Keeping sites tuned up
Successful websites evolve. Even when that spiffy new site is up and drawing traffic, the job is not complete. There’s always website maintenance service work to be done for SEO, performance and security.
The reality of websites is that somebody needs to look after them on an ongoing basis.
If you’ve already put in the hard work of attracting the client and building the client’s site, you can profitably provide those website maintenance services — if you can get your business model dialed in.
Website maintenance services are good for your business
The potential benefits of selling website maintenance services are compelling:
Recurring revenue: Even a small number of website maintenance packages sold will be a huge help in moving away from the typical feast-or-famine freelance scenario.
Better clients: The type of clients who balk at maintenance packages are nearly always the type of clients you don’t want to have.
Increased client value: A monthly fee and the ongoing opportunity to pitch for new work will significantly increase your average client value over time.
Better systems: Putting together bulletproof maintenance packages will naturally force you to up your game across the board.
There’s money on the table — why not sell website maintenance packages to your clients and put that money in your pocket?
Website maintenance services are good for your clients
Many web designers and developers struggle to sell website maintenance services. Clients may not see the value, haven’t budgeted for website care plans, or aren’t able to start “right now.” (We’ve heard them all.)
It’s up to you to convince your client you’re worth the investment.
But first, you might need to change the way you see yourself and the services you provide.
When you sell website maintenance services, you’re not selling your time. You’re selling your value. You are a trusted partner who makes things better.
You’re selling peace of mind. Your clients probably couldn’t care less how much time you spend on their website. They care that you’re taking care of their website, so they don’t have to.
You’re selling optimization. Optimization means that the longer you have a relationship with a client, the more value you bring to the table. You’re improving their website’s performance, driving more conversions, and delivering greater revenue.
You’re selling expertise. You’re a specialist. You know the business. You know websites. And you’re making that expertise available to your clients in an incredibly efficient manner.
With that in mind, let’s get into the details.
Everything you need to know about selling website maintenance services
In this article, we’ll cover the ins and outs of providing website maintenance plans that will keep you in the money and your clients smiling. You’ll learn:
What to include in a website maintenance package.
What not to include in a website maintenance plan.
How to convince clients that website support services are worth it.
When to mention website maintenance to your clients.
How much to charge for website maintenance services.
Implementing multi-tier pricing.
Offering custom website maintenance plans.
How to justify the website support investment to clients.
Selling to vertical markets.
What to include in a website maintenance contract.
Making payments painless.
Gaining efficiency through automation.
Scaling website support services with contractors.
Showing your work with monthly reports.
If you haven’t yet started offering website maintenance packages to your clients, there’s no better time than today to get started. All you need to do is:
Determine what services you will offer.
Arrange your services into a menu of standard packages.
Create a fair and profitable pricing strategy.
Promote your website maintenance services to new and existing clients.
We’ll go over each of these steps in detail.
What to include in a website maintenance package
Maintenance services are typically offered as a packaged subscription, where clients pay you a predetermined amount each month or quarter.
It’s important to spell out which tasks are included and which are not. A typical base plan will include taking care of regular software updates and perhaps reporting on analytics. You can expand from there, offering more services to clients who desire them. More on this below.
You’ll also need to convince your client that these services are valuable and necessary, because they are.
Who needs a website maintenance plan?
First of all, consider wiping the word maintenance out of your vocabulary. Maintenance is boring, routine, and something everyone wants to avoid paying for. Support, on the other hand, is a hand up. Who couldn’t use that?
Consider naming your plan Website Support Services instead of Website Maintenance Services.
Ongoing support is valuable, especially since many new website owners lack the skills or time to perform important tasks that need to be completed after a website is launched.
They have no clue how to update a site’s core software, such as a CMS like WordPress, or how to test and improve the site over time. Most likely they have no idea how to stage a change before taking it live or reverse an update that sends things awry.
And then there’s security — hackers love to deface websites for no other reason than because they can. Even if the site owner has the skills to deal with these things, they might not have the time. You have both.
Related: How to set up subscription products to charge for your services
The first thing to decide when starting out selling website maintenance services is which services you will offer. Some of the key options are listed below:
If you’re managing the client’s hosting on the client’s behalf, charge for it. Add a margin on top of the cost of hosting and domain registration. Reseller options from providers such as GoDaddy put this within easy reach.
Site security is a huge problem for poorly maintained sites everywhere. Secure setup and ongoing monitoring is valuable for small businesses that can’t afford to manage it on their own.
Related: Wondering how to sell website security? Try pitching care plans.
Site backups and recovery
Backups are a must-have for every type of website, but clients are often reluctant to handle this task themselves. They fear doing something wrong.
For many websites, especially those based on a CMS such as WordPress or Joomla!, regular updates are a fact of life.
Clicking on the update button is easy, but understanding the process and being able to deal with the unpredictable is hard.
For example, testing updates on a staging site before deploying them to production is a step that might be unfamiliar to some of your small business clients.
