Has Your Website Designer Disappeared?

Posted by on Jun 04 2018

A strange phenomena has been spreading like a virus over the past few years. In the past four months alone, three of my clients have told me that their website designer or virtual assistant has “disappeared.” No return phone calls, unanswered emails. Gone, gone, gone.

Kidnapping? Hardly. When the economy gets tough or the revenue numbers don’t ad up, many website designers and virtual assistants (small business owners themselves) simply go out of business. Some get full-time jobs in corporations, some just shut their doors. And of course, personal and family problems can cause an owner to go out of business. Perhaps they’ve changed their business model and have shifted away from doing the work they used to do for you — they haven’t gone out of business, just changed their focus.

This is a huge problem for small business owners, who rely upon their website designer or virtual assistant to maintain and upgrade their websites for them. There’s not much you can do if your website designer or VA goes out of business. But you can protect yourself and prepare yourself to move to a new website designer. You need to have access to all your files before your website designer disappears.

Use this checklist to get control of your website for the future:

  1. Login information for the hosting company.
  2. FTP login information, if appropriate.
  3. WordPress login information, if appropriate.
  4. A list of WordPress plugins that are in use, and their purpose.
  5. Email address login information for each email account (you may have more than one email address for your domain, such as office@domain.com or mary@domain.com or info@domain.com).
  6. Other login information to auxiliary software embedded or connected to your site, like: membership software, forum software, learning management systems, merchant accounts, eCommerce systems, email marketing system, video hosting or file hosting services, etc.
  7. Logins for Google Analytics, Google Adwords, and/or Facebook Ads, if you use any of these services.
  8. A copy of all your website coding, graphic, audio, video and animation files, including the original, editable source files for all your graphics.
  9. Written confirmation that you own the content of the website and have the right to transfer it, edit it, submit it to United States Copyright Office, sell it, etc.

For security purposes, if your website designer truly disappears and you can’t reach them, change ALL login IDs and passwords on your accounts. In addition, if you have given your website designer your credit card information, you may wish to cancel the card and have a new number re-issued.

Whether you think your website designer or VA has a sound business or you think they’re struggling and might disappear, I recommend you get the above items from them website today so that you have full control of your website — and your internet marketing — for the future.


8 comments for now

8 Responses to “Has Your Website Designer Disappeared?”

  1. Thanks, Karyn! Who would have thought that we need to know these things! As usual, you come to the rescue not only with good advice, but the very specific questions we need to ask and explicit information we need to collect. Thanks so much for standing behind us small business owners.

    04 Dec 2008 at 6:16 pm

  2. Karyn Greenstreet

    You’re welcome, Jan. We’ve moved or updated so many existing websites for new clients over the past two months, and we were always asking for the same information over and over again. Finally, we had compiled this list in our heads and figured we’d better get it on paper.



    05 Dec 2008 at 5:56 am

  3. Hi Karyn,

    I am a professional virtual assistant and have benefitted from your classes and products. Thank you!

    Your article clearly addresses a situation for those who use web designers. However, putting virtual assistants in the same article is truly wrong. A professional virtual assistant is a business partner who doesn’t just close up shop and disappear. We have strong values and standards which govern how we terminate our business relationships.

    There are a lot of ‘virtual workers’ who claim to be virtual assistants, charging below market rates. It’s the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’. When you talk about shopping for a virtual assistant business partner, or online business manager, please feel free to reference the FREE Registry at Assist University at http://www.assistu.com.

    Thank you for your amazing workshops and products.


    18 Jun 2009 at 7:22 am

  4. Hi, Kim,

    While I respect and hear your comments, I have to tell you that my clients ARE experiencing their VA closing up shop, especially if they’re having economic problems.

    Three times this year, different clients have told me that their VA or website designer went out of business and they were having a hard time getting the information they needed about their website. Twice this year we’ve had to work with VAs and website designers to get the login information and website files. In the third instance, the client got the information directly from the VA without our assistance. A few years ago, we had to help five clients get their information from either a VA or a website designer, as the VA or website designer did not reply to phone calls or emails from the client.

