Freelance web designers have a lot of responsibility. It goes beyond building beautiful and functional websites. We must also think about things like accessibility, performance, and security. Not to mention the challenge of keeping clients happy.
Because we juggle so many moving parts, we tend to take on more than we should. That often includes items that would be best handled by clients.
Sometimes we do so for the sake of convenience. Or it might be that a client is uncomfortable with a particular task. But it’s a potentially risky situation.
For one thing, what happens if you and your client are no longer working together? And what if something goes wrong? You could be left dealing with a major mess.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at where your responsibilities end and a client’s job begins. We’ll review some common areas that they should manage themselves.
Domain Name Management
For some clients, interest in domain names is limited. They may be excited to register a new one. But after that, it’s out of sight and out of mind.
Many web designers, meanwhile, will be happy to register new domains for their clients. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But if care isn’t taken, it could cause problems down the road.
It’s all too easy for a domain to fall through the cracks. And if your relationship dissolves or something happens to you, things can get worse. This is particularly so when a client doesn’t have access to the registrar’s account.
In that case, a domain could expire and eventually return to the open market. Or your client may be unable to make a required DNS change. Either scenario could lead to an inaccessible website.
To prevent this type of situation:
- Domains should be registered in the client’s name (it’s OK if you’re listed as the technical contact);
- Clients should have an account with the domain registrar and have a payment method on file;
Being proactive in this area is highly recommended. It may just save everyone from future frustration.
Software Licensing and Subscriptions
These days, a typical website will likely use third-party software. Content management systems (CMS), themes, and plugins are common examples. But it may also extend to desktop/mobile apps, fonts, and stock photography.
For sites that use commercial products, there will usually be licenses associated with them. Some may require a one-off purchase for lifetime access. But yearly subscriptions have increasingly become the norm.
Web designers will often purchase software and bill clients for it later. Similarly, you may even handle the yearly subscription renewals. This presents a scenario like that of domain names. If a client loses access, it could have a negative impact on their website.
Plus, if you’re a freelancer with multiple clients, license management can be messy. Subscriptions renew at various times of the year. And then there’s the waiting that comes with paying now and invoicing clients later.
That’s why it’s beneficial to put clients in charge of any software and subscriptions their website requires. It’s one less thing you’ll have to deal with. And it also gives clients the peace of mind that they’ll have unfettered access to these items.
If you offer web hosting to clients, email may be part of the package. And while it may seem like a nice perk, it also has the potential to become a burden.
Perhaps it’s fine when everything is working correctly. But problems can require immediate attention. And they aren’t always easy to fix.
Issues like overzealous spam filters and inaccessible servers are common. They also fall within the responsibility of the hosting provider. This means you’ll likely be caught in the middle. You can’t fix it yourself, but your client will expect you to provide answers.
Therefore, clients that rely on email should invest in a dedicated service. Companies like Google and Microsoft offer affordable solutions. They allow clients to fully manage their accounts. And, most importantly, they provide support.
This takes you off the hook for any problems that arise. You’ll also avoid those unexpected phone calls that take you away from more important matters.
Help Clients Stay Accountable for Critical Services
Being a “full-service” web designer can be a great thing. It can help you build positive client relationships. You may even book new projects via word-of-mouth. Still, it’s important to draw a line when it comes to what you manage for them.
Sometimes, taking responsibility for certain things can put both parties at risk. The rule of thumb here is to avoid responsibility for anything critical to a client’s organization.
Domains, software licensing, and email all fall into this category. Each can outlive a singular person or relationship. Thus, clients need to have full control of these items.
That doesn’t mean you can’t help with related tasks. It just means that you shouldn’t be the only one with access. And the accounts shouldn’t be in your name.
Clients – even those that aren’t tech-savvy – must oversee these key components. Doing so will put everyone in the best position for long-term success.
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