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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 are usually spread apart 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 an ongoing 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, Time Tracking, 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.

Time Tracking

Tracking time for ongoing retainers is a bit different than tracking time for traditional fixed projects. When creating a project you have the option to enter a fixed amount of hours you’d like to budget for the project. For example, if you know you want to work a maximum of 40 hours on a project you can enter that amount into the Hours Budgeted field when creating or editing a project.


This works great for fixed projects where you have a set amount of hours you can budget. But it’s not very helpful when you have an ongoing retainer project that has a certain amount of budgeted hours every week, or every month. For example, you might have a monthly retainer in which you’d like to budget 40 hours every month, instead of 40 hours total. And you’d like to see a running total of your tracked hours for the month vs. your budgeted hours for the month.

Harpoon handles this using the Hours Budget Type option. You’ll find this option when creating or editing a project.


The Hours Budget Type option allows you to determine how often you’d like your recorded hours progress to be “reset” when tracking against your budgeted hours. For example, if the project is an ongoing monthly retainer, and you’d like to budget 40 hours a month for the retainer, you can type “40” in the Hours Budgeted field, and select “Monthly” from the Hours Budget Type drop down. This will cause Harpoon to display a running total on your Project Details screen of your recorded hours compared to your budgeted hours, including how many hours you have left available. And then at the beginning of the next month your running total of recorded hours will go back to zero. Each month starts fresh again.

Despite what option you select for Hours Budget Type 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 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). 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.

Because you need more than invoicing. You need a plan for success.

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