49

I build websites for customers and I offer them hosting as well. Relatively expensive but they got all support from me.

Now, I have a new client who wanted to build a website. The website is built and we need to transfer this via FTP. So I asked him, if he has hosting or not. I also pointed out that he can have my hosting for $50/mo or he can find cheaper ones for few bucks. He decided to buy cheaper one from company X.

Now I asked him to give me credentials to FTP, so I can upload the website. The problem is, he completely does not know what is FTP and asking me to login to their dashboard and find what I need.

The problem: Surely I could do it because I would like to help him but from the business perspective I shouldn't? I mean, well he decided to go with company X, so he should contact them about all stuff that is required to run the website. It's not in my business to help him.

How should I handle it?

  • 2
    Is your main business website builder or hosting? do you mean "cheaper by a few bucks a month" or "for a few bucks a month". ~As $50 a month sounds very expensive but under a dollar a month sounds stupidly cheap. – WendyG Jul 3 '18 at 11:48
  • 71
    Does your contract specify that you'll support/deploy the website to any host after development and approval? Or only to your own hosting environment? – alroc Jul 3 '18 at 12:38
  • 4
    Did you make clear to them that if they opted to go with a different host, building the website would be the limit of your services? How important is it to you that you keep this client for repeat business? – Seth R Jul 3 '18 at 13:09
  • Are you a web developer or a web hosting company (reseller does not count)? How exactly is company X a competitor? – Salman A Jul 7 '18 at 20:09
  • It takes only a few minutes. Sure, it takes more time to writing this question. Do that work. – I am the Most Stupid Person Jul 9 '18 at 8:36

14 Answers 14

157

I would say, if you only make the website, and don't do the hosting for him, then your 'job' is done when you have the files ready to be ftp-ed to your client (and of course, he has agreed that he has seen and approved your 'final product'). How he gets it onto his own hosting provider is not your problem, besides, I would guess they have support there as well? So, I think if you can make a folder structure with everything he needs, your job is done.

However, I would maybe offer to do the initial set up for him (and make sure you mention beforehand that you will charge a fee, and get client's approval on that) and just bill it. It probably is not very hard for you to do, you make some extra money, and I think you will leave the client happier this way than with just the files.

  • 39
    To be clearer; this answer buries the lede. I'd suggest improving it by starting with the action item up-front. "Make it clear you'll do this for some number of $/hour, then do it and bill the hours when the client agrees." – Yakk Jul 3 '18 at 14:41
  • 40
    Also make it clear that you are not offering to be the client's help desk for this competing hosting site - make it clear that you are offering your services to help put the site up. Period. End of story. Any updates afterwards, any maintenance, any problems they have with the hosting are all beyond your scope, and it should be made explicitly clear. – Zibbobz Jul 3 '18 at 17:01
  • 3
    @Zibbobz I dunno, at an appropriate $/hour, maybe the OP wouldn't mind helpdesking. Just make sure you are ok at whatever $/hour you quote, and that you aren't extending credit to a deadbeat. Always offer a "go away and bother someone else" price, because people sometimes take you up on it. – Yakk Jul 3 '18 at 20:00
  • 2
    @Yakk Considering they offer their own hosting, providing that much support for a competitor's product would be very inadvisable from a business sense standpoint. – Zibbobz Jul 3 '18 at 20:36
  • 23
    @Zibbobz If your offer is inadvisable from a business sense, you aren't asking for enough money. Ask for enough money and it becomes very advisable. 50$ per hour? 100$ per hour? 200$ per hour? 1000$ per hour? There is going to be some point where it makes business sense even if it doesn't get you hosting. If that is too high for the client to pay, well, not your problem; advise them to use the CS of the hosting company they want to use. If it is low enough that the client pays, then it is a win-win. – Yakk Jul 3 '18 at 21:59
61

This type of thing will come up again as you grow your business. No one can take advantage of you without your permission. The solution is to charge for your time to manage the web site on a competitor's platform. For example: "Hosting is $50/mo on my server and includes FTP support, OS patches, backups. It's a flat rate and a good deal."

