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WordPress Maintenance Plans for Web Designers and Agencies

July 30th

Andy

Offsprout is the only WordPress website builder for freelancers and agencies.

For many web design freelancers and agencies, they treat website design as a one-time project. 

Build the website. Hand it off. Done.

But, in our experience, the most successful freelancers and agencies are the ones that offer ongoing maintenance plans. And, if you are building your client websites in WordPress (which you should), offering clients a WordPress maintenance plan can provide many amazing benefits to your clients and your business.

A WordPress maintenance plan is an ongoing service that your business provides to your clients where you host and maintain the client’s website, and potentially provide additional services (like marketing, SEO, website edits).

In this post, we’re taking an in-depth look at the reasons you should offer WordPress maintenance plans for your web design clients, and then we tackle the logistics of how to do it right. 

Whether this is something you have never considered, or are already actively doing, I guarantee that this mega-post will give you some new insights or inspiration for your web design business.

Also, since this post is very comprehensive, we went ahead and turned this into a downloadable PDF so you can take this article and its insights with you offline.

Download our free WordPress Website Maintenance Plan  Guide:

WordPress website maintenance plan guide for web designers and agencies ebook
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You might be wondering before jumping into this article, where this information is coming from? This isn’t an article crowd-sourcing generic information from other blogs. This is all based on personal experience. Prior to Offsprout, I co-founded, built up, and sold a web design agency. In that agency, we provided ongoing maintenance plans and add-on marketing services to hundreds of clients.

So, all this being said, let’s dive right in…

Why You Should Offer A WordPress Maintenance Plan To Your Web Design Clients


First, you may be wondering what the point is of offering a WordPress maintenance plan.

I want to tackle that concern you may have, head-on.

You are not offering a WordPress maintenance plan just to make more money.

Offering a WordPress maintenance plan is going to be a win-win for both you and your clients. (Related: What’s the Best Hosting for Client Websites and Why to Host)

Here’s why…

Clients Need This

I want to make sure that you recognize the value of the service you are providing.

Many freelancers and agencies tend to think that providing a WordPress maintenance plan is the same thing as providing website hosting.

They tend to get into the mindset that their competitors are hosts like GoDaddy or Bluehost.

And then they think they have to compete with GoDaddy or Bluehost on price.

That’s completely not the case, though.

When you are providing a WordPress maintenance plan for your clients, you are providing a premium service.

And, your clients want to pay for the privilege of being able to work ongoing with a WordPress expert who can help them keep up their website.

Your clients are willing to pay a premium for that.

Most of your clients will want ongoing support. If they’ve ever had a website before, they know that if they want to make edits or updates, they will need help. Doing it themselves would be time-consuming and take away from their own business-related obligations. They don’t want to deal with it themselves.

Without a WordPress maintenance plan, what are your clients’ options?

If you say to them, “We will do your website design. Find your own web host,” then the client has to spend the time and energy to evaluate hosts and figure it all out.

Your clients options are:

  • Go with a major website host like GoDaddy or Bluehost and have their support teams provide assistance as-needed
  • Find another WordPress maintenance company that the client may be unfamiliar with and has to evaluate
  • (And, If you provide this support and maintenance) Go with you, someone they already know and trust to help them

When you compare the options, it’s a no-brainer that the client would want to work with you.

Option 1? No thank you. You and your clients both know that generic web hosting providers do not offer great support. 

Have you ever tried getting support from one of the major web hosts? It can be torturous. And you are someone who knows a thing or two about websites.

Imagine what that experience is like for your client – someone who doesn’t know as much about websites as you do.

That’s why your service is worth it for them.

So, stop comparing yourself to GoDaddy and Bluehost. Stop trying to compete with them on price. You are providing a premium service that they cannot.

GoDaddy and Bluehost charge what they do because of the service level and scale they have.

You might be thinking, “No way. I disagree. Not every client wants a premium maintenance plan.”

Sure. A potential client may complain, “I don’t want to pay $50, $100, $200 per month to you when I can go to GoDaddy for $10 per month.” 

