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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

Do you offer Website Maintenance to your web clients?

Offering Website maintenance is a great way to make extra money while putting in minimal effort. It’s right up there with print brokering as a way to supplement your design income.

Way back in episode 9 of the podcast, I shared 12 ways designers can earn extra income. On that episode, I mentioned making extra income by offering to host your client’s websites. Since then, I’ve made a few changes to the way I operate. I no longer provide web hosting on its own. Instead, I offer website maintenance, and I make a lot more money doing so. And so can you.

The typical lifecycle of a web design project.

  • A client approaches you to design and build their new website.
  • You agree on a price, get the contracts signed and receive your deposit.
  • You get to work on their site.
  • When it’s ready, you present your client with their new website.
  • You make any requested adjustments until they’re thrilled with what you did for them.
  • They pay the balance owing to the project, and you launch their site.
  • The client is happy with their new website. You’re pleased with the money you earned—end of the story.

Once this process is over, you may or may not hear from that client again until they need a new website in a few years. That’s providing they don’t meet another web designer between now and then. If they do, then all bets are off.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

By offering a website maintenance plan as part of your web design services, you retain that client on the books, and chances are when they need new web work in the future, they’ll turn to you because of your ongoing relationship.

Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to earn a recurring monthly income that gives your clients piece of mind while costing you very little in return? If you are not offering a website maintenance plan as part of your services, you’re leaving easy money on the table.

Offering a website maintenance plan doesn’t require much tech knowledge.

The best part of a website maintenance plan is if done right, you don’t need much tech knowledge. I didn’t know much when I started. And to be honest, there’s still a lot I don’t know. But I don’t have to know much for my plan to work.

What a website maintenance plan looks like.

Website maintenance plans differ from designer to designer. However, let me break down what my website maintenance plan looks like.

When I started offering website hosting in 2005, I charged my clients $12/month. When I switched from hosting static HTML sites to hosting WordPress websites, I raised my hosting fee to $35/month. Then I attended WordCamp Ottawa and met a fellow designer whose business was very similar to my own. However, instead of just hosting his client’s websites, he was offering a website maintenance plan. After hearing about his success, I immediately implemented it in my business. I raised my price to $69/month and expanded my offering from simple hosting to a full-fledged website maintenance service.

Some web designers may find $69 per month expensive. But it’s not. I know designers who charge much more than I do for their website maintenance plans.

Look at it this way, if you’re building $500 or $800 websites for clients. Then yes, they’ll find $69/month expensive. However, a client who pays several thousand dollars for a website, won’t hesitate to pay $69 or more each month to keep their investment safe. That’s what a web maintenance plan offers, safety and peace of mind.

My website maintenance plan consists of:

  • Managed WordPress hosting (I have a shared hosting plan that I divide and resell to my clients.)
  • Premium licence fees for themes and plugins.
  • Unlimited email accounts for the client’s domain name.
  • An SSL Certificate for their site.
  • Malware Scans.
  • Weekly WordPress Core, Theme and Plugin updates.
  • Daily website backups to an offsite storage location.
  • Enhanced Website Security.
  • Uptime Monitoring.

In return for these monthly services, my clients get a stress-free website. They don’t have to worry about their website getting hacked. They don’t have to about keeping their site updated. They don’t have to worry about evolving security measures. They don’t have to learn how to manage their own website.

Instead, my clients can concentrate on growing their business, knowing that I’m taking care of their website for them. Over 90% of my website clients see the value in my maintenance plan and sign up without hesitation.

Variations on website maintenance plans.

Some web designers offer a certain number of non-carryover hours as part of their monthly plan that allows a client to request small updates to their site. I don’t provide this. If a client wants changes to their website, I bill them extra.

Some web designers offer to maintain their client’s website regardless of where the site is hosted. I don’t provide this either. If one of my clients wants me to manage their site, I insist they host it with me. This way, I’m familiar with the web host, which makes it easier to fix any problems that may arise.

A website maintenance plan is not a lot of work.

Maintaining a WordPress website doesn’t require a whole lot of effort. Other than keeping WordPress, the theme and the plugins updated, there’s rarely anything to do.

