When I take on a new client they often come to view me as their “tech support guy”. I have had clients bring their laptop into my office so that I can configure an email account for them, ask for help formatting a Powerpoint presentation, or seek advise about fixing a broken hard drive.
I try to discourage these enquiries, since I have no particular expertise in computer networking or maintenence, or any desire to provide those services. In most cases it is easy to explain my position to clients, but one area where it gets murky is where email accounts are concerned.
As a web developer I regularly set up mailboxes for my clients, but I draw the line at configuring an email account on a client’s workstation. Instead I give the client the credentials required to login to their mailbox, and instructions for configuring their email application (Outlook, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, etc). If they still can’t figure it out I refer them to an IT firm who specialise in small business networking.
Sometimes clients have difficulty understanding why I won’t travel to their office to configure their email account in person, but that simply isn’t how I want to spend my time. I also worry that once a client comes to view me as on-call tech support they will phone me any time their email stops working for five minutes, or they have any other minor problem with their computer (or even worse, a major problem).
If I ran a multi-person web firm I would delegate these sort of tasks to a junior, but as a solo operator I don’t see the value in taking time away from my core business activity.
I am wondering where other web designers and developers draw the line. Do you provide technical support services to your clients? If so, which services do you consider fall within your area of expertise? Is it the responsibility of a web developer to provide full technical support services, or is it reasonable to set clear limits?
Edit: I removed the paragraph about creating email signatures, on reflection it isn’t really relevant to the topic :)
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