Support is a long game

Having never worked with a shippable product as the main part of a business I have worked for my understanding of support is more towards the sale and maybe talking to people after to see if they would buy a service again.

Working these years as a freelancer and with agencies you build up a history of projects and clients. Quite different to just customers that another department deals with when working in house at a company. Now the history is good as it shows your work and gets your name out to people. Past clients ask you back to do new things and recommend you on to others.

Where the agency worked with print publications that went out the door and was an obvious cost to change and print again support of this was small and to do with storage or reruns. With digital it becomes much more like building a boiler or car or product that will be supported for ever.

This can be a hard sell though as people don't want to have expensive call out to service their website. They want to have a member of staff they can just ask to move it left a bit and fix the right a bit. The website may exist for 3 or More years and so needs a support arrangement.

Companies can ask lots of questions or be happy doing it themselves, but they will want change. This is where support contracts or hourly frees come in. These have to be negotiated and worked in to fitting the time of both companies. They can be good earners or can take a lot of time. This is where you have to watch out. As you can get to the point where you are offering more support hours than you have to work on new projects.

Keeping time free costs money as does doing the work, if you have 4-10 sizeable projects in a year, the next year you might find 1/3 or more of your time supporting them. So it is important to try to get these things in order when you start:

  • How many hours do you have for normal support available per month?
  • How many hours on average per project per month do you need?
  • What percentage will you keep clear of jobs in-case they are needed?

I found myself trying to talk to people and see what they thought and get ideas. As I love to support companies and the products I have built but it can be time consuming to project manage.

First step I have taken is to break server support from app support. I want to sell in people to support the website server who are not me and me just do the support and extra features of the website.

What steps have you taken or thoughts have you had on this area? Do you limit you contract to a year or not offer it? Or insist on project revisions every 6-12 months?


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