Recurring revenue is the Shangri-La for business owners. Rather than scrapping and fighting and hunting for new clients, you have the same clients coming to you again, providing you with a steady stream of income. It takes away the stress of having to dig up new streams of revenue and allows you to start planning ahead.
But if you’re a WordPress designer or developer, you may be a bit perplexed about this whole “recurring revenue” thing. You make your money when clients need something new, like a website refresh for a site that looks like it was designed when MySpace was hot. You essentially have to wait for them to decide they want to change things. The whole idea of regular income feels like a mystery.
We’ve got some good news. Using the WordPress skills you already have, you can add WordPress maintenance to your business model. Building a WordPress maintenance business gives you the steady income you need while also allowing you to continue the development or design you’re already doing (if you desire).
In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into the what, why, and how of building your own WordPress maintenance business. Buy the end, you’ll have a firm grasp on how to launch yours.
Step #1: Choose Which Services You’ll Offer
First, you’ll want to choose which services you’re going to offer clients. Before you can offer maintenance services to your clients, you need to know what you’re going to offer. The options here are numerous, including:
- Website registration and hosting: They need to have this anyway, so why not incorporate this into the services you offer?
- Security: You know what can happen when a site gets hacked. This is a huge problem that’s only going to get bigger.
- Backups: Every site should be backed up on a regular basis. If something goes terribly wrong, the only way to restore it is from a backup.
- Ongoing design and development tweaks to the site: Your clients will want things to be changed. You can offer these changes as part of a monthly package rather than needing to start a new project every time.
- Content changes and creation. Some of your clients won’t be comfortable creating and uploading their own content. You can charge them to do so.
- Social media management. Your clients probably know they need a social media presence but some may not know now to do it.
There are numerous other options you can offer, such as analytics, email marketing, online advertising, and consultation. Choose the services that will generate the most revenue while requiring the least additional work to what you’re already doing.
If you choose to offer only maintenance services, you have the option of partnering up with other designers and developers who aren’t interested in the maintenance side of things.
Step #2: Determine Your Pricing Model
The next step is to determine how much you’ll charge for your maintenance services. Before you can do this, there are several factors you need to take into consideration.
What are your monthly expenses? You must be able to cover your monthly and annual expenses, allow space for slow periods and client acquisition, as well as take into account your own margin. Don’t underestimate this or you’ll end up charging too little, which is difficult to back out of once you’ve offered it to clients.
How much does your competition charge? Evaluate your competition and then determine how you’ll stack up. Don’t necessarily try to offer the lowest price, especially if you’re offering superior services.
What service tiers will you offer? Creating several tiers of services at different price points allows you to take advantage of higher paying customers who want superior services while also offering a less expensive option to those with budget restrictions. Additionally, if you start a client at a lower tier you can slowly nudge them toward choosing more services.
As you negotiate with your clients, don’t let them determine the price. They probably don’t have a true understanding both of what you offer and what services like yours normally cost. Plus, there is always someone will to offer bad service at a lower price. Don’t engage in a race to the bottom.
Also, always ensure you plan for things going bad. You will encounter problems that take an inordinate amount of time, so factor those events into your price.
Step #3: Promote Your Services
Now that you’ve established what you’re going to offer and how much you’re going to charge, it’s time to start telling the world. The first step is to create a detailed “Services” page on your website. This is going to be the primary place you send potential clients who are interested in hiring you.
Here are some key things to consider when crafting your services page:
It’s all about the benefits. While you certainly want to describe the specific services you offer, you should spend far more time focusing on how your services will massively improve the lives of your customers. Remember, ultimately you’re selling peace of mind. Your backup, security, optimization, and other services allow the customer to know that everything will keep working smoothly. Paint a picture of the good life when discussing services you offer.
Set yourself apart. You need to be able to set yourself apart from your competitors, either through price, number of services, quality of service, attention to detail, or some other factor. Don’t be afraid to explicitly say why you’re a better choice.
Press in on the pain. Acknowledging specific customer pain points allows you to offer the solution to the pain. It shows customers that you have very pointed solutions to their difficult issues.
Make it easy to contact you. This should be obvious, but it’s neglected far too often. You want new clients, so don’t make it difficult to contact you. Put your contact form front and center.
Another simple way to advertise your services is to begin promoting them to your circles on social media. There’s a significant chance that at least one of your contacts will want or know someone who wants WordPress maintenance services.
