7

As a freelancer say for example you developed a web or mobile application for a client as a one time fixed price paid project. You send them the code, install it on their server, and they begin using it for themselves.

Now, normally I'd give my clients 30 days of free bug fixing, before I start charging them for my development time. This gives them a month to work out the kinks, test everything to their satisfaction, and provide feedback while I fix any issues they find at no additional charge.

How long is normal to provide support on critical bugs on a project you are no longer getting paid for? 1 month? 6 months? For ever? Where do you draw the line?

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    I recommend reading this discussion on the same topic in the workplace SE workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/69533/… – Arthur Havlicek Jun 13 '16 at 15:39
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    This is a legal question - different countries have different laws concerning standard warranty periods. Better state exactly in your contract or your general business terms (if you have such a document passed over to your client) which warranty period you provide, and make sure these are not agains the local laws of your country. Even better: make a maintenance contract with them. – Doc Brown Jun 13 '16 at 15:55
  • I would say "You have had the code for over a month, so you should be able to support it yourself by now. But if you still need my help, I can do it for $xxx an hour." – Mark Jun 13 '16 at 16:34
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    Asking how long is normal is not the same as what is the legal requirement. – JeffO Jun 13 '16 at 16:36
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    If you deliver the code, you are not selling a product, you are selling a service. In this case, fixing defects is not a legal concern (but can be a commercial one). If you deliver a closed source software or self hosted service, it depends of the contract, but you can probably discharge yourself from free support as long as your program fulfil what was originally required. – Arthur Havlicek Jun 13 '16 at 17:04
5

IANAL but you need to spell out in the contract if there is a warranty. Typical software has no warranty. You also need to express no damages if lets say they make a bad business based a bad number from the program or loss of a client. Is is common for no warranty and then like 1 month courtesy. You also should give them a time period for acceptance testing. At the end of acceptance testing they need to accept or provide a written list of bugs. You also have the problem of not paying as they are not done with acceptance testing.

Read the terms on several commercial software and you should be able to get a feel for the type of terms in your region. If you want specific legal advice then you need to pay for a lawyer.

  • Thanks @paparazzi. What you're suggesting makes a lot of sense, and at this point the best I can do is offer a very limited additional window for final acceptance testing. Once that's finished we can call the project complete, unless they want to pay me for additional work. – AndyDunn Jun 14 '16 at 8:52
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In a situation like this I always mention that on the contract so I would say that I will give them a 30 day period to make any changes to the project and for support I would normally give them free support for two times then I would charge them the regular rate per hour/visit.

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Indefinitley.

There are two issues to consider:

  1. There are a limited number of possible bugs. So the bug fixing cannot go on forever, as long as you are strict about what a bug is. If something does not match the spec, you should fix it.

  2. There are an infinite number of new features, some of which your client will want, some of which they will consider to be bugs. You want them to call you about these, so you can charge them more.

Keeping your client paying is the main thing. As long as you are charging them for something or have the prospect of being able to charge them, it is worth doing the bug fixes.

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    I'd like to agree with you but the 'bug fixing/updates' phase has been on going for 6-7 months, and currently shows no sign of slowing as they are due to start public testing now. They've been leading me on with the promise of additional work in the next phase but that's also been a pipe dream since last December. I honestly don't believe that I'm ever likely to be paid on this again, and want out in the nicest possible way. – AndyDunn Jun 13 '16 at 19:20
  • I find it hard to judge this answer objectively, mainly because of the viewpoint that "keeping your client paying is the main thing". Of course you have a business and want compensation for the services you provide; but you also need to do just that: provide a service that is valuable to the customer. I would say it is not simply about keeping the client paying, but about receiving adequate pay for valuable services provided, with the hope that your service was so good that the customer will want more. (But I'm getting off-topic here. Just wanted to explain why I downvoted.) – stakx Jun 14 '16 at 6:13
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    I guess the point I'm trying to make is 'are they really bugs'? Chances are 90% of them are not and are hence chargeable. Remember they are also 6 months into this thing and have a vested interest in finishing it. fix the 'bugs' for free, charge for the 'features' – Ewan Jun 14 '16 at 8:59

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