Use Retainers to Forecast Your Income and Workload

Retainers let you collect recurring payments, track hours against the allotted time, and avoid scope creep.


Many business owners can relate to the feeling that they could do more to work smarter and grow their businesses. But it’s sometimes hard when you don’t have a clear forecast of your income.

For example, if you’re a consultant, you might find your projects drawing out longer than you expected. Or you’ve found that the clients who usually work with you are having a quiet month—leaving you scrambling to find new business.

To help, FreshBooks has Retainers. They allow you to bill a client for a fixed amount up-front and then work toward the balance—making monthly income more predictable.

mastering cash flow

What Are Retainers?

Retainers let you bill a client for a fixed amount up-front, and then you track time towards the remaining balance. It’s a great way to provide more stability for your hours worked and income earned.

Who Can Use Retainers?

FreshBooks customers on a Plus or Premium plan can use the Retainers feature. If you’re not on one of these plans but want to use Retainers, you can easily and quickly upgrade your plan here.

How Do Retainers Work?

Once you create a Retainer, you can bill your Client for a fixed amount and then track time toward the Retainer. And if you go over your allotted amount? You’ll have the option to bill those extra hours with a one-time invoice.

How Do I Create A Retainer?

To create a Retainer:

  1. Log into your FreshBooks account.
  2. Click on the Retainers button under Invoices.
  3. Click the green New Retainer button in the top right corner. Here’s what it looks like in-app:

retainers 1

4. Fill out the details and click Set and Continue. Here’s what that looks like:

retainers 2

Now you’ll see a sample Retainer Invoice your client will receive monthly. You can edit this or make any further adjustments using the Settings menu on the right. Here’s what that looks like in-app:

retainers 3

Why Should I Use Retainers?

Retainers are a great way to predict your income and help you:

  • Streamline invoicing and collect recurring client payments in advance
  • Track your hours against the allotted time
  • Forecast your monthly income and run a more profitable business
  • Manage project progress and avoid scope creep
  • Set clear expectations with clients

Need Help With Retainers?

If you have any questions on how to get started with Retainers, feel free to reach out here.

This post was updated in May 2021.


Written by FreshBooks

Posted on May 31, 2019