Then, they are not a good ongoing WordPress maintenance plan customer for you. And, overall, it will be better for you to forego that one-time sale opportunity and focus on long-term clients with a recurring maintenance plan. 

In my experience, losing out on clients complaining about price will be the best money you never made.

Many customers, the ones who understand the value you provide, will want this. And really, those are the clients you want to work with. You don’t want to work with a client that thinks of you as a commodity. Having a WordPress maintenance plan built into your services will help you weed out bad-fit potential clients.

Not every client will appreciate your value. But many will.

In my experience (and I bet yours too), most of the clients that were looking for a “deal” or a discount off of my regular prices were always more difficult to work with than the clients who paid full-rate for my services. 

The price you charge should be tied to the value you provide. 

If clients don’t respect your value, and demand a discount, then they end up treating you like the value they don’t believe you have.

So, remember – many clients will want your premium support and hosting services. The ones that respect your value will be better clients to work with in general.

Recurring Revenue

When we started our web design agency, we did financial projections at the start. We saw that doing one-time-fee web design projects was not scalable. 

Without providing an ongoing maintenance plan, we would be in a constant race to get new clients.

If every client is just paying a one-time fee for their website design, you need to always be making new sales. 

Here’s the thing – with only having one-time fees, you can never take a vacation from sales.

If you have a bad sales month, or you decide to take time off, you don’t have revenue coming in.

We looked at those initial projections and saw that couldn’t scale up the business without providing WordPress maintenance plans. For us, it was a no-brainer.

Fewer Issues and Holdups

In my experience, having an ongoing client relationship via WordPress maintenance plans, ends up with fewer problems with the client.

With a one-time project, there is an end date to the relationship.

With a one-time project, the client needs to ensure that their website has everything they’re looking for from you before the site goes live, or they won’t ever get it.

But, if you are going to be working with the client after their site is live, then it is not mission-critical to the client that they get everything they want for their site for launch day. 

Things get prioritized. 

The client can launch the website without a particular page, because you can add it for them later.

With the understanding that you will be helping the client after their website is live, you can move the website along faster, and launch it sooner, because the website does not have to have every single thing the client wants on Day 1.

Better Customer Service and Satisfaction

Going into a web design project knowing there is going to be a long-term relationship changes the relationship dynamics a bit.

With an ongoing maintenance plan – instead of being the client’s one-night-stand, you end up being their long-term partner.

If you have worked on a one-time project, you know how things can be. Clients can be demanding. They can treat you like you are disposable, rather than a vital member of their team.

But, if there is going to be an ongoing relationship, both parties are going to have to be able to communicate with each other. 

And the client will view you more as a member of their team, since you will be working with them long-term.

An ongoing relationship with the customer ensures that you can keep your customer happy.

Furthermore, issues creep up after a site is handed off. They always do.

If there is no maintenance plan, it’s easy for you to say to a client, “We delivered the site. This is not our problem. This sounds like a you-problem.”

They might disagree, arguing, “You built this site and now, for reasons I don’t understand, the site does not work. You need to fix it.”

If the site is left to them to figure out, it’s another headache for them.

Chances are, your customer does not want to be a webmaster.

They just want their website to work.

Having someone to help them keep their website running without any issues keeps it off their plate.

It lowers their stress. And it increases their satisfaction.

If your customer knows that they have someone they can rely on when website issues crop up, it makes their lives easier.

And as you get to be the one making your customer’s life easier, you get to be their hero.

Upsell Potential

One other benefit of maintaining the ongoing relationship with the client is that if they ever need anything else that is in the realm of the services you provide, they will think of you.

One day, the client may decide that they want to try online marketing. Then, they’ll reach out to you. 

Over the six years I ran an agency, this happened to me dozens of times.

“Hey, do you know anyone that does SEO/blogging/social media?”

“Why yes… Hey, you know, we offer that service. We can add that onto your existing package. You’ve seen the quality of work and service we provide. You don’t need to work with anyone else. We’re a one-stop shop!”

For any satisfied client, that’s a great pitch.

Provided you’ve done a great job to-date, you’ve already proven yourself.

The client already trusts you.

Having one person to talk to for all their website needs would also make things simple for them.

