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So I am a software engineer and currently have lots of clients that I create and maintain websites in WordPress.

One of my clients, who I have a maintenance contract with(fixed $ / month) wants to be involved in certain aspects of the website, such as customizations and time to time changing functionality on their own.

When they attempt to do this, most of the time, they fail and either crash the website or just don't get it working.

At this point, they inform me, that they wanted to make A work and broke the website and they want me to fix it. After I spent time figuring out their error and fixing it, they always want step by step documentation on what I did to fix it and what they need to do in future to make this work.

I have told them a couple of times, to not try to make/change things on their own, but they claim they want to know how to do simple stuff on their own.

Now, they are paying me per month, fixed rate, and it gives them unlimited items to request. Thus they won't be paying extra if they ask me to do it instead of them.

What I am coming to conclusion is, that they are slowly collecting documentation of how to do most items and will eventually either downgrade their maintenance plan with me or completely cut me off since they know how to do to everything they need.

How should I go about this?

Should I tell them that I am no longer supplying documentation for my work, or should I supply it if they want?

What is the correct approach for this situation?

Thanks everyone!

  • @KJO I charged for the documentation with minimum of 1 hour charge – Vahagn Madatyan Nov 19 '18 at 0:05
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Supply documentation for an additional fee. It's more work to track everything you do... you should be compensated for that work.

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    Yes. Documentation wasn't included with the original agreement I assume. If they want you to work more hours, they should pay extra. Heck, them breaking their website and expecting you to fix it for 'free' is another item I would address! That's not considered maintenance, in my opinion. – Doug.McFarlane Aug 8 '17 at 18:05
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I'd ditch the client. The problem isn't with providing the documentation (though I do believe it should have an additional fee), but with them messing around without coordinating with you, and then it's your 'obligation' to figure out the mess and fix it. Something you could've done in 10 minutes, now takes 3 hours. Unless the contract is worth a LOT, the frustration isn't worth it. My opinion. I've ditched clients in the past and never regret them.

  • I agree, the contract is worth in a sense that it is fixed income, which is hard to have when freelancing. I will see what they will do when a contract needs to be renewed in 2 months. – Vahagn Madatyan Aug 13 '17 at 20:13
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    Wishing you the best of luck and easy breadwinning 😊 – Dr.Ping Aug 14 '17 at 1:38
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I'd re-negotiate the contract to more clearly state what you are agreeing to do in a month. Otherwise, you're literally losing money when you could be servicing your other (paying) clients. Stand up for yourself: Be firm, but be respectful. Let the client know their business is important, and that you'd like to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship.

Documentation, although valuable, has a limited shelf life. Once the code changes, the docs go stale. Ask yourself: Are you being asked to document for other, internal developers, or are you teaching web programming to non-web-programmers? If we are talking business owners attempting to learn web programming, remind them of the scope of the work you were hired to do.

  • Thanks for the input. Since it is WP docs, there is not a lot of code to teach, but maintaining partial custom code and general functions still take a time to learn. They know that their plan does not include that much documentation. I have sent them an updated price sheet, so next time they need documentation, they will know the prices. I did remind them, that they hired me because they want me to take care of the website and they should let me the do the job. – Vahagn Madatyan Aug 13 '17 at 20:11
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1 If properly set up, for help as a contractor, initially 'as sole maintainer' or with later ability by customer when customer can take charge themselves I would recommend a couple of things. 2 In initial set up make sure contract allows for 'a premium rate' to resolve any changes made by others when not under maintainer's supervision. 3 Show an optional item billing rate to allow training under supervision of maintainer of your customer's staff (high rate - at least three times your normal billing rate!) with a minimum level equal to say three months fee. 4 Your problem is that your customer may think he or his staff can adjust WordPress easily due to the WP adverts and the hints or training available on the internet. You need to show you are willing to train them (and thus lose the 'routine contract') however you would then support them when mistakes are made at a premium rate as you have no underlying continuous contract.

  • Good suggestions, I recently revised my billing chart and have something of this sort implemented – Vahagn Madatyan Aug 15 '17 at 3:33
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The maintenance contract covers only fixes of your own work. (Unless it also covers enhancements, but this should be stated somewhere.)

Fixing their mistakes is an extra performance that you can charge.

Writing documentation is an extra performance that you can charge.

Regarding "What I am coming to conclusion is, that they are slowly collecting documentation of how to do most items and will eventually either downgrade their maintenance plan with me or completely cut me off since they know how to do to everything they need": yes, accept it.

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