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  1. #1
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    Advice regarding maintainance fee

    I have designed and maintained a website for one of my clients for over 4 years now. During this period of time, I charged the client a pro rata hourly rate.

    Recently, I've been asked to quote a price for an annual maintenance (amendments and updates) fee. I have never charged my clients like this before so would appreciate your advice and tips to work out how much to charge the client.

    As it is going to be an annual fee do I ask to be paid in full in advance? What factors do I need to take into consideration? What pitfalls should I look out for?

    Your personal experience would be greatly appreciated as well.

    Thanks

  • #2
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    How much time do you spend on this?

    A few hours each week, a few hours each month?

    If you are editing the same thing over and over, maybe you could
    use a simple PHP script to allow them to make those changes themselves.

    If you do decide to come up with a once a year fee, make sure you put
    things in writing. They may take the opportunity to dump a huge change.
    You don't want to get caught redoing their site for free.

  • #3
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    This was my first client ever as a professional designer. Everything that has been done so far has been done without any written agreement. I can't complain about fees as I was always promptly paid. But you're right, to be on the safe side it would be better to put everything in writing.

    The updates throughout a year can be simple text additions/amendments, maintaining the courses booking with payment being handled by Paypal, it can also get graphic intensive when I have to work with images to create banners, newsletters and incorporate images as well as using Flash for photo galleries.

    I guess it would be wise to ask the client to write down what is expected to be done under 'maintenance/update'

  • #4
    Senior Coder gnomeontherun's Avatar
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    I would say you should put together a description of what 'maintenance' means, including a time limit to the work. Also, these types of things should probably be submitted to you at regular intervals instead of just anytime they want them (barring an emergency I suppose). That way they can't just email you every other day with a 5 minute task, because that is what zaps your time. Give a quote for average amount of time per month, and a due date for the tasks.

    I've had clients who treat you like you are a member of their staff, which you are not, and you must avoid this to prevent a lot of headaches and frustrations.
    jeremy - gnomeontherun
    Educated questions often get educated answers, and simple questions often get simple answers.

  • #5
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    I have to agree with putting something in writing defining the different terms of the agreement. Defining what types of tasks are covered under the annual fee and the maximum time limit per month before additional charges would apply.
    OracleGuy

  • #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlseim View Post
    How much time do you spend on this?

    A few hours each week, a few hours each month?
    It can be anything between 8 to 24 hours for any period of three months depending on what kind of updates are required.

  • #7
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    How do I charge the client?

    Do I ask them to pay the full amount in advance? in arrears? or do I spread the cost over the year? What is the best way to do it in your opinion?

  • #8
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    That's a tough one ...

    So you could easily spend just under 100 hours per year ...

    If they are a business that makes a fairly good profit, I would charge
    them no less than $1000 per year and a payment in advance for the year.
    Like a subscription to your service.

    If they think it's too much, negotiate ... but put in writing everything you
    will and will not do. They may want to find another designer/developer, but
    that's the risk you take. Either that, or do the job for nothing.

    Remember that it's not just your time, but your knowledge and expertise.
    I'm guessing they will not take your offer, but instead, hire an employee's
    husband (who did a web site with FrontPage), to do it for free. They will be
    sorely disappointed and will call you back.

    If it's like a non-profit organization, charge less, but remember that for
    next time. Don't get yourself into that position again.

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    forgottenglory (11-04-2008)

  • #9
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    Update on the current situation: so far all that you guys have told me have turned up to be true. The client is supposedly selling their business to a third party and they have proposed me an annual fee of £50 approx. $100 to not only do maintenance and updates but also to host the website! Outrageous.

    As I cannot afford legal help, I would appreciate your advice, opinions and knowledge on the matter below. But before let me give you a brief history of the website.

    • I put the website together 4 years ago as a student / freelance web designer. It was my first website for a yoga teacher. I also did the photo shoot as well. The website was not meant to be designed free of charge but instead against one of her courses which run over three months. Due to a lot of work, I never had the time to attend the courses. I consider that no consideration had passed.
    • The unique aspect of the website is its navigation where a yoga posture appears on top of each button when you hover over the button. Without the navigation there is nothing special about the website. The postures were drawn by my girlfriend (now wife) for no consideration.
    • Some time later with the client’s permission, I redesigned the website to make it easier to update. A second photo shoot was done. Again all for no consideration at all. The navigation postures on the button were again based on the original drawings of my wife.