And, if the client is already aware that you provide the service, it’s an especially easy sale. 

One thing that I’ve heard shared is that it is cheaper to sell to existing customers than to acquire new ones.

Also – upselling can be a way to improve customer satisfaction because it builds a deeper relationship with your customers.

One tip to improve your upsell chances: Have a newsletter.

When clients asked me, “Hey do you have anyone you can recommend for SEO?” it would drive me crazy.

If the client doesn’t know that I provide SEO services, then I’m doing something wrong. The client should know that I offer additional services, because I want them to think of me immediately when they are looking to hire someone for that service.

A few times, clients would hire an outside SEO company, and it was because they did not know that I offered SEO services. For that kind of situation, I only had myself to blame. 

Keeping your clients informed of your scope of services is your responsibility. Email marketing and social media can help you keep clients in the loop.

Send your clients periodic newsletters with links to your latest blog posts, case studies, and announcements about your services.

More Referrals

Extending from better customer service: If clients are happy with your service, they will recommend you to their colleagues and friends.

If you are managing their website and keeping it up and running, continuously, then you are going to continually be top-of-mind when a friend or colleague asks them for a recommendation.

However, if you just design the website and leave them to manage it themselves, the customer can forget about you and forget about the value you provided them.

With an ongoing relationship, you are constantly staying top-of mind with the client:

  • Every month your client gets a traffic report that has your branding on it
  • Every time your client gets an invoice for their WordPress maintenance plan
  • Every time they email to ask you a question

By staying involved with the client after the website is launched, and providing them value, ensures they will sing your praises to their colleagues when they need a website and ask for a recommendation.

WordPress Maintenance Plan Featues


The first thing you need to do, before offering anything to current or potential clients, is you need to establish the parameters.

What features are going to be included in your WordPress maintenance plans? 

What things are specifically not going to be included?

As I am sure you have seen before, “scope creep” happens often with website design. Clients ask for you to do things for them above-and-beyond what you quoted them for in their website design project.

Another round of edits…

Some content editing…

Some on-site SEO…

You will get the same with ongoing WordPress maintenance plans as well.

If you do not specify exactly what you are willing to provide, clients will ask for things beyond the scope.

And can you blame them?

If it is not clear to them what they are getting, they might hope that what they want is included in the package.

For your clients, you should lay out exactly what they get and how much of it they are entitled to.

As an example – how many website edits will they get each month?

How many backups are they entitled to, and how frequently? Once daily? Weekly?

Your service agreement should lay all of this out.

If you don’t have a service agreement, get one (we’ll talk about that later).

Here’s the thing though – don’t feel obligated to provide every feature under the sun.

You do not have to offer DNS or SEO-related features in your WordPress maintenance plan if you don’t want to.

Choose the features that you know that you will be able to provide well, and features that clients should expect from their web hosting provider.

Also, another piece of advice when offering WordPress maintenance plans: chances are in your first iteration, it won’t be perfect. You will forget something. You may end up doing more work than you expect. 

That’s fine though. 

You can always iterate. You can update your plans to include additional items, or have them be paid add-ons that require a higher monthly fee.

So, let’s check out the features you should consider including with your WordPress Maintenance Plan. 

Support

This one’s pretty basic.

This is what your customers are asking for. They want to be able to get help with their website. 

They want a human being to be able to answer their questions and address their issues.

But, “website support” simultaneously means everything, and nothing.

People may have different ideas of what kind of support is covered. So, you will need to specify.

Are you willing to edit their WordPress website code?

Are you willing to figure out their DNS issues?

Will you troubleshoot their email hosting?

As far as “support” goes, you need to be clear what aspects are covered.

When you mention “support” in your WordPress maintenance plan, though, really you should be addressing the availability of your support and your response time. 

The other features of your WordPress maintenance plan should cover what kind of support they will get as part of their package (e.g. plugin updates, website edits). If the type of support is not listed in your WordPress maintenance plan features, then clients don’t get it.

Your “support” should = “Available for support via phone / email during X time on Y days.”

For example: “We provide customer support via email on Monday – Friday from 9am – 6pm ET. We will respond to your email support inquiry within one business day.”

