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  1. #1
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    maintenance requests

    Just curious how you guys handled very small maintenance requests from clients. This kind of relates to that bug fixing threat.

    Our issue is this - we complete a project - client is happy. After a few months, client emails with a tiny request (less then 10 minutes). We used to not charge for that - as it didn't take long and we usually host the clients website and felt that it was a nice bonus and would be appreciated.

    Well some clients appreciate it and some clients began to think it was fine to keep sending small changes. We have some clients on maintenance plans, but other's don't think they need it - but keep sending us small requests. I couldn't figure out the best thing to do about them as I didn't want clients to think that we were penny pinching and send them a bill for $30 or $25 for a small 10 minute change. I also didn't want to deal with checks for small amounts.

    The problem is that providing maintenance - however small - should not be done for free. On a static HTML site I guess it's not a huge deal, but quickly gets taken for granted by clients who expect you to do it every time. So what we're going to do for clients who don't want to sign up for a monthly maintenance plan - is put in a request for change form that will be mandatory to fill out with their request and require payment in advance.

    Recently we had a client submit a change that was tiny. They though it was going to be done for free. I emailed back saying there would be a charge. Guess what? - the client said she has 3 other changes they are working on and would prefer we take care of it all together.

    Lesson is - don't be afraid to charge.

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    I used to not charge for "minor" changes but now I do. In the contract I state that small changes are free within 30 days of the site going live but after that they are chargable. I also state to clients that they are better off sending a list of changes rather than one - this gives them better value for money. I also charge by the 1/4 hour so a 5 minute job will be billed for 15.

  3. #3
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    The problem with minor maintenance is that it can take up a lot of time beyond the time needed for the actual physical maintenance. Emailing, phone calls, invoicing, paying in cheques, chasing up clients etc all begins to mount up especially when dealing with many piddling little jobs.

    The way I've managed to control it is to charge my clients an advance retainer (e.g. 350 advanced payment). Then for each update request, I perform the work and simply subtract it from the kitty. When the kitty runs out I re-invoice. For each incident, I have a minimum charge which encourages clients to save up requests. For clients who need continual updates I suggest a CMS.

    I've also learnt that performing 'freebies' is a gift reserved for only the most truly deserving clients and is to be done only when you know it's being fully appreciated.

  4. #4
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    I agree that freebies aren't a good idea, but I take an even simpler approach. We bill everything that we do for a client as actual hours with a 15 minute minimum, and that's that!

    I don't have any issue with the retainer/maintenance model, I just find that there is no fairer and simpler way than to bill actuals, so thats what we do.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  5. #5
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    "$30 or $25 for a small 10 minute change" ???? ye gods, what is your hourly rate?

    i bill small changes to the nearest 5 minutes (yes, less than 5 minutes is free)

    but i don't invoice until the client has accumulated at least a couple of hours
    rudy.ca | @rudydotca
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  6. #6
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    Is there such a thing as a 5 minute change? Once you factor in the time to read the email/take the phone call, open up the client's project on your computer, do the job, record the time and email the client that it's completed, I don't think there's a job that can, in total, take less than 20-30 minutes out of your day.

  7. #7
    SQL Consultant gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy
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    that's interesting, but when i get a small change, it really does take 5 minutes, not 20-30

    if my client sends me an email that says "please remove the announcement of yesterday's meeting on the home page" i can assure you that it does not take me 20-30 minutes to open index.html, delete a few lines, hit Save, hit Save to FTP, alt-tab to Outlook Express, hit Reply, type in "done, no charge" and hit Send

    if that takes you 20-30 minutes, then all i have to say is "whoa! can you send me some of your clients? i'm sure they're gonna love me by comparison"

    rudy.ca | @rudydotca
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  8. #8
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    The problem with that kind of approach is that eventually you'll run out of time to handle these tiny things. My developers have to much going on to handle 5 minute jobs, and since everything gets delegated through our 3-person management group, a 5 minute job is really a 20 minute job.

    As you grow, you'll feel the pain of this. In the meantime, it sounds like you're doing a great job servicing your clients well and I'm sure it'll pay off!
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing
    The problem with that kind of approach is that eventually you'll run out of time to handle these tiny things. My developers have to much going on to handle 5 minute jobs, and since everything gets delegated through our 3-person management group, a 5 minute job is really a 20 minute job.

    As you grow, you'll feel the pain of this. In the meantime, it sounds like you're doing a great job servicing your clients well and I'm sure it'll pay off!
    Yes that is exactly the problem. When we had 20 clients - this was not a problem. Now with approx 10 ongoing projects at one time and over 100 clients - these things add up. Our hourly rate is not that high, but there needs to be a minimum charge for every request - no matter how small.

    Another issue is that every time a small request comes, we need to stop working on a project and take care of the request. That can be a huge time waster and web developers should be compensated for it.


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