I offered a severely discounted $25/hour. This included not just basic support, but also advanced troubleshooting, bug fixes, and customization. Clearly the going rate is much less than $25, which puts Americans at a disadvantage, especially where I live (Los Angeles).
Not only Americans, I would say. Here in Ireland the minimum wage is about $12/hour. You can easily get it by doing any job, from flipping burgers to washing the dishes in a restaurant (actually, washing dishes you can earn more). Any job that requires good skills, such as customer management, technical knowledge and so on must pay a good bit more than that, or nobody would take it.
Trying to compete only on a price basis is impossible (see the Elance phenomenon), the only way to win is trying follow the saying “don’t be the cheapest, be the best”. However, it’s also true that if an Author makes $10 per sale and has to pay $25 to cover support, he cannot afford it.
Devil: paid support is the answer. Let the one needing support decide if they’ll pay what it’s worth.
I consider that the best option for support – is to hire someone on full-time basis (5-8 hours per day) with month salary, not hourly rate.
You don’t needed an experienced developer, junior will be enough to solve most of your support tickets. All good junior developers love to learn, gain new experience, which they do not have enough, they will pass with you the extra mile if you ask them about it. Money for them is a secondary matter. When queue of support tickets is empty – you can involve your support-guy to help you with your own projects.
The following tips based on my own experience, maybe it would be useful to someone
PaymentDon’t pay your support-guy for the number of solved tickets. Don’t pay your support-guy for the number of worked hours. People want stability, people want to be sure that earn enough, so pay your support-guy monthly salary. You can give them extra-bonuses for good work – $$ or just free pizza on Friday
TeachYou should be ready to spent some time to teach your new support-guy. Create guidelines and instructions, you support-guy should know what he can do and what he can’t. For example: if support task take less then 30 mins and does not require advanced customization – he should solve it, but if support task is require advanced customization – he should redirect this task to premium support service (notify you and your customer).
ManagementAsk your support-guy to send you daily reports (short list of completed tasks will be enough). Check feedback and comments from your customers. This will give you an understanding of how things are going, and if something goes wrong, you can take the necessary steps to solve issues.
Offer Premium SupportYou can earn extra money providing premium support, for example:
- Free support: Pre-sale questions, bug fixing and small “How-to” advices
- Premium support: UI troubleshooting (HTML, CSS, JS), style changes and some customization.
The most important thing when you hire someone – is relationships, you should find people which you can trust.Here is a small quote from the “Rework” book (by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson):
Do it yourself first. Never hire anyone to do a job until you’ve tried to do it yourself first. ... For the first three years, one of us did all of our customer support. Then we hired a dedicated support person. We ran with the ball as far as we could before handing it off. That way, we knew what we were looking for once we did decide to hire.