"If you host with another company, that's fine, but I charge $50/hr to support a web site on another server, and that includes FTP services, troubleshooting, patches, time spent talking to their support, and NO backups."

This way you make money either way. And if the customer wants to FTP on their own, so be it.

  • 5
    This would be my suggestion as well. If you're providing services beyond that in the initial contracted work, you charge extra for it. – Barmar Jul 3 '18 at 19:21
  • 2
    One thing to point out (for the future) - this message should have been clearly sent to the client before he makes a decision to choose this hosting service over that. Otherwise the supplier has to check what's in the contract and act depending on that. There might be "build and deploy a website" arrangement in it. In such case it might be better (to build good customer experience) to retrieve FTP credentials on your own rather than playing a ping-pong game with the client. – Ister Jul 5 '18 at 10:50
24

If you agreed that the job included FTPing the website to the host server, then that's what you need to do. If you agreed that without hosting, you would simply hand over files on a memory stick and walk away, then you don't need to. But if you signed up to do the FTP upload, that's clearly on you.

If you didn't make it clear how your client should give you FTP details, then that's your fault for not knowing how to handle a non-technical client. It doesn't take five minutes to find that information on your average hosting company's setup, so chalk that up to experience.

What you really aren't doing is acting as a helpdesk for the other hosting company. I strongly suggest changing the title, because that is incorrect and makes you look bad. You certainly are in a position of perhaps having to help your client more than you expected, but your prices should allow for a few minutes of extra support for your clients.

7

Until you deliver what the client paid for, the job is not done. I would advise against using their hosting portal credentials though. Perhaps you can just zip the site up and send it to the client or, if you want a better experience, walk the client through the process of getting you the FTP credentials.

  • 10
    +1 or make the client sign a document indemnifying the OP for any damage that may result from password leakage, with the understanding that the client will change the password once the upload is complete. – rath Jul 3 '18 at 13:21
4

You've done the website job. It will take you only a few minutes to go to the Control Panel of his hosting, discover the settings and do the upload. It's a trivial job. If, in the future, he needs changes to the site, charge for the work, don't be petty about the upload.

$50 a month seems a LOT for a bit of webspace. Unless prices wherever you are (USA?) are a lot different to ours here in the UK, I'm not surprised he went elsewhere, particularly as you told him he could.

  • 13
    And now you've opened yourself to all sorts of liability because when something goes wrong with the 3rd party hosting account, who do you think is going to get the blame? Oh for goodness's sake! – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 3 '18 at 17:50
  • 12
    $50 a month is high for unmanaged hosting solutions, which is what you are comparing the service to. Managed hosting doesn't require any administration/webmaster skills on the customer's end (and involves additional responsibility in cases of site outage), and is a completely different product. – March Ho Jul 3 '18 at 18:35
  • 3
    @SalmanA With managed hosting, you pay mostly for the service (transferring the files, keeping software up to date, ...) and not the hardware. If someone manages a shared server for you so your website is working for $50, this is fine. Compare that to the amount of time and money you need to learn administering a complete Linux server securely and it is a steal. – Josef Jul 4 '18 at 9:48
  • 3
    Give a customer an inch and they'll take a mile. Do this "trivial job" (only trivial for those with the expertise) and they'll be expecting all future trivial jobs to be free. – Steve Smith Jul 4 '18 at 12:04
  • 2
    @LaurencePayne, Yes, he's probably just a reseller. But let's be honest too, those places that charge $5 a month are going to charge $200 an hour for support. That's how they're able to offer the prices they can. His client apparently doesn't know what ftp is and doesn't seem to be willing to learn what it is by googling for it. That's going to require a lot of handholding. Did he even select a good shared hosting company with good customer reviews, automatic backups, security updates, etc? In any case, I hope that the OP charges the same hourly rate as the host in question that was selected. – Stephan Branczyk Jul 4 '18 at 20:21
2

First of all, I think you should try to explain him the details of such transfer first and how it would work in the future. This could make negotiation in the future run more smoothly if you both are on the same page.

