Apr 17




Retainer invoices can be a great way of getting pre-paid for work and tracking those billable hours once you begin the work.  It is standard practice in the legal world and we are trying to bring it to the masses.   Your client in this situation could be an IT company instead of a law firm.  The client is called Big IT Company and they are utilizing your skills for a certain period of time or in this case, whenever the hours are exhausted for the current project.  A project can assist of billable entries for one or many clients.  In this example, we will use Bob from the illustration above as the sub-contractor for Big IT Company.   Bob the sub-contractor creates a Project also known as a Time sheet called Big IT Company - 10/17.  10/17 is in reference to the month and year the project was created.

NOTE:  Do not forget to include the date in the project name.  You will hopefully have more than one project.  The project name example is  "Big IT Company - 10/17".  Going forward, Bob may have another project in January 2018 with Big IT Company and he would therefore call it "Big IT Company - 01/18"  Save this post for future retainer invoices!

ProTip!  Do not skip ahead through at any point of this post.  You will aggravate Big IT Company because you have missed a step or two!!  Lots of illustrations are offered after the written directions.  It helps if you have dual screens.

The project has a budget of $250, also known as a "Total Project Cost" for your potential billable time.  Bob's rate per hour is $25hr.  At the rate of $25hr, Bob has a total of ten hours before $250 budget has been exceeded.

Summary --->  View picture illustration to the right

Project Name:  Big IT Company - 10/17

Description:  10 hours
Billing Method:  Based on project hours
Rate per hour:  $25hr
Budget Type:  Total Project Cost -->  $250


Billable Period on Timesheet (the green section)

The Retainer Invoice will contain the project name for Big IT Company to associate Bob's timesheet with the retainer invoice.  Bob's retainer invoice was paid as Big IT Company has noted on the illustration prior to Bob logging time on his timesheet for project Big IT Company - 10/17.


Timesheet Completed  (Orange section on above illustration)

Bob needs to send an invoice (separate from a retainer invoice) once Bob completes his time sheet.  The invoice is a receipt of  work completed from the exhausted timesheet.






Get Going!

Be your own Bob the subcontractor and get paid from the Big IT Company!

  1. Place this shortcut below on your desktop.   https://www.zoho.com/invoice/login/

2.  Signup for free Zoho Invoice if you have not done so already.  Utilize your own DBA or Name for creating an organization to do business with your clients.
For example, John would setup his own DBA like John Inc if he subcontracts for TechNerdsIT.com.

ProTip! - The Zoho Invoice support "chat" team can be utilized and is highly recommended if you are stuck trying to figure out how to create retainer invoices.

The Goal...

We want you to send your client a Retainer Invoice after creating a time-sheet.  We have failed this blog post if you did not accomplish this.

Enabling Retainer Invoice and Client Portal Features

You have to enable retainer features in "settings" and you must setup the portal too under "contacts" and below "other details" tabThe portal provides clients access to invoices and time sheets for your clients.  In Zoho invoice, click on the Setting “gear” icon on the right and go to “preferences” to activate the "retainer invoice" feature under "select the modules you would like to enable" and click save at the bottom.  The "portal" feature is enabled under every contact, client, and or customer you create in Zoho Invoice.  Further portal details can be found below.

ProTip!  Make sure you input the invoicing email address


















Showing Clients your TimeSheets and Invoices in the Portal

Within preferences, click on BRANDING and go to Portal Settings for viewing Time Sheet and Invoices.  It is the middle tab.  First copy the portal URL for distribution (email) to your clients within the Portal Settings like the example below.

Portal URL: https://invoice.zoho.com/portal/business_or_consultant_name


Again, please email the portal URL to your client and copy all the settings below from the picture under portal settings except portal name.  The portal name is your DBA.


This will allow the client to access the Time Sheets and Invoices in the portal once the following items displayed are checked off and saved from the illustration below.

  • Check mark everything but "enable customer review for my services"



Create your First Contact or Client

You will need this information completed under "contacts" for you to create a time sheet and send a retainer invoice.  Please enable portal for your client to view your time sheet while under contacts.


Add the Project Name to Your Invoice - Don't Forget!!!

We also need  “project” checked marked in the header section.  Then we will know what project belongs to what retainer.

Please go to Settings -> Templates -> Retainer Invoices -> Edit

Please go to Settings -> Templates -> Invoices -> Edit

Again, check mark  "project" in the "header" section.  The "header" section is on the top left of the page.  Scroll down once in the "header" section.  Don't forget to do the same for the "invoices" template.











Time Sheet and Retainer Invoice Creation and Submission

  1.  The Time Sheet

Let's create your first time sheet to again include the project name .  The project name includes the DBA of your client you are working for and the date you started.  ie. OfficeAntics - 1805.

