How Designers Can Build a WordPress Maintenance Service Offering

One of the best parts about working with WordPress is the opportunity to expand your range and offer other much-needed services from the platform. So, even if your job title has been “web designer” or “web developer” until recently, there’s no reason why you couldn’t or shouldn’t be able to sell other WordPress-related services.

If you have the experience in WordPress and clients see a value in the additional service, by all means, expand your WordPress business beyond the bounds of your traditional role.

One of the most common ways to branch out and offer an additional (and recurring revenue) services to clients is by selling WordPress maintenance plans. There are entire companies dedicated to this kind of service they could hire, but what do you think your clients prefer? To utilize a number of WordPress providers to manage tasks related to their website or just entrust it all to you?

The convenience and comfort alone will make them want to work with you, their trusted designer, before anyone else. So, if you’re interested in selling a WordPress maintenance service, keep reading for suggestions on how to do this.

Building a WordPress Maintenance Service for Clients

First, let’s talk about why you would want to sell WordPress maintenance services:

  • It’s a great way to generate recurring revenue.
  • It provides you with a predictable cash flow no matter how feast-or-famine your web design schedule may be.
  • It gives you a chance to help clients make the most out of the website you designed for them.
  • Maintenance services keep you top-of-mind with clients, so you will instantly become their go-to resource any time they need help with the site.
  • They also give you a chance to be introduced to brand-new clients. Do well maintaining their website and they may look to you the next time they need a redesign or new site built.

Next, let’s focus on what your clients get out of this:

  • Maintenance services are a way of protecting their digital asset from stagnation, irrelevance, and harm.
  • You’re giving them the ability to prioritize things that matter most to Google–like security, performance, and updated content–so their sites can perform well in search.
  • This also means you’re helping build their brand reputation with consumers, too.
  • You’re assuming the responsibility of something that might otherwise take too much time or be poorly mismanaged if left in their hands.
  • It’s a value-add service they might not have otherwise been aware they needed, but now can use as a competitive edge.

Clearly, this is a win-win for you and your clients. The key to doing this correctly, however, lies in which services you offer.

Decide Which Maintenance Services to Offer

Obviously, maintenance services need to be valuable. This means your clients need help managing these aspects of their website either because they don’t want to or don’t understand how to implement them.

As you go about developing your WordPress maintenance services offerings, think about how you can divide them up into packages. Maintenance, typically, isn’t a one-size-fits-all, so the more you think about the various use cases for them, the more effectively you can create packages your clients will want to sign up for.

Start with the basics and then add more based on what you believe your clients will need:

1. Backup & Restore

Capturing regular backups of a WordPress website is an important part of the longevity of that website. You can’t plan for destructive forces that threaten it harm (e.g. hackers, user error, cowboy coding), but you can have a backup in place to keep the content and integrity of the site protected regardless.

Backups are one of the easiest tasks to manage within WordPress as both web hosting plans and plugins are available to automate the process.

For the purposes of this service, I would suggest starting with a backup plugin. This way, you have full control over backing up and restoring their website if something bad should happen.

Updraft

UpdraftPlus is a great choice as it:

  • Is free to use.
  • Allows for a variety of “backup to” storage options.
  • Comes with a quick restore option.
  • Enables you to schedule backups at your preferred frequency.

2. Updates

There are three types of updates issued to WordPress sites:

  • WordPress core
  • Themes
  • Plugins

Unfortunately, these updates aren’t issued at the same time or on the same schedule as many of them happen as a way to patch an issue (which is usually unexpected). So, when it comes to managing updates, it can be a little tedious if you’re not logging into their WordPress installation on a regular basis.

That said, it’s potentially dangerous to leave updates in the hands of your clients–and for a number of reasons, too.

The client might not understand what those red update markers are in WordPress, and so those much-needed updates never happen.

The client does understand what updates are, but just doesn’t want to bother doing them because it means logging into WordPress frequently.

The client issues every single update as soon as it comes in, which, in all honesty, isn’t terrible… but making updates to a live site is not always ideal.

Which is why this service is so valuable. By taking this on for them, you’re able to test these updates in a safe staging environment first and ensure they won’t cause any problems before they go live.

When it comes to managing updates, that’s the ideal way to handle it: manually. However, if you’re offering a basic update service for low-risk websites, you could automate them with Easy Updates Manager.

Updraft

With this free plugin, you can customize your updates. Do you want to automate certain plugin updates, but manually manage core and theme updates? Do you want to disable minor releases from automatically updating, so you can manage those as well? This plugin allows you to completely personalize the management of this service.

3. Security Monitoring

Backups and updates are just one small part of a website’s security strategy. There need to be other measures taken to ensure the website remains safe as does everyone else behind and in front of it.

Whether you were the one to secure the website originally or someone else handled it, there should be various measures in place to fortify your client’s site already. Now, someone needs to be responsible for monitoring it.

The easiest way to do this is through a security plugin (which may already be installed). Most of these plugins are installed for the purposes of blocking spam, malware, brute force, DDoS, and other types of attacks that tend to affect WordPress websites. But they also usually have a monitoring and reporting tool built in, which you can use for this service.

There are a number of WordPress plugins that could be used for this purpose, so I’d recommend checking with the one on the website first. If monitoring and protection are both there, then keep it. Otherwise, consider switching over to a plugin like iThemes Security.

Updraft

With iThemes’ scanning and monitoring features, you can:

  • Detect vulnerabilities and issue a quick and immediate patch for them.
  • Monitor for known bots, agents, and others that cause trouble on the web.
  • Monitor for changes in files.
  • Block attacks on your database.
  • Run malware and blacklist scans on your home page.
  • Receive notifications if anyone exceeds number of failed login attempts.