Furthermore, as I understand the hosting fee of 50$/month includes your support so it might be simpler to charge for the support separately from the hosting cost.

  • 1
    Nope, supporting people using 3rd party services is a royal PITA. Multiple reasons - the type of people that want you to do this aren't technical enough to be able to get the info you need. Anything that happens is your fault - and you have no control over the system(s) in use, so you can't fix anything really or be proactive. The questioner should deliver files via zip download behind username/password to the client and the client can deal with it however. – ivanivan Jul 4 '18 at 23:39
  • @ivanivan In that case, I suppose the hosting should be free, but required for support. ;-) – employee-X Jul 5 '18 at 5:39
  • Why should one give a customer anything for free? The essence of being a "customer" is paying. – gnasher729 Jul 7 '18 at 17:06
2

The issue is relatively simple to solve regarding the FTP file transfer to the Company X server. You simply make a visit to the client's location and work 1::1 to coach them through the process of setting up the FTP client on their local computer and then using that tool to access the Company X server. When it comes to the point where there are login credentials being entered you just step away and make the point that they need to keep that information private. Lastly simply guide them through the process of plugging the files for the website into the remote server.

The subject of whether you charge for this one time visit depends heavily on factors that have been discussed in other answers and comments here. Bottom line though is that if you want to keep this customer for future work you do whatever is needed within the scope of your contract plus that little bit more that translates to customer satisfaction.

  • 1
    If the client isn't technically aware, he won't absorb the procedure. And how can you equate a field trip with spending the few minutes to upload it from your computer? No point in getting offended because you offered the client a cheaper option and he took it! – Laurence Payne Jul 5 '18 at 13:27
2

I would be conflicted into uploading or not the site to the FTP hosting service, paid or not.

Without going into the several points already discussed here of keeping the customer vs charging for it, what often worries me into these kinds of requests is precedence and ownership of the problem.

If you know make the precedence and take ownership of the technical management site of using a cheaper competitor service, guess who will be called when there are further problems down the road?

IMO you should make it clear in future contracts that maintenance/known-how comes together with using your hosting service as a package, and that for external hosting, you change more for developing pages or in alternative, you provide a tarball/zip file and are done with it.

You might also sweeten the deal with value added services, for instance, if you go hosting with me, I will provide monthly reports of the site usage via email. You can pretty much do that in the most basic form with Google Analytics.

1

What you should do depends on if you would like to have business with this customer or not in the future. If you don't care about doing business with him in the future, and you don't want him to potentially refer you to any other customers then just email him the files and be done with it or offer to upload the files to his site for a fee.

If you would like for him to maybe do business with you in the future and possibly refer you to other customers then you want to make sure that he has a good experience in doing business with you. In this case, you are talking about something that will take almost none of your time. It would be different if it involved much work on your part. It seems like you want to punish him for not purchasing your outrageously priced hosting. The thing is, if he has a negative experience in doing business with you then you are really inflicting that punishment on yourself and your own company. That would be very short-sighted.

The fact that this is not obvious to you already suggests that you should look into the customer satisfaction concept and see if it is something that you might want to institute in your business. Without a high level of customer satisfaction you will not be very successful with your business regardless of what business you are in.

1

I would be inclined to give generic instructions but not provide a direct install. If you install it you will likely be expected to support it including making changes if the host changes its configuration, moving it if the client changes their mind about which host to use, etc. If the hosting arrangement is a VPS or container you may effectively become responsible for securing the VM and actively monitoring it because if a security hole is found unpatched later and used to bring the site down or steal information the blame may come your way for not installing the site securely in the first place.

asking me to login to their dashboard and find what I need

To do this they would need to give you their login credentials. I would refuse from a security PoV: I do not accept other people's credentials. How do you know who else has access to those credentials? How do you know that if they do something untoward (accidentally or deliberately) you won't get the blame as you were the last one known to have logged in? You may even find that him giving his account credentials to you or any other third party is a direct breach of the ToS agreed with the hosting provider. This because less of an issue if the host setup is a reseller arrangement so the client can create a specific account for you, but I doubt that is the case here.

