Welcome to Webmaster World forums, BC. Given your provocative nick, you may not need this particular bit of advice, but here goes anyway.
Dealing with small businesses and mom-and-pops (I do a lot of both) realize you will be in the client education business in many cases. Find a way to make this essentially self study, and encorporate hands-on treatment into your fee structure. Otherwise, your time can be eroded very fast and undermine your profits. Be very clear about charging for phone and email communications.
In general, be sensitive about pricing. In larger businesses I've found that funding is a well oiled business process. In smaller operations, every detail may be a new, agonizing decision -- and you're often dealing directly with the person whose wallet is being opened. This calls for a very firm but diplomatic approach. Small businesses in my experience often underestimate what resources (money and manpower) it takes to develop a decent site.
Thanks for the advice Tedster, I got the feeling that it is difficult dealing with small businesses about pricing and things like that. Should I stick with this market? Is it worth the time and effort? I really want to caiter to small businesses that are left in the dark when it comes to having and using a website sucessfully. What types of pricing plans do you suggests, thats the one thing that we are really stuck on as a company. Do we do an hourly rate, package rates and how about clients who need us to maintain their sites such as updating?
I started out in exactly the same market you are targeting. I'm doing everything I can to thin out my mom and pop clients and move up to larger companies. I completely agree that the small guys are left in the dark alot of the time but you'll find there is a reason ;) They can be extremely time consuming.
I generally run with package deals and charge $50 to $75 and hour for updates and maintenance. I also offer full hosting with prepayment discounts - they love discounts.
I should also add that you definitly need to protect yourself with detailed contract spelling out exactly what they get for their money and what is an extra charge. They'll nickel and dime you to death otherwise.
Don't take this to be too negative - some of them will be dream clients and show total faith in you ;)
Hey thanks Oilman. I didn't even think about the contract part of this. Is there any sites or references that I can get help with in this department? How are your package deals set up?
BC - I'll email you some stuff a little later - gotta finish hooking up my new hot water tank first :)
Hey Thanks Oilman I apreciate you taking the time out to help me with this. I don't even want to know why you need a new hot water heater.
Starting a new business, I would suggest the following.
They have worked well for me.
Require down payments for services.
Be quick in your turn arounds.
Never EVER be defensive!
Always call the client before doing anything that will add a dime and explain why.
Don't do business with people that you do not like.
Require payments for services that extend over a month.
Provide costs of alterations.
Require authorizations of alterations.
Document your costs and time on everything.
Follow up often and take every op for face time.
Edited by: minnapple
I've also found that working with small businesses can mean you end up consulting on business issues, not just doing web work. Sometimes it's inevitable if you get into the back office side of a web app -- business process analysis can be important for success.
If you define this kind of service as part of your business, and charge accordingly, it can be good for both parties.