As a WordPress professional you know that the WordPress sites you create for your clients need regular maintenance. The sites need to be kept up to date, they need backing up, they need monitoring to ensure they are up and they need securing. Problem is a lot of the time this is not being done or if it is being done its sporadic and only done when there is an issue or when the client contacts you after logging in to their site and seeing the dreaded red circle showing 16 updates waiting.
To make matters even worse you did not include maintenance in your original proposal and now the client expects the updates to be done for free and no one likes working for free!
When you first set out you probably, like the rest of us grabbed every opportunity that came your way. You needed the money as soon as one job ended it was off chasing the next new project. This has become know as the “famine feast cycle”.
If you are reliant on a steady stream of new projects then you are in this cycle, only it’s getting worse and worst is yet to come. The customers you did awesome work for have not faded away, they are still there on the phone now wanting more work done, demanding your time. On top of that you have the new work, new projects and maybe even some consultancy work to do. It’s all leaving you very stretched with no time and no money. You need to break this cycle.
What you need is a stream of monthly, recurring, reliable income; if not you will never break the famine feast cycle, you will be constantly working flat out and this eventually leads to burn out.
One way to break the cycle is to offer monthly WordPress Care Plans or maintenance plans.
Offering WordPress Care Plans to your existing customers and new customers will provide your business with a steady stream of reliable, recurring monthly income. You will receive monthly payments either by card or bank transfer without the admin costs of invoicing and chasing payments. Care Plans can be delegated to another member of your team or outsourced all together so you do not have to physically do the work. Your clients will be happy as they will feel that you are there should they need you and that their site is being looked after. It’s a win win situation.
I know it’s not the most sexy, mind blowing or exciting part of running a WordPress business but it needs to be done if you truly want to offer your clients a great service (which I’m sure you do) but it is also a way of creating that reliable, recurring revenue stream.
If implemented correctly, with the right tools and services Care Plans can provide not only financial gains but also time, you will have more time to do the things you love to do – designing and building great websites. More importantly you will not have to keep chasing the money and can decide if you and the client are a good fit this means carrying out more rewarding projects for clients you actually like.
You also have one major advantage over Care Plan and Maintenance Plan providers including us- you already have a list of warm leads – your existing clients.
What is a Care Plan?
A Care Plan is anything you want it to be, as a minimum it should include:
• Regular updates
• Daily backups
However, I recommend you add additional services to your plans to add value for your customers – include the services you actually provide your clients.
The services and value you can add will be based on your skill set and the skill set of your team (if you have one).
Your Care Plans
You have all the knowledge about your clients existing requirements, so tailor plans to their needs.
A quick way to work out what to offer your clients is to create a quick spreadsheet, open a new one and list all the clients you have developed websites for in column A. Now think of all the different work you have carried out, e.g. SEO, mobile optimisation, monthly call, training and list them across the top. Next to each customer put an X (or other symbol) in the relevant column. Using this data you should be able to create 2 or 3 different Care Plan packages tailored to meet their needs:
Care Plan 1
• Weekly updates
• Daily backups
Care Plan 2
• All Care Plan 1 plus –
• 2 hours consultancy
• SEO keywording
• 1 hour social media marketing
• Content Marketing
• Email Marketing
You want to make the services relevant to your existing customers, you want to get these people onboard as soon as possible. Your Care Plans are not cast in concrete and your offering can be modified as and when you need to. You just need to make it appeal to your existing client base for now.
A quick note of caution – when working out what you should or should not include in your Care Plans you will be tempted to search what everyone else is offering, especially those of companies such as ours that provide Care Plans and then offer the same – don’t offer a service you can’t provide. For example if you don’t have a 24/7 team don’t offer a 24/7 support service.
Services You will need
Now you know what you want to offer you need to look at how you are going to provide the services. The services need to be cost effective, scalable and, most importantly easy to use.
At a minimum you will need:
- Management tool to manage all the sites from one control panel – this makes life so much easier
- Help Desk to manage support and change requests
- Common services for
- Image Optimisation
- Project management tool / To do list tool
As any WordPress professional knows there are hundreds of plugins, tools and services out there today to make life easier. You need to spend your time researching the best for you, your team and your clients.
Things to consider when researching:
- Developer licensing
- Support – for you and your team
- Ease of use
- Simple pricing
Pricing your Care Plans
I can’t tell you what you should be charging your customers for Care Plans, it will depend on two main factors:
- What you charged for the website in the first place
- What services you are offering and the costs you incur providing them
For example if your average website is £1,500 you are not going to be able to charge £150 a month, however £30 to £50 a month could work, at the same time however working flat out with customer queries for an extra £50 a month is not something you can do either.
It might not sound like a lot of money but if you have 30 websites on a Care Plan and you charge an average of £45.00 per site, it will generate an extra £1,350 a month, every month. It will increase with every new client for whom you design a new website. As you’re not chasing the money, you can be more selective on the projects you take on and slowly but surely increase your charges and as a result can push the price of your Care Plans up too. For a more in depth discussion check out this blog post.