If you don't feel that you can simply refuse...

From a business perspective, perhaps you could point out that installation and support is part of the service you provide with hosting, and that you'd be happy to provide that service on another host for $?? initially and $?? for any support query (not directly relating to your code so already covered by some form of quality guarantee) going forward.

More generally instead of charging for hosting, perhaps tweak your business model and charge for installation, management, maintenance & support and include the actual hosting for free (up to certain bandwidth/space/other limits) or at cost. That way people are free to use another host but it is clear that they have the choice between paying you, asking the host (who will likely refuse or charge), paying someone else, or doing it themselves.

0

Remember: The customer is always right - if the customer pays for it. So you decide how much you need to be paid to do the extra work. Since most of the cost of hosting is for your work, and it’s easier because you work in an environment that you know, the cost for this work should be 50% to 100% more than hosting.

The next time make it absolutely clear that without your hosting, they are on their own.

0

I am posting another answer as the previous one focussed on non-issue.

I mean, well he decided to go with company X, so he should contact them about all stuff that is required to run the website. It's not in my business to help him.

This depends on the contract. Your question cannot be answered until you provide exact details. I assume two possibilities:

  1. The agreement was to build a website and deliver the files to the client. If that was the case you hand over the files to the client using the agreed-upon method. If transferring the files via FTP was part of agreement then it is the client's responsibility to provide you the information. What you do with the hosting dashboard information is up to you: you can simply refuse, look up the information favor or bill the client for your time.

  2. If the agreement was to build a website, set it up on destination server and make sure it runs there, then it is a different story. You are responsible for transferring the files. You are also responsible for making sure everything is setup right: folders that need write permissions have write permissions, MP4 videos have correct mime types set and your form-email scripts use the correct mail configuration. Some of these might require dashboard password, or you might have to login there to create a support tickets for problems that you cannot solve or information you cannot figure. It is not unusual for clients to provide the dashboard information to the developer. Your responsibility is to figure out all required information to get the website up and running.

PS: You can usually upload files through dashboard. If there is a zip upload+unzip option it is far more efficient than transferring 10,000 small files via FTP.

0

The client already knows you have the skills to help him and refusing to give him the necessary support at this point could make you lose him as a client for future collaborations. I think it would be better to clarify when you presented the two options (your hosting for $50/mo or cheaper) what would be the advantages to pick you.

The settings he requires now are not necessarily related to the hosting. He asks for your help as a developer. You can charge him for the time spent with the settings. I saw this at my collaborators, they offer free settings if the client choose hosting from them or they charge for the settings if not.

-2

I agree with the other answers in that in general, agreeing to perform a task outside of the original scope and without a new contract is bad business practice. However, to offer a different perspective, assuming all they're asking is for you to find the FTP credentials through the competitor's website, in the interest of creating a lasting business relationship, it might be best to just do it. The customer seems to be somewhat technically illiterate and chances are high that they'll require additional services in the future, either to update the site or maybe even to find a new host when they run into more problems with the competitor. If you agree to spend a few extra hours getting the site up and running, they'll be more likely to come back to you in their hour of need and maybe even come to the realization that the quality of service you provide is worth the extra money.

  • 6
    I wouldn't touch someone else's FTP password, especially if they seem technically illiterate. If they get hacked, how does the OP prove he's not to blame? – Dmitry Grigoryev Jul 4 '18 at 8:25
  • 1
    @DmitryGrigoryev OP already asked the client for password so your point does not make any sense. – Salman A Jul 5 '18 at 13:47

protected by David K Jul 10 '18 at 19:39

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.