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Client has questions about ongoing site maintenance

6:13 pm on Dec 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I'm relatively new to working as an independent contractor for web development. I am looking for feedback on how you as a freelancer, or your firm, typically answers this question:

"After the site is completed, what if we (the client) want make changes to the site ourselves? And do you charge a maintenance fee to make changes?"

My answer is yes, I charge an hourly fee for ongoing changes/maintenance. But in terms of the client making their own changes, what is the best way to handle this in your experience? Of course it is their site and they can change it any way they want. But I have had a couple clients fish for info on web dev, i.e., how to do certain things. I like the open sharing of information and knowledge, but it is clearly not in my interest to teach a client how to do something that they would otherwise hire me to do. The information is out there, and they can get it if they want, but that doesn't mean that I should be the one providing it.

Just to restate my question: How does one tactfully handle this type of inquiry from clients?

Thanks in advance...

6:57 pm on Dec 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Personally, this is part of the difficulty in separating yourself from the work: someone is paying you for a service, and it's hard to hand it over to someone and let them hack it up in a wysiwyg. But you have to remember, of course, it's theirs to do with as they see fit. It's just good business to approach it this way.

I reply by telling them that is their option, but warn of the dangers of doing so. The code presented for them is carefully constructed for search engine and cross-browser compatibility and validation, and there are elements at work beyond visual presentation. Directly editing the code can upset this balance and it may be more expensive to repair if something gets broken, as well as adversely affect search engine and cross-browser compatibility.

I then offer CMS solutions and costs that would allow them to perform this maintenance without messing up their site, and ball park my maintenance costs that guarantee none of the above will happen. If they persist in their interest to maintain it themselves, I give them the keys and remove it from my portfolio listing. :-)

8:36 pm on Dec 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for your thoughtful response rocknbil. I like the 'upsetting the balance' part -- that is a great way to explain it. Thanks again.


9:06 pm on Dec 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

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If they want to make simple text changes via a host provider's control panel (assuming it has a WYSIWYG editor) or learn how to use Frontpage, then that's fine. I'll send them a brief copy and paste tutorial on how the editor works, but its up to them to learn Frontpage or Dreamweaver.

I do let them understand the problems associated with editing the site themselves, especially when it comes to editing graphics specifically for web use and adding them to the page. So if they need new pages, or new graphics added, I'll still get the maintenance money. Some clients simply like the convenience of being able to update events and news without having to send an email and then wait a day or two for a webmaster to do it.

11:54 pm on Dec 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I reply by telling them that is their option, but warn of the dangers of doing so.

I also do this, but tell them if they insist to purchase Adobe Contribute or Dreamweaver and turn them loose. If they fish for "how to" info I explain that I would be happy to sit down and do a training session at my typical hourly rate. I have no problem doing this because at the end of the day someone that doesn't want to pay you to do the work will typically be a bad, slow paying, demanding client anyway. I would rather explain why they should use me and if they say no do as Rocknbill does, give them the keys, remove my logo link, and wait for them to call me once they break something :)

8:06 am on Dec 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

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And if you find that you are requested to repair something (with regard to a former client), it's always nice to have a backup shuffled away somewhere that you can either flat out use, or, at least make a reference to.

Repair jobs like that are the best ones I think, and can be profitable, especially if you've already given them "the keys".