What are retainers?

Create a retainer to bill your client for a fixed amount upfront and track time towards the remaining balance. Once a retainer is created, invoices are automatically generated for you on a specified period. Any time assigned to the retainer is automatically deducted from the retainer balance and marked as billed. Any time tracked over the allotted amount can be billed as excess hours at a different rate with an optional one-time invoice.
Invoices generated by retainers can be paid with Recurring Payments, and you can also view or send a Retainer Summary report which specifies all time entries tracked towards the client’s retainer balance.

Retainers are available only on trials and on Plus, Premium and Select plans.
Retainers are automatically deactivated if your account becomes suspended or cancelled.

Create Retainers

Each client can only have one active retainer at a time. Retainers can be created in one of three ways:
  1. Select either:
    1. The Invoices section, then select the Retainers sub-section and select New Retainer
    2. The Dashboard section, then select Create New, and select Retainer
    3. The clients section, then select your client, and under the Retainers sub-tab, select thebutton
  2. In the form, select a client if there isn’t one already selected
    Set retainer terms and billing schedule form.
  3. For Terms, choose a Retainer Start Date with today's date or a date in the future - this will become the earliest date time entries can be tracked on
  4. Next, in the Retainer Period dropdown, choose from Weekly, Monthly, Yearly, or Custom for the frequency
  5. Then in the Fees Per Period field, indicate how much you’ll charge
  6. Next, in the Hours Per Period, specify the total you’ll be working for
  7. Enter a Rate for Excess Hours, which will be used on any extra hours tracked beyond the retainer period
  8. For Recurring Schedule, the Next Issue Date is automatically populated to today, or select the calendar icon if you’d like to choose a different issue date
  9. For Number of Invoices, select either Infinite (to never stop creating invoices) or Periods Remaining with the number of invoices to create
  10. Then for Invoice Delivery Options, choose between Send Invoices automatically or Create Draft Invoices and send manually
  11. Select the Set and Continue button.

Your retainer will be generated and you can now customize it like any other invoice or recurring template, including adding sales taxes.
Preview of Retainer
Once you’re done, select the Save… button to review the email and finish.
  • Unused time remaining in a retainer period will not carry forward to the next retainer period
  • The retainer will generate an invoice on the retainer start date you’ve chosen, and keep generating new invoices at the frequency you specify until it ends
  • A retainer can be paid like any other invoice or invoice generated from recurring templates, including with Recurring Payments
  • Retainers are automatically deactivated if your account becomes suspended or cancelled

Track Retainers

Once the retainer is set up, you and your team can track time towards it. You’ll also be able to monitor the amount of time tracked so you can stay profitable and revise the retainer terms as needed.
To track your retainers, use these steps: 
  1. Select the Invoices section
  2. Then select the Retainers sub-section
  3. Next, select the retainer you want to view details for.

Each section of the retainers area is broken down into detail below:
Retainer overview for client with tabs and information.
  • Retainer for (client Name) - This displays details of your retainer - the number of hours per frequency, the fee and the next invoice to be generated
  • Hours Logged - Displays hours tracked towards your retainer budget over the duration of your period. Your total time tracked is shown in blue, and if it’s approaching or surpassing the budget line in red, you may want to revisit the retainer with your client before excess hours are logged
  • Remaining in Budget, Period Revenue, Remaining in Period - Monitor how your retainer is performing over time with total time tracked, total revenue earned, and any outstanding time entries, making it easy to determine if you’re often under, on, or over budget
  • More Actions - Select this to quickly Archive or Delete the retainer
  • Edit - Select to change the look of your Retainer, or update your retainer terms
There are also three sub-tabs for you to toggle between on any retainer:
  • Invoices - Shows you all invoices generated by the retainer, including any excess hours you’ve logged
  • Time Entries - Review all time entries tracked towards the retainer, as well as another way to add or edit time entries if needed
  • Projects - Add flat rate or hourly projects that will automatically have all time entries in them associated with this retainer
  • Report - Quickly access the Retainer Summary report, where you can get a detailed breakdown of all time tracked by you and your team for any particular retainer that can be sent to the client

Excess Hours

Any time you track beyond the terms of your retainer will automatically be logged as excess hours. You have the option to charge any excess hours back to your client after the end of your retainer period, as long as you have a rate for excess hours specified in your retainer terms.
Once your retainer period has expired, you’ll be able to create an invoice for excess hours with these steps:
  1. Select the Invoices section
  2. Then select the Retainers sub-section
  3. Next, select the retainer you want to view details for
  4. If needed, select the date range above the graph and choose the time period you have excess time for
  5. Above the retainer details, select the Generate an invoice link in the banner for excess time
    Link to generate an invoice for excess time.
  6. Continue with editing your invoice as needed and select Save or Send… when you’re done.

Manage Retainers

View all retainers by selecting the Invoices section and then selecting the Retainers sub-section underneath. Retainers use two statuses: 
  • Active - Generates invoices until stopped manually if set to Infinite or if Number of Invoices drops to 0 inside retainer's terms
  • Inactive - No longer generates invoices due to Number of Invoices being set to 0 inside retainer's terms
To edit a retainer's terms and/or billing schedule, use these steps: 
  1. Select the Invoices section
  2. Then select the Retainers sub-section
  3. Next, select the Retainer you want to edit
  4. Select the Edit button
  5. Then on the preview of the retainer invoice, hover next to the retainer line item and select the Edit Terms link
  6. Edit your terms as needed, and select Set and Continue to finish
  7. Then select Save... to apply your changes.
Note: If you modify the start date, it must not fall in any period where the retainer has already generated an invoice.
To delete a retainer, use the below steps: 
  1. Select the Invoices section
  2. Then select the Retainers sub-section
  3. Check off the box next to the retainer you want to delete
  4. Select the More Actions button
  5. Then select Delete
  6. Next, select OK to confirm. 
Any time tracked to this retainer will remain. You can edit the time entry to mark it as billable and uncheck Apply to Retainer if you need to remove it from the retainer. You can undelete a retainer anytime in the future if you'd like to use it again.


How do I track time towards a client’s retainer? 
By Project - If you're tracking time towards a project, you can automatically have all time entries associated to that project also apply to the retainer with these steps: 
  1. Select the Projects section
  2. Then select the project you want to associate to the retainer, or make a new project
  3. If the client selected on the project has an active retainer, you'll find the option Apply Time to Retainer appear under For (client Name), select this
  4. Check the box off next to Apply time from this project to (client Name)'s retainer and select Done.
This will apply to any new time entries moving forward.

By Individual Time Entry - Otherwise, you can also assign individual time entries outside of projects to a retainer, including contractors' time entries with the below steps:
  1. Select the Time Tracking section 
  2. Use the Start Timer button, Recent Timers section, or select the + button
  3. Fill out your time entry details
  4. Ensure the box next to Apply to Retainer is checked off
    Apply to retainer checkbox on time entry.
  5. Select Log Time or Save when you’re done. The time entry will now be associated with the retainer. 
What’s the difference between Retainers and Recurring Templates?
  • Recurring Templates - Used to bill for products or services on a recurring basis for repeat clients
  • Retainers - Used for reserving blocks of time or a specific budget for service-based work on a recurring basis. Excess time, if tracked, can be billed at a separate rate at the end of the Retainer period