I'm looking for advice on the best way to service my client once their project goes live while avoiding any potential pitfalls. The product is a custom software solution that is cloud hosted. During product development the client has been billed straight time and materials. I'm uncertain what the best course of action is for when the product goes live.

For hosting accounts and costs: Is it advisable that I maintain the cloud hosting account under my company's name and continue to bill the client accordingly? Or, am I and my client in a better position if the client pays the hosting bill under their name and hands the keys to the account over to me to manage on their behalf? What problems should I expect with either of these models? Are there other models that should be considered?

For support: I anticipate support hours potentially being much less than the time that went into development. However, I anticipate still being called upon by the client from time to time. Is it advisable to do a flat rate support contract plus an hourly rate? I want to make sure that both I and the client value the relationship once the product is in support.

Firstly, retainers are a great thing to have as a freelancer. Guaranteed income, and keeps you in their mind as the one to go to for future work, new projects, referrals.

We try to host websites for clients where possible.

Advantages for us:

  • we make a profit-margin on the hosting
  • we control the hosting access, to make any server adjustments in future, which ties in with maintenance

Advantages for them:

  • Single point of contact for issues, and fewer third-party invoices coming their way
  • fewer one-off invoices for an hour here and an hour there
  • fewer discussions about scope and time (not quite sure why but it's true)

Of course there are disadvantages: like if the client wants some fancy server requests that you're not happy with (perhaps an email server, or secure access rights for other parties). Or are difficult payers creating admin hassles. It's a case-by-case.

For retainers, we typically charge a fixed retainer for maintenance and updates, to a level agreed with the client (can change over time). Hours included in this retainer are discounted from our normal hourly rate (motivates client), and unused hours do not rollover. Tasks above and beyond this are charged at normal hourly rate. Note that others may vary some or all of these terms. Again, maybe a case-by-case.

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