The worse message I ever have to deliver to a client: “You don’t own your own domain name, someone else does!” I hear from several business people each year who have decided to redo or upgrade their websites, however they are shocked to learn their previous web professional owns the domain and often won’t give the client access to make changes. I’ve written on how to prevent a web-jacking, (https://designtospec.com/alerts/tip-weve-got-a-web-hostage-crisis/), and here I have some tips for how to deal with this crisis when you’re in the middle of it.
Get Your Ducks in a Row. Locate the contract, emails, invoices and other correspondence you’ve had with the designer. Read through the material to see what was agreed before the website was created. Look to see if you owe the designer any money as sometimes web guys hold off giving the client access until they have been paid.
Send an Email. Document your request in an email to your web professional. Ask if they can provide you with the access credentials to your domain registrar. It may seem like a useless task, but it’s another way to document your attempts to contact and negotiate with this person.
Pick Up The Phone and Call. Emails may be missed, so try a phone call. Even if you don’t get a live body, leave a message asking for a return phone call.
Attempt A Transfer. Open an account on a domain registration site of your choice (Register.com, GoDaddy.com, BlueHost.com, etc) and request through that site that a domain transfer occur. Watch your in-box for emails from this company— you’ll be able to tell if the former web guy is being cooperative (or not) in completing the transfer of your domain.
Snail Mail. I know it may have been a long time since you last wrote a real letter. Yep, me too! A letter can often get the attention of the web-guy who’s giving you the cold shoulder. Be business-like. State the facts. Tell him the action you’d like him to take (Approve the transfer to your registrar of choice? Respond in writing? Call you?).
The last resort may be legal action. Consult an attorney if needed. I’m always willing to work with a business attorney to explain the situation and “translate” techie terms into what is understandable for attorneys and court rooms.