Design and development tweaks
There’s huge demand for this type of service. Tweaks are less intensive than a full site (re)build, and some designers/developers don’t see the return in doing this sort of work. Their business isn’t built for it.
That’s an opportunity for you.
Technical support and troubleshooting
You may factor time into your plans for investigation and resolution of issues. The scope of what you cover with technical support (e.g., domain issues, hosting, WordPress core, themes, plugins) will depend on what you’re comfortable with.
Content updates and changes
Even with a CMS like WordPress, content updates can take a lot of time and, for many clients, is an unfamiliar process. Clients may prefer to pay you to do the work, rather than trying to do it themselves.
Web analytics and insights
Your clients want to know how well their website working.
Reporting on your client’s site performance can be of huge value.
Translate complicated stats into understandable takeaways and actionable advice for your client to follow.
Running a business can be tough. You may become a trusted advisor and resource if your service includes consultation time for your clients to call and ask you for advice.
Client reports are a recurring reminder of the value you’re providing through your website maintenance plans. We’ll cover this in more detail below.
Back to top
What should NOT go into a website maintenance plan?
While you might be tempted to build plans that include everything but the kitchen sink, step back and reconsider. It’s easy to build bloated packages that a client signs up for and then regrets. Or you may find yourself facing scope creep and your profit disappearing down the drain.
Keep that from happening by excluding the following items from any plan you build:
Premium services like SEO, social media management and digital marketing
Search engine optimization (SEO), social media management and digital marketing are distinct and valuable enough to be sold as additional premium services.
By selling them as add-ons or standalone plans, both you and your clients have more freedom.
Some clients may want everything, while others may want to pick-and-choose. You may be able to manage more website maintenance clients than digital marketing clients.
Related: How to sell a content creation service to earn recurring revenue
Guarantees and website recovery
The point of website maintenance is to keep your clients’ websites running smoothly and securely. This does not mean that you, the website developer, are on the hook for a compromised website.
Don’t make it seem like you’re always responsible when something goes wrong. It skews the core purpose of the plan and sets bad expectations.
There is no way to guarantee that malware or a hacker won’t find their way in. You can only confidently say that website backups, updates and monitoring is the best way to prevent it from happening.
You can promise to do everything in your power to help a client recover from a compromised site. It’s not a guarantee that you can restore everything perfectly, or resolve the security vulnerability, but it is a commitment to making your best effort.
Some web designers and developers offer “unlimited” features or support in their plans. The reason that they can raise their prices if they label the plans as “unlimited.”
There are two ways “unlimited” can cause problems and suck the profit out of your plans:
“Unlimited” support is what employees are for. If you set that expectation with your client they will treat you like an employee. Then, when you try to set boundaries or pull back the reins, you’re far more likely to encounter resistance.
“Unlimited” opens the door to confrontation. It invites unreasonable expectations. You need to make it clear that you’re here to provide help and support, but within reason.
By being specific about what you’re offering, your clients know exactly what to expect.
Back to top
How to convince clients that website support services are worth it
The key to selling ongoing website maintenance plans as a must-have service is to make the offer at the right time. And that requires requires a bit of finesse.
Many web designers and developers go for the maintenance upsell right away, asking clients to commit to and sign a support contract at the very start of a project.
This can work for big agencies, but it’s not so simple when you’re an independent contractor who can’t afford to refuse work if the client doesn’t agree to a long-term commitment.
Along the same lines: While ongoing support is common for enterprise-level clients, for a small business client, another monthly expense isn’t something they take lightly.
In fact, most small businesses are actively trying to cut expenses.
Needless to say, making the case with your clients about the importance of monthly website support is often an uphill battle.
How do you position it?
If you prep the client with the idea of monthly support, educate them about the benefits, and ask for the sale at the right time, you’ll be able to successfully position ongoing monthly website support as a must-have line item in their budget.
Acknowledge the education gap
Web designers and developers, through our experience, know website maintenance is important. The challenge is getting the client to understand and appreciate the difference — and pay for it.
Showcase your skillset
It’s straightforward enough to do a simple WordPress update, whether that’s a theme, plugins or content. But clients want a professional who knows how to make the right choices and do things the right way.
Be honest, accurate and free from hype
Reinforce how serious having a website support plan in place is, and let the client know that you can take care of it for them so they don’t have to lift a finger.
Back to top
When to mention website maintenance to your clients
With those points in mind, when should you bring up website maintenance to your client?
Bring it up during the sales call
Ask your potential client about how they’ll take care of the website after launch. If there is no plan in place, speak with them about the importance of ongoing support and share the website support packages you have available.
Even if they don’t sign on right away, you’ve planted the seed.
Mention it in your client agreement/contract
Seed the benefits of monthly website support in the various sections of your client contract, including FAQ, the scope of work and legal details sections.
