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Monthly support rules of engagement

One of the things I offer my clients is fixed-fee monthly support. This is a great option for my clients, because they can easily budget for hard to predict problems, and it is useful for me because it guarantees me regular income every month.

Support is easier to offer if you have experience working with the client. On occasion, I’ve been asked to quote support for new clients for apps I didn’t write. I’ve declined because this works best if you have a history of working with the client and the application. You know where the danger areas are, how likely the client is to encounter bugs, and how emotional they will be.

Without that information, you are likely to greatly underbid or overbid.

If you decide to offer this service, you should establish these specifics in your agreement:

Supported platforms or browsers. This was probably established when the app was first written, but of course different versions become available over time.

Response time. How quickly will you respond to their requests? I’m careful with what I promise. I can’t guarantee that I will fix a problem within a certain time, but I can promise to start looking at it within a a day or two.

Support hours. Do you offer off-hours (i.e. nights and weekends) support, or only regular business hours support? If you offer off-hour support to a customer, don’t forget to charge a premium price for it.

Cancellation rules. What happens if the client doesn’t want support any more? Or perhaps you want to move on. I usually establish that cancellation requires 90 days written notice by either party.

Contact rules. I prefer my clients contact me via email, and that’s the way I offer support. I don’t want to get phone calls in the middle of the night.

Scope. Typically what is covered in my support agreements are: email questions, troubleshooting, and bug fixes. Occasionally I have also included small, cosmetic enhancements in my support agreements.

Some other thoughts:

  • Don’t offer support to clients unless you like working with them.
  • Review your support agreements once a year to determine if things need to be changed. Maybe the customer rarely uses it, and you can drop the price a little for them in the second year. Or perhaps they seem to want quicker response than what you offered. Do you want to ask them if they want to change the terms for an additional fee?
  • If you offer support, make sure you don’t consider yourself to be 100% available for other projects. You aren’t.
  • Decide how many support clients you can successfully maintain. I currently have 3 support clients. Personally I wouldn’t go any higher than 4, otherwise I could easily have a problem providing the support I’ve promised.

Fixed fee monthly support can be a great service offering for your IndyCoding business.

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