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Advocate VI Advocate VI
Advocate VI

Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

So it happens reasonably often that clients send me a change request (or new task) and they say it's "urgent" or "needed ASAP." And often from what they have said, I can see that it's not necessarily urgent, it's just that they thought of it on Saturday night, or they forgot about it and now they are up against a deadline, or they promised their boss I could do it immediately ... or some other reason. 

I have a couple of approaches but would like to hear about any policies or hard rules that others have. 

For requests that arrive on a workday (weekday) and I know I can do it quickly, it's no problem to work it in. I might respond to their email initially with "I know you need this urgently, I'll get to it at some point later today, as soon as I can." And I can usually do it by the end of the day. I'm constantly shuffling priorities through the day as work comes in anyway.

For requests that arrive late at night, even if I see the email, I might not respond until the morning. And then at that time I'll give the previous response. And hopefully I can work it in later that day.

For requests that arrive on the weekend, if I don't have time due to other plans (for example, yesterday, Sunday, we spent the day visiting my daughter, who lives 1.5 hours from here, and would not be getting back until late), I just respond that I simply can't do it because I'm out of town, and they have no choice but to wait until Monday. Too bad for them...

For requests that arrive on the weekend, if I have time I might do it... but more likely if it's a big task and I have plans (or even if I don't), I will respond and tell the client that I CAN do it during non-work time but I will charge extra for working on Sunday. Then I give them the choice (I do it on the weekend, you pay extra for it or... you wait until Monday). And more often than not, if given that choice, they say "oh yes, wait until Monday."

Real example: Received an email at 11:30 Saturday night asking me to send an email blast ASAP to a group (of about 200) announcing an upcoming event/field trip that would require RSVPs. The email was sent on March 5, the event is on March 27. I asked about waiting until Monday or paying more to have it done on Sunday, she said to wait.

For truly urgent requests that arrive on a weekend from long-time, well-behaved clients, I'm likely to do it and not bill extra, because we have a long-term partnership and sometimes urgent stuff just HAPPENS.

Real example: Received an email on a Sunday from a client who was leaving Monday morning for a national conference where he was presenting, and he wanted his presentation on his website. He had just finished it and sent to me as soon as he could. He's a long-time client (14 years) who gives me lots of work, always pays bills promptly, etc. I posted it on Sunday, no extra charge.

 

Depending on the task, I might charge time-and-a-half, or I might just tack on a set amount (an extra half-hour, or...).

Questions for you:

Do you charge more for urgent work during non-work hours?

If so, how much?

Do you give the client the option of paying more or waiting, or do you just do it immediately and bill extra because they said ASAP?

 

15 REPLIES 15
Super User I Super User I
Super User I

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

We have most of our clients on monthly maintenance plans. Typically it's something like 20 hours of support for a set rate that is discounted from our standard rate. For those customers they either have a specific person to connect with directly or a team that they can contact to handle their issue. To be perfectly honest we don't really count contract hours but we do document and log tickets, calls, incidents... At the end of the year we re-evaluate all contracts and audit actual time, we then suggest that a client raise or lower their plan based off of the audited hours. A clients who decides not to raise their plan we start to watch a bit more closely. If the audit said 23 hours and their plan is 20 hours that's no big deal but clients who are far beyond their plan will have to upgrade or be dropped.

For ad-hock clients an hour is an hour regardless of when it comes and we are happy to accommodate most clients. It is also important to note that we are a team of ten and we don't really have official hours. We do have an office and typically there are people there 18 or so hours per day? Some of us like to do early hours, some prefer late hours so it works out well. Our 800 number also connects clients to the assigned on duty person in case of urgent calls 24/7. We try to maintain a hands on relationship with our clients and many of my clients know how to contact me (or their assign representative) directly and do so.

To provide a real example:
We have a long term non-profit client and they are on a legacy 5 hour per month plan. We have their website running WordPress in production and in a sandbox as they typically can update their own website content through the use of log posts. They often make changes in the sandbox environment (sandbox is refreshed with production backups weekly) once they have it looking right they then would make those changes in production. The red banner on top of every page of the sandbox is a big enough clue but everyone has an off day. In this case the client mistakenly updated the production environment with what was basically a draft version blog post. They sent a text (we use text to email) and it was a really quick fix of course so, no harm, no foul, no maintenance hour charged.

I think the important thing isn't what you charge but that your client realize the value of your time. I can point to a lot of cases where I do things and think "You couldn't pay me enough for what I've done." and in those cases appreciation is enough. We try to steer clear of the clients who don't value our time.

...turns out that my two cents is worth less or more depending on the current exchange rate.

roy darling *my posts seem a lot shorter in my head

Advocate VI Advocate VI
Advocate VI

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

The difference in my case is that most of my clients have very erratic needs, and would never sign up for an xx hours per month plan. Sometimes they have nothing in a month. Sometimes they have 1 hour. Sometimes they have 5 hours. Sometimes they have 10 hours.

