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How can I determine how long I should offer free support? Obviously a 3-month project and 3-day bug fixes will not be treated equally.

In my case, when I do the whole project, I offer free 1- to 3-month support. In case of bug fixes, I usually do not mention free support. But whenever the client returns to me saying the fix is still not working as it should be, I do the work for free again.

Recently, multiple clients returned to me asking for bug fixes, and it's hard to handle ongoing projects and bug fixes. Yet again, I don't want to be the one who charges any hours spent working on some task especially when it comes to bug fixing.

  1. How can I decide what type of support for full projects?

  2. How should I determine what to support for bug fixes?

  • Hey Peter, I'm looking at your other question here and it really looks very very similar. I was thinking of merging them, but before I do I thought I'd ask what you're looking for in posting these two questions. This answer and this answer on the other question are very similar, so it seems more advantageous to keep everything together. – jmort253 Feb 15 '14 at 2:29
  • @jmort253 The other topic is about how soon we have to deal on bug requests. I saw they mentioned how long they offer support. This one is about the type of post-release support. I'd say they are not the same, thou they deal with the same thing: support. – Peter MV Feb 18 '14 at 19:52
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I think this has to be done on a case-by-case basis. What is good for one project is not always good for another. I usually base my support cycle on the scope of the project. If it was a weekend project, I'll give it a week to find any bugs. If it takes longer, say a few months, then I may give it around a month. The problem is, there isn't a magic number or a rule of thumb that fits well enough to be given. So much of what you do depends on the project that you really have to find something you are comfortable with. That said there are some things to keep in mind when making yourself available for support on what you produce:

  • Always, ALWAYS, have any support you offer be explicitly outlined in a contract. "I will offer support for N months and it will cover X, Y, and Z. Anything beyond that will require another contract and additional payment.". Clients that don't like this are usually the ones that want free work. If they want to negotiate terms that's fine, but don't leave gray areas.
  • The complexity of the project can yield more problems, so it may be helpful to support it longer.
  • Sometimes the client may be a factor in how long you support them.
  • Don't ever get persuaded into doing extra support for free. Put it in a contract how long and what type of support you offer. If they want more, then you have to negotiate on price and terms.
  • If you find that you are supporting something you produced long after it was delivered to the client, you may have to look at the cause of the problems. You may have missed something, or it could just be a picky client.
  • Never, NEVER, agree to anything you don't feel comfortable doing. If the client seems to be giving you grief at every turn just trying to get through signing the initial contract, e.g. they want to haggle over every tiny detail and always seem to be pushing you to something you feel is unfair, dump the client. You don't need that and shouldn't put up with it.

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