    In all these instances, the VA and/or website designer had been running an honest, respectful and sincere business. These were not fly-by-night companies or below-par moonlighters.

    Closing up shop isn’t always about values and standards. Sometimes the economy hits a VA, website designer, or any other small business owner very hard, or they have personal reasons for closing their business quickly (illness, family responsibilities, better job offer, etc.). Most business owners are serious about their business and their clients, and most business owners will not leave their clients high-and-dry if they have to close down their business. But occassionally a business owner needs to close their business quickly, and does not reply to phone calls or emails for weeks at a time.

    Even if the VA or website designer doesn’t close their business quickly, it’s important for the business owner to have all the pertinent information about the website (logins, files, copyrights, etc.).

    Many VAs manage the day-to-day maintenance of a website. In some cases, the original website designer is no longer in the picture and the only person with this important data is the VA.

    I recognize that most VAs and website designers WILL do everything in their power to provide all important information to clients before closing their business. However, on the chance that this does not occur, or the business owner is aware that the VA or website designer is closing the business, the above list helps the business owner to know what information they need to get from the person who maintains their website.


    18 Jun 2009 at 7:55 am

  5. I am in the web design biz because my then social media clients were getting into trouble with the web designers going AWOL. This is a great list/post. I also found a sneaky trend with web designers. Do not let your web designer register your domain name for you. If needed have thewalk you through it.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten called in to try and fix a disaster because they let their web designer set up their domain name….and the web designer bought it in their OWN name, not in their client’s name. Which, according to the rules… the name on the domain registrar (where you bought the domain from) is the legal owner of that domain. & if they refuse it cam be rwally hard to prove its your h get it back. Only if you have trademark info or an email or contract that predates the purchase stating that you are instructing them to buy it in your name. To check Google “the whois in your database” select the database site & put in your domain name. See what comes up. Make sure it is in your name & that you know what company it is with & when it is up for renewal.

    Some designers say they buy it in their OWN name so the biz owner doesn’t forget to renew it. Part of my job is to remind them to renew it. I help my clients register the domain in their own name, along with setting up their Google analytics on their own account (and make myself an admin user). I set up all plugins/accounts in their name. It just upsets me to see how some designers are either lazy, or out to rip folks off, or to be able to withhold a site in case of a dispute.

    This list of Karyn’s is great to get up front, or to ask for now.

    05 Jun 2018 at 10:17 am

  6. Karyn Greenstreet

    You bring up several good points, Cathy…it’s excellent if the website designer can remind the business owner of when things need to be renewed (or upgraded). Everyone should look at their WhoIs listing to see who “owns” your domain. You can do that here: https://whois.icann.org/

    05 Jun 2018 at 12:12 pm

  7. Great list, Karyn!

    I know this post exists to tell folks to be sure they have what they need…it’s not to bash service providers.

    I’d like to add to it, though, and suggest that clients need to have access to all the policies and procedures, logins and passwords… *everything* that makes their businesses run.

    And, to that end, they should gleefully support and happily pay their service provider (whether VA, web/graphic person, or any other type) in the creation of and maintenance of those docs in a shared online space that the client controls.

    But, my experience is that small biz owners often don’t see the point of having that level of information, much less being willing to pay for it to be created.

    The point, of course, is that it’s helpful to have if someone from the team has to leave, regardless of the duration of the leave, or the reason for it. Having that information will make it easy for someone else to step into the role and pick up the work. Not having the information makes it all kinds of hard on everyone.

    I’d like to end with this thought: there’s zero excuse for anyone to disappear on a client, ever. But there should be zero excuse for a client not having the appropriate documentation for her business, either.

    07 Jun 2018 at 12:33 am

  8. Karyn Greenstreet

    I agree, Anastacia. As a business owner, it’s our responsibility to have access to all our login information, policies, procedures, checklists. And not only in case a service provider can no longer work for you — what if you want to EXPAND and hire more people? You’ll split up tasks and reassign projects as the normal part of growing a business. That means, if things aren’t documented, you waste precious time re-creating the wheel. I’m sorry to hear that small business owners are skipping this hugely important step!

    07 Jun 2018 at 9:10 am

Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Running a Strong & Efficient Business, Website Planning
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