Payment Models: Retainer vs Fully Scoped

Payment Models: Monthly Retainer vs Scoped Proposal

There are several ways to fund a software project. This article seeks to clarify two of those payment models:

Monthly Retainer
A retainer based project is one where the client deposits funds with the development company in order to retain a commitment of focus from the company for a certain number of hours each month. The development company works closely with the client to define and prioritize the work on a daily, weekly or other defined periodic basis.  The development company discusses the used and available time, tracks their time detail,   and provides a detailed accounting of time billed against the available balance.

Scoped Proposal
A scoped proposal based project is one where all details of of a project (“the full scope”) is defined before a project begins so that a full project price can be determined.  The development firm commits that they understand the scope and features and commit to complete it for a certain price.    The Client also commits that they agree to the scope and feature and agrees to pay a specific price.


Feature Retainer Scoped Proposal
Scope Preparation Time Low High
Changing Priority of Features Easy Medium
Clarity of Software Project Size Less More
Financial Risk of Beginning Project Lower Higher
Contract Complexity Lower Higher
Change Orders No Required
Software Pivot Easy Difficult

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