Related: How to create a web design contract
Mention it during conversations as you build the site
If you’re building a WordPress site, for example, remind your client that there will be security updates, feature updates and maintenance that needs to happen on a regular basis. Tell them about important issues with website security and the responsibilities of being a website owner.
Get a straight answer before you launch their new site
As you get ready to launch their new site, it’s time to harvest the seeds you planted and nurtured throughout the project.
Ask your client if they have thought about the ongoing technical support needed for the site. Find out if they have made any decisions on how they will handle it. If a solid plan is not in place, share your website support packages, pricing and benefits.
If the client is interested, offer to provide a written agreement that they can review.
Are they interested? Send a support agreement.
Follow up within 24 hours of the client showing interest in your support packages and send the client a support agreement. Because you’re sending the support agreement now, the client will have a chance to review it before your post-launch website training session, where you can naturally follow up.
Go for the close during client training
During the post-launch client training session, if the client has not already returned the signed ongoing support agreement, ask if they have had a chance to review it and see if they have any questions. Remind the client of the benefits and prompt them to move forward.
Consider offering clients an incentive to encourage them to sign the support agreement.
For example, if they return the signed agreement within one week of the training, they’ll get the first month of website support free.
Related: How to build a website maintenance sales page that wins clients over
Back to top
How much to charge for website maintenance services
Pricing is hard, especially when you’re starting out. Discussing money sometimes raises uncomfortable emotions in otherwise even-keeled professionals. Pricing is also an area where you can damage the long-term prospects of your business if you don’t get it right.
The cost of the package should reflect the services provided.
A good way to do this is to estimate the number of hours you’ll spend and multiply that times your hourly rate. Then you can turn that into a monthly, quarterly, or annual billing.
If you do a little competitive research you’ll find prices all over the place, ranging from $49 per month to hundreds of dollars annually.
Ultimately, setting prices is really a personal decision, but here are some important factors to keep in mind:
Know your monthly expenses
To have any sort of realistic approach to pricing, you need to know what your monthly and annual costs are across the board. Then add the amount you want to pay yourself on top of that.
Adjust to include a reasonable cushion to allow for fallow periods, administrative tasks and client acquisition.
Related: Foolproof formula for setting freelance web design rates
Research the competition
Before you commit to a pricing strategy, identify at least three competitors in your area. Break them out into low-price offerings, competitors who price based on value, and top-tier providers.
Do a deep dive on their pricing and services to get a feel for what the market currently supports.
Don’t compete exclusively on price
Undercutting is a tempting pricing strategy when you’re just starting out, or if times are tough. But there’s always going to be someone out there who can beat you on price.
Undercutting drags you into a race to the bottom that makes sustainable success virtually impossible.
With this strategy, you also run the risk of taking on less sustainable types of clients.
Offer multiple package options
There will always be a small group of clients who want premium service and who are willing to pay more. Don’t leave their money on the table.
Back to top
Implementing multi-tier pricing
When you present your potential client with just one option, it’s usually an abstract figure to them. You may have an uphill struggle conveying its value to your client.
When you offer just a single price, a client has nothing to compare it against.
Offering a range of service tiers helps anchor your core offerings by making them look comparatively affordable.
If you currently only have a single offering, explore adding a second tier. Keep your low-effort services on the bottom tier (backups, uptime monitoring) and move time-intensive services to the higher tier (updates, site optimization).
Now your client has a baseline option to compare with your more comprehensive option.
But let’s not stop at just two tiers.
Go even further and offer a third, improvement-oriented tier. The clients who always opt for the best will opt to continually improve, and you’ll nudge more cost-conscious clients toward the middle tier, which will bring in the majority of your revenue.
This approach is called 3-tier or 3-pronged pricing, and it works fantastically well.
That’s because the top tier provides a whole new narrative about improvement and growth. The bottom tier keeps things stable for the client. And the middle tier pays a lot of the bills.
Clients are more inclined to pay you higher fees if you improve their websites and businesses and move beyond simply maintaining them.
With multi-tiered pricing, you can slowly build up credibility with your client, and gradually nudge them towards a higher tier. If you do a great job, you’ll even see the upgrades happen organically.
People will pay more for a higher level of service.
What if you’re having trouble setting a higher price? One approach is to explore the edge of the possible and do a thought experiment where you increase your price tenfold, then increase the value+experience to match the price. It’s the famous 10x rule, and it works.
Take a look at your website maintenance plans and figure out what you could add if you charged an order of magnitude more.
Back to top
Offering custom website maintenance plans
You can go even further and include a “custom plan” option. This is an opportunity to hone your skills as a business owner and possibly find new services to standardize in your tiers.
Remember that custom services come with the risk of scope creep and other unforeseen complications. So, when pricing a custom plan, avoid these three mistakes:
Mistake No. 1: You let the client set the price
They might know their budget, but that doesn’t mean they know what a website maintenance plan should cost. Most likely, your clients base the cost on something they read, heard, or expected.
