How to start selling website maintenance services to your clients

Building relationships and revenue

While working as a freelance WordPress developer or designer is a wonderfully flexible way of making a living, it’s not for the faint-hearted. Finding, satisfying, and retaining clients can be a hard slog sometimes, and anything that helps you out in that regard is welcome.

Adding website maintenance services to the list of offerings you provide is an excellent way to generate recurring revenue, maximize client value over time, and provide peace of mind and security to all involved.

In this piece, we’ll cover how to get started with selling website maintenance services, what services to include, how to approach pricing, and how to pitch along the way. Let’s kick things off with a quick overview of why they’re such a good idea.

Why website maintenance services are a great idea

The reality of building WordPress sites is that somebody needs to be looking after them post-launch. If you’ve already put in the hard work of attracting the client and building the site, that somebody might as well be you.

The potential upsides on offer are compelling:

  • Recurring revenue: Even a small number of 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.

Hopefully you’re convinced, so let’s have a look at what could go into a basic package.

What goes into a basic package?

As a WordPress pro, you’re no doubt familiar with the huge list of ongoing tasks that need to be taken care of after a site is launched. Your average client, almost certainly, is not.

Here’s a quick list of basic categories to consider when starting out:

  • Hosting and domain registration: Reseller options from providers such as GoDaddy put this within easy reach.
  • Security: Site hacks remain a huge problem for poorly maintained sites everywhere. Secure setup and ongoing monitoring is a big plus for site owners.
  • Backups: Having regular backups is essential for virtually every site. Clients are often reluctant to handle this task themselves, and software such as BackupBuddy helps you offer it with ease. Editor’s note: 30-day backups are included with GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress service.
  • Updates: Regular updates across WordPress’ core, themes, and plugins are a fact of life. The potential for something going wrong with any of them is always there, and clients will pay to guard against that.
  • Design and development tweaks: The recent explosion of providers such as WP Curve, The WP Butler, plus GoDaddy’s Pro Connect and web design services, shows the market for this as an isolated service is huge.

Kick things off by comparing these categories with your core competencies, then pare down your package to what you’d be happy offering your clients.

Why your pricing structure matters

Bear in mind that you need to be putting together crisply defined packages that make sense in terms of your standard hourly rate, and any extra costs incurred. If you offer the world for a small monthly fee, clients will rightly hold you to that promise.

Some services lend themselves to flat-rate pricing. Core services where the various moving parts can be reasonably anticipated and broken down fall into this category. Areas such as hosting, backups, updates, and security and uptime monitoring fall broadly into this category as well.

WordPress website maintenance services
The success of services such as The WP Butler and WP Curve shows that there’s money in maintenance.

Be on your guard when it comes to offering ongoing tweaks and improvements. You want to be sure you’re not getting pulled into unlimited small changes or tasks which really should be standalone projects. A mixture of carefully defined defaults and the option to buy additional blocks of your time is often the way to go here.

Why pitching website maintenance services to existing and potential clients is a good idea

There will be some differences in pitching to existing clients versus new clients. The approaches will need to be subtly different, but before you start trying to sell widely to either segment, run a trial of your approach with at least one customer from each group. You’ll want real world experience of potential pros and cons before you go all out on driving sales.

For existing clients, prepare a template script that explains you’re transitioning to a maintenance model on new projects, outlines the benefits, and makes an offer. Ideally, you’re also including a free initial consultation here to see if it’s a good fit. WP Elevation has an excellent sample email available for you to tweak, which hits these points elegantly.

WP Elevation maintenance plan webinar
Check out WP Elevation’s maintenance plan webinar for a deep-dive on the subject.

For new clients, make your basic package an opt-out part of all future projects. You’ll need a clear presentation of exactly what’s included, and a clear breakdown of terms governing the monthly maintenance services contract.

For examples of how to structure the actual contract, check out Mike McDermott’s recent Never Sell a Site Without a Maintenance Agreement WordCamp talk.


Offering maintenance services to potential and existing clients addresses a large amount of traditional pain points for WordPress developers. You stand to benefit from the security of recurring revenue, and can create substantially better client relationships over time.

If you haven’t yet started offering maintenance packages to your clients, there’s no better time than today to get started. Let’s briefly recap the points we covered for doing so:

  1. Get clear on the value that maintenance plans offer you as a developer.
  2. Pare down the list of services you’re comfortable supporting into a standard package.
  3. Carefully match your pricing to predicted costs.
  4. Trial with new and existing clients, then start pitching to both.

Are you currently offering website maintenance services to your clients, or do you have any tips to share? Get in touch via the comments section below and let us know!

Image by: aresauburn™ via Compfight cc