This’ll save you a lot of time in trying to sweep the website for seemingly miniscule changes.

4. Performance Monitoring

Security is a major factor when it comes to user experience and SEO. Another factor that has just as great of an impact is performance. Again, this is likely something you (or the original designer) took care of when building the original site. Images were optimized. Files were minified. Pages were cached. But website speed isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. You always need to keep an eye on it.

In order to monitor the performance of your client’s site, you should look outside of WordPress to do this. A page speed testing tool like Pingdom is a good choice.

[Pingdom image]

Updraft

With Pingdom, you have a choice of using a free online speed testing tool or paying for one of its plans.

If you want to automate performance monitoring and receive page speed test results and reports, you’ll need to pay for it. But it’s worth it in the long run if you’re handling this for multiple websites.

It spares you the trouble of having to initiate a speed test (and remembering to do so in the first place) and will instantly alert you to issues with the site. It also lets you know when the site has gone down, so it won’t take a client noticing the error to tip you off to something being wrong.

5. Database Optimization

I look at database optimization similar to how I look at security monitoring. While it is something you could indeed do manually, it requires a lot of time and focus to be able to comb through every nook and cranny. Rather than spend your valuable time doing that, and possibly risk missing something sizable and unused that should be cleaned out, let a plugin like WP-Optimize do it for you.

Updraft

WP-Optimize is a great plugin as it sweeps through both the backend data and the frontend content. It assesses whether or not the element needs to be there or if it’s taking up precious space on your server. By enabling this tool to keep your system clean, the site can run much more efficiently.

Oh, and it also happens to integrate with UpdraftPlus, so you can trigger a backup to generate before any sort of cleanup happens (just to be on the safe side).

6. Design Tweaks

As a designer, it would be odd to offer a maintenance service without allocating some time for ongoing design tweaks. It doesn’t have to be much–maybe a few hours every month. But it’ll help you account for the “quickly change this” or “make it do this” requests your clients will inevitably ask when they have regular access to you.

7. Technical Support

The level of tech support you offer to clients will depend wholly on how comfortable you are troubleshooting issues in WordPress and, further, digging into the database or control panel. While this should definitely be part of any maintenance service you sell, I would advise you to really think about how confidently you can handle different tasks and then define them well as you lay out your plans’ details.

Note: the remainder of suggestions from here on out should not be part of any basic maintenance service you offer. These go above and beyond the scope of traditional maintenance and should be used to shape more robust maintenance and support packages.

It’s also important to note that you need to have a well-rounded understanding of how to properly maintain these elements. Clients aren’t going to pay for a service if you promise something like email marketing and then, five months later, they realize they’ve lost half of their leads because the newsletters didn’t make sense.

8. Comment Moderation

For the most part, you’re going to use the Akismet plugin to monitor and manage all spam that comes into the website. That said, sometimes the plugin misses a spam bot or allows a seemingly harmless link through. If your client’s blog receives a lot of comments, a moderation service would be helpful in double-checking the work of the plugin.

9. SEO Updates

A website’s SEO efforts should be a never ending thing. The more attention that is paid to keeping content updated, adding more relevant pages, re-keywording based on the competition, building a backlink profile, and so on, the better the site will do in search.

10. Content Updates

As a web designer, you might not be comfortable writing content for the web. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t know how to optimize it for publication. Adding images, formatting with headers and lists, categorizing posts, and so on all make for better reading and are tasks you could easily manage.

11. Email Marketing

Again, if you’re not well-versed in writing or compiling any sort of messaging on behalf of your client, you could focus on the design side of email marketing. Setting up newsletter templates and formatting each week’s emails could be the kind of things you focus on.

12. Social Media Updates

Rather than take the approach of trying to comprise social media messages for your clients, you could create custom banner images for each of their accounts and update them monthly. This would give them a super professional and marketing savvy look as visitors take note of the high-quality visuals adorning their pages.

13. Analytics & Reporting

Even though your client already has a Google Analytics plugin installed in WordPress for the purposes of quickly referencing statistics in the dashboard, they’re not going to be able to tell much from it. With an analytics service, you can automate the generation of reports from Google Analytics every week and then write a custom report that explains to clients everything they need to know about the latest traffic trends on their site.

14. Consulting

A consulting add-on could go hand-in-hand with the analytics piece. With the Google Analytics report, you’ll provide clients with an overview of what is happening on-site–both the good and the bad. However, with the consulting piece, you can offer an answer to that next question of, “What do we do about this now?”

15. Training

As you take on the technical part of managing and maintaining their WordPress site, this frees up your client to create content for their blog. But without proper knowledge of the WordPress interface, this can be intimidating. By providing them with monthly training and tips inside of WordPress, you can empower them to take control over this part of their online brand.

Closing Words

In the end, WordPress maintenance services are about giving clients a valuable upgrade to the beautiful website you already built for them (or one day may redesign for them). With too many clients letting their sites stagnate and critical updates go ignored, this kind of service gives both their business as well as yours a chance to succeed long-term.

That said, some of you may be reluctant to do this because you’re worried the time commitment will be too great or the costs too high (especially if you have to invest in a whole new set of tools and develop new processes).

If that’s the case, think about using a white-labeled maintenance service like WP Buffs. In doing so, the WP Buffs pros will take on the brunt of the work and allow you to generate a recurring profit without having to do much at all outside of manage the client relationship and offer non-traditional maintenance services that interest you.

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