Should I set up a recurring or retainer invoice?
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Harvest has three types of invoices: standard, recurring, and retainer. Here are the differences and how best to use each type:
Standard invoices are what you would expect: straightforward invoices that you can send to your clients and that they can use to make an online payment. They can be created based on tracked time and expenses or as a free-form invoice.
Invoices based on tracked time and expenses will import timesheet data from billable projects for the client and timeframe you specify. Free-form invoices start as a blank page for you to enter data into manually. Free-form invoicing is a great option for a fixed fee project.
Recurring invoices allow you to create a free-form invoice that will generate on the interval that you specify—daily, weekly, quarterly, yearly, or a custom date period. Instances of a recurring invoice can be automatically sent to the client or saved as a draft that you can review or edit before sending.
Recurring invoices are best used for products or services that are billed cyclically (weekly, monthly, etc.) and when those products and services do not need a reconciliation against a number of hours worked.
When a client pays for part of a project in advance and those funds have to later be reconciled against the work that has been done, then it’s best to use a retainer invoice to start the project.
Once a retainer has a balance recorded in Harvest, when a project (or phase of a project) is complete, you can create a standard invoice based on project hours and expenses, and Harvest will give you the option to apply the retainer balance towards that invoice.
If the total amount of the invoice exceeds the retainer funds available, then the remaining balance will be reflected on the invoice. You can then send the invoice with the outstanding balance to the client. If the retainer funds exceed the amount of the invoice, then the balance will stay in the retainer and can be applied to a future invoice.