So the challenge for me is that it can be very difficult to predict my workload. Any of 200+ clients could call today, or NONE of them could call today. Although I can't remember the last time no one called for an entire day. Typically I probably touch 10-12 sites per day. I just looked at today's notes, it was 11 (but the day isn't over...).

I find it fascinating that many of us may generically say "I'm a WordPress developer and I both design and maintain sites." But the reality is that each of us has a very different business model. So it's very difficult to find a one-size-fits-all policy or process that will work for everyone. But I'm happy to say I have already gleaned many tidbits here that are helpful in some small way for me!

Super User I Super User I
Super User I

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

Yes, clients can be erratic and have sporadic needs. I'm the king of erratic behavior, somehow those clients are a fit for me. I try not to use WordPress and advise my clients against the use of WordPress as a platform but at the end of the day we do what the client wants.

I was exactly where you are now and the best thing I can say is try to train your clients. If your clients started to see that you responded more quickly to email then they would probably send more requests in emails. If your clients notice that you can't be reached by phone after five then they probably won't call after five. Mold your clients in the image that best suits your business practice and timing. I'm sure that you will find clients can be more efficiently helped if they know how to get you best.

@webdiva you are doing gangbusters handling that many clients per day, kudos to you (literally). When it was just me I only had ten clients and now with ten bodies we only have 187 websites under maintenance. I don't manage to touch ten projects in a week, I'd offer you a job if you didn't already have one!

I think that a person with an unlimited phone plan uses their phone like they are on an unlimited phone plan. For those who have limited data plans you can spot them because they are always trying to connect to wi-fi. I think that clients use what clients have, as was pointed out earlier clients tend to have a different urgency when it comes with an added cost. Have you tried to add a clients need up and say "You used on average 10 hours per month last year. You could save 25% if you were on one of our maintenance programs." That helped me initially.

There is no such thing as a one-size fits all solution and that is what is awesome about a place like this Community. I've taken a lot from how others work already and especially you @webdiva. I got to my current solution through trial and error and error and error. I'm happy to explain how we do what we do in the hope that others can gain a bit and bring their monster workflow creation to life.

...turns out that my two cents is worth less or more depending on the current exchange rate.

roy darling *my posts seem a lot shorter in my head

Super User I Super User I
Super User I

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

Double post, sorry

...turns out that my two cents is worth less or more depending on the current exchange rate.

roy darling *my posts seem a lot shorter in my head

Advocate V Advocate V
Advocate V

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

As I think I've said in another thread, as a freelancer, every day is potentially Friday and every day is probably Monday.  The only good thing about all that is I get to make a 100% decision that today is Sunday!

 

That being said I try to spend a little time each day on active clients.  When I get an URGENT request, I usually shoot back an email along the lines of "I was going to work on (some aspect of their project) today, what's my priority?"

 

Long time, well behaved clients do get special treatment, though.

Keep on Coding!
Mark Cicchetti - There are 10 kinds of people... those who understand binary and those who don't.
Advocate I Advocate I
Advocate I

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

I don't because people come to me at their worst moment and they are generally pretty freaked out already. People come back to me for more later - I don't want our first interaction to be about me taking advantage of their situation. So my rates are my rates regardless of how fast you need it (either I can get to it in that time frame or not), with priority given to emergencies.

Advocate VI Advocate VI
Advocate VI

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

@websupergirl -- for a true emergency, that's a different situation. My original post was about established clients who ALLEGEDLY have an emergency, when that's not really the case, and waiting until Monday will have no negative impact. 

I think it should be similar to calling a plumber on Saturday night. Either it's really an emergency and you pay a premium to have someone come to your house to fix it ASAP because you can't wait, or it's a minor annoyance and you can wait until Monday (or regular business hours) to call someone to fix it.

I have certainly had problems at my house that required a repair person to come over, but rarely was it the kind of issue where it would have been impossible to wait until the next business day to ask someone. Of course for a true emergency I'd pay the premium -- but the extra cost is usually enough of a data point to make me consider the options.

 

True emergencies are things like hacked websites, or non-functioning email, or time-sensitive information that should be posted immediately to notify others of problems.

But sending an email blast about an upcoming event that is 3 weeks away... not an emergency. 

Posting new photos of paintings on an artist's website... not an emergency.

Updating someone's bio with an award they received 6 months ago, but just now told me about because they forgot... not an emergency.

Posting a monthly newsletter for a local non-profit organization... not an emergency.

 

Of course usually these requests can be posted same-day on a workday. But sending it on Saturday night or Sunday and saying "Urgent! ASAP!"???? I don't think so.

New

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

If it's an established client and I can help at little or no extra cost I will because it's in my best interest to do so and I truly want to be helpful. I'm a small fish in a sea of whales and the one thing that differentiates us from them is bending over backwards to keep a client. If it is a client with potential future business I'm apt to accommodate their request. If it's a one time deal, they get charged. Out of state - upfront.

Super User I Super User I
Super User I

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

Just being nosey @TCS but why would what state a client is in be different? In my business I see support for remote clients the same. If I focused my attention on clients who just came in my door I'd be lost. We work hard to show clients in other states and countries that we can provide them with the same level of service.

