If You’re Not Offering This as a WordPress Freelancer/Agency You’re Leaving Money on the Table

Granted, WordPress rarely breaks down by itself … like a car does, or your fridge. But every once in a while, new security issues or bugs get discovered, some plugins start acting wonky and even the database itself needs some spring cleaning.

So as great as WordPress is, it’s not a maintenance-free product.

And the issues tend to add up over time. The most common indication that something is not right, and the easiest one to spot, is site speed going down. This is always a wake-up call for the webmaster to do some maintenance.

However, what if the webmaster isn’t that WordPress-savvy? What if it’s a client of yours who just wants their damn site to work properly(!) and doesn’t care that much about doing the administrative work.

Well, this is where you can step into the picture and offer them a WordPress check-up package for a monthly fee.

Therefore, here’s what I will be covering in this post:
  • how to introduce a WordPress check-up package into your offering,
  • how to make it a safe recurring income on your bottom line,
  • how to set things up in a way that will also allow you to make extra money further down the road,
  • and above all else, how to make the client happy along the way.
Onwards then! Let’s begin by tackling the first objection:
How-to-Get-Your-Clients-to-Pay-You-a-Monthly-Retainer

“Isn’t WordPress easy-to-use enough that clients can maintain it on their own?”

As much as we’d like to believe that WordPress can be maintained by anybody, it’s not entirely the case.

Let’s look at the most basic maintenance-related task of them all – updating the WordPress core. As we can see from the official stats, the most popular version of WordPress is 4.1, but it’s still used only by around 46 percent of all WordPress sites. This means that the other 54 percent run on outdated software.

stats
Why? The reasons can be many. On another note, I’m sure some of those sites do this on purpose (they might be running modified versions of the core, etc.). But I’m guessing most of the people sitting on outdated WordPress aren’t even aware of the possibility/necessity to update it.

Maybe they don’t know they should perform an update. Maybe they don’t know how to do it. And maybe they don’t know that the possibility is even there (some developers give their clients only Editor accounts, instead of Administrator, plus a simplified admin interface).

Therefore, since most people can’t perform even the most basic maintenance task on their own, what makes you think they don’t need your help?

Why sell a check-up package

First of all, it saves you a lot of stress.

Here’s what I mean. Who do you think your client will call if their site goes down all of a sudden, or when there are any problems with it whatsoever?

Obviously, you.

And the issue with this is that those calls tend to come when the problems are already more than serious.

Therefore, you can pretty much prevent all this by being the first one to reach out, and by offering an ongoing service right from the get-go. This also gives you a great opportunity to set the right expectations and describe exactly what your service is about, what is a part of it and what isn’t. This can be all said in the contract.

But there are actually more reasons why a check-up package is a good idea.

For instance, the life of a WordPress freelancer can be tough at times.

In this line of career, it’s easy to find yourself having so much work that you don’t even have time to make coffee, and then go back to having no work at all the next month. This can be killer on your bottom line and on your ability to keep the lights on.

Introducing some recurring income into this picture can be huge. Even if the amount isn’t huge at all. What it gives you, though, is the certainty that no matter what, you can still expect $X to come your way on the 30th.

But that’s just one benefit.

I’d say that an even more important one is the fact that by offering any kind of an ongoing service, you’re effectively staying in touch with your clients and building relationships. This creates a huge opportunity to offer them something new every once in a while without sounding like you’re just throwing things against the wall.

For example, you can offer them a design refreshment every year. Or an SEO audit. Whatever it might be, the client is going to be much more responsive if you’ve stayed in touch with them throughout the year.

Lastly, recurring income tends to add up over time. In other words, if your clients find your service really useful then they are unlikely to cancel on you. In this case, every new client you convince to give you a shot just adds up to your bottom line.

What to offer as part of your check-up package

There are multiple possibilities, but the good part is that you don’t need to be offering everything under the sun. You can comfortably pick and choose the things that make the most sense to you – the things that you’re proficient at.

Again, the idea is to make the work easy on your end, so it can be performed relatively quickly and not cause much headaches along the way.

Here are some individual sub-packages to consider:

1. The updates package

  • First of all, keep the client’s site running on the newest stable version of WordPress. This is important for security reasons, and it also allows the client to benefit from new features being introduced regularly.
  • Next, check if the plugins are still up-to-date. Most webmasters tend to overlook plugins entirely. I mean, everyone will notice a new update prompt from a plugin, but what if a given plugin hasn’t been updated in years? WordPress won’t notify you about that. So go through the list of installed plugins one by one and check if they’re still up-to-date with the current version of WordPress.

