A $24,420.00 Support Contract

Last time I explained how the unpredictable nature of freelancing results in chaotic revenue. I concluded that the only way out of this revenue roller coaster was to start focusing on recurring revenue.

Today we’ll look at my first source of recurring revenue: a support contract.

Every October I know without a doubt that a high-on-sugar mini Spider-Man will show up at my door asking for candy. With the same certainty I know I’ll receive a $24,420.00 check that same month.

How did I make this happen?

A Quick Story**

I had just wrapped up a project for a former employer’s client. A couple weeks later I got a call from the client:

Client: Hey Ryan. Thank you for the work you did. One concern we have is with [former employer] closing shop. We’re looking for another support solution.

Me: I understand. Have you considered switching to…

[I start explaining another product and another company that I believe will be best for them long term]

… Most of all I just want to be sure you guys are taken care of.

Client: I appreciate that. This is what led me to this call. I was wondering if you’d consider supporting it…

[Client goes into all the reasons why this is their only solution]

… and that’s why you’re really our only option.

Me: I appreciate the offer. Give me a couple days to mull it over.

(insert huge sigh of relief)

I didn’t want to explain it to the client but I thought doom was imminent if I supported their application.

How could I balance that with my current work? What if they had a fire that needed putting out? What about liability? If something malfunctioned would I be sued into oblivion?

Mind you this was my first year of full time freelancing. The project I had just wrapped up for them was billed at $75/hr and resulted in a report that politely said “it can’t be fixed”. It seemed like a disaster ready to happen.

I explained the story to several colleagues and after they all gave me a look conveying “you’re an idiot”, I decided to take the deal.

I made sure the contract went through several iterations of lawyering just to make it easier to sleep at night.

Was it Luck?

I thought so. I was so terrified by that $24,40.00 it sat on my desk collecting dust for a couple months before depositing it.

Then a year later I got the same check. Then another the year after. Plus an extra check to do more work! I had also landed a couple more support contracts from other clients.

What had changed?

I started to think about a project’s life after I was done with it.

Discontently Ever After

The first thing a freelancer is taught to focus on is getting paid. It’s the only way you’ll survive.

Projects have a finality to them. A Happily Ever After. Your client gets the work and you get paid. Done.

For a moment though consider what happens to a client’s project after you deliver it?

If you built them a Facebook for Freelancing Florists™ what is their next step? Obviously it’s to make money off this booming niche but what do they need first? Users.

Users have a talent for breaking things in unforeseeable ways. How will your client fix it? Will they train support staff themselves?

Plus, what if they’re not making any money off of Freelancing Florists? What if they need to expand the app to include Freelancing Foresters as well? Who’s going to build that for them?

The obvious answer is that they should have their own web developer. But there is one MAJOR THING this thought overlooks:

Why hire you if they had someone to handle the project?

You were contracted because the client could not hire someone competent enough to handle the project.

This isn’t going to magically change after you’ve delivered. Your presence on a project does not make a client better at hiring

It’s a lost opportunity if you don’t consider ways to take care of clients after a project is complete.

Next time we’re going to take a look at the ideal clients for support contracts and how you can secure those deals.

Can you think of one client who came back to you for more work? How could you have proactively secured that deal?

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