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I'm working on a quite small engineering/programming project (~100kloc of code) which tackles many different areas of expertise. The program communicates with many external devices, has data processing and presentation capabilities, reporting module, etc. Basically it's a mashup of electrical engineering (electrical measurements), machine control, data processing, visualisation and project management.

I want to give the client a period of free technical service and bug-fixes after the sell.

I'm inclining to propose 6 months of free support but wanted to know what was the range of free support you agreed to (would agree to) after selling your project.

If you wouldn't agree to free support period what would be your support financing proposal - payed per hour, per day, per month, per request after giving estimate of time necessary to complete the task?

  • You question may possibly be on topic over at Freelance SE, but may be too much of an opinion poll to fit anywhere on the SE network. In any event, it is not on-topic here. – Todd A. Jacobs Jan 4 '14 at 16:03
  • Well I've got useful and informative answers here and there (F.SE). Besides, point 1 on the list you linked to says "Project Management Practices and Theory". I think what to do with one's project after its completion and delivery fits perfectly into that scope. – bor Jan 7 '14 at 5:16
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This is commonly known as "the warranty period". In software I have seen one month or three months used very often. I have never seen 6 months offered for a bespoke development warranty.

In terms of commercial support arrangements, they are many and varied. Reading between the lines, it seems you are a small outfit, perhaps one-man band? Assuming this, you will want to bear in mind that your resources are fairly finite and any long-tail support carries an opportunity cost for you- Any time you spend supporting the historical product is time you cannot spend on making more money elsewhere- so factor that in.

I have seen the retained resource model work well. Agree with the client how much time you both think they will need in support- let's say one day per month for argument's sake. Agree a rate for 12 days per year, bill them monthly or quarterly for that agreed amount (pro rata) and allow them to "call-off" their support time as and when they see fit or need it. But, crucially, agree a higher rate for anything they use over and above the agreed level. Then reconcile every three months, or monthly, or yearly (whatever works for you both) and "true up" how much they have used. If possible DON'T allow them to carry over unused support time across period boundaries else you are storing up a big cashflow/resource hit for yourself.

Another common way would be to calculate the support cost as a percentage of the build/project cost. 15-20% is common. But ensure your exposure is limited so that it cannot become an unsustainable overhead for you. Preferably also define up front what support can, and cannot be used for. You wouldn't, for example, want a client to call-off support time and use it for adding new functionality. Any new functionality you DO add, by whatever method, should add to the support bill using the same percentage. More code=more support time=greater support cost to the client. For this kind of arrangement annual billing in advance is common.

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  • Tanks for the info! It's very informative. – bor Jan 4 '14 at 13:31
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The "free" part is troublesome. Nothing is free. Your warranty period, as described by Marv, should be built into your price of your product, the cost of which is a calculated risk result. And the terms & conditions of the warranty are clearly spelled out: what is included, what is excluded. Thereafter, support services can certainly be sold on a T&M basis or fixed price (if you have the volume of fixed price contracts to carry the peaks).

Warranty is just like insurance...it IS insurance. You have to calculate this risk understanding the probabilistic impact during the time period you are insuring. Insuring one customer is deadly; you either have to charge an exorbitant premium--which no customer should ever buy nor should you sell--or charge a normal premium and be prepared for bankruptcy. Insurance requires a critical mass. If you do not have this critical mass, you need to seek reinsurance and I don't even know if such a product exists in your industry.

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