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I need an advice from a web developer regarding a small issue

 10:10 pm on Jul 15, 2010 (gmt 0)


this is not exactly a question about the web but just I need an advise from someone who works with clients.

I had a client a year ago and i built his website, did marketing, copy, etc. Now the job is done and once in a while he asks me to do minor updates on this site. For example every month or so he ask me to do something, which does not tame more than an hour.

The problem is I don't want to be committed to something I dont make money from. Even if I charge him for the 1-hour of work a month, for me this commitment is not worthy, and on the other hand he gets really a very cheap support like that. What would you do in a situation like that?

Thanks for your advice.



 10:17 pm on Jul 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Another issue that has been bothering me is - I have another client for whom I did a very small job a few months ago. Every since I know him (almost 8 months) he used to call frequently to ask me professional questions. So for all that time I had spend more than 5 hours on the phone talking to him. I don't like that he gets my free advice and on the other hand no more work for me. How common is that? Do you deal with such a type of clients?


 7:54 am on Jul 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

I know exactly what you mean. I do this all the time for clients but I run an invoice for the regular ones and charge by the hour so I earn the going rate for the work. I invoice them when it becomes worthwhile but there is no contract so I am not committed to it I think they know this. I also have a minimum per incident charge for the less regular ones. It is not interesting work but I have learned that is a worthwhile revenue source. Why don't you make money from it?

Regarding the ones who call you for free consultancy (that is what it is after all), eventually you have to explain to them that your time is chargeable and that the clock is ticking when they call you. Most of them will accept this and if they don't then you don't want them as clients. ;)


 3:34 pm on Jul 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

And when the client responds, "Oh, it's just a quick question." You can reply, "Good, then you won't have to pay very much." Or, better- "The question may be quick, but the answer may be long."


 6:27 pm on Jul 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

You bill for your time, period, make it perfectly clear that this is time you should be working and you are billing for the phone conversation. They won't like it, but the customers you value won't mind a bit.

As for the updates, maintaining long time clients, even small ones, is always a good thing. There is always the potential they will shoot you a lead or talk about you. I suggest maintaining a running bill and when it gets to a billable point, bill them for it. I have some clients that take a month or two to hit with a bill for $50.

If they're still too much of an annoyance, farm it out, there are millions of developers who will take these small time annoying jobs and develop them into quality business relationships.


 7:10 pm on Jul 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

My rule is if they are asking questions trying to decide if they should proceed with work, bascially if the questions are centered around "What would it take to...." or "What is involved in ...." then I don't charge as I anticipate my answers can lead to billable hours.

Otherwise if I am giving advice like what is a better title A or B, or which image would be best for the front page then I charge my consulting rate. As soon as the line of questioning starts I ask them to come in for a meeting and I bill for the meeting.

I charge for updates, not by the hour but by the month and they get up to x amount of basic content changes. It is based on a service contract.

A good base point would be... $600/year gets you 1 content update on 1 page per month. If you can land 10 contracts like that you can hire someone to do it for you for $10 an hour.

[edited by: httpwebwitch at 8:09 pm (utc) on Jul 17, 2010]


 7:40 pm on Jul 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

Should virtualreality be billed for the advise given in this thread?


 8:43 pm on Jul 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

LOL . . . he/she already has been. :-)

Volunteer work on these boards is give and get. With every problem or task you help solve, you learn a little or refresh your memory of something you've forgotten. Which is getting easier as the years roll by . . .


 10:13 pm on Jul 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

So , would it be best to sell a retainer/maintenance contract with such work


 3:28 pm on Jul 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

would it be best to sell a retainer/maintenance contract with such work

Absolutely, you want everything defined. That way they aren't surprised by the bills and you aren't working for free.

I know at first when you are starting out that it can be scary to look at a client that you need and tell them that you will be charging for this or for that.

In the end you will find that people are willing to pay for quality work and quality service.

My wise uncle once pointed out to me that people will still go to, and even seek out nice restaurants and pay $12-$15 for a good burger despite the fact they can go to a fast food joint and get a burger for $2-$4.

The "only" difference is atmosphere, service and quality. People will pay for those things.


 6:38 am on Jul 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well, I think you need to ask for payment if your clients have frequently ask you to do something about their website. You should have an agreement before you accept some projects. Changes and other minor things should be paid.


 7:38 pm on Jul 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

If it's very small amounts of work and you have a fairly informal and generally good relationship , then a retainer may be a better option than a formal maintenance contract.

I have a few clients like this, they pay a set amount each quarter for the privilege of me being reasonably responsive if they ever need help. They also pay market rate +expenses for any work done. (Unlike maintenance the retainer includes no time, tickets, set tasks etc, its just for the reposnsiveness)

The benefit to the client is they have someone who knows their systems, who they trust and can call on at short notice and sort out problems. The benefit for me is they hardly ever call.

Only you can decide what suits your business model best, but I find forecast income and good long term relationships work best for me.


 2:11 am on Aug 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

1. [ Small jobs ] All work should be billed for and the client should be made aware of it. Make sure that you have a paper/email trail to fall back on.

If the customer calls with "just one quick change", politely ask them to flick the request to you in an email and you'll add it to your job queue. You don't want customers to feel they can call you up and have things done right away or you'll soon be doing nothing but talking on the phone.

If it's only a small amount, keep a running total and send them the bill at the end of the month. When the small job is done let them know that you added 30mins or whatever onto their monthly invoice.

This way everyone is kept happy. You can do quite well out of the small jobs if they're managed correctly.

2. [ Free Advice ] Same as above really, you need to get them off the phone and politely ask them to send an email with their questions, then you will add them to the work queue to be completed and billed.

I've found that most people who try and get free support/advice and just trying their luck and are more than happy to pay once it's made clear that you cannot offer free support. If they don't want to pay, then you don't give the support.

Mr Bo Jangles

 2:22 am on Aug 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

I see part of the problem being that the client has your phone number - that's difficult when they're on the phone.

If the enquiry came in via an e-mail, it'd be a bit easier to say, well, this or that might work, and blah, blah, and I could work out a rough cost if you'd like me to work up a fix for that issue.....

I guarantee that will slow down the nuisance queries!

Get rid of those phone 'consultations'!


 9:06 am on Aug 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

i have one advice for you that you should picked up your phone and tell them that you are busy with some one, just drop an email and later you can decide whether the query is commercial or non-commercial and tell them the price accordingly.


 10:08 am on Aug 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

Put a link to a loud telephone sound file on your desktop. When they call you tell them that you are expecting a call on the other line. Click the link and tell that's the call and that you have to go and ask them to email you. :)


 1:13 am on Aug 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

Put a link to a loud telephone sound file on your desktop. When they call you tell them that you are expecting a call on the other line. Click the link and tell that's the call and that you have to go and ask them to email you. :)

This advice is simply priceless! And gave me a good laugh at the same time. Thanks :-)


 1:17 am on Aug 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

The retainer works very well for me - I simply don't take quick questions without one. When I got savvy to that approach, everything became very sane again.

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