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  1. #1
    SitePoint Mentor silver trophybronze trophy

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    Supporting Web Design Clients

    I need some help understanding how to support clients. I sell website driven on open-source CMS's, so naturally I train the clients on how to edit their site. Prior to publishing the sites are checked against all browsers etc. Recently however, I've had a fairly unreasonable client, one which demands constant attention and constant work.

    I always support my websites and iron out problems even after website launch. 30-days is sufficient for this.

    After checking other web design companies many sell their support separately, or provide it with hosting. Some companies provide hours-rate support, depending on the company.

    How do you guy around supporting clients? What would you do if you had a client who demanded constant attention, and viewed it as part of the deal? How would you come around this? When is enough enough? Would charging an hourly rate solve this problem, or would you offer a package deal? Even if you offered a package support deal, what would you need to do to overcome unreasonable clients?


    Ideally this thread is not to solve my issue, but to talk about your general experiences, and what you did to overcome them so that we could learn from each other.

    Sega
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  2. #2
    It's all Geek to me silver trophybronze trophy
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    I'll admit that I'm not very good at sticking to this, but in the quote I include a certain amount of time for training (say 4 hours) and after that point I say that it's charged by the hour.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Mentor silver trophybronze trophy

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    Quote Originally Posted by ralph.m View Post
    I'll admit that I'm not very good at sticking to this, but in the quote I include a certain amount of time for training (say 4 hours) and after that point I say that it's charged by the hour.
    That's an interesting one, maybe this is a way to stop them in their tracks. Say I keep sending you emails, asking for random internet advice, but constantly? How would you combat that? To which point will you say enough? Will you give advice but charge for it. In terms of legalities we have to be careful not to say anything in our emails because we can easily be liable to do extra work without pay, and once you start in that line they always expect it.
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  4. #4
    It's all Geek to me silver trophybronze trophy
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    I admitted that I'm not very good at this, so I do let things slip through, but would like to get tougher. But stating a certain amount of time in the quote does help to give some kind of focus, after which you are perfectly entitled to point out that this is time that you will need to charge for—whether it be questions via email, Skype or whatever. To an email question, I guess you can say—"This will take half an hour to fix, so I will need to bill you for that time. Are you OK with that?" I'm trying to force myself to recognize that "if it's worth doing, it is worth paying for". I know a guy who runs a business (not web related) who sends a bill (minimum of $20) just for picking up the phone, or sending a letter. Clients just seem to accept it, and he is very successful, but I still feel awkward about such things.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Mentor silver trophybronze trophy

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    I know a guy who runs a business (not web related) who sends a bill (minimum of $20) just for picking up the phone, or sending a letter. Clients just seem to accept it, and he is very successful, but I still feel awkward about such things.
    It depends. Normally I like to give advise and not charge for it, but when somebody expects text-book answers and responses, nearly every other day, and believes it's part of the support, then I suppose you would feel less awkward.

    I can probably create a premium number charging .50c per minute, so I will still get paid without having to feel awkward. However, in terms of email answers, it all depends on the client. I had one client who asked me about search engine optimization advice, and basically suggested I teach them search engine optimization their site for free, as part of the support, which was not paid for, simply because they I did their site for them.

    I understand we all have to work, and have to make a living, but why buy the milk when you can have the cow for free. Understandably mega-companies like Google Inc, Microsoft & Facebook can afford give such support, as they are making millions from other avenues which the masses are not aware of "If you're not paying for it, then you are the product"

    The is a very interesting topic. Companies believe that they are entitled to this kind of support from internet businesses. The truth of the matter is that I cannot afford to spend 60% of my time giving advice unless it's billed for. Same might be said for chasing up clients (i.e. travel expenses). I recently learn a very important lesson, which changed the way I do business for ever.
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  6. #6
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    If you run a CMS, think about offering a monthly support and hosting package. But that's only for help in using the CMS, nothing else. 'Consulting' is something you should be paid for when required, but obviously use common sense and ensure you still give free advice to the clients who appreciate it (i.e. the ones who value your time and also keep sending more work your way).

    For the client you are having problems with, simply say this:

    'Okay, yes, I can help you with that. Would you like to book in a 60 minute consultation for us to go this in detail? I'll bill you for this at the end of the month.'

  7. #7
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    'Okay, yes, I can help you with that. Would you like to book in a 60 minute consultation for us to go this in detail? I'll bill you for this at the end of the month.'
    LOL

    If you run a CMS, think about offering a monthly support and hosting package.
    What if they wanted to save a quick buck and decided to go with their own host? What then?
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sega View Post
    LOL
    I was being serious! There's nothing wrong with a) letting the client know you are going to charge him for your time and b) that you're busy and need to schedule a specific time to deal with it. I appreciate that for really small, 'quick' advice, this isn't going to cut it, but TBH, if someone is continually and excessively ringing and emailing you for free advice , you're going to have to let them know a few 'home truths' about how you wish to run your business - and if they don't like it, they can find a new developer. You set the rules.

    What if they wanted to save a quick buck and decided to go with their own host? What then?
    Your 'package' could include hosting, support and things like updates to latest versions of the open source CMS you are using, daily backups, etc - i.e. a complete solution. So the hosting cost is not itemised, it's just included in your £xxx/month deal. Could also include other stuff like SEO etc.

    If they choose not to take the complete package and host elsewhere, then all this extra stuff is billed hourly. Or just offer a support-only package. Or tell them it's all or nothing; no hosting = no support. Up to you really.

    But it sounds like your problem is mostly centered around avoid possible confrontation with your clients? Have you tried just asking this problem client to ease up a bit?

  9. #9
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    But it sounds like your problem is mostly centered around avoid possible confrontation with your clients? Have you tried just asking this problem client to ease up a bit?
    I think you're probably right. After all, my business my rules.

    I appreciate that for really small, 'quick' advice, this isn't going to cut it, but TBH, if someone is continually and excessively ringing and emailing you for free advice , you're going to have to let them know a few 'home truths' about how you wish to run your business - and if they don't like it, they can find a new developer. You set the rules.
    I like that one. You're completely right. I am afraid I have to change a few things about my business, namely my approach to things.
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  10. #10
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Billing by the hour is great, but rolling into hosting or a monthly support package is also fine. Either way, you need to know how many hours you will provide for a client and at what price.

    Then you have to enforce it, all the time, by setting the expectation in the original contract (i.e. after launch you'll get up to 8 hours of support within 30 days then it's $100/hr) and then just bill by the hour. If you set the expectation early and clearly, you should have no problem.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. — Socrates

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