April 24, 2017

“The website is down!”

Have you ever gotten a panicked email from a past client?

Something like:

“The website is down! Please reply as soon as you get this!”

The subject line might have been all caps. They probably also phoned you, left a voicemail, and texted just to be sure.

In an emergency situation, it can be temping to drop everything and spring into action. Emotions are running high and doing anything but diving in seems like heresy.

But here’s the thing:

If you’re going to send an invoice for the work once you’re done (i.e., your not going to do it for free) you owe it to yourself and to the client to give them a price and get approval before you lift a finger.

I repeat:

Give the client a price AND get approval THEN you can start.

In a crisis, no one is going to be in the mood for a full blown Why Conversation.

But you can say something like:

“I can drop everything and look into this now for $3,000. I’ll figure out the root cause and let you know what your options are. If you can wait a week, I can do it for $1,000. In either case... once we know our options, I’ll give you a price for each and we can discuss.”

The actual numbers you quote would be based on your relationship with the client and their expectations. Considerations like:

In any case, you should price emergency work painfully high. It’s genuinely in the client’s best interest to do so because it provides a financial incentive toward proactive behavior in the future.

Otherwise you end up with a situation like the high school kid who keeps breaking down on the highway because she knows she can just call Daddy to come pick her up.

Unproductive and codependent.

It allows client to be irresponsible and allows the developer to play the hero.

Neither party ends up profiting much financially.

So, don’t just strap on your cape and leap to the rescue.


Set prices, provide options, get approval.