There’s nothing quite like starting a fresh web design project. The branding is done (and perfect ;)) and now it’s time to make your client the website of their dreams. The process is great, you have full creative control, and you and your client love the end result.
But, what happens after that?
After you launch a new website, it might take a few months, but your client is bound to come back with requests. Things like…
- Regular maintenance, like updates, backups, and security
- Tweaking something to look a little different
- Adding a new custom-designed page
- Troubleshooting something that isn’t working the way it’s supposed to
- Adding a new feature
When you get these kinds of requests, you have two options. Option 1 is to take care of the request yourself and Option 2 is to let them find someone else to help. But since it’s never fun to turn a past client away, you likely find yourself taking on more of these types of updates and tweaks with each project you launch.
I’m here today to tell you that taking care of those maintenance, tweak, and update tasks yourself are actually holding your design business back, rather than helping.
But don’t worry, we’ll dive into how and then talk about how you can turn it around to make a profit without sacrificing anything else.
Why client website maintenance is holding you back
Up until now, you might have seen smaller tasks like these as a nice way to earn a little extra money. Or, they might drive you crazy, but be something you squeeze into your schedule anyways. But let’s touch on a few quick ways that these tasks are holding you back.
Allowing small, random tasks to make their way onto your to-do list without any real schedule reduces your overall productivity (and therefore, profitability). There are many studies out there that say each time you switch tasks, you end up throwing away a significant amount of time.
Say you’re working on a new project, but see an email with a “quick” change request from a past client on their website. To complete that task you have to close down what you’re working on, find the motivation to start something new, open up all of the websites and files needed to make the changes, actually make the change (which might be the easiest part of all), and then close everything back down.
Even for a quick and easy task, context switching takes a lot of time and energy that could have been spent focusing on your original task.
It’s easy to undercharge
If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time charging your normal price for a past client who comes back with a relatively small task. I’ve even heard of designers not charging anything when this happens!
It comes down to wanting to make your client happy as well as underestimating how much work really goes into each and every task.
Needless to say, you’re probably undercharging for the tweaks and updates you’re currently doing, reducing the overall profitability of your business.
Takes you out of your zone of genius
As a website designer your zone of genius is, well, design. But with web design (and most update requests) comes development work along with it.
If you grit your teeth each time you have to go into a website and make an update, that update probably isn’t worth you worrying about doing 😉
Causes extra stress
Right along with that, these small projects that come up cause extra stress. Not only because you’re not as likely to enjoy the tasks, but because you’re squeezing them into an already full schedule and feeling rushed along top of it.
If you didn’t have these types of updates to worry about, you could focus on your regular client load and maybe even enjoy some down-time here and there. Yes, it’s a thing!
What should I do about it?
Now that we know that leaving you responsible for managing website maintenance or tweaks from past clients is reducing your productivity and profitability, let’s talk about what you can do about it. Because we know something has to change, right?
Option 1: Refer the work to someone else
The first and easiest option is to start referring the work to another designer or developer. It’s the quickest way to get these small tasks off of your plate and out of the way of your more profitable work, while still allowing your clients to be served well.
To move forward with this option, make a list of at least 3 designers and developers you trust to do the type of work you’ll be referring to them. Double-check with them that they have regular availability and take on this type of work and then write up a canned response you can send past clients when you get an inquiry. That way you don’t even have to think to get the task off of your plate.
However, this option generally doesn’t feel the best for you or your client. When a client works with you to create a new website, you’re the one they trust to keep things running smoothly. And let’s be honest, you’re the only person you trust with their site as well.
It can also feel a little backwards to be referring away work that you didn’t have to do any additional marketing to receive. Why not capitalize on that in some way?
That brings us to our second option.
Option 2: Bring on a team member
The second option and the one I recommend is to bring on a team member to take care of regular client maintenance and updates. If you’ve never outsourced before this might sound scary, but it totally doesn’t have to be!
The type of person you hire depends on the requests you get from past clients most often. If it’s a lot of working in Photoshop or Illustrator, a junior designer will be the best fit. Otherwise, if you’re spending a lot of time on WordPress or Squarespace, a developer will be who you’re looking for.
With bringing on a new team member, it’s best to start small. My retainer packages start at as little as 2 hours per month, which is perfect for someone just getting started. And you’ll likely find that 2 hours for someone else, especially a trained developer, will mean far more than that amount of time back for you.
With your new team member, you’ll have the freedom of getting a client request, assigning it to your team member, and focusing on your big projects while the smaller task gets done without any extra attention from you!
When you quote your client, all you have to do is include the cost of your team member plus an extra commission for yourself. This way your client is happy, you’re able to focus on your big projects, and your business is more profitable as a result!
Is it time to outsource your client website maintenance?
Take some time to reflect on how your time has been split between regular client work and ongoing maintenance or sudden updates lately. If the balance seems off or if you’re frustrated every time a request comes in from a past client, it’s time to outsource!
If you find that a developer is the right team member for you, I’ve got all kinds of content to help you learn more about the process, including:
- The Most Affordable And Flexible Way To Work With A Developer
- What It’s Like To Work With A Developer On Retainer (As A Designer)
- Would You Benefit From Having A Developer On Retainer?
You can also learn more about working with me on a retainer basis here!