2. The security and backup package

  • Security scans. Help your client keep their site safe with regular scans. You can use solutions like Sucuri (aff), Wordfence Security, BruteProtect. They will do their magic in the background and then give you recommendations on what to do should any problems pop up.
  • Backups. Manage your client’s backups and make sure that they’re actually usable (any backup is only as good as the possibility to actually use it when restoring a site). There’s a handful of plugins you can use for managing backups. Things like: BackupBuddy (our favorite), WordPress Backup to Dropbox.
  • Uptime monitoring. Keep an eye on the site’s uptime.

3. Optimizations and performance package

  • Caching and CDN. Integrate the site with a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache and also hook it up to a CDN service (e.g. CloudFlare). This will make the site fast and accessible to all visitors. Check periodically if the config is working and if everything remains problem-free.
  • Optimizing images. Offer to optimize the images that the client uses on the site. This can be done with a plugin like WP Smush. The whole operation saves a lot of bandwidth and makes the site faster.
  • Optimizing the database. WordPress database tends to get messy over time. Doing a nice sweep every couple of months can reduce the database bloat and keep things healthy. This can be done with a plugin like WP-Sweep.
  • Optimizing plugins. Install the P3 plugin and see which plugins are costing the most load time. Try finding alternatives if some plugins go out of line.

4. Analytics package

Although your client probably will be checking their analytics/traffic tool regularly, you can help them do it more effectively. For instance, you can offer the following:

  • Pointing out the most visited pages and offering suggestions on how to make them even better (to multiply the results).
  • Pointing out the least viewed pages. Inevitably, not everything will be a hit on a site, and some pages will attract only a handful of visitors over their entire lifespans. You can look for the worst performing pages and posts, suggest the client to either erase them and redirect the URLs to better content, or to reuse the content for new posts or pages.
  • Finding broken links. Every month or so, you can scan your client’s site with a plugin like Broken Link Checker and then fix all the dead ends. This is yet another thing that will have a positive impact on the site’s SEO.

5. Functionality expansion package

  • Help them install new plugins. Every now and then your client will stumble upon a plugin that they will want to test on the site. However, not all plugins work right off the box, and some of them can cause serious problems (even the white screen of death). Offer your help to install those new plugins safely.
  • Recommend new plugins that the client can benefit from. Basically the same as above, but this time it’s you recommending plugins. You can do this based on your client’s needs and the features they’ve been using up to this point.
  • Offer premium plugins at low prices. Some plugin stores offer their products on agency licenses where you’re allowed to install them on your clients’ sites.

6. Per-hour WordPress work

  • Offer X hours of any WordPress-related work as part of the check-up package. Maybe the client needs a landing page optimized or something.
This sums up all the sub-packages I can think of. Again, I’m not trying to say that you should be offering all of them. Just pick and choose the things that make sense in your case.

Lastly, about the elephant in the room – the pricing. I’m afraid figuring this part out is entirely on you. I’m in no position to tell you what an hour of your time should be worth so you’ll have to fire up Excel and calculate this yourself.

Here’s a cheat-sheet you can use:

  1. Try estimating how many hours per month you’ll have to spend with each client as part of the check-up package.
  2. Once you have this number, just multiply it times your desired hourly rate and you should have a nice ballpark amount you can start with.
  3. Over time, adjust it based on client feedback.

How to sell a WordPress check-up package

Like with most products or services, the first thing you need to do is convey the main benefit of having your services – in other words…

tell them what’s in it for them

I’d say that what you’re really selling here is peace of mind. Here’s the thing; maintaining WordPress is a task that can take a lot of time, a task that is tedious and needs to be performed with care (so the site doesn’t go down during maintenance due to some issues). Also, it’s technical, it’s important for the site’s well-being, speed and overall accessibility to both the visitors and Google.

Therefore, positioning your service as a solution that gives the client peace of mind by passing this responsibility onto you can be a good selling point.

Now, when is the best time to sell?

Not surprisingly, it’s when you’re working on your initial proposal for a new client – when they are just about to take you up on your main offer (you building a site for them). At that time they are also more susceptible to any upsells you might have.

However, the trick is to position those upsells cleverly.

I asked Ruben Gamez, the founder of Bidsketch (proposal software) and an expert on client proposals, to help me out here and share what would be his #1 selling/proposal advice for freelancers who want to offer their clients ongoing services. Here’s what he said:

Ruben Gamez
Offer three options on your proposal.

  • The first one is the most basic and lowest priced option, which doesn’t include ongoing services.
  • The next higher priced tier includes ongoing services that most closely relate to the work that you just did for them.
  • The highest priced package includes everything from the other two, but more comprehensive and hands free type of ongoing service.

At the highest priced tier you can also experiment with including a service or two a little less directly related with the work you accomplished for them (but still relevant and useful).

Here’s an example of how you can apply this:

  • The first option is your standard site building package, with no ongoing service added. This is the cheapest package.
  • The second option is the more expensive one. It is option #1 plus, say, the updates package and the security and backup package that we discussed earlier in this post. Those two packages are likely the least labor-heavy on your part.
  • The third option is option #2 plus your other more comprehensive ongoing packages.

