Funny thing, marketing. Everyone thinks they own everything. The marketer, graphic designer, and coder think they own something because they created it. The client thinks they own it because they paid for it.
20 years ago, very few people knew how to create online, that is, develop websites or communicate with others via web. 10 years ago the web was booming and the philosophy that everyone must have a web presence had taken hold. A lot of non-tech people were frustrated by wanting to get online but held back by the complexity and skill required to publish a website.
This was a frustrating prospect, a reality that some service providers took advantage of, holding work they were paid to do hostage. A client might have paid for a website or for design work, but they didn’t have access to the site or artwork for later updates unless they paid the original creator again.
Eventually though, solutions like WordPress and other CMS (content management systems) were developed, which allowed almost anyone to create and control their web presence. The days of relying on a webmaster and paying someone ongoing fees, to make even the smallest changes, were over.
Do you own your website?
Times have changed, and even the most tech-challenged have the ability to control their web presence. Occasionally, though, I’ll still run into a client who has no access to the company’s website. There is no “login”, there is no way to make even a simple update and they lack the ability to do the most mundane activities like publishing a blog post or updating contact information. They call a “webmaster”, usually the person who developed the website, ask them to make these changes, wait days, and then get an invoice. In this scenario, email accounts are almost always “maintained” (controlled) by this same person which is also a huge mistake.
With today’s web technology, you should never be in this situation. Even you if you have no desire to manage your website or email accounts and prefer someone else to maintain them, you should still have complete access and control. You should own your domain, you should pay for your own hosting directly, and you should most certainly have the ability to login to your website and email accounts, even if you have no desire to.
Why? First, you shouldn’t be paying a ton of money to an outsider to make minor changes to your website or email accounts. If you can use a word processing program or if you know how to send an email, all you need is a crash course to make text changes or add images to your website. Better yet, delegate and train an employee to help if time is your challenge.
Second, what happens if the relationship with your webmaster goes sour? Or they go on vacation? Get ill or become incapacitated? If you don’t have the necessary logins and permissions to move your site and email accounts to another provider to make changes for you, you’re sunk.
Third, there are too many reasons that you might need to quickly get in to update your website or email accounts to list. Maybe product info is incorrect on your site, your contact info changes, a customer reacts negatively to a statement (this can be a PR nightmare) and you want to make an immediate change. You should have the access and knowledge to do it. What if an employee leaves under negative circumstances and you need to remove their access to email? Or have an emergency and need to get into an inbox?
Apathy toward your company’s technology because of a lack of time or skill is a recipe for disaster. And it’s expensive. If you’re setting up a new website, be clear with the person or company building your site that you want to own all domains and have all passwords, full access, full ownership and make sure that’s written into your contract.
Do you own your art?
Same with logo design, photography and other graphic art you commission. Most designers and photographers are perfectly reasonable, they will typically ask for the rights to show the artwork or photos in a portfolio. Always clarify (in writing, in a contract) though, that you own all artwork for commercial purposes and that you will receive all files.
There are times that some artists and larger marketing firms will assume full ownership rights of anything they create. If you don’t want them using the art you commissioned for their own commercial or portfolio purposes let them know that and explain why. You should also receive all master design files and unretouched photos if you want them, so that you can have other artists make edits or updates in the future.
I have seen situations in which a firm refuses to hand over master files to a client after a project is completed or when the relationship goes bad. I’ve heard arguments for and against this policy from artists and firms, but as the owner of a firm, my philosophy is if you pay me to create something it’s yours.
Do you own your data?
This is a tricky one that I didn’t think about until recently when I had trouble exporting data. My company has used a project management program for years to document progress on projects and communication with clients, including design files, contracts, video clips, everything you can imagine.
After rebranding our company, we determined that we had different needs and a desire to move to a different program. When I investigated exporting to a new program, I was informed that the only way to move all this data for hundreds of projects was to start moving it all manually. It simply isn’t worth it as this time for me to pay my team to move files from one site to another.
I’ve heard from clients that they’ve had similar experience with CRM programs (client relationship managers, these are programs that hold your prospects’ and clients’ data and notes about the sales process for your reference) – you store data for thousands of customers and their accounts in a program and then you can’t get it back out.
When you’re investigating solutions for storing your company’s data, be sure that you can easily export that data when ready to move to another program. As your company grows and as technology changes, so do your needs, be sure you can move easily to another solution at will.
Have you considered the answers to these questions? Do you have control of your website and the artwork you use for marketing? Do you have an emergency plan in place to protect and move data? Do you agree or disagree? What am I missing? Share your thoughts in the comments!