Emergency Support

Not to entirely contradict myself above, but sometimes things happen outside of normal business hours.

In my agency, one year I unfortunately spent part of my Thanksgiving helping a client whose website went down.

If your client’s website gets hacked on a Saturday, are you willing to help?

What kind of emergency / off-hours support will you provide? How can people reach you off-hours?

Are you going to provide emergency support? Is that going to be an extended service that you charge for hourly? Or is that just not an option you will offer?

This is something to think about, because if you are providing regular service, and also emergency service – does that mean you are available to the client 24/7?

Updates

As part of your service, you should consider providing updates to your client’s WordPress plugins and theme.

This can be an easy thing to provide, depending on whether or not conflicts arise between plugins and themes.

You can at least offer to attempt to provide regular plugin and theme updates, as long as the client is paid-up on any of the premium plugins or themes and they can be updated.

It should not be your responsibility to pay to renew clients’ theme or plugin subscriptions. That should be clear in your plan agreement.

Website Edits

Here is another area you will need to be specific.

Clients will want you to tweak their website as-needed. They will want to add new pages. Sometimes they may want to change a sidebar, footer, or other sitewide area.

Are you willing to make tweaks to the website theme? That will typically involve a lot more time and effort than simply publishing a new post with the client’s written content.

I would recommend that you keep the scope of “website edits” narrow. Meaning, “website edits” could include adding a new page or blog post, provided that the client has the content available.

I recommend that “website edits” does not include doing SEO work on a page or post. 

Also, it should not include tweaking the theme. That’s getting into the territory of website redesign work, and that scope can get pretty tricky pretty quickly. 

You don’t want to leave wiggle room in the definition of “website edits” so the client effectively asks you to redesign their homepage or entire website.

Keeping anything SEO-related off-limits is a good policy because it could also encourage the client to be upsold to an ongoing SEO package, if you have one.

As part of the WordPress maintenance plan, “website edits” could include installing a new plugin, if you so choose.

Uptime Monitoring

This is one thing you can pretty-easily provide with the aid of a third-party plugin. 

Uptime monitoring is basically keeping tabs on the site being live. If the site goes down for any reason, whether its due to the host server, DNS, or attack, uptime monitoring lets you and your client know.

Uptime monitoring is handy because, if a site goes down for any reason, you get notified immediately so you can react quickly to get the site back up.

And your quick-response can make you a hero.

When there are easy fixes for sites going down, you look great to your client. Especially when they consider that, without you, they would have had no idea how to fix this. 

But other times, like when Cloudflare’s DNS goes down and takes down the Internet, there’s not much for you to do. And in situations like that, you can at least let the client know, “Hey listen, I know you are worried about your site being down. Half of the Internet is down. This is not just affecting you. Your site should be back up soon.”

Backups

Regular backups of websites are nice to have for a few reasons.

For one, the website could get attacked by malware. You may then need to roll back the website to a previous day to get rid of the malware.

For another (and much more common in my experience), clients sometimes make mistakes while editing their website. If you don’t have user restrictions (like with the Offsprout builder role creator), it can be easy for a client to destroy their website. 

Some clients are not as skilled with WordPress as they think they are (understatement, I know). That’s fine though as long as you have backups. 

Having backups lets you do a major “undo” to get the site back to how it was before the client.

Google Analytics Support

Most every website has Google Analytics. 

Clients can have trouble though when it comes to setting up Google Analytics on their site, or understanding how to use it.

Being able to support Google Analytics is definitely a nice-to-have for clients.

And hopefully you are already a bit of an expert in Google Analytics. It’s not a new skill you have to learn in order to offer it.

But, even if you don’t know everything about Google Analytics, you are likely more familiar with it than your clients. And you can figure out more easily than they can how to integrate it properly with the website, set up dashboards, and establish and track goals.

Traffic Reports

Regular website traffic reports are another thing you can automate easily with third-party plugins. 

It’s an easy service to provide, since all it requires is an initial setup, and it gives great value to the client.

You set up the report and the client’s email address, and once a month they get the traffic report sent to their inbox.