Dealing with scope creep
By now you should have your Care Plans sorted along with the pricing for each plan. You now need to document exactly what is and more importantly what is not included in each Care Plan.
If it’s not included – let the client know why it’s not included and how much it is going to cost to carry out the work. You’d be surprised – most will pay! I know, I’ve been there:
I started my own business offering mainly IT support, how I got into WordPress is a long story, I charged a fixed monthly fee for remote support, often I would end up visiting the client site to resolve an issue that could not be resolved remotely – but I was afraid to charge. I kept thinking that if I did they would look for another provide or they don’t call that often so why charge. My partner hated this and finally I backed down and worked to her simple rule – if I touched their keyboard I charged. I never had anyone query my invoice or not pay it.
When promoting your Care Plans clearly state what is and what is not included. Provide examples so the client understands. You could also consider providing discounted development time dependant on the Care Plan or including a set number of hours for development work.
A great example of some terms can be found on Kyle Van Deusen’s site, https://ogalweb.com.
Update your website
Now you’ve got your WordPress Care Plan Packages sorted it’s time to get it all on your website. You are going to direct your existing clients to this page to help sell the service to them and you are going to include this link in your proposal to new clients so they know what ongoing services you will be providing them.
It also makes sense to enable your clients to sign up and purchase your care plans online. We use Gravity Forms and Stripe to sell our Care Plans online. Once a client has signed up it’s automatic, their credit or debit card is automatically billed every month. You could use other services such as WooCommerce with the subscription add-on, again you need to research the best solution for your business.
If you need some help working out how to create the forms and setup Stripe check out this training guide.
Selling your Care Plans
As I stated earlier you already have a list of warm leads – your existing clients. Selling your Care Plan to clients for whom you have already built an awesome website is much easier than you might think.
Hard as it is (yes I know I said it was easier than you think but bear with me) you need to draw a line in the sand, you could follow our 5 Day Up To Date Challenge and as you finish each website email the client explaining what work you’ve done on their site to bring it up to date and let them know that going forward this ad-hoc approach to support and maintenance is no longer viable for your business and, they need to subscribe to a plan to ensure maintenance and support continues to be carried out.
You can offer your existing clients a discount so they feel special but also that it’s a time limited offer, create a sense of importance and scarcity:
“Over the next 6 weeks we are on boarding all our VIP customers, which includes you onto our new Care Plans! Not only will you be one of the first but we are also offering you a discount of x%.”
Use ConvertKit or a similar service to create an automated sequence that sends a series of emails explaining more about what you are doing, why they need a Care Plan and the consequences if they don’t and something goes wrong. You could include a guide such as “Managing your own WordPress website” so they can see how much work you will be carrying out for them. Include a example Care Plan report that they will receive. List and explain the value added services they will receive by subscribing to a Care Plan.
If they still say no – then STOP doing any work on their site. They don’t respect you or your business and ultimately are not the type of client you want going forward, don’t forget they are not paying you! Your time will be better spent servicing your paying clients and pushing your business forward.
What have you got to loose
In a word – nothing! You’re already stretched, the sites are not being updated and your stuck in famine feast cycle, worse yet you could be doing all the work for little or no pay.
I do mean it – you have nothing to loose! If your clients are not paying for maintenance then stop doing it, when the site comes up for renewal they can either sign up then or move somewhere else – you don’t want clients who don’t respect the work you do or put any value on their website.
Concentrate on providing a first class service for the clients who did signup, who do respect you and do understand the value that their website and you bring to their business.
The extra time and the extra revenue from the clients who do sign up to your care plans can be better spent building your business.
Going forward make sure that every new proposal you create includes the details of your care plans and costs. Let them know it’s part of the service and is not optional – send them the Managing your Own WordPress Website Guide.
Remember it is so much easier to get a client onboard from day one rather then trying to sell it after they’ve just paid what is usually and hopefully a large sum of money for their shiny new website.
It sounds great but….
This all sounds great – but I don’t have the time to walk the dog let alone set all this up!
Don’t worry – we can help. We offer a range of services to make providing great support for your fantastic clients easy. As every agency, designer and freelancer is different and in a different position we offer a range of services:
- Guides / Webinars / How to’s to help you do it yourself
- Set it all up and leave you to run it
- Do it all for you – Agency Support Package
The fact that you’ve reached the bottom of this post means you know what needs to be done. Now you have a choice – do you want the money and time or not? If the answer is yes then you could:
1. Take up our 5 Day Up to Date Challenge – it’s a great way to get reacquainted with your client’s sites, see what goes into managing WordPress websites and helps you decide what to offer in your Care Plans.
2. Or if you want a little more guidance then contact us to find out how we can help with a free 1 hour consultation, book now, just click the link below.
Read my other posts on Charging For Care Plans and Why outsource your maintenance.