client each with their own project title/code.

    What I really need is to be able to create an overall retainer “budget” per “client” (not “project”)…on a per month, per 6 months, AND per year timeframe with recurring fees as an option. I need to track my hours on a daily, weekly and monthly basis per project AND per client. So that I can notify the client when they’re getting close to using up their “client” retainer for that month.

    Would love to see a feature like this. Thanks!!

  • +1 for monthly retainers. Just starting to get monthly service agreements signed by clients. Thanks again for a great system.

  • Hey guys, Andrew here, how are you? You can’t please em all can you?! I’ll drop you a line in a bit, but I’m with Ben and Angela on this one. We really need to be able to track time for retainers and show reporting and budget alerts. My suggestion is, when you select how the customer is in Edit Project, you should allow the project to be set to Retainer, either as an invoicing type or as a budget type. Then you set the hours for each retainer client on a monthly basis. Each month, it resets itself, along with budget alerts.

    At the moment, we have an extremely difficult time tracking retainer clients i.e. we have to set up a new project each month, with tasks, then archive the previous one.

    I’m sure you’re working on it anyway…


  • Karen Schoellkopf on October 13, 2010

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on our retainer feature, everyone. This helps us better understand how you are using them, and we sure appreciate the feedback.

    @Dominick That’s a feature on our list, to roll balance due onto current invoices – thanks for the nudge!

    @Ryan Yes, if you use the QB integration, you need to choose to do your invoicing through Harvest OR QB, not both. Retainers fall under invoicing.

    @Ben @Nina @Ian @Myles @Angela @Simon @Andrew Thanks for letting us know that you’d like to see monthly retainers – consider it noted!

    @James Consider it noted for retainers on recurring invoices as well!

  • I’m hanging out for monthly retainers as well.

  • I’m putting in my vote for monthly retainers. We sell year long engagements, but bill monthly. Each month we go under or over that amount, so I need a way to keep track of all the client has paid AND to debit multiple projects against this number.

    I don’t use Harvest invoicing, sine I need to use the dreaded Quickbooks. Still, keeping on budget and time in Harvest is hugely important for us.

    @Ben et al explained the dilemma very well.

    I would love to know that this issue has moved beyond the “consider it noted” to the “we’re working on it” phase


  • Just wanted to add my voice to the group that would like to see an overall retainer “budget” per “client” which we can then input multiple projects to work against via the time tracking and budgeting section – we do invoicing via Quickbooks since the reporting is much more robust.

    Angela, Ben, and Andrew summed up the features we need. Please let us know when this will be something you add.

    Thanks, Wendy

  • I have come here looking for more help on how to make retainers work for us. We have a similar need for monthly retainers. So please +1 more request for monthly retainers.

    I honestly think that the need for monthly retainer type systems would be higher than that for open ended types.

    Does anyone else have any tips on how to use the current retainer system for monthly retainers?

  • Hi. Has the retainer feature been adjusted to allow for billing across multiple projects? [I’m a newbie] We never know what we’re going to use the retainer for.



  • Would be useful to include summary of retainer balance with each invoice drawn against it, so client can see what remains – similar visual clues like the progress bar used for fixed price projects would be useful for both the client and us in the interface to determine a %age of retainer remaining.

  • Karen Schoellkopf on August 10, 2011

    @tayf @shawn @steven Monthly retainers are still on our requested feature list, and I’ve added your votes to it – thanks for the feedback.

    @tom + all wanting to apply a retainer to multiple projects: When you’re setting up the retainer, you’re given the option to create either a project-specific retainer, or one for all projects for a client.

    @jon Thanks for the suggestion, consider it noted!

  • Another vote for monthly retainers, would also like the ability to retro-actively apply a retainer payment to an open invoice. I’ve created an invoice that needs a retainer credit applied towards it, however I don’t seem to have the ability to do this.

  • This has been on the ‘To do’ list for too long. We’ve seen other features added that so far seem of much lower priority to the community. We’re looking at alternative software as this is failing us.

  • +1 for monthly retainers. Looks like we’re coming up on the 1 year mark for monthly retainer being on the feature roadmap. Any updates?

  • Karen Schoellkopf on September 29, 2011

    @Aaron @Steven @Josh This is definitely still on our requested feature list, and I’ve added your votes to it – thanks for letting us know. Unfortunately, we have no timeline to offer of when this type of feature would be released. Know that we are listening, and there are many factors that determine which new features gain priority. You can see how we track and weigh feature requests here:

  • Guys:

    I know you’re busy, and have many folks working on things. But it doesn’t feel like the + 1s are affecting change.

    Why not post the list of the next three projects you’re considering (the feature requests, not the items that you need to do from a business perspective), and ask for our votes?

    It would feel like we’re more included, and that you’re moving on this. Works for Quirky.

    Seeing “This is definitely still on our requested feature list” is growing way old, as if it’s generated by a macro.

    Again, easy to ding. Harvest is great. I want you to continue to succeed–and keeping up with our company’s needs, and the needs of many companies out there will result in your continued success.

  • Karen Schoellkopf on October 24, 2011

    @Tom, we hit you up via email directly, and for anyone else that’s curious about our process, do take a look at our blog post on how we handle feature requests: – thanks!

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