Here’s an interesting dilemma that I continue to struggle with: who pays for work you didn’t request? By that, I mean… should I bill you for time I spent working, when you didn’t actually request the work? I still had to do the work, and it’s not something I volunteered for.
There are several situations where this actually happens.
Your site was hacked
Yes, I know this is not usually your fault. But it’s not my fault either. My experience over the last 17 years shows that most of the hacked sites I see are because your site is hosted at a cut-rate hosting company with weaker security practices. I am a stickler for complicated, non-hackable logins and passwords, when it comes to WordPress, FTP, and hosting accounts. I follow the best practices when it comes to making files accessible (or not).
No matter, if your site is hacked, I’m still the one that has to spend time fixing it. I’ve had clients push back when I try to bill for that time, assuming it is my responsibility. For long-standing clients who pay their bills promptly, I usually don’t bother billing for the hour it takes. But if it continues to happen, I’ll ask you to move to new hosting, and then I do bill for the time that task takes.
Your hosting company has a problem
Sometimes the problem is your hosting company’s fault. I don’t mind spending a few minutes debugging that for you, but it’s not really my responsibility to track down something that I am not responsible for. And yet I can spend hours on the phone gathering data, troubleshooting with Tech Support, and so on.
Your Internet service provider has a problem
You forgot to pay your bills
When you forget to pay your hosting or domain registration bill, I’m usually the one who discovers it, tracks it down, and tells you what to do. If you’re lucky, it’s a quick fix (most often solved by you paying the bill in question). Once paid, your site is — hopefully — back up and running.
In that case, I probably spent no more than 10 or 15 minutes in total — and I don’t care that much about billing for every 10-minute task. But if your site is down, it suddenly becomes a crisis and jumps to the head of the line, before anything else I had planned to work on at that time.
However, if your overdue bill goes too long, the account is usually cancelled and I have to re-build the site from backups (and possibly set up new hosting). In that case, I will definitely bill for that time, and it could be as much as an hour or two.
Your site needs ongoing maintenance work
Every site needs basic maintenance work, if for no other reason than to make sure that the software is running the latest version, plug-ins have been updated to newer versions, backups are running correctly, and so on. Sometimes I can do this work when I am already working on your site for other updates, and it’s just a few minutes. However, if you have not requested any updates in a long time, I may have to spend the 10-15 minutes to open up your set of files and do the necessary work. You may never even know about it, because I won’t bother telling you.
Every January, I do take the trouble to log into each website and update the copyright date. And if I’m already there, I just install any other updates that may be needed. I don’t bill for this, but even at just 5 minutes per site, with over 200 sites I am actively maintaining, that’s 16 hours of work…
All of which is to say: the next time you question the tasks I have included on your invoice, ask yourself whether I’ve done the above items without billing you for them. The answer is probably yes.