I’ve gotten calls in the middle of the night from people around the world trying to get help recovering their WordPress password because their “web guy” ran out on them. I’ve watched people turn over their entire online business to a family member “because they are young and understand all of this stuff,” only to have the family member make wrong decisions, abandon them, or take their money and run. I just got off the phone with another person taken advantage of from some web designer/developer in India. The developer locked up their site and threatened them that if they don’t pay him $500 a month, he will shut down their website and online business. He says that he controls everything on the site and that everything, the content and the code, is his and he has the right to control it all if they will not pay him more.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear. It’s your site. You own it. No matter how much work someone does for you on the site, it is yours.
If you hire a gardener to work on your property, the gardener does not own the property. They are an employee, contractor, or, in the legal sense, work for hire. You might give them the keys to the property, but you own it. It is yours.
“If I stop them, they will destroy or take down my site. They will lock me out and hurt my site and business.” This is the most common fear I hear from people. No one has the right to harm your site because you refused to continue business with them. The gardener has no right, legal or ethical, to burn your house down because you end your business dealings with them. If they do, you have the right to take legal action against them.
However, if you violate the legal agreement with them, they also have rights to take action against you for non-compliance. They still have no right to deface or harm your site. While there are abusive web designers and developers, there are also bad clients. Don’t be one of them.
Site ownership has the responsibilities and liabilities of any business. Be responsible for your own site. Make sure you own the domain name, that you contract with the web host for the hosting arrangements (possibly on the recommendation of the designer or developer of your site), and that you have password access to everything. Get it all in your name. You never know when the relationship may sour. You want the online property in your name, under your control.
Too many times we hire friends or family members to do our business websites, trusting them with our business, income, and reputation. While they may be professionals, they may not act professionally. You must still act professional when it comes to your online business.