It’s your job to set a fair price and stick to it.
It’s impossible to be the best and the cheapest at the same time.
Mistake No. 2: Not taking the whole picture into account
Don’t forget to factor in time to communicate, get clarification on requests, research alternatives, test options, fine-tune, confirm on multiple devices, and send status reports of the custom work.
Make your clients aware that the results won’t happen if these tasks aren’t performed.
Mistake No. 3: You base your price on a best-case scenario
After all, you’ve done this once or twice (or a hundred times) before. And sure, sometimes things go exactly as planned, to the minute and to the penny. That said, factor in time for surprises and hiccups. That’s better than being left in a labor-intensive lurch.
With these items in mind, how should you approach custom pricing?
Do the pre-work
This is especially important if you’re not familiar with the client’s site. If clients are impatient and they can’t wait for you to do the pre-work and price based on evaluating requirements, tasks, and alternatives, then it’s probably not worth the business.
Review previous results and behaviors
For a new client, you’re relying on initial conversations, their current website, and whatever else you can learn about them. If you suspect extra hand-holding, training, patience or communication time is in the cards, take that into account when setting your price.
Build in time for all of the other stuff
Expect additional technology interruptions, such as operating system upgrades, or major changes in the internet world, that’ll affect your maintenance work.
And then build in some more time
Price to account for whatever you can’t predict. It’s better to estimate high and come in under budget than eat the overrun.
What’s the payoff for the time invested in custom pricing? More recurring revenue, of course! The process will get tighter with each engagement.
If you impress the client with your attention to detail and thoughtful approach early on, you’ll boost their level of confidence in you, right from the beginning of your business partnership.
Plus, starting off with an accurate estimate maximizes your ability to be fairly compensated for the excellent service you’re going to deliver.
Back to top
How to justify the website support investment to clients
Photo: Kobu Agency on Unsplash
You and your clients might not see eye-to-eye on the value of ongoing website support services. Your job is to convince them of what you already know — that maintenance is crucial and that you can do it better than they can.
Here’s how to educate your clients and convince them that good work is worth the investment.
Create a Services page
Your Services page might end up being the most important page on your site. It is where you convert. It is where someone turns from a casual browser or semi-interested prospect into a paying customer.
Yes, your whole site can serve as a showcase for your work. However, your Services page is where you get the opportunity to sell yourself without fear of it being perceived as too overbearing.
Emphasize the benefits
On a fundamental level, prospects are on your Services page because they are at least curious about what you have to offer. But what they are really looking for is a positive end result.
With that in mind, your Services page should focus on how you can provide benefits to the prospect, and not only focus on what services you offer.
Recognize their pain points
Prospective clients may say they want help managing their site, but when it comes down to it, they might actually be looking for counsel and peace of mind.
Figure out their key pain points and how you address them.
What about all of the other companies that are promising those same benefits?
You have to raise your game by offering up unique reasons as to why prospective clients should choose you over the competition. What separates you from the crowd?
Related: What is a value proposition?
Provide evidence of your work
If people can’t see what you’re capable of, they’re not likely to engage with you. Therefore, you should include a selection of past projects on your Services page.
Client testimonials and case studies are ideal and provide the critical social proof that you can deliver.
Related: How to ask for reviews and testimonials from your clients
Make it easy for prospective clients to reach you
Complete your Services page with an email address, phone number and a contact form. Include all the options because people tend to have their own individual preferences.
Related: Why it’s time to revisit and revamp your website contact page
Point your existing clients to your Services page
New clients are great, but it’s more expensive to acquire a new client compared to selling additional services to an existing client. It sometimes costs five to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one!
This is a chance to offer more value to your existing customer base and others with whom you’ve worked in the past.
Offer discounts to existing and past clients
Did you know that 48% of consumers say that the most critical time to gain their loyalty is when they make their first purchase? Offering a limited-time discount or additional perks on your maintenance plan might be enough of an incentive to get them to buy in.
Include maintenance plans in your project budgets
Try bundling the first year of follow-up maintenance as part of your standard project budget. This will take care of the follow-up support that most developers offer, while also setting an expectation that support isn’t free.
Offer a limited trial at the end of a project
Similar to the idea above, this involves adding a limited maintenance period in lieu of post-launch support. If your client is happy with the service, they can pay for a longer term.
If you provide free support, clients will anchor on that as a reference point, and you’ll have a harder time selling them on paying for support and maintenance later on.
Back to top
Selling to vertical markets
Photo: Matthew Henry on Unsplash
A vertical market is a “market in which vendors offer goods and services specific to an industry, trade, profession, or other group of customers with special needs.”
Why should you consider specializing in a vertical market when selling your services?
Establish credibility faster
A generalist learns a few things about myriad industries, while a specialist learns as much as possible about his or her target vertical.
With every website, you’ll learn more about a particular industry as a whole — and those lessons will add up quickly.