Step #4: Explain The Importance Of Maintenance To Your Existing Clients
Unless your clients are particularly tech savvy, they’re probably not going to understand why they need someone to perform maintenance on their website. After all, this is a website we’re talking about, not a high performance car engine. They’re already paying you to create something nice for them, so why should they have to pay you to maintain it as well?
A big step in building a WordPress maintenance business is taking the time to explain to your clients why they need maintenance in the first place. Some simple talking points here include:
- Site Optimization – Few things create problems like sites that aren’t optimized. If a site takes too long to load, visitors will leave quickly and Google can even penalize it, resulting in lower search rankings.
- Peace of Mind – It’s highly likely that if your clients tried to change settings on the site, they would completely screw up the site. By entrusting all those functions to you, they ensure that their site continues functioning properly and that all necessary updates get made.
- Your Expertise – Your clients don’t want to spend countless hours trying to figure out things you can handle in a matter of moments. You are offering expert services to them which will dramatically cut down on the amount of time they must spend on maintaining their website.
The arguments in favor of regular maintenance aren’t complicated or difficult to understand, but they’re probably not obvious to those who aren’t tech savvy. Patiently take the time to explain these things to them and help them see that this truly is a worthwhile investment.
There are some relatively ways to get existing clients into a maintenance contract.
- Offer discounts for a limited time. Offering the first month, or several months at a discounted rate are a great way to entice customers to buy in to the idea of maintenance. Plus, once they see the value of what you offer, they’re more likely to stay on at the higher price. Just be very clear about when the price will increase and how much it will increase.
- Include maintenance in project budgets. If you’re doing a design or development project, include a year of maintenance in the initial proposal. This takes care of the project support that most developers offer.
- Offer a limited trial. Similar to above, offering a trial period of maintenance support in place of standard post-launch support is a simple ways to get customers in the maintenance mindset.
We don’t recommend free support for clients. They’ll latch on to that and be resistant to paying for maintenance services when the time comes.
Step #5: Select Your Tools
Once you’ve gotten some clients, you’ll need a set of tools to help you perform the maintenance tasks. Those tools should include:
Customer Relationship Management (CRM): A CRM system allows you to track your clients, as well as a variety of data associated with those clients. This can be done in a simple spreadsheet, although you may want to use something more sophisticated as your business grows.
Support System: You need to have a way to process help requests from clients, and that’s where a ticketing system comes into place.
Local Desktop Environment: When making changes to a site, you want to be able to test those changes before making them live. That happens in the local desktop environment. DesktopServer is built specifically for WordPress.
Reliable Editor: You’re going to need a full Integrated Development Environment to allow you to make changes to any code on the back end.
Browser Developer Tools: You’ll be using these for inspecting the sites you manage. Chrome and Firefox come with their own set of tools.
FTP: When uploading and download files to the sites, you’ll rely heavily on an FTP client.
Uptime Monitoring: Your clients can’t afford to have their sites go down, and this tool will allow you to monitor the uptime of those sites.
Security: No explanation needed. If one of your clients sites get hacked, you’ll need to act quickly to determine where the hack occurred and how to fix it.
Analytics: Google Analytics allows you to monitor key stats about who is visiting the site, where they’re coming from, etc.
Step #6: Demonstrate Your Value To Your Clients
To keep clients returning month after month, you’re going to want to show them the value of what you’re doing. A simple way to do this is to generate regular reports for them that show what you’ve done for them and how it has helped them. These reports can include:
- Monthly traffic (include SEO generated traffic to show the value of your optimizations)
- Top content (especially content you’ve created or promoted)
- Security hacks thwarted
- Mobile traffic as well as mobile optimizations you’ve made
- Uptime reports (demonstrates your reliability)
These types of reports show your clients the value of the services you offer.
Conclusion: What Are You Waiting For?
Running a WordPress maintenance business isn’t all kittens and pots of gold at the end of rainbows. You will have support issues to handle and irate clients who don’t understand what you’re doing. Demonstrating patience, grace, and humanity in these scenarios allows you to handle these problems without burning bridges unnecessarily.
But in spite of these challenges, a maintenance business is an outstanding way to generate recurring revenue and get out of the typical feast or famine cycle that afflicts most freelancers. It also allows you to add additional value to clients and extend the length of business relationships.