Does Harpoon handle ongoing retainer projects?

Harpoon handles a variety of projects including ongoing retainers. People have different definitions of what a “retainer” is, but in this case we’re referring to client projects where you’re typically paid ahead of time for the work to be performed, and those payments might also be in recurring intervals (weekly, monthly, etc.). For example, in a monthly retainer you might bill at the beginning of each month for the work to be performed that month. The client is paying ahead of time for the privilege of “retaining” you for a set amount of time.

Another unique aspect of a retainer is that the length of the retainer might be unknown. For example, you might have a monthly retainer start on a certain month, but since the relationship with the client is “ongoing” you might not have a specific end date for the retainer. Harpoon handles all of these nuances.

Harpoon handles ongoing retainers in three categories: Scheduling, Budgeting, and Invoicing.


When you create a new project Harpoon asks you for a Start Date and an End Date. These dates determine when the project will be blocked out on your Schedule.

In the case of an ongoing retainer with a client you might know when it begins, but since it’s “ongoing” the end date might be unknown.

If you’d like this type of project to be blocked out on your Schedule you can simply leave the end date field blank. This will block out the project on your Schedule indefinitely beginning with the start date. (Note: if you'd rather a project not be blocked out on your Schedule at all you can leave both date fields empty.)


When creating a project you have the option to enter an Hourly Budget (for Hourly project types) or a Fixed Fee Budget (for Fixed Fee project types). For both Hourly Budgets and Fixed Fee Budgets you'll have the option of setting a "Budget Reset" for the project budget. A Budget Reset will automatically "reset" your budget on a repeating daily, weekly, or monthly basis. For example, if you've agreed with your client to work a maximum of 40 hours each month on an Hourly project you can enter "40" into the Hours Budgeted field when creating or editing a project, and set your Budget Reset to "Monthly." Harpoon will then budget 40 hours/month for the project, track your progress against that 40 hours during the month, and reset that budget at the start of each new month.

Despite what option you select for the Budget Reset you’ll never lose your actual time-tracking history. All time tracked will always be saved. It’s only the recorded hours progress and budget that’s reset every month (or every week or every day). This allows you to see how much time you have left to give to a project for that month (or week or day).


There are no secrets to invoicing for ongoing retainer projects. Harpoon’s invoices are flexible enough that you can create them the way you want, and send them when you want. For a one-time payment retainers you can simply create a one-off invoice for your client charging them ahead of time for the work you've agreed to perform for the retainer. For an ongoing retainer we might recommend creating a recurring invoice that automatically gets sent to your client on the schedule of your choosing (e.g. at the beginning of each month) and can even be set up to accept automatic payments from your client's credit or debit card. Other than that there’s nothing unique about invoicing for retainers in Harpoon other than the invoices are typically sent before you do the work vs. after.

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