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2 Questions about a monthly retainer for maintenance?

 7:45 pm on May 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

I apologize in advance for the length of all this.

Q 1.) I'm wondering how common is a monthly retainer for web site maintenance? Do you insist on a minimum # of hours per month that the client pays you to be available?

(Believe it or not, we haven't insisted on any retainer up 'til now. Now that I know more about business, I don't think its good business sense for us to do so. I still have phone bills, office space, etc. to pay for. So far its been working out for us, but it may not forever... )

Q 2) If you do receive a retainer of any amount, is it

a) "$XXX amount just to be available + hourly rate on top"

b) $XXX a month that gives you up to X hours to start, and more available if necessary.

c) $XXX amount, flat-rate estimate, no upper cap on the hours?



 8:19 pm on May 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

In my contracts I always put in a minimum rate of what I think maintenance will be:

Hourly Rate * Estimated hours of maintenance per month = Monthly Rate

I also specify in my contract something along these lines:

The client agrees to pay a minimum monthly fee of $XXX for maintenance of the site. Maintenance will consist of the following tasks.

... list tasks here ...

Major changes to the site or any duties that aren't reflected in the aforelisted tasks will require either a renewal of contract or an incurrence of extra fees.

Basically: We'll take care of the small stuff for this much money (small tasks usually include : text changes, adding non-custom images, dealing with hosting, other gen. maintenance) but you have to pay again for big changes (e.g., layout changes, entire revamps, making the site dynamic, adding entirely new functions).


 8:49 pm on May 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thanks Filipe:

Just to be clear, does that mean in a month where no one contacts you, and you don't do any updates to the site, that you don't bill anything at all?

OR that in a month where you don't do the standard amount of work, you bill less?

Also: What I hate most about hourly billing is that it REALLY puts the emphasis on every little thing. Clients start to worry about what adding this or that will cost, and I know their web sites suffer because of it. That's why I'd like to consider a flat rate - or a some variation thereof.


 1:35 pm on May 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

I've done it on the basis of 'minor updates' for free and anything more, a price agreed before the work is done.

So far my suspicions have been proved out: Most clients want quite a few changes in the first 2wks after launch then you don't really hear anything from them unless they want something bigger done so you bill them. :)



 4:38 pm on May 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

Just to be clear, does that mean in a month where no one contacts you, and you don't do any updates to the site, that you don't bill anything at all?

Actually, if you read my contract, it states that there is a minimum monthly fee. Like nwilson I only usually have to do updates for a 2-weeks to a month after it's released, but since I manage all hosting, technical emails to the site, and they always have me on-hand I charge a certain monthly fee.

Not only does it help to establish a long lasting relationship with a customer (seriously! Whenever I bill them each month, I also write them a letter about how there website's doing, how to improve it, etc.), but it also creates a more regular income. I usually charge 20% profit on set-up, and then, updates aside, monthly fees are almost pure profit (though I do use those to cover our month-to-month costs like phone, fax, hosting, etc.).


 5:13 pm on May 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

Filipe: Duh on my part. That's what I get for multi-tasking. Thanks for your patience!

Yes, I mean we all have fixed costs, whether we're working or not. It's something I should have done from the start, but there has always been something to do, or some work keeping us going with nearly every client we've had.

Profit. There's nothing wrong with that. As the saying goes, it's NOT a four-letter word.

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