...turns out that my two cents is worth less or more depending on the current exchange rate.

roy darling *my posts seem a lot shorter in my head

Advocate VI Advocate VI
Advocate VI

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

I know why out of state is up-front, and I agree with it. If a client is local, and they don't pay bills, you can walk into their office, or probably have another connection to them that can help "encourage" them to pay. if they are out of state and owe you money, you can't even deal with Small Claims Court. In the rare cases I have not been paid, the answer is always to disable the site. That's in my policy and they know it. You have to pay to play... I just shut off a site on Tuesday for someone who owed me $800+ going back to January. He received numerous reminders (email and phone) and never responded. I knew he was still alive as he was posting to his blog and sending messages to his mailing list.

I disabled his login, turned off his site, and within 24 hours he had paid the bill with a credit card on my site. Funny how that works. And then he said "by the way, I have some more updates I will send you." I should have told him he was fired, but instead said that he has to pre-pay now for all work, or find someone else.

I know this may not be possible for everyone, but I have more than enough work locally, and I prefer it that way. The only ones out of our major metropolitan area are legacy clients that I've had for a long time. 

New

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

Out of state clients are riskier, harder to collect from if I have to pursue payment. I've been burned a few times from out of state clients and my recourse is expensive or I call a loss on it. About 50% of my business is from out of state. I'm appreciative and they get superior customer service but much of it is also one time only. I don't charge more but I do give breaks on cost to repeat customers.

Super User I Super User I
Super User I

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

Okay, I get out of state clients are harder to collect from but reading it seemed that there was a support difference. Clients always pay up front for me. It has been my policy to take a bit of a security for our maintenance service,. We collect a two month deposit and have a 60 day service cancellation policy, if a payment is overdue (net 30) we will send them out a pending termination of service notice. If the bill is unpaid at the two month mark we just terminate their service having lost no money. Our billing system handles all of those notices. If a terminated client again wants support they have the pay a year up front option.

Not that it matters much but in our contract there is a designated place of legislation where all cases are agreed to be heard. I think that you will find default judgements easier to go in your favor for out of state clients as they are probably unwilling to travel for the adjudication? We have never found the will to sue someone, it's usually just not worth the time. There are times where a judgement would be beneficial, not to collect money but just as a determination of fact.

@webdiva we have all been in that situation? Nothing seems to get a client's attention like a shut down website? We don't typically deal with hosting as a factor of shutting down a website, our monthly billing is more for support. Typically who the client uses as a service provider is not important to us but you do have to insure that you have top level access to your client's account or you won't be able to shut down the website. I have heard horror stories about not having the ability to disable a client's website. Beware, there are some savvy clients out there. Good that you and your client were able to come to an understanding.

...turns out that my two cents is worth less or more depending on the current exchange rate.

roy darling *my posts seem a lot shorter in my head

Advocate VI Advocate VI
Advocate VI

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

I don't manage or provide hosting. Clients have to manage their own bills in that area. But I do insist on having top-level access to hosting accounts. Without that, no deal. Also, since I deal almost exclusively in WordPress these days, I have the admin login (and it's tied to my email). Clients very rarely have (or need) admin-level logins. If they are posting to blogs, etc. they can do it with Editor access using a login I create that is tied to their email address.

In other words, I have the keys. Most of my clients have absolutely no idea how to go around me (such as by logging into the hosting directly). 

Also, I don't really shut the site down. I install a plug-in that shows a "maintenance mode" screen with a message saying "this site is temporarily unavailable." Then when I get paid, I just turn off the plug-in. Very easy and quick. 

@rd, you said "Typically who the client uses as a service provider is not important to us" -- actually the choice of service provider is EXTREMELY important to me. There are some hosting companies I simply refuse to deal with, as they have either terrible tech support, or sub-standard products. At this point almost all of my clients are hosted at GoDaddy, and I want it that way!

Super User I Super User I
Super User I

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

Yes @webdiva, that is why I said "typically". Some hosting is the worst and there are absolutely web hosting companies I will not work with as well. Actually the list of companies I will work with is shorter. Our own hosting and GoDaddy hosting is definitely top two. Our servers are leased space from GoDaddy and rackspace so pretty much the list is just three. Since I am a GoDaddy Reseller I sometimes suggest sub-resellers (depending on the client) but all of that is GoDaddy. So when I say "I suggest these companies." or something like that I am suggesting GoDaddy servers.

I haven't had to take a website down in years but the "maintenance mode" thing is nice of you. It has been awhile since I used the Genesis framework but that is built in now right?

...turns out that my two cents is worth less or more depending on the current exchange rate.

roy darling *my posts seem a lot shorter in my head

Advocate VI Advocate VI
Advocate VI

Re: Do you charge extra (or differently) for urgent or last-minute requests?

There are a number of good plug-ins for this. The one I used is called "Maintenance" and lets you put up a temporary home page with text in various places. Easy to enable/disable, and use any image you choose.  It's not part of Genesis, but there are certainly other ways to get the job done.

 

 

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