[thelist] losing irritated / arrogant customers off my books

Jason Handby jason.handby at corestar.co.uk
Tue Aug 7 06:29:50 CDT 2007

> In my experience, the less they pay, the more they want.  
> There is *no way*
> I'd be doing anything for a client for 75 quid a year, frankly.
> Presumably you are doing this stuff to make money - you need 
> to price your
> services at a cost that *you* can afford.
> How on earth did you get yourself into this situation?!

It's easily done...

I had a client relationship a few years ago that became quite difficult
at times because my time wasn't really being paid for. The original
arrangement we had was for a few large chunks of paid-for development
with the occasional support call in between. In the original contract
(which I didn't write) the calls were free, on the assumption that there
wouldn't be many of them when compared to the size of the development
work budget.

After a while, though, the development was pretty much done, and so it
was mostly support calls. As I wasn't being paid for them, I gave them a
very low priority and found them irritating; as things weren't getting
addressed or fixed, the client got irritated too.

Eventually we sat down and agreed an hourly rate for my time, billed
monthly. Not only was I happier, the client was happier too. As a
business person himself he was much happier to know he was paying the
going rate for something and could thus expect to get it.

The moral, I decided, was to always broach the subject of money, in a
clear and friendly way, and at the beginning. And don't be slow to
revisit the subject if the situation changes and the arrangement feels
uncomfortable. The client is likely to be feeling as uncomfortable as
you are, and they will appreciate you taking the initiative to
straighten things out.

I'd suggest you talk openly, frankly and politely with your client.
Explain that a 75 quid a year package comes with a pretty minimal
service level, and that you can sell them a more advanced service level
that's tailored to their needs if that's what they want. Or point them
at a hosting company that can provide more support resources and a
better uptime guarantee than you can. Offer them a price to help them
with the transition to another host if they want to take that option.

Somebody suggested sending your client a bill for the time you've spent
on them; with respect, I think that's absolutely the worst idea, as it
creates bad feeling where there doesn't need to be any. It might be
worth having a rough idea of the amount though, because you can always
bring it into the conversation to give them an idea of what it's costing
you for things to be as they are.

Try to keep things amicable so that, if the client leaves, he goes with
the attitude "Alex is a good guy, but right now the service he offers
isn't what I need". You never know where and when he'll turn up again...


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