Web Developers: Be up front with your clients if there are limitations to access

Each week I run across at least three clients or potential clients who are frustrated because they want to make changes to their websites, templates and other areas of their online presence; but their current web solutions provider will not give them the access to make the changes. They retain control and thus deem themselves necessary and irreplaceable. This is a falacy. This is paranoia.

There’s a Bugs Bunny cartoon that comes to mind. A hound dog is trying to catch the rabbit. He reaches through a tree trunk and Bugs tricks him by putting a tomato in his hand. The dog pulls it out and holds on so tightly to his prize he crushes it, and tomato seeps through his hand. The dog can only wail, “I Cruuushed him!…

Forcing your control over your clients by withholding access or information is a fast path to losing a client or killing an account. You will lose their trust. No amount of “flowers” brought to the grave of a killed account can bring back the trust.

If you are hired to do a project for a client and know you will never give them access to the files, perhaps because they are on a shared server or for whatever lame reason you want to give, you need to tell your client up front and have them sign an acknowledgment of this fact. They need to know it, and accept it. It covers both of you. If you are unable to set up limited FTP access, have your clients sign a waiver that if they get in and botch up their site, it’s their responsibility to fix it or pay to have it fixed at your rate (whatever it is) – then let them know that, as well.

I have never had a client who would not accept responsibility if they insisted on getting into their own files and messing with templates and databases. I warned them, made a back up of the items before giving them access (thank goodness) and then they had to pay to undo or fix the damage. There were no hard feelings, just acceptance. In some cases, I’ve ended up training clients safer ways and practices to make major template or database changes. They are empowered and are much happier than being beholden to the “web person” who just wants to crush the tomato.