Don’t Leave Your Clients Orphaned

Last week I discussed what a good gesture it is to rescue an abandoned and orphaned website. Now most likely if you are reading this, you are a web designer who couldn’t fathom anyone doing such a dastardly deed as abandoning a web site, right? Are you sure?

What would happen to your clients if you should get very ill and couldn’t care for them? Do you have another web person who could step in either temporarily or, if needed, permanently? What would you do if you were offered the job of your dreams and didn’t have time to help your clients? If you’ve never had a client ask you some of these questions, get prepared… you will likely have someone ask. If you don’t have the answers, you and your potential client will have some uncomfortable ground to cover. It is better to have your answers ready in advance.

When a client starts dancing around the conversation, I help by saying, “What you are asking is, what happens to your web site if I should get hit by a Mac Truck, right?”. This breaks the ice and helps move the delicate conversation forward and lets the client know I’ve thought about how to look out for their best interests.

You should have someone who you have talked with who can step in and take care of your clients if you are disabled or worse. Your significant other is understandably not going to be focused on your web client’s updates that you were working on. That is why you should plan for this before it happens. Then, when your client starts trying to inquire, you can put them at ease by assuring them that their website won’t crash and burn just because you did.

Now that we hit the morbid worst case first, let’s look at more realistic possibilities. What if the job of your dreams falls into your lap? Or you move to another location far away? Or you win the lottery (not the ones you get in your spam folder!)? Or you just decide that web design business is not all you thought it would be. You don’t want to abandon your web clients, right?  How would you handle that? The good news is that you might get a few bucks for that good relationship you’ve developed with your clients. If you know of another web designer who you feel will take good care of your clients, you can offer to sell your client list to that person. How much is it worth? Depends on how much you want to get, what the other web designer will get from the deal (if anything), and what they are willing to pay for that.

Work out a deal that will make you both happy if possible. Maybe they will just give you a few bucks for the list and a quick introduction. Perhaps you get a percentage of any work that is done for the first year. That gives you an incentive to make a smooth transition for your clients to the new designer and gives the designer the motivation to keep your clients happy.

A client will appreciate it when you approach them and explain that you are moving on to other ventures but that you have someone you can recommend if they wish. If you also host your clients’ web sites, you may be able to work out a deal to turn over those hosting clients in exchange for some money up front plus an added bonus for the clients who stay with the new hosting service. That is more easily defined as a future stream of income, rather than trying to project any future web design work.

The deal you work out will greatly depend on who you are dealing with and what value they see in taking over. If you are lucky enough to have thousands of hosting clients that you want to sell, there are large companies who work out such deals (If you wish, contact me for an introduction if you fit in that category). If you have a handful of clients and you would like to get a few bucks as well as making sure you aren’t just dumping your clients, check with another web designer in your area you trust to take over. Or contact me and I’ll try to line you up with someone (or perhaps I can offer to take care of them myself 🙂 ).

The important thing is that your clients have learned that they can trust you. They rely on you not only to build or repair a web site for them, but also to be there in the future when they need more help. They feel you can be counted on to answer their questions. If you can’t be there for them, try to give them a reasonable alternative. And who knows, it might put a jingle in your pocket!

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