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I'm just starting out as a web designer. I'm trying to build up a portfolio for my own website.

I'm concerned about designing a site and handing it over to the client. Once I do this I could lose access to the site. They can change the login information and they may not need to me manage it. If the client changes anything on the site that compromises my design work, it will reflect my business. My business' name will be on the homepage of the website.

Is this a valid concern?

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Close voters & flaggers: Questions about freelancing and business concerns are on topic according to our FAQ, provided of course that the problem presented in the question is unique to our profession. And I think this one is, so I cleared the close votes. –  Yannis Rizos May 27 '13 at 18:13
    
I guess if you are not planning for a full time web hosting work then you can very easily give your client manage web designing work. I don't think there is any harm in it. –  Ajay123 May 28 '13 at 7:22
    
Don't put your name on the finished work. Take a screenshot of your work for historically reasons, but they should be alowed to do anything with the finish product, unless you have a contract that says otherwise. –  Ramhound May 28 '13 at 12:35
    
I wouldn't as they might steal the code. But you can. –  chabgo Jun 22 '13 at 13:45
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6 Answers

You're planning on doing design work for hire. Unless you really want to be a permanent web host as your full time job (and even if you do, really) you should let your client host their website wherever they want.

If you are concerned about your name being on it if they change the design, put a clause in your contact that you can demand they take your name off if they change the design. Or don't clutter the design with your name, and rely on the good relationship you have with your customer to generate referral business.

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Also make sure that, with client's consent, you take snapshots of the site in the state you love best. This will help you more easily demonstrate it in your portfolio and keep you immune to any drastic changes the client may make to their site — e.g. if they are acquired and have to redesign their site to match the corporate style of the acquiring company. –  9000 May 27 '13 at 18:54
    
^^^ this exactly. It's hard to show off a portfolio when half the links are dead or the page is restyled later on –  omouse May 27 '13 at 21:56
    
Yeah also I look back at some of my really early stuff and I really feel that it isn't representative of me knowing what I'm doing. A screen shot that you post can be taken down, Site used by others probably can't. –  Calvin May 29 '13 at 10:23
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Unless you have a previous agreement (i.e. a contract) that covers this, you probably have little choice in the matter from a legal stand-point. (Talk to an IP / Copyright lawyer)

If the client changes anything on the site that compromises my design work, it will reflect my business. my business name will be on the homepage of the website. Is this a valid concern?

It might be valid to you ... but it won't be valid to your client. They will have their own concerns too; e.g.

  • the costs and risks (as they see them) of external hosting ,
  • the costs and risks (as they see them) of depending on your services ... in perpetuity.

There is a "simple solution". Change the site to remove your business name as part of the hand-over. That's likely to reduce the prospect of further business from your client, but it certainly will address your immediate concern.

IMO, you should negotiate with your client, and try to come to a compromise that satisfies both of your concerns. Your concerns are (at this stage) hypothetical. If you come to a sensible compromise, they should never come to pass. (And next time ... put it in the contract.)


There's another thing you should think about. You could risk damaging your business reputation by making a big fuss about this. Other potential clients might decide that they would prefer to take their website design work to someone who is going to be more cooperative when it comes to website hand-over time.

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My sense here is that its better if the customer hosts. If you host everything, you may be able to squeak out some hosting fees, but you also end up responsible for server outages and database crashes... and basically every other glitch that occurs with the site (real or imagined by the customer). Unless you have a strong set of server administration skills, that doesn't seem like a wise responsibility to take on.

The other downside for hosting a customer's site is that if they dont pay their hosting fees... do you shut the site off? What if there's a disagreement about what the fees are? Are you prepared for the legal hassles that can entail? I say avoid the complexity.

You are concerned about the customer locking you out. If you provide a good service, thats not too likely. And, if the customer ends up being a problem customer, it'll be all that much easier for you to cut your ties with them.

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In Business To Make A Profit

The most common problem I see with freelancers getting caught up in hosting their clients work is they are not turning a profit for it.

ISPs offer hosting solutions based upon the idea that the customer will perform the maintenance of their own website. Most ISPs charge between $75(US) to $95(US) per hour if you need them to do work on the server.

When I speak with freelancers caught hosting their clients work. The majority of the time they collect a small fee (if any at all). That's not the way it should be.

Shared Hosting Paints A Distorted Picture

The majority of small freelance web work can be hosted on shared web solutions. These are either Wordpress sites, small static sites, etc.. etc.. Things that don't require a complex dedicated server.

This has caused the most problems for freelancers.

The average cost for shared hosting is between $10 to $29 per month. This creates a low-perceived value in the eye of the client. They often fail to understand the man hours involved in the maintenance of a website. Shared virus dedicated doesn't really matter. It takes time to set things up, and go in to change things when needed. Getting a Wordpress website to run smoothly has little to do with what kind of service the client rented from the ISPs.

Invest, Grow and Charge For It

You're in business to make money. Run it like a business.

  • Get yourself a powerful dedicated server that can handle all your customers at once.
  • Charge your customers an arm and a leg for space on your server.
  • Put the profits back into investing on better server equipment. Give your customers the best web experience possible.
  • Buy space on content delivery networks and charge the client for it.

My argument is simple. You have an advantage over other ISPs. The customer is more likely to rent space from you, then having to research and buy space from another company they've never dealt with. It's your chance to mark up, profit and generate another stream of income.

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Like others have said, get things in a contract so that you can take your name off it if something happens, etc. From a business standpoint, I have monetary incentive to host with me (I resell hosting and add value by being a single point of contact for dealing with the actual hosting company I use to provide the hosting service). The customer is fine if they use their own hosting, but I factor cost in to design/dev projects for keeping track of their login information to make changes, as well as the trouble to figure out the many different tools the various hosting providers have (Godaddy is different from Hostgator is different from Dreamhost is dif...). So I give my customers a slight discount if they host with me from the start of their website, or, I charge a bit more if I have to work with a client that hosts things themselves. It's not really enough money to matter, just a few bucks, but does urge them to use my hosting, which is WAY easier for me to manage and control for clients, which lets me give them better, if not more consistent service. While they have every right to host it wherever they want, this can be a way to try and sway them to go with you, which then also keeps you in their mind when they need to make changes.

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I always host for clients:

  1. You built the website, you are responsible for its security.

  2. You cannot trust cheaphostx to be secure or have the libraries required for your site to run.

Perfect example, I had a client who wanted to self host. But the site I built them required php with cURL. The host they chose didn't have cURL a piece of the site didn't function and I got blamed for it.

So I always host.

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