It can also be a point for upselling other services.

One scenario (that happened in my agency many times)  – “Hey there, thanks for sending over the traffic report. I saw that traffic is down this month compared to last. What can I do about that?” 

“Well, you haven’t been really doing anything to get better search engine visibility. We do offer an ongoing SEO service to help you get better rankings. Are you interested?”

Security

This is something you can offer in tandem with a plugin like Wordfence or Sucuri.

If you are not already familiar with website security, this may be an area where you have to improve your skillset.

For this service, you can run regular security audits using these third-party plugins, and, in the event the client’s site is attacked or taken down, you can restore the site from a previous backup.

WordPress Maintenance Plan Add-On Services


Some ongoing services will be beyond the regular scope of your WordPress maintenance plan.

Social media marketing, email hosting, email marketing, or SEO, for example.

These could be things that clients will want, related to their website or Internet presence.

Here is a list of some add-on services you might want to offer:

DNS Management / Domain Management

DNS management involves sorting out clients’ domain related records.

If you’re not super-familiar, here is a great primer on DNS records for web designers.

Managing a client’s DNS records and domain registration is something you can offer for free, included, or as an add-on service.

For DNS management, you can help set up and manage their domain records like their email service.

Generally, you don’t need to touch DNS records very often, if ever.

The main reason we ever needed to edit a client DNS record in my agency was when clients changed their email provider from one like Gmail to Office365.

Internally, though, we did sometimes need to make DNS changes, such as when we moved our hosting server. If we needed the clients help to give us access to their DNS, things would have been more difficult. We would have needed login credentials for every client DNS, and then have to make the DNS changes for every single client on each of their DNS hosts. 

And I don’t know if you have ever dealt with a client’s DNS records before, but most clients have no idea where their DNS is located. And often they do not know the login credentials for that DNS.

We had many clients that would have the domain registered in one place, like GoDaddy. Then, they would have the DNS in another place, like their previous hosting provider’s DNS. And they would not know how to login there.

But, when you control a client’s DNS, it makes changing records a lot easier.

One other positive aspect of domain management is that you can remember to renew a client’s domain for them. Domain renewals are not expensive. And ensuring the client’s domain is registered is important, obviously.

We had a few clients over the years who mistakenly assumed that because we hosted their website, they didn’t have to worry about domain renewal. That wasn’t the case. Or, they completely forgot where their domain was registered. Or, the renewal emails went to their junk folders. Or, they ignored the renewal emails. 

Then, their domain expired. And then they flipped out. And we had to help them sort all of that out.

Another upside to offering domain registration and management included is that you retain control of the client’s domain in case there are any issues, such as the client not paying a bill.

SEO

SEO is all about getting your clients more traffic via organic search engine visibility.

Most SEO plans center on content creation and link-building to get more web traffic. But, SEO is not just some add-on service. It’s a skill. That skill may be within your wheelhouse, or not.

Of all of the add-on services, SEO, paid ads, and social media are the hardest ones to execute well on.

You should not offer these without being able to do them well. Otherwise, you increase the likelihood the client cancels their service with you entirely.

Your SEO plan should be detailed and specific.

What kind of content will you be creating?

What kind of link-building are you going to do?

Behind the scenes, how are you going to manage this client’s ongoing SEO campaign?

Offering ongoing marketing will also require the use of third-party tools you might not be already using in your web design projects. SEO tools like SEMRush, Screaming Frog, or Ahrefs.

And reporting tools like Agency Analytics.

Offering SEO, social media, paid ads, and email marketing, should come with a minimum term length. This is because some work is front-loaded, and done at the beginning of the term. When building an SEO or PPC campaign, you are probably going to spend the most time working on the campaign in the first months rather than the later months.

Paid Ads

Paid ads can get your clients traffic immediately.

Unlike SEO, which takes time, paid ads can get clients seeing results right away.

Now, it will take time to fine-tune the campaign to get it just right, and the client should be made to understand that.

But, online marketing via paid ads can deliver excellent results.

You may choose to do campaigns with search engines like Google Ads, or social media via Facebook Ads. 

