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How Selling WordPress Maintenance Can Save Your Freelance Business

The feast and famine cycle is a constant struggle for the freelance WordPress developer. But you can break that cycle by selling WordPress maintenance to your freelance clients. You get steady, reliable income and your clients get peace of mind

Everybody wins. And it just might save your business.

What’s WordPress Maintenance?

WordPress Maintenance

Are your freelance clients seeing this?

As a freelance developer you know WordPress needs to be kept up to date and too often clients don’t bother. Then you get panicked calls about hacked sites.

Or some kind of oops makes a site disappear. They want you to bring it back right now, but they never paid you to set up any kind of backup system.

Or themes and plugins need to be updated but that simple click breaks something and a client needs immediate help.

We’re talking about offering a monthly WordPress maintenance package to your clients. You take care of the details and your client doesn’t sweat it. To you they’re relatively minor issues, often automated and simple; but to your clients they’re business-stopping nightmares.

What’s the Benefit of Selling WordPress Maintenance?

Glad you asked. There are plenty of upsides to selling WordPress maintenance packages to your freelance clients.

No More Feast & Famine

A freelancer should be selling WordPress maintenance because it breaks you out of that feast and famine cycle. You can have steady, recurring income each month—work you can plan for and money you can count on. No more wondering how you’re going to make it next month. No more accepting every project for fear of work drying up and suddenly you’re pulling all-nighters like the college days.

Build Relationships

A retainer is a smart way to grow your business. Instead of building one-and-done sites for clients and never seeing them again, you can build a lasting relationship with clients. Build their site and then take care of it going forward.

Work More Efficiently

It takes a lot of work to get new business, so make the most of it by keeping those new clients for the long haul. It’s better service to your customers and less marketing work for a busy freelancer like you.

Who Needs WordPress Maintenance?

Who doesn’t need it?

Current Clients

Most of your clients would probably love the opportunity to let someone else worry about all these technical details. It’s something you can offer to current clients to continue the relationship and offer them extra service.

Former Clients

A good freelance business needs repeat customers, so go back to your past clients and try selling WordPress maintenance packages to them. Be the hero as you point out problems and then take care of them.

New Clients

It’s also something you can offer to entice new clients. There are plenty of small and mid-level organizations with no internal web team. They’ve got websites they outsource and details like security and backups are a constant worry.

Nonprofits are another area where you’ll likely find organizations without any developers on staff. Many nonprofits are creating amazing content online, but they’re often handcuffed by a lack of technical help. They need to keep that content safe and want to make some tweaks, but bringing in a developer sounds pricey. They probably have no idea how affordable ongoing WordPress maintenance could be.

How to Sell Ongoing WordPress Maintenance

How you position your WordPress maintenance package will depend on exactly what you’re offering, but here are a few ways you can approach it:

  • Focus on Full Service: Maintaining websites is tedious and technical so let us do it for you.
  • Start With Security: The Internet can be a dangerous place, so let us protect your site.
  • Peace of Mind: Staying on top of the latest updates and security warnings is a job for a professional. We can help.

There are a lot of ways to pitch this kind of a package, but focus on the basic needs and pain points. Show how you can proactively prevent problems and save them money in the long run.

What to Include in Your WordPress Maintenance Package?

You can bundle all kinds of services when you’re selling WordPress maintenance. Put together a package that works. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with and what you think your clients need. Here are some potential services you could include:

  • Updates: WordPress usually rolls out major updates twice a year, though minor updates roll out as needed. There are also updates for themes and plugins, which are much less predictable.
  • Backups: Sites should have a backup plan that fits with their needs. A site with lots of content updates might want a database backup once a day at a minimum and a full backup weekly. Sites with fewer updates might not need such frequent backups, but they should still have regularly scheduled, full-site backups that are stored off-site.
  • Security: Monitoring security and ensuring full recovery is a big task. You could offer basic security, monitoring, updates and more. Your clients will pay you to be proactive and keep their sites safe, but if anything happens you’ll likely need to step in and provide the fixes as well.
  • Tracking & Reporting: Pulling up stats isn’t very difficult, but it’s the kind of thing a lot of website owners don’t have time for and can’t always make sense of. Offering a simple report that summarizes numbers and includes a few trends or other basics (sales numbers, increases in email or social media subscribers) could be very helpful.
  • Hosting & Domain Name: Especially for new clients you can offer the whole package and include their domain registration and hosting as well. Many hosts offer reseller accounts and rolling this into a site’s maintenance and updates means you’ve got the entire site covered.
  • Other Services: You might sweeten your retainer by adding specific services offered in limited hourly chunks. For example, you might offer 10 hours of tech tweaks per month. It could be coding, design, writing, SEO improvements or even training or support.

What’s the Cost?

Once you figure out what you’re going to offer for ongoing WordPress maintenance, then you need to sort out how much to charge. This will depend on your expenses, so be sure to add up all your costs:

  • Plugins: You’ll want some plugins to help with monitoring and maintenance, including BackupBuddy and our iThemes Security plugin. You can get the Plugin Suite, an unlimited developer license that includes all our iThemes plugins, for $247 per year.
  • Tools: If you’re managing a lot of sites you’ll want to make it easy on yourself. iThemes Sync will let you manage updates for multiple WordPress sites from one simple dashboard. You can manage 10 sites for free or add more sites to your plan starting at 25 sites for $50 per year.
  • Storage: Off-site backup is a must and it’s easy with BackupBuddy. But you’ll need storage space. BackupBuddy Stash offers 1 GB for free with BackupBuddy, but you can upgrade to 5 GB or more starting at $35 per year. You could also look into other options including Amazon S3 or Dropbox.
  • Hosting: Look at your reseller hosting account to figure out what hosting and domains will cost and what you can charge. Some setups will let you mark up the price while others will have a discounted rate. You’ll need to think through how best to work that into the package price. We recommend Site5 for hosting and they encourage reseller hosting.
  • Time: Don’t forget to factor in your time. While a lot of these maintenance tasks are easy and some are even automated, you still have some work to do and it’s going to take some time. At the very least you need to set things up and keep and eye on them.