    Now back to the present day, I was actually contacted by the third party with the above £50 offer. I refused their offer as I was let to believe that the business had to been sold by the client to the third party. They then demanded that I hand over all the working files and FTP access to the site. As far as I am concerned, since no remuneration was offered for the website design / redesign, the copyright resides with me. Until we arrived at an acceptable compromise, I took the website offline and told the third party that they could either buy the website off me or design another one for themselves.

    As it turned out, the client has not sold her business yet and was quite upset (understandably!) that the website was offline. I have since uploaded the website to the server again. This unfortunate episode has however raised the issue of copyright and ownership of the site.

    Upon request, I informed the client that they own all the files and related source files which had been paid for through updates after the first website design had gone online and that I owned the following
    1. The metaphor of yoga students under a veranda practising on yoga mats
    2. The page layout and associated code to generate the layout, ie the template and all pages and codes generated from the template.
    3. The original yoga postures used to generate the shadow postures.
    4. The yoga postures on the buttons and preloaders

    The client argues Point 3 by saying that since the shadow postures were from one of her yoga books, the postures belong to her. I argue that my wife only used them as guidelines to hand draw them before they were scanned in imported into Photoshop for further work.

    In Point 4 the client paid to have one of the shadow girls adjusted. The adjustments were still made on the original drawing.

    Finally the client was under the impression that I designed the website for my dissertation and hence the website belongs to the client. However, I considered the client as my first client as a freelance web designer where work was done at no consideration with the implicit condition that updates were to be done by myself.

    There is no written agreement of any of the above. If the client wishes to sell the business to a third party or go to another designer, I have proposed that they could buy the site off me or walk away with all the files that were created under updates with the explicit condition that the client or the takeover party cannot reproduce the original website but are free to use the ‘updates’ file as they wish.

    Calling upon your knowledge and experience, I would like to know where I stand legally as far as copyright and ownership of the site is concerned in relation to the points raised above. Thanks for your help.
    Last edited by forgottenglory; 11-04-2008 at 12:05 PM.

  • #10
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    From my understanding of UK law, anything created by you automatically belongs to you. Did you write the actual content of the site or did she? She could claim copyright over her writing if you didn't.

  • #11
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    The site text content was provided by the client, which I have no problem handing over together with other assets such as images and banners which were duly paid for. It's the actual website design and layout together with the code and the unique navigation which I consider to be mine.

  • #12
    Senior Coder gnomeontherun's Avatar
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    You own the copyright when you make the code and images, but it also has been argued that when you work for someone that the client owns the code. I don't believe this is correct, but some people argue this and it is not really a clear in the laws (and probably varies from state to state). In the future, I would have a Terms of Service which states what is yours, what is theirs, and so forth. You might be able to let it go this time, maybe have them pay you extra for the rights and call it even.
    jeremy - gnomeontherun
    Educated questions often get educated answers, and simple questions often get simple answers.

  • #13
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    The only good thing that I got out of this thread is that you married your girlfriend. I'd jack up the cost of that material you created if I were you.

  • #14
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    Thanks for the response guys...really appreciated! When I look back in time when I first started I didn't really think about copyright issues. All I wanted to do was to design websites!

    After checking the copyright laws that govern the UK, I am fairly confident that I own the rights to the work especially that no arm's length remuneration was passed on.

    You can bookmark THIS valuable reference point for future use.

  • #15
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    Here's what I would do in this case ...

    Contact that 3rd party again and negotiate a fee for them to purchase
    all of your files. If that ends up being $100, then so be it.

    You zip them all, email it to that person and go on with life (with your wife).

    Don't host anything, don't update anything ... just give them the files as
    they are now after they pay you. They can do what they want with them.
    I mention settling this quick, because they might realize they can just copy
    most of it (unless you have some PHP scripts).

    I'm guessing they won't know how to make changes or what to do with them,
    so they'll have to hire someone else.

    ... let this be a lesson to learn for anyone reading this story.

    .


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