Please back out of settings to go to the main panel if you haven't done so already.  Select Time Sheet from side panel and click on “new project”.  Input “company name" of the client you're performing services for – package name if you have one – and Year Month under "Project Name".  So the project name will include 1805 if today's date is 5/28/18.

Example:  "OfficeAntics - 1805"

The description is block of hours you are having the client prepay for your services.  Select customer name, the billing method is  “based on project hours” and the budget type is “total project cost”   ie 10 hours x 25hr = $250

New Project - Example

Description - 10 hours

Billing Method - Based on Project Hours

Budget Type - Total Project Cost


guide for creating retainers

















2)  Add Task Name

The time sheet tab needs “tasks” created as something generic like “task1” in the overview section of the time sheet.  In the example below, let's say Big IT company (the company you are subcontracted to) has Burger King, Lens Crafters, and Jenny Craig as clients.    "task1" would be an inappropriate name because you are working with multiple clients as a subcontractor for Big IT Company.  In this case add the DBA as the task name and or place task1 as a placeholder name until you become familiar with their client's names...

Example Task DBA:

  • Burger King
  • Lens Crafters
  • Jenny Craig
Zoho Timesheet

Add task Name




Then click on Burger King task if you assisted them that day along with a ticket number if you have a help desk system.


3)  Create Retainer Invoice

Once you have customized the time sheet, go to the top right corner of your new Time Sheet, select “New transaction”, and create "retainer invoice".  The default for the "project invoice information" should be sufficient.

Copy and Paste - "Description"

Copy and paste below; and adjust rate accordingly.

"$150 in prepaid hours.  When your account dips below $30, we will send you an email asking for replenishment or you will be billed at our standard hourly rate if you exceed the allotted prepaid hour’s amount."

or whatever your rate is...

"$1250 in prepaid hours.  When your account dips below $250, we will send you an email asking for replenishment or you will be billed at our standard hourly rate if you exceed the allotted prepaid hour’s amount."




Defaults selected should be ok.


Create retainer invoice







Click "save and send" when you are ready to deliver new retainer invoice to client.  Go to side bar tab "retainer invoice" to view your newly sent retainer invoice.





Start Logging Your Hours

Once you sent your first retainer invoice, add any business you work for under your subcontractor agreement to "tasks"  and start logging time accordingly.






Retainer 101 - Classroom knowledge

Retainer Invoice Statuses  - Paid Vs Drawn

Drawn means the amount of that particular retainer has been used.  Paid status will appear after a payment has been recorded for that retainer invoice.  Those retainer invoices are not yet used or hours on the timesheet not spent when those clients under retainer invoices say "paid".   The status with “Partially Drawn” if you used a partial retainer amount.  Drawn shows up after you invoice and display a zero balance due.  Your goal is to have drawn status and begin the cycle over of creating another Retainer Invoice.


Retainer Example

You have a customer with name A.  You are creating a retainer invoice for A and a payment has been made for that retainer.   Let's say the amount is $1250.  Now, for A he has an amount of $1250 with you.  You can use this amount in any invoice.  You can create 20 invoices for A.  Apply that $1250 in any of that invoice.  In our case, the $1250 is for our block of 10 hours.  We prefer to simply invoice after all billable hours have been exhausted from the $1250 amount.

Invoicing After Exhausting Hours

We broke this to into another how to guide for creating invoices not retainer invoices.  Invoices are simply a receipt of work but also fulfills the payment/billable work cycle.


Apr 17

This is a break down on billable hours to your employer and their clients from a subcontractor's perspective.  YOU are the subcontractor if you are reading this. Please READ completely.

Step 1)

Create easily accessible shortcuts on your desktop for the following websites:

Use Personal Email - Subcontractor Web browser (Chrome)

  • Zoho Invoicehttps://www.zoho.com/invoice/login/  (subcontractor invoice's employer)
    • Make sure you use your own personal email here for setup.
    • A 10 hour timesheet is created here followed by a prepaid retainer invoice
    • Add your employer's client time logged through your time sheet that’s affiliated with your 10 hour block retainer invoice (contact us for a request on setup training)

Use Employer Email - 1099 - Independent Contractor Web browser (Firefox)

  • Zoho Help Desk - https://desk.zoho.com/
    • Track open and assigned tickets here. Add the phone app once Zoho fix the notifications issue.  Your employer should send an invite through the employers company domain name email for agent setup.
  • Zoho Books as a subcontractor setup -  https://www.zoho.com/books/login/ (Time sheet for client)
    • Use your employers provided professional email account to set this up.
    • Your employer should send an invite through the employers company domain name email for user setup.
    • Bill the Company you are subcontracted to clients through the client's time sheet.  Your employer should provide access to each time sheet via email.

*** DO NOT CREATE A ZOHO BOOKS ACCOUNT if you don't need bookkeeping software and you just need to invoice.  Most subcontractors do not need this.