Either way, I would recommend that each client’s paid ads campaign encompass only one of the channels. 

Related: Scaling your agency with paid ads

If a client wants you to create ads on both Google and Facebook, they should pay more than your rate for one ad campaign.

Advertising via Facebook and Google Ads are different. And your client should not expect that they get you to build ad campaigns in both channels for one price. That should be clear.

If you are new to paid advertising and want some help from an expert, you might want to consider using a service like WordStream or Adespresso, which has PPC management software as well as PPC consulting.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a great add-on service to provide.

The deliverables can be pretty straightforward:

Each month, you draft a newsletter, get the client’s approval, and publish it to their audience.

You can also choose to create and manage automation sequences in their email software (if it’s part of the client’s package).

Different email marketing apps have different tools available so you can manage multiple clients. Not all of the major email apps let you manage client campaigns. But, services like ActiveCampaign and Mailchimp do.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is another add-on service you might want to consider offering.

Determining the fixed-scope of this will be important.

How many times will you post each day / week?

To which social profiles will you post?

Will you respond to social inquiries for the company?

All of it is very doable, but you will need to figure it out ahead of time before offering it to your clients.

Other WordPress Maintenance Plan Considerations


Now, let’s take a step back. 

A WordPress maintenance plan is not just about what services you’re providing and upselling.

There are other considerations and logistics to think about.

  1. How are you going to provide support, especially if you have a team larger than one person?
  2. What’s the payment schedule?
  3. How about extended service fees?
  4. How do you actually manage multiple websites?
  5. What goes into your maintenance contract?

These are all serious questions that you have to think about when concocting your WordPress maintenance plan.

In this section, we’re going to address each of these considerations.

Providing Support

Where can clients call or email if they need help?

You might be thinking, “Let’s get Zendesk and a business phone number people can call. Problem solved” 

But, you may not need to outlay the expenses for these, especially if you are a small shop. And you might think, “I want to provide amazing support. I will make myself available 24/7.” I have thoughts on all of that…

By providing ongoing WordPress maintenance plans, you will be hearing more from some clients.

In our experience running a web design agency, you will hear most from clients just after they launch their website. And then after that first month, support requests typically decrease steadily.

When our agency was a two-person shop, I tried to make sure we were always available to clients. This meant answering emails or calls at all hours and on the weekends.

It made it hard to get away from the office and relax on weekends. Relaxing was tough.

But, I thought that by providing this better, more attentive service, customer satisfaction would be higher.

In hindsight, I don’t think it was…

Turns out, the weekend emails or calls we got were rarely emergency issues. These were often requests that could be handled during the week.

And after I would respond on a Saturday to a non-urgent email, clients just grew to expect that I would be available 24/7. 

If anything, I think they may have gotten impatient when I did not reply immediately, because they had grown used to my quick support turnaround.

What?

I’ve thought about this a lot recently. If you think about it, when we become accustomed to something, we tend to appreciate it less.

I’ve thought about this in particular in the context of Amazon deliveries. 

Not too many years ago, it was amazing that we could order something from the Internet and it would arrive at our door within 1 week.

Technology is so amazing! We can get anything we want mailed directly to our doorsteps!

Then, Amazon Prime came along and guaranteed that they could deliver something to you within two business days.

At first, that was amazing!

Then, it became expected.

Now, Amazon Prime is offering guaranteed next-day delivery on many items, making that the new standard.

Now, any time you order something from an online retailer and they say that delivery will take longer than two business days, it seems slow.

The only thing that has changed here is expectations.

Now, I am not using this as an analogy to suggest that you intentionally create low expectations for clients.

But, you do not need to create excessively high expectations when there is no appreciable benefit to be had for anyone here.

Providing “emergency support” for issues like websites going down is a great service. But, providing 24/7 support for everything might be excessive.

So, you will need to set parameters for support and service requests. And you may need specific software to help execute all this.

“Ugh. More software to buy?”

If you are a solo shop, the only one providing support, you may not see a need to pay for a third-party help desk application. 

That can be fine if it’s just you.

