But what happens if you die?

Blood on the tracks

This is a bit of a rant, but a recent comment on one of my articles reminded of an argument I sometimes hear as a consultant. It goes something like this: “But what happens if you die?” I cringe when I hear it — not because I can’t defend it — because I find it silly.

Actually, it’s not really an argument or a question at all. It’s a symptom. It tells me that the person making it is feeling very insecure about the deal.

Here’s what I told a recent potential client when I was asked that question:

I understand the “drop dead” factor, and it’s something that my long-term clients and I talked about. The thing is, unless I drop dead while the project is in development, you’re fairly safe. Once the project is completed, another knowledgeable designer/developer can come in and pick up where I’ve left off. Even while the project is being developed, if I can’t continue for whatever reason, the work isn’t lost. It isn’t as if I write my code in some language that no one understands. A good coder should be able to understand what I’ve done and build on it.

And that’s the truth. I can’t see how that argument could possibly stand on its own feet. If you’re a good developer, are in communication with the client, you back up your work, and you have certain deliverables and a timeline tied to a project, how can the project just disappear if you should kick the bucket? Makes no sense to me. Even if I should die, my computer will still be there. My wife or my friends will be there. My source code should be there. Besides, if it’s a website, chances are I’m working on a server somewhere as well, not just in my home, so the files can be retrieved even if my computer were to crash or be locked down.

Isn’t it individuals that have driven innovation throughout the ages? It’s people doing the work and driving toward goals, people that could croak at any point, I suppose, not machines. If the same “what if” argument to them, where would we be today? If a company looking to hire someone stops to think, what if he or she dies tomorrow, where will they be? If you find a good product or a good man, do you wait a few years to see whether or not that product will disappear or that person will croak? You have to take some risk if you want to see results, and sometimes the opportunities are there only for short amounts of time.


4 Comments

  1. Raoul, I do the same thing. And should I pop off in the middle of a project there’s someone who can get to the data still on my computer.

    I’m with ya on the photographic sales. In fact, that’s one of my big projects for the new year – getting set up to seriously sell photos. I lost a steady client last month. It doesn’t hurt (much – and the client closed shop, so it doesn’t hurt the ego), but I can’t rely on one thing.

    And you know, when we kick off, or photos are going to be worth a fortune! 😉

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  2. Adam, loved your comment. Julie, I agree with you to some extent, but like you and I both know, we’re not companies involved in acquisition mania. We’re both web developers and sensible people. As long as we’re still around, we’ll be able to offer support for our projects. And chances are we’ll be around a lot longer than some of these companies people trust today… And why would someone lose their data? I don’t know about you, but I make my source code available to my clients, including the database. I offer them backups of the projects. They don’t stand to lose anything should I croak, except maybe have a bit of a headache finding someone to pick up where I left off.

    And just to clear up any misunderstanding for any of the readers out there, I’m not begging for work in this post. I actually wish I could beg off some of my current projects, but I can’t. I have enough web development work as it is. The only sort of work I’m looking for at this point is some sales for my photographic work, and that’s completely unrelated to this.

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  3. @Adam: *snort*

    Seriously, this is one thing that clients do wonder about. And in this age of acquisition mania and another tech bubble on the edge of bursting, it’s natural to wonder about support for products you own. Is the company going to be there? Are you going to get support?

    Let’s face it: No one wants to lose their data, and that’s what this discussion is really about. Smaller businesses have to work harder (smarter, whatever) to convince customers that their data will be safe.

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  4. Interesting topic. It’s a good point, but to the question “But what happens if you die?” my reply would be, “Well, I think i stand to lose a lot more than you do” 🙂

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