Now here’s the kicker, offer options #2 and #3 at the same price point.

This is a trick I learned by reading Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. The idea is to convince clients to always take your most expensive package. If they can compare the value between two packages directly and then see that the price is the same, they are much more likely to indeed go for the top-of-the-line option. This was proved by Ariely in his research and experiments.

Okay, I guess that’s all for now on the topic of offering WordPress check-up packages. Feel free to let us know if this sort of service is something that might be a good idea for your business.

 And last but not least, here’s an example proposal you can use when pitching your check-up package to clients. Download it by subscribing to our newsletter. 

We hate spam too, by the way.

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Karol K

Creates content, manages CodeinWP's team of writers and makes sure that every piece of content you see on this blog looks great! / Author of "WordPress Complete" / Professional yerba mate drinker / @carlosinho
  • Insightful article. While I have been doing a similar thing, it provides hints on how I can earn more recurring income. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Pothi. I’m glad you find it helpful!

  • I love this article! It really provides some valuable insights for people who may be confused as to what services to provide. For people already providing these services, it’s a good idea to keep in touch with your clients and remind them about the value of the service they receive but they are also a valuable customer.

    This article helps me to expand upon the service I receive and provide more value to my clients.

    • Thanks, Glen. I’m glad you like it!

      Like you’re saying, staying in touch with your client is among the biggest benefits here. They are much more likely to reach out to you with new jobs.

  • Smart tips here.
    While installing WordPress is an easy task for most of the webmasters, managing and optimizing the website is much harder.
    Offering these kind of services is a wise idea.

    Thanks for the share!

    • Thanks for sharing this article with me. Its a good read. Thanks

    • Thanks, Erik.

      This is especially important considering the recent XSS problems with WP and a number of huge plugins. If you’re managing your client’s WP for them, you can help them out in such cases right away. This will also grow their trust with you incredibly.

  • Managing a worpress site is not that easier like setting it up. A professional service is indeed required.

    Great tips. Thank you for sharing such cool article with us.

    • Actually, if I’m totally honest here, installing WP isn’t that easy either. I mean, sure, it is easy as long as everything goes well, but the bad things you can occasionally stumble upon can be difficult to go over.

      • Agreed! When things go messed up then it becomes even tougher.

  • kakoma

    Very good stuff. Thanks for this

  • I’m glad you like it! Feel free to let us know once you’ve put this into practice and gotten some results. 🙂

  • Hi superb article

  • Yahia M.

    Thanks Karol for the great article.
    By the way, can’t download the example proposal since am already a sub 😛

    • Hey,

      If you visit the page that you got when you subscribed, you can see it 🙂

      • Yahia M.

        True.
        Thanks @maldinii:disqus.

  • Eric Burlet

    Great article, thank you ! I was just working on my check up packages, this is helpful. Just one thing, can you give more explanations about options 2 and 3

    priced the same ? I’m not sure to get it right.

  • I’m thinking about it now. Congrats for the good article.

  • Patty Ayers

    I’ve been doing this for about 5 years now: I *require* a Maintenance package with any site I produce for a client. I turn down the work if they can’t see their way clear to have the site maintained. I’ve had no trouble selling it to about 25 clients so far, with some of them paying me for it for 4-5 years now. I think it’s somewhat irresponsible *not* to ensure that a site is maintained.

    • That’s a pretty neat strategy actually. Thanks for sharing, Patty!

  • Andrew Lopez

    A lot of excellent points here! Selling monthly services is a tough sell to customers who are budget conscious. Karol, what is your approach to customers who do not want to pay a fix monthly service fee and pay when actual work is completed?

    • Well, like in any business, you will always have people who you won’t convince no matter what.

      However, you can use another method. You can offer them your services on an hourly basis, but make the hourly rate really high. The idea is to convince them that they get a better deal by having you on a retainer vs. paying per hour.

  • I don’t quite get what you meant by offering #2 and #3 at the same price point – could you give an example perhaps?

    I offer maintenance and basic security packages and basic and business levels already but pulled my pricing tables down to rethink the pricepoints after I realized I was actually losing a bit of money based on the amount of time I was putting into each site. I’m still flirting with a few different price points but I really like how you’ve put a few different levels together and included options I hadn’t thought of.

    Finding the right balance is difficult since you want it to seem like a good value AND a good investment.

    • Basically, offering #2 and #3 at the same price point is exactly what it sounds. So for example:

      – option #1 – including your basic set of services (the things that clients usually all need) – $300.
      – option #2 – includes #1 + additional services – $700.
      – option #3 – includes #1 + includes #2 + additional services – $700.

      The reason why this trick works is described by Dan Ariely in his book, like I mentioned in the post. I really encourage you to give the book a read. It lists a lot more tricky strategies just like this one and backs it all with actual research and data.