So long as you know how to organize your inbox and respond to messages, it can be easy enough to just let clients email you directly. Or, with Google Apps, you can create an alias email for “[email protected]” and have that get a nice label or go to a separate inbox using Gmail’s Multiple Inbox feature.

And if you want to let clients call you, you can give them your business phone number.

Early on, before my agency got office phones, we worked off of our cell phones. But, as I learned, you don’t necessarily want to give clients your personal cell phone; they can end up calling you at all hours. So, we eventually signed up for a third-party app, CallRail, that does call tracking as well as call-routing. The call-routing feature was key. Instead of needing an expensive server or piece of equipment, we could schedule where incoming calls went directly from this software. With CallRail, we could make it so during business hours calls would come to our cell phones, and off-hours they would go to an office voicemail system. And voicemails from callers would get emailed to us directly. We could even use CallRail to make outbound calls, so clients would not see our cell phone numbers on their caller ID. 

So, support can be easy enough to do with just your email and a phone number.

Once you get beyond having one person on your team to answer support questions, you should probably consider getting a help desk application.

Otherwise, things can get confusing. 

With a help desk application, everyone on your team can know who is assigned and handling a particular help desk ticket.

Without it, and with support emails just going to everyone’s inboxes, no specific individual knows immediately “This is my support ticket to work on.” You can end up with support tickets ignored, or having multiple people on your team addressing them, which makes things confusing for the client.

For help desk, Zendesk is popular. At my prior agency, and today at Offsprout, we use Helpscout.

Related: The Best Tools to Manage Your Web Design Agency

Payment Schedule

You will need to set a payment schedule for how often the client is going to pay you for your maintenance plan – monthly or annually.

Here’s a practical consideration in all of this…

Everyone’s least-favorite part of website design is chasing down clients for payment.

You want to spend your time doing work, not hunting down people to pay you for what you have already done for them.

With an ongoing service, every month/year (depending on how you bill) you regularly have to work to ensure your clients to pay you. It’s a cost of doing business and it can be hard to avoid.

Sometimes, credit cards get declined. And sometimes, clients just ignore your emails and voicemails to get your payment.

Then you have to chase them down.

But, there are ways to avoid having to chase down clients.

First – don’t accept checks. A check means you have to constantly reach out to your client to get paid. That is extra time and effort you have to spend, and that costs you.

When your client signs up for web design and the maintenance plan, get the client to provide you with a credit card and immediately set up a recurring subscription plan for that client. 

Set them up in payment software of choice (we used Stripe, but there are plenty of alternatives like Freshbooks and Xero).

One challenge is, “What do I do if the client doesn’t pay me and ignores my outreach?”

When you are waiting to get paid for a web design project, you typically have the ability to hold off on launching the website until you get paid any outstanding balance. That encourages the client to give you any payment due.

For a live website, you should hold onto the “keys” to their hosting.  

If a client does not pay you an outstanding invoice and goes past-due by 30 days, you can suspend their website until they pay their bill. 

When the website is suspended, any visitor to their site should see a message saying, “This website has been suspended. Please contact the administrator.” (Any WordPress “under construction” plugin with your custom message should do the trick just fine).

All of this should be written down in their maintenance plan agreement. When the client’s website is suspended, it should not come as a surprise to them.

I have dealt with this many times in the past. It’s not fun.

But, neither is not getting paid for the work you are doing.

By having your clients on recurring payment plan and a written-out and followed policy for site suspensions, it gets easier to manage.

While this may sound like a pain or inconvenient, it is a necessary aspect of any business with a recurring revenue model. The upside of all of this is that, when executed properly, WordPress maintenance plans give you the ability to scale your web design business significantly.

Extended Service Fees

Since you have boundaries of the services you are providing, you will need to also list your extended service fees.

An extended service fee is a fee for work you do that’s out-of-scope of your regular recurring WordPress maintenance plan.

Being upfront about extended service fees is important, this way clients don’t feel hoodwinked or bamboozled if they end up needing your help to do something they didn’t realize would cost extra.

One example – emergency support. 

You may not want to provide emergency support as standard. That’s fine.