Make sure you’re looking at the costs for all the services you include in your package. It should be a good deal for your clients because you’re taking care of their needs and the steady work should entitle them to a discount. But be careful not to sell yourself short. You’re providing a hugely valuable service and taking a major headache off your clients’ plates.

Tip: Create a Workflow

As you think about how much time you’re going to invest for each site, you should list out each required step and put together a workflow. Find ways to minimize time and maximize your efficiency.

Freelance Maintenance Providers

Sometimes it helps to see exactly what we’re talking about. And it never hurts to check out the competition. So check out these providers selling WordPress maintenance to see how you can position yourself:

How to Market Your WordPress Maintenance Plan

Once you put your maintenance package together it’s time to sell it. Here are a few ways you can market your new retainer service:

  • Former Clients: Check in with former clients and see how they’re doing. Ask if their site is up to date and if they need any improvements. Mention your backup and security services.
  • Current Clients: Entice your current clients to try out your service by offering a free month or two.
  • Security Audit: Offer to perform a free security audit on a site and point out their vulnerabilities. This can be scary, so be careful not to come across like you’re threatening or strong-arming a potential client.
  • Replacement Cost Calculator: Create a tool to calculate the replacement cost of a site. It could include all content, technical components and designed pieces—basically what it would cost to replace their site in order to show the importance of protecting it. We created a simple calculator to show the cost of replacing content.
  • Create Content: Offer something shareable (free ebook, blog post, email, etc.) that talks about the importance of security, backup and timely updates. Make the case for ongoing WordPress maintenance and then present your solution.
  • WordPress Updates: Touch base with new and old clients when a new WordPress update comes out and ask if they’re taking care of their own updates or if they need some help to stay current.

Get to Work

Now it’s time to put your plan to work. Here’s a list of action items to get you started creating your freelance WordPress maintenance package:

  • Get all the necessary tools. Don’t forget to look into reseller hosting—it might be more time intensive to set up.
  • Put together your initial packages. You’ll want to decide on your ideal pricing and maybe even offer three levels of service.
  • Create a page on your site to sell these services. You might not go public with this right away, but you’ll want to start working on how you’ll sell this service.
  • Start beta testing. Contact one of your clients and offer them a free or reduced price beta test.

Selling WordPress maintenance is one of the best ways to create steady, dependable income. It will carry you through the famine days of freelancing and isn’t so time intensive that you’ll drown during the feast days of freelancing. It just might save your business.

Tools to Help Save You Time & Sell WordPress Maintenance Plans

Many of our iThemes products are ideal for freelancers selling WordPress maintenance packages. It’s why we created several of them:

  • BackupBuddy – The original WordPress backup plugin to backup, restore, clone and move your WordPress sites.
  • BackupBuddy Stash – Store your WordPress backups offsite safely and securely with our remote storage destination built for BackupBuddy
  • iThemes Security – The best WordPress security plugin to secure and protect your WordPress sites.
  • iThemes Sync – Manage updates (and much more!) for all your WordPress sites at once from one convenient dashboard with plans to manage 10 – 100+ WordPress sites. Start managing 10 sites free with Sync now!


  1. Great article, lots of good advice in here.

    If a client is using WPEngine for hosting, would a maintenance plan be relevant, though? Wouldn’t security, backups and upgrades already be managed?

  2. Thanks for the mention Kevin – very much appreciated.

    I started out offering my maintenance service, The WP Butler, when former clients would get in touch and I would see a large number of updates waiting to be installed. It stemmed from either a lack of knowing how to maintain their sites, or a fear of not knowing what to do if something went wrong with the upgrade.

    As such, I saw an opportunity to offer maintenance services at a reasonable monthly fee to my clients so that they could stop worrying about maintenance and just focus on their business.

    Former (and new) clients are the best source of business for me: the clients already feel comfortable with me and know that I’m competent, so it helps extend our relationship into a more long-term relationship, which in turn has the benefit of me being at the top of their list when they have a new task that needs doing on their site.

  3. Excellent post, very thought provoking. The tech stuff is easy, the marketing end – not so much!

    Oh how I wish I could “borrow” that calculator for my own site, so I could have my clients use it. :)

  4. What do you suggest for the tracking and reports? You covered the other areas but what should we use to cover this this area?

    Tracking & Reporting: Pulling up stats isn’t very difficult, but it’s the kind of thing a lot of website owners don’t have time for and can’t always make sense of. Offering a simple report that summarizes numbers and includes a few trends or other basics (sales numbers, increases in email or social media subscribers) could be very helpful.

  5. I think the only things I see missing is malware scanning and uptime monitoring. A lot of maintenance company offer this, so it might be important in order to be competitive.

    I’d also like to see a way to provide more logins for an iThemes Sync account. One of my concerns in providing a service like this is that I’m a one woman show. I’d need to have back up if I’m on vacation or unavailable. I’d love to be able to do this without giving someone access to my entire ithemes account.

    • Trinidad, with our new Security plugin, we’ve got detection built into it (as well as a fully featured roadmap for it) and will be rolling out uptime monitoring as part of iThemes Sync very soon.

      Re: the multiple logins – that’s a great idea that I’m adding to the feature requests for Sync right now. Thanks!

  6. Great article, Kevin