  • Zoho Books Portal Link
    • Use this link for portal access to client.  Your client is whoever you are subcontracting for.  You need this link to access their client's time sheets. - https://books.zoho.com/portal/Portal_Name_To_Be_Shared_To_subcontractors

Create easily accessible shortcuts to work with your client's help desk, their client's timesheet, and your own invoicing system.

Zoho Shortcuts

Step 2)

Go to Zoho Help Desk and review open and overdue tickets

3)  Add your time (1.5 hours as an example) accumalated throughout the lifecycle of the ticket that you are assigned.  Add the ticket # to your time sheet plus brief description .

4)  Private vs Public Comments on Tickets

  • Private Comments – Internal discussions not disclosed with client.
  • Public Comments – Updates to client

Please keep the public comments flowing.   Avoid idle tickets.

4)   Return back to Zoho Invoice follow by Zoho Books to log time on your time sheets.

5)  Reissue a new 10 hour retainer once prior hours are almost exhausted.

Creating a Billable Workflow

Once you have configured Zoho Invoice, created a project and submitted a retainer invoice, it’s time to get to work… but what will you be working on?


We use Zoho Desk to handle IT support requests, referred to as tickets. NA’s clients may request assistance or report bugs; starting January 2019 NA’s level 1 and 2 support  team will receive   Tickets at our support email address.  The local San Diego support team will be dispatched to resolve any escalated issues or new projects. Please take the initiative to assign yourself tickets if you are available and you’re experienced enough to handle them.  Research the existing knowledge base and SOPS in IT Glue to see if you have the required information to handle certain tickets. 


We use Zoho Books for invoicing clients in the same manner that subcontractors use Zoho Invoice to bill NA for their time working. In order to accept projects, communicate internally and create accurate timesheets & invoices for NA’s clients, you’ll need to set up Zoho Desk and Zoho Books on a separate browser from your Zoho Invoice and your personal webmail.  

Setting up Zoho Books and Zoho Desk

Michael or Bethany will send invitations to your professional email address. Follow the links in each email to create a Zoho Books subaccount (we are the primary account holder) and a Zoho Desk account.


In our experience, we have found support individuals struggling to manage email from webmail.  It is critical you download a mail client of your choosing for the desktop and we strongly recommend Outlook Mobile for the phone.

Zoho Desk Mobile app is an essential app for keeping on top of correspondence coming through the ticketing system.

LogMeIn client needs to be installed locally for supporting all the clients remotely

All the applications are required for working with us.


There should be plenty of invitations for all these services in your NetworkAntics mailbox including Grasshopper phone system.  The NetworkAntics support team is not allowed to send or receive clients calls outside of our phone system. Phone calls outside of the system are grounds for termination of contract.

Agreement and payment

Don’t sign the agreement until you read it completely, fully understand all the services  utilizes, and the workflow for supporting clients.  Please email operations stating three dates / times for additional training.

Apr 17


Everyone needs a set of go to applications for being productive.  I generated a list of mine for you all to enjoy. Yeee!

Office 2010

Still no reason for me to upgrade.  Follow this Outlook guide if you do intend to wipe your OS and start over.  The licensing for later suites is not as good and the same applies to their software.  However, authenticating to Office 365 is really easy.


Forget IE, although it does come in handy from time to time for compatibility issues.  These two browsers are preferred.  Chrome contains Adobe Flash and Firefox isn’t Google or Microsoft.


  • FoxIt Reader – Less annoying updates than Adobe Reader

Cloud File Storage Drive

  • Cloud Station Drive – Access File Server documents and collaborate my coworkers
  • Google Drive


Handyman IT Tools

Remote Accessibility

Secure Your Passwords

Windows Store Apps

  • Wunderlist – To Do List
  • MiraCal – Pretty looking calendar but doesn’t allow invites
  • One Calendar – Functional but not pretty

Video Recording, Editing, and Players

  • CamStudio - Screen recording for video presentations
  • Camtasia - Blurring sensitive data on screen recordings
  • VLC - Video player that contains popular codecs

MultiFuction Fax and Printer (MFP)

  • Canon Navigator EX 5.1 - Love the scan features of the software despite its age


  • Trillian – I’m currently looking for a better messenger aggregator



You can never have enough backups


  • Hitman Pro for realtime malware protection
  • Malware Malbytes for a good scan again malware
  • Defender or MS Essentials if you are trying to meet compliance. Eset or Avast for something a little more sophisticated for protectoin


SaaS Programs

  • Zoho Books – Try it here if you don’t have it.
  • Zoho Invoice – Don’t need bookkeeping? Try it here if you don’t have it.
  • Capsule CRM
  • Zoho Desk
  • Evernote – scratch notes and more
  • Zoho TimeSheets (Part of Zoho Books and Invoice)
  • Synology Diskstation
  • PandaDoc – For agreements to issue to new and existing clientele
  • Zoho Sales IQ - Web Chat

Blogging and Instructional Time

Latest Synology Cloud Station Apps located here.