But, if emergency support is not part of your regular service, and you don’t want to leave clients high and dry if their website goes down on a holiday, night, or weekend, you need to set your price.

Clients need to know that off-hours emergency support will cost $X per hour with a minimum charge of $X.

You must be transparent about extended service fees or clients could have a reason to contest that what they asked for was not out-of-scope.

In your WordPress maintenance plan, you should provide a chart or schedule of your extended service fees. These can include things like:

  • Emergency service
  • Theme editing / development
  • Plugin/Theme troubleshooting
  • Content editing or optimization
  • WooCommerce service
  • Graphic design work

Managing Multiple Websites

So let’s assume you’ve got 10 clients now that are signed up for your WordPress maintenance plan.

Now what?

If the sites are not on a single multi-site installation, managing these sites will not be seamless.

That is, unless you are using website management software.

Using something like MainWP can provide you a dashboard to manage all your client sites. This can be a huge lifesaver. Without a central dashboard to manage your sites, your work can get more tedious and repetitive.

Software like MainWP or ManageWP can do a lot of the regular website maintenance work for you. From one dashboard, these plugins can manage all of your client websites. These plugins can:

  • Create regular scheduled backups
  • Manage and update all your plugins and themes
  • Manage users
  • Run security checks
  • Monitor uptime

Maintenance Contract

Now, all of this is well and good in theory.

But what should your service agreement for a WordPress Maintenance Plan look like?

A service agreement, also known as a service-level agreement or SLA, spells out exactly to clients what they’re getting and what they can expect.

You may be thinking, “Well, this sounds like a lot of extra paperwork. Why do I really need a contract?”

A few reasons…

First – you may not know this, but I happen to be a lawyer. Yes, for real. I don’t just play a lawyer on TV. Though, I must state here: I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

All that being said, you need to have a written WordPress maintenance plan signed by your client.

The written maintenance contract helps both you and the client.

It spells out what can be expected, and what options each party has for recourse if they don’t hold up their end of the bargain.

Here are the main top reasons you should have a written contract for your WordPress Maintenance Plan.

Establishing scope – Clients need to know what is and is not included in their service. It gives both you and them peace of mind in knowing exactly what everyone gets for their money.

Getting paid – While the contract sets forth what clients get under the contract, you also need to ensure that you get paid for your services, at what interval.

Protection – You don’t want to get sued if for any reason there are any issues. A contract can spell out options for recourse if either party breaches the agreement (either client doesn’t pay or you don’t perform).

But what wording should you include?

If you run a web design business, chances are you have an agreement that lays out things like payment terms, website ownership, work to be performed, and such. (If you don’t have a web design agreement, you really should. But, that conversation is for another day).

For your ongoing agreement, you can tack it onto your regular web design agreement for new clients.

This WordPress Maintenance Plan agreement should cover a few things in particular. It should list out:

  • Names of the parties
  • Services provided / scope of work
  • Term length
  • Cost
  • Payment terms
  • Extended service fees
  • Support turnaround time
  • This is a work-for-hire relationship
  • “Ownership” of the website, hosting, tools, plugins, etc.
  • How to terminate the agreement
  • Indemnification and liability
  • Choice of law / forum for disputes
  • Signatures

In another post at a later date, we will definitely cover the language you should use in your WordPress maintenance plan contract. But, that deserves a fully fleshed-out post of its own.

For now, here are some web maintenance agreement samples worth checking out for inspiration (again, I am not your lawyer and I don’t guarantee or warrant anything when it comes to these other contract samples): 1, 2

One last tip with a maintenance contract – use e-sign software like DocuSign or RightSignature so you can send the web maintenance agreements to your clients to e-sign, rather than have them download, print, sign, scan, and send back the agreement.

Conclusion

That just about covers everything you need to know about WordPress maintenance plans.

We talked about why to offer a maintenance plan, what you should offer in your maintenance plan, add-ons, and also covered the logistics of it all.

If you have any feedback or thoughts, we’d love it if you’d share it with our other readers. Feel free to comment just below this article in our comments section.

Download our free WordPress Website Maintenance Plan  Guide:

WordPress website maintenance plan guide for web designers and agencies ebook
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