New: Forecast Income and Manage Workload with Retainers

Use Retainers to collect recurring client payments, track hours against the allotted time and avoid scope creep.


For FreshBooks customers on Plus or Premium plans, there’s a new option for managing your client billing: Retainers. Unlike a Recurring Invoice that just gets automatically sent to a client, Retainers go above and beyond to help you:

  • Collect recurring client payments in advance
  • Track hours against the allotted time
  • Forecast monthly income
  • Effectively manage project progress and avoid scope creep
  • Set clear expectations with clients
  • Streamline invoicing

Learn more about this new update below.

Retainers: What Are They?

In a nutshell, Retainers help you work more efficiently with your clients and team. Once you create a Retainer, you’ll be able to bill your Client for a fixed amount upfront and then track time towards the Retainer. And, if by the end of the month, you have clocked more hours than the Retainer covered, you can easily bill for that excess time on a one-time invoice.

Let’s use an example: Say your client has you on Retainer for $1,000, working 10 hours per month. But you end up clocking 17 hours. No stress, FreshBooks will automatically notify you that you’re 7 hours over. Then you’ll even have the option to bill for those extra hours with a one-time invoice.

On the flip side, if you only work 8 hours a month for that client, the surplus hours won’t get carried. Instead, FreshBooks will restart your Retainer and you’ll begin the next month with 10 hours again.

So, why use Retainers over Recurring Invoices?

  1. Your all-in-one solution
    •  Retainers connect your billing, Time Tracking and reporting functions into one, easy tool
    • No need for additional apps or wasting time searching through email chains
  2. Retainers help you run a more profitable business
    • Keeps client conversation focused on project work, rather than collecting payments
    • Automatically ensures that you’re being diligent about billing and won’t let you leave money on the table
  3. A simple way to save time billing
    • Retainers help you easily transition from one-off projects to steadier sources of income
    • Each month you’ll get valuable insights into project trends, time tracking and be able to forecast future profitability

In addition to simplifying your billing and saving you money, Retainers are a critical tool to help you set clear client expectations. Even before you get started on a project, you and your client will be on the exact same page about the amount, overtime billing and details about your service. You’ll avoid awkward conversations and look super professional, from kick-off to wrap-up.

Retainers: How Do They Work?

Now let’s take a look at how to create, edit and track a Retainer.

To create a Retainer…

Step 1: From your blue menu, click the Retainers tab and select the green “New Retainers” button to get started.

retainers create 1

Step 2: Fill out the details and then click “Set & Continue.”

retainers create 2

Step 3: Now you’ll see a sample Retainer Invoice that your client will receive each month. Use the Settings menu on the right to make any further adjustments.

retainers create 3

To edit and track a Retainer…

Step 1: From anywhere in your account, click the Retainers tab from your blue menu on the right, located under Invoices. Select the Retainer you would like to edit.

retainers edit 1

Step 2: This is a snapshot of your Retainer! From here, you can edit (using the green button on the top right), view your Invoices, Time Entries and get insights on the month’s progress.

retainers edit 2

To access Retainer reports…

Step 1: From anywhere in your account, click the Retainers tab from your blue menu on the right, located under Invoices. Select the Retainer you would like to access.

retainers step 1 edit

Step 2: Select the Summary Report tab to access the Retainer Summary Report. Click on the report to view it.

retainers summary 1

Step 3: Here is your Retainer Summary Report! You can send the report to your client (using the green button on the top right) or download a copy of the report under More Actions.

retainers summary 2

If you have questions about Retainers or anything else, our award-winning Support Team can give you a hand at: support@freshbooks.com or 1.866.303.6061.



about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.