Most of the work is done before launching the site and continues working month after month without any input required.

I use SiteGround to host my clients’ websites. They help me set things up, and their 24/7 support means I can count on them should I need help with anything. Here’s what I install on every client website I maintain.

Should anything go wrong with a website, If it crashes during a plugin update, or gets hacked, I can quickly restore it by reverting to a previous backup and have it up and running again in less than 30 minutes.

That’s it. There’s nothing else for me to do. Except collect $69/month from the client. It’s that easy.

How to start offering a website maintenance plan.

The first thing you need to offer website maintenance is a web host. There are many great web hosts you can choose from, but as stated previously, I recommend SiteGround.

  • A good web host can help you with most of the hard work.
  • When taking over an existing website, a good web host can help you migrate it to their platform.
  • A good web host can help you install SSL Certificates.
  • A good web host can help you update and add DNS Zone records as required.
  • A good web host can help you troubleshoot site issues that may arise.

Basically, a good web host will help you do the things you’re not comfortable doing.

Once you've chosen a web host, the next thing you need are plugins to manage your security and backups. I prefer iThemes plugins for this, but there are many other good ones you can choose.

Finally, if you want to get serious and maintain a growing number of websites, you'll want a way to minimize your time. iThemes Sync is the platform I use to maintain all my client websites. From one dashboard, you can monitor, update, backup and restore all the sites you manage, saving you precious time every month.

Website maintenance doesn’t require a lot of time.

On average, I spend less than 5 minutes per month, maintaining each client’s website.

Of course, not all of the $69 I collect goes into my pocket. I have to pay for the hosting fees, the SSL certificates (if they require something other than a free one.) Theme and premium plugin licenses, etc.

So maintaining ten client websites takes less than one hour per month at $69 each, which turns into a great hourly rate.

But what if something goes wrong?

I suggest you put a small percentage of your monthly fee aside in case of an emergency. In the rare case that something goes wrong with a client’s site that is beyond your abilities to fix, you can easily hire an expert to handle it for you.

What to look for in a web host.

Here are some things to look for when searching for a web host for your clients’ websites.

  • Dedicated WordPress server: Shows they understand WordPress.
  • Reputation: Look at reviews.
  • Cost: Get the best bang for your buck, but be careful of dirt-cheap hosting services.
  • Performance: What servers and OS are they using?
  • Scalability: Can you upgrade or grow should the need arise?
  • Uptime: Look for 99% uptime or higher. 99.9% is best. Nobody can guarantee 100% uptime.
  • 24/7 Customer Support via phone, chat or email.
  • Help/Training Resources: Document library to help you learn or get out of a jam.
  • Security: Good to have, but doesn’t replace a premium security plugin.
  • Bandwidth: Make sure they don’t limit you based on site traffic.
  • Storage: Unlimited websites doesn’t mean as many as you want. Read the fine print.
  • Domain Names: Good if you don’t already have a service for managing domains.
  • Email: If you offer email as part of your website maintenance plan.
  • Site Migration: It makes it easy to move a site from another host.
  • Ease of Use: An easy to use backend.
  • CDN: Servers web files from various locations around the globe.
  • File Access: FTP or File Manager for when you need to poke around.
  • Exit Strategy: Easy to leave should you want to migrate to a different web host.
  • Additional Services: Backups, Malware scanning, Updates etc.

As I’ve already mentioned several times, I recommend SiteGround as a great web host with all of these features.

Website maintenance is the best form of passive income for web designers.

Offering a website maintenance plan is a great way to supplement your design income. I estimate between 30%-40% of my annual income is from monthly website maintenance payments. This recurring income allows me to continue earning money while on vacation or at a conference.

You can do the same. You’re already designing the websites for your clients. Why not go the extra step and offer them the peace of mind of a worry-free website by providing a website maintenance plan? Both you and your clients will benefit from it.

You can thank me later.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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Resourceful Designer podcast intros are performed by the amazing Wayne Henderson of MediaVoiceOvers.com. Wayne is available to help you with any voice-over work you require.