In today’s post I want to share a couple of ideas that may be of interest if you’re a developer doing client work in and around the WordPress ecosystem.
WordPress podcasts are growing in their number of late, both there and in many online forums there is a fairly regular dialogue about WordPress freelancers / businesses and how they can operate more efficiently and with more profitability. I’ve got something to say on the topic, read on for my thoughts on some relatively easy revenue that could be added to any WordPress business doing client facing work.
Take the example of a freelancer doing site builds. They will focus on the brief, the wire-frames, designing the site but when the project is over they will often say goodbye to that client until they need something technically done, perhaps a new widget installed or a modification to the design.
WordPress Hosting Is A Low Hanging Fruit – Pick It!
So why not offer to take care of the hosting for that client? You can then make some recurring revenue from the same client, it’s something that you know they need.
Before I go too much further I want to make this point. Prior to my current venture I founded and operated for over 10 years a domain registrar & hosting business that was eventually sold to a larger company that was consolidating many similar businesses in that industry.
Shortly after this sale, I started working with WordPress and my first observation was that these people needed hosting so I set about providing a service to these customers for whom we were building a site. Now after 5 years the hosting side of the business generates between 5k and 7k per month. That’s about the average size of the WordPress project we do, so in effect we have the revenue of an extra project – that we don’t have to do each month. Worth thinking about?
Okay so at this point you’re thinking: “but you know about hosting so that’s fine for you“. Well after 10 years in that game I can tell you the last thing that I wanted was to be back in the web hosting industry. I had been woken up by needy servers far too many times.
But it doesn’t need to be like that. The web hosting offings available now are far better and more complete as a product than it has ever been and in the WordPress field even more so. There has been steady growth in WordPress specific hosting solutions in the past couple of years and making use of these is the key to offering a hosting service to your WordPress clients.
Let’s look at the objections
“I don’t know enough about hosting.”
“I don’t want to support hosting clients.”
“We are not big enough to manage hosting as it takes time to manage.”
All valid points but they each have reasonable solution.
You don’t need to know that much about hosting anymore, you certainly don’t need to be getting down and dirty with Apache configurations or messing with MySQL server setups. Get someone who knows about this to do it for you. Many of the WordPress specific hosting services (services like WPEngine.com, page.ly or websynthesis) do all the hard work that’s required, even down to installing WordPress for you (properly this is not Cpanel!). They also take care of backups, core updates of WordPress and look after security.
On the support side, you really don’t need to provide support. If you think about it, you’re the developer and support requirements are between you and the service provider. Your client doesn’t need to get involved at the FTP level at all (do see my point about email down further).
As for the last objection, you don’t have time to manage hosting. Well if you make a little bit of time that’s where you add your value, it’s not going to take a big percentage of your week or month. Read on for more about this directly below.
Where Do You Add Your Value?
Couple a WordPress centric hosting provider with a WordPress management service like ManageWP.com or Infinitewp.com and this is where you add value. Plugin and theme updates still need to be taken care of and with tools like this it’s relatively painless. And, if you’ve built the site in the first place, you’ll know all of the plugins that are there, so updating them will be straight forward.
As well as this take the time to do some simple checks on the backups of the site, perhaps routinely reload one of the backups to ensure they’re working.
You’re leveraging the WordPress hosting but still adding your own extras on top.
Don’t Touch E-mail!
If you’re reading along thinking that I’ve made some pretty good points, before you commit to it for your business let me give you a tip, or even a rule – never to be broken. Do not offer an email hosting service.
You don’t need to, there are plenty of dedicated email offerings that you can refer your clients too. Google apps is my pick and even though it has recently converted from a free service to a per user fee it’s worth it. Clients get it now, email is a different beast to their web hosting. In my travels I don’t get any push back at all when I suggest that the WordPress site and the email don’t have to be hosted together.
Hosting email is where the majority of support time is spent, configuring desktop mail clients and smartphones is chore – stay away! There is plenty of online support for a service like this but there’s also the option to just find yourself a company that specializes in a service like Google apps and refer your clients to the one for a solution.
How Does It Work Financially?
Let’s work through a quick example.
Take a mid tier product like the Professional level at WPEngine.com. That’s going to cost you $99 per month for 10 WordPress installs ($1198 per annum). If you were to bundle this with the management service outlined above you could charge something like $400 annually to a client – making total revenue of $4000 when you have 10 sites installed.
WPEngine provides its service by the install, so if you wanted to do even better you could install a number of lower traffic sites into a Multisite installation making the numbers work even better for you. Sure, multisite is an extra skill but if you’re into WordPress it’s one that’s worth learning.
One Final Thought
I have to admit I’m a bit of a hosting snob. When a client arrives with their site on a cheap and cheerful shared hosting provider I can’t get them off it quick enough. Here lays another nice little benefit. You can place your work into quality hosting setups, tuned and tweaked for WordPress. This is better and will make things easier for your client (and you) in the long run. Now get out there and expand your business!