What You Need to Know About Offering WordPress Maintenance Contracts

Business cycles are a rollercoaster. You need to know what your income is going to be.
Retainers help to level out some of the big dips and drops. The core of this is Building Relationships. You are no longer just a craftsman who comes in a builds something then leaves – you are now in a longer-term relationship.
Certainty – Your client doesn’t have to worry, and you don’t have the rollercoaster of cash flow.
Value – You can charge a higher rate because you add the value of caring for, and maintaining their site.
Level-up – You are getting out of the transactional model into a value-based “retainer” model. You are not becoming a better developer, you are becoming a better business person.
It’s a Contract – call it a Statement of Work, Agreement, whatever. Find a lawyer and CPA to help you craft this contract.
Negotiate as a Partner – you and your client are in this as partners. You are in this together. Be certain of the relationship before you get into it, be clear of the value you add to that client. It also involves constant communication.
Clear Statement of Work – This is not every detail – it is “what I will do for you” e.g. “WordPress will be updated and secured when know vulnerabilities are disclosed”. Include bullet points such as do you have the ability to contact the hosting provider on their behalf?
Get Paid – Invoice on time. Expect to get paid on time. Make that part of the terms. Try something like Freshbooks that will send out the invoices automatically.
Regular Communications – Control the conversation. Be the perfect waiter/waitress. Send status every week or two. Include them on trouble tickets. Update them about everything.
Scope – You & client prioritize work within the period of time. Make sure you include such things like:
  • Time for meetings
  • Updates and security
  • Communications with hosting company
  • Discovery of edits, new content, usage, analytics, training
  • How to handle overage-hours
  • Monitor up-time
  • Rush rate / Overage rate
  • General account project management
  • Performance tuning
If you don’t host the site, be sure to indicate that you will help them with their hosting company, but that you are not responsible for server problems.
Did You Forget Something? – Do you charge for phone calls? Build in something to count for the minutia.
Consider a small discovery contract to determine what you can do for the client.
Remember: One of the values that you add is that the client knows you and how to work with you. It would cost them time and money to find someone else.


  1. http://Donna%20Blumberg says

    An excellent presentation by Pat.
    One of my other take aways was the importance of regular, clear communication with the client, especially when working on problems. If you are the developer, are heads-down on a coding problem and the client emails you about that problem, ANSWER their email! Don’t ignore it and think “I’ll get to it when I’m done” (hours or days later) – that makes for a frustrated, unhappy client. And keep good notes about your work (what, when how long), then condense those into regular status reports – ask the client about their preferred detail and frequency. All else aside, that helps them appreciate the level of work it takes to maintain a site and hence should increase their willingness to set up (and pay) the retainer.

    Also, a great tip for dealing with scope creep when building a site: when the client says “by the way, let’s add this cool feature”: a good reply: “great idea, that can be in version 2”.

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