You can integrate your specialized knowledge into the marketing copy on your own website, blog about it, and soon you’ll be radiating credibility.
Get more referrals
There are trade organizations for almost every industry, and members of those industries talk with each other.
In the case of website development and support, you’re a supplier. If you do a fantastic job for your clients, they’ll be more likely to mention you as a specialist for their industry.
Encourage these recommendations as you wrap up a job.
Related: How to earn client referrals and raving fans
Make more money
People pay for specialists, so focus on your strengths. A plumber usually makes more than a handyman, and a brain surgeon usually banks more than a general practitioner. As a web developer, you should think no differently about your craft.
A web developer who develops websites exclusively for doctors will be hired by other doctors more often and will most certainly earn more money per site.
As a specialist, you know what the business wants, and clients know that they’ll get a high-quality, thoughtful product from you.
Back to top
What to include in a website maintenance contract
Photo: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
The best contracts are based on real client experiences. At first, you may feel like you don’t need detailed contracts because you aren’t doing big jobs. But as your maintenance business grows, you’ll work with larger clients with more at stake.
The longer you are in business, the better your contracts need to be.
While there are difficult clients here and there, most aren’t bad. It’s often that the situation is bad. There may be a misunderstanding about your process, timeline, deliverables, payment, or another aspect of your maintenance service.
Without a clear contract, assumptions get made about scope of work, expectations, roles and deliverables.
You might experience a lack of respect for your time and boundaries if expectations and rules were not set and agreed to upfront. You may find you have clients who keep asking for more services simply because they don’t know where their maintenance agreement stops.
These are all communication problems, and they can be addressed, if not eliminated, with a well-written contract.
And in the future, when you experience an unexpected situation with a client, you can take that experience and amend your agreement template to protect yourself and provide more details about communication with your client.
It’s your job as a web designer or developer to give the contract importance. It’s your job to review key aspects of the contract with your clients. It’s your job to ensure everyone involved in the relationship is on the same page.
Make your agreements part of your process, and refer back to it often as a reference document or the foundation and guiding brief for the entire maintenance schedule.
Your website maintenance contract needs to:
Set clear expectations and boundaries
Outline a clear scope of work
Communicate what is and is not included
Share the process the client will experience
Mitigate the common “what if this happens” scenarios
Educate the client about the service, process, and technical details
Create a helpful reference document to refer to later
Protect you and your company
Set a legal precedent in case anything does go south
Set the stage for a successful relationship
Your client needs a contract to:
Understand the expectations, boundaries, and engagement process
Receive a clear scope of work and outline of the maintenance agreement
Create accountability between them and their service provider
Understand the roles each person will have
Ensure they are hiring a professional
What should go in a client contract?
As already mentioned, the longer you’re in business, the better your contracts will become. At a minimum, each agreement can include:
An overview with information about you, your business, and your service.
If your client will be working with different members of your team, or more than one person will be maintaining their site, include a Team section with team members’ bios. This will help your prospects feel more comfortable.
And it’s a great opportunity to further build trust by communicating your team’s collective expertise and experience.
Scope of work
This is the most important aspect of your agreement, as it clearly outlines exactly what is and is not included in the maintenance service.
The key to a successful scope of work is to write it in plain and simple language that everyone — technical and non-technical alike — can easily understand.
Break everything down into the simplest of tasks, and spell out all the details. It’s just as important to list what is not included in the plan as it is to list what is included.
If you are offering tiered services, clearly define the scope of each service level.
Explain how the maintenance is going to work, what the client can expect, what the steps are, and who will be involved in each step.
This is also the perfect place to outline the maintenance schedule, the roles your team and the client and their team will play, and what is expected from each party.
Put in writing what materials and resources they need to provide you and when, as well as when you need revisions and approvals.
Add-ons and upsells
Focus your agreement on the services clients know they need and include the information for the most relevant related services that you offer. These optional add-ons will trigger that, “Oh yeah, we need that, too” memory and encourage a natural upsell.
Related: What is upselling and how can you do it without scaring away your customers?
Scope of service details
This section covers all of the small, pesky details that most people don’t think about but which could cause you a lot of grief (and erode your profits) down the road.
The clauses in this section address “what happens when…” scenarios. Legal details: This section covers all that important legal stuff. Ownership of work; location of legal filings and proceedings; warranty of work; supplementary support; and so on.
In this section, it’s time to talk about money.
Communicate the payment terms.
Talk about what happens if a client wants to cancel the service, and what happens if you want to cancel the service and fire the client.
Account for what happens if a client drops out of communication for weeks or months.
Related: How to get clients to pay on time
Agreement and signature
Communicate that this is a formal agreement and confirm that the client has the authority to enter into it. Explain what signing the contract means and what they are agreeing to. Ask for all of their contact information, including a physical (non-PO Box) mailing address. Get their overall approval signature, and include a reminder of what will happen next.
Gather the pertinent information and how they want to pay — cash, check, credit card, PayPal, bank transfer — then upon receipt of the signed contract, send them an invoice, a PayPal invoice, or a link to pay by credit card. Be sure when asking for credit card data that you’re using a service that keeps it secure or encrypted.
Once you’ve completed a draft of your contract, you may want to let it rest for a few days and come back to it to review with fresh eyes. When you do so, look for unclear language or industry jargon. If you have a trusted friend who fits the profile of your ideal client, ask them to review it for you and provide you feedback.
Note: Contracts become increasingly important as your agreements reach a higher dollar value. The items here are high-level suggestions and are not intended as legal advice. You’ll likely wish to retain a lawyer to review your contract.
Back to top
Making payments painless
As it goes with most aspects of running a business, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to accepting payments. Clients want to pay you on time, and you need to make it easy for them to do so. How can you do that?
Accept many forms of payment
Clients expect you to take their preferred payment method. The more payment methods you accept, the easier you make it for your clients to pay, and the faster you can collect your hard-earned money.
Use invoicing software
Forget notebooks or spreadsheets. Use a dedicated service like Microsoft Invoicing (included with Office 365 from GoDaddy) to keep all of your invoices in one place.
Related: Best invoicing software options
Set up recurring invoicing. Be sure to include your bank’s wiring instructions in memos you send out to clients. Cut out those checks if at all possible (if your client insists on using checks, see the tip above on accepting multiple payments at once).
Accept recurring payments
Make subscriptions the default for your business and charge a recurring fee (monthly, quarterly, or annual). You can do this through a service like Stripe or AND CO.
Another option is to use the automated credit card processing features available from your invoicing software. You’ll give up a small percentage on processing fees, but you get paid without going to the bank, waiting at the mailbox, or dealing with holds.
Include all contact info
Your client contact might not be the person who actually remits your payment. To prevent anyone from questioning your invoice (or worse, trying to send a check to an incorrect address), include all of your contact information.
Back to top
Selling maintenance services is not for the faint-hearted. You’ll need to have all your ducks in a row to avoid spiraling into a frantic schedule. Remember this whenever someone starts talking about how website maintenance is a magical passive-income machine.
Document your maintenance processes with checklists
A website maintenance checklist is the most reliable way to prevent mistakes and stay consistent. With a solid checklist, you don’t worry about getting derailed mid-task. Better yet, you won’t lose sleep worrying about whether someone can handle maintenance operations on your behalf if the need arises.
Sometimes checklists don’t really look like checklists. They include ordered lists of steps, bulleted lists of items that can be handled out of order, fill-in-the-blank templates, and forms.
What makes for a good maintenance checklist?
Fits on one page. (Too much detail = unlikely to be followed.)
Includes items most likely to be missed.
Has a way to acknowledge completed steps – checked off, highlighted, or filled in.
Has a way to note why any non-applicable step is not done.
Related: WordPress maintenance checklist — 10 essential tasks
Here are some tips to stay organized and protect your time.
Use a calendaring/to-do list app
Use an app to seamlessly sync calendars and tasks between all your devices. Once a task is in the list, you’re liberated from remembering it, and it’s more likely to get done. The app you choose doesn’t matter! Just find one that works for you and use it.
Identify your daily goals
Make it a habit to calmly list your three main goals for the day before you so much as open a browser. This sets the stage for the work ahead, enhances focus, and helps you keep on track in terms of managing time and effort throughout the day.
Establish routines and expectations
Block out time in your day and protect those moments. Assigning time to a task makes you more likely to complete it. In particular…
Win the morning, win the day
If you take the time to establish a morning ritual that truly sets you up for the day, you avoid dragging unnecessary emotional baggage around with you — leaving you to work all day with a clear head.
With a series of early wins already under your belt, you’re mentally ahead from the get-go, and ready to tackle time effectively.
Make folders your friends
Maintain a well-defined folder architecture consistently using the same labels. With each new client, immediately create the standard folder structure. Then as files arrive, they can be quickly saved.
You can do this on your local machine, or in the cloud with a service like Google Drive or Office 365.
Schedule the administrative stuff
Tackle rote admin tasks on a regular basis so they don’t pile up. Take notes and document status while details are fresh, rather than pull it all together at month’s end.
Rely on best-in-class tools
Whether you’re managing five websites or 200, consolidation tools simplify managing tasks across multiple sites.
The tools available via GoDaddy Pro, for example, provide delegated access to manage your clients’ accounts from a central location.
The Pro Sites consolidated dashboard shows you which of your client sites need plugin or theme updates.
Related: A fresh start for GoDaddy Pro
Create a stockpile of reusable components
Thanks to checklists, you won’t worry about mid-task derailment.
Build a library of templates for emails, contracts and invoices.
And for non-sensitive information that can stay generic, create a knowledge base of helpful content on your site that you can send to your clients via a link in an email.
Have a separate inbox for support requests
You want client support requests documented and organized so you can circle back with questions, respond when done, and keep records to document what’s been done. (Again, a dedicated service like Help Scout comes in handy here.)
Only check email at scheduled times
Perhaps your process is to check email as often as once every 30 minutes. That’s fine. Just make sure you’re doing it on a conscious schedule, rather than reacting to every notification.
This sounds like a small distinction to make, but the positive effect that this discipline has on your ability to manage tasks and time throughout the day as a result is extraordinary.
Strive for batch processing
If delaying by hours or days won’t affect the outcome or client wait times, group similar activities together.
Scheduling activities back-to-back enforces end times, and avoids wasting downtime in-between.
When you open your inbox, process your email instead of reacting to it. This means you’re going in, identifying next actions, and scheduling them. You’re not trying to perform the actual work involved while you’re still in the inbox.
Do as much as possible by phone, email or video conference
Yes, it’s nice to meet with clients in person, but is it necessary to do the work? Not usually. You can be smart about how you run your business, but there’s no such thing as free money.
If you lack the ability to organize your own time effectively, you’re watching cash walk out the door on a daily basis. The good news is that the basics of time management can be learned. It takes time and discipline, but the results are more than worth it.
Related: Great productivity tools for web designers and developers
Back to top
Gaining efficiency through automation
Finding time to relax might seem like an impossible fantasy, but automation can help you get closer to taking some time off. There are plenty of tools out there to help you run your business while you catch some much needed R&R. So why not use them to your advantage?
Automate receipts and expenses
Apps like Receipt Bank allow you to take pictures of receipts and submit them to the app for processing. You can also forward any e-invoices to email. Then, once a week, you can go into Receipt Bank and all your expenses are categorized and neatly sorted. This simple activity can save you hours each week.
Connect your apps
Automation tools like Zapier and IFTTT help you connect apps and set up automated workflows. You can use these workflows in creative ways to automate things like marketing campaigns and administrative tasks.
Create smarter forms
Leverage your own website’s potential.
If it’s based on WordPress, for example, plugins like Gravity Forms, Ninja Forms and Caldera Forms include powerful features you can use to automate client-facing tasks. For example, you can use a form to gather client information, take their payments, send a welcome email and receipt, and sync their contact information to your CRM.
What was once a considerable amount of manual admin work is now done automatically instead.
Automate analytics and website reports
Once a client has been added, and depending on the scope of the service they’re receiving, you can go into the relevant tools and configure automated reporting. These automated reports can go to you for review, or they could go directly to the client. (Again, it depends on how you’re running your business.)
Editor’s note: The tools in GoDaddy Pro let you automate website updates, backups, and even create white-labeled reports.
Gain efficiency through delegation
Imagine going to a restaurant that serves the most amazing meals. The head chef studied in the culinary arts for years, trained in multiple cuisines and won many awards along the way. One bite and you’re hooked for life. But is every step of food preparation handled directly by the chef?
A single chef quickly runs into time constraints due to the individual demand for one person to do all of the work.
To scale, delegation to others is required.
When should you delegate a task? Like a chef who refuses to let the cooks do the work, this integral question has a profound impact on most businesses.
Without delegation, you can become tied to performing low-value tasks, instead of focusing on items critical to the maintenance business.
Delegating some tasks is part of running your business.
How do you decide what to delegate? The thought process is simple: List out your services or products and then determine what can be delegated to other people in order to get a predictable result that is of acceptable quality.
In other words, get some line cooks to do the work!
A big portion of the delegation process is presenting exactly what you want to accomplish and communicating exactly what is needed to get the task completed. Create a task list that is so simple to follow that anyone with basic skills can execute the formula.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course. Not all services are candidates for delegation. There will always be certain tasks that require 100-percent quality or your unique skills that you will not be able to delegate. But if you write down all the tasks involved in a project, chances are superb that at least half of your recurring tasks could be delegated to others.
Once you learn to delegate, your work will flow faster, run more efficiently and the combined efforts of you and your team can elevate your business to a new level much faster than you could have on your own.
Back to top
Scaling website support services with contractors
As your maintenance service grows, there’ll come a time where you need to bring on additional resources to help you keep up with demand. Outsourcing to contractors is one option.
Here are six tips for outsourcing work to ensure you get the best possible people for the job.
1. Share your mission
You want your contractors to be familiar with your overall mission so that they can keep it in mind as they work. That way, if they have to make certain decisions on the fly, they can ask the following question: “Which alternative is the best choice for the business mission?”
2. Write a crystal-clear job description
Outline a clear set of goals and how the contractor’s work will be evaluated. Then you set a budget for the work so that financial expectations are clear. Finally, set a deadline, so that each month’s tasks run smoothly.
3. Don’t burden your contractors with nonessential information
The people you’re outsourcing your work to don’t need to hear about external problems your business is facing, requirements not related to the current project, or financial pressures. Just keep them focused on the work.
4. Communicate effectively
When outsourcing, keep in mind that communication is a two-way street. If the contractor reaches out to you with a question or concern about the project, respond as quickly as possible so that you don’t put pressure on your own deadline.
5. Start small
If you’re unsure about outsourcing, smart small. Outsource a small task and see what results the contractor produces.
Did they follow the instructions? Were the tasks completed on time? Was the individual prompt in their communication during the process?
If yes, then congratulations, you’ve found a contractor to outsource to. Hire them for future engagements and repeat the process.
6. Don’t forget about support
You’re going to need a contractor that not only delivers on time but is also available for follow-up if required. If you’re checking references, ask around about their reliability, cost, and the contractor’s quality of service.
If you need to outsource some of your maintenance tasks to somebody else, be sure that you exercise the required due diligence to find the right contractor. Remember, your clients are paying you to look after their website, and whoever you hire reflects on your business.
Related: Build your team — from hiring the best talent to outsourcing
Back to top
Showing your work with monthly reports
Your clients will expect regular reporting and analysis, and they’d like your help crafting a plan of action.
This type of ongoing communication is an opportunity to assert the value of your services, and demonstrate that you’re worth the price they’re paying.
Your monthly reports should include three things at a minimum:
Statistics — real numbers! — about the site’s performance.
Insights and actionable advice based on the numbers.
A summary of what work you’ve done over the past month.
Let’s start with the stats that clients care about. (This assumes that site traffic reporting is a fundamental service you’re providing, and that you are using Google Analytics as the source of this data.)
Related: How to use Google Analytics
Website traffic trends
The Website Traffic report is a starting point. Clients love this report because it’s a feel-good vanity metric with up-and-to-the-right graphs showing traffic growth. But it’s up to you to keep a cool head, act as the analyst, and tie the traffic to actual performance.
Note the quality of your traffic by looking at bounce rates, conversions, and other engagement metrics.
Where traffic comes from
Small business owners love the Acquisition Report. You can see the channels that are performing well, as defined by lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates.
Mobile traffic sources
Similar to the Acquisition Report, but only looking at mobile devices. It uncovers opportunities for mobile optimization. With a huge portion of the world using mobile devices to surf the web, this report pays off.
Comparing new and returning visitors
The New vs. Return Traffic report helps clients understand the relationship between new and returning traffic. If new visitors aren’t converting, or they’re not engaged while at the same time return visits are trending downwards, it indicates some issues with first impressions.
Chances are it’s time to work with your client to improve the new visitor experience.
The most popular content
Refer to the Top Content report. This content is driving the majority of engagement on your client’s site. You can also use this report to identify content that could be improved, such as a page with lots of traffic but a high bounce rate.
Goals and conversions
If the client has set up goals in Google Analytics, the Conversions report provides a breakdown of the traffic that has converted. If your client is running an online store, these conversions may be purchases with corresponding revenue. If your client is running a publication, the conversions may be newsletter subscriptions.
This is where automation plays a key role because pulling these is a routine task.
You’re not providing any value by doing it manually. You provide value when you add your insights and recommendations to the report.
Let’s be clear — you would never want to completely automate client contact. But a healthy element of automation can benefit everyone involved. By automating the routine tasks that drain your time, you can offer more services and get more done.
Combine automation with personal messaging, insights, and advice. Your clients want to interact with a real person who cares about their site.
Don’t forget to summarize the work you’ve done in the previous month, and explain the positive impact that it has made. If you added a plugin, what new capabilities does the site have? If you made a performance improvement, what effect does that have on the site’s visitors or customers?
Providing this level of context reasserts your value as a service provider.
Related: How to leverage automation to create a remarkable client experience
Proactively monitoring and reporting on your client’s website security is another way to demonstrate your value on a regular basis.
Identify threats before they cause damage, and let your client know how the security issues were dealt with (e.g. By handing off to a third-party specialist like Sucuri). Then outline the steps that you and your client will take to prevent the incident from happening again.
So how do you put a report like this together?
Create a client report for free in GoDaddy Pro Sites. This tool helps you to create high-quality, customizable reports. These reports can be distributed as PDF files, emails, or even secret links.
Back to top
Grow your revenue by selling website support and maintenance services
Offering website maintenance to keep the website humming (and money coming in!) after the initial project has been completed is a sensible extension of your existing business.
In many cases, you’ll have built the site yourself, so who knows it better than you? Even if you weren’t the original web designer, you’ve got the broad experience to handle routine matters efficiently and deal with a crisis if it arises.
These are valuable skills.
If you put them to work efficiently, using the fabulous tools available to you, you can keep your client’s sites in top shape and boost your bottom line. If you’ve got a yen for scalable, recurring revenue, here it comes!
Remember, to save time with free tools and resources for web designers and developers, join GoDaddy Pro for free.
This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Andy McIlwain, Jennifer Bourn, Kristina Romero and Tom Ewer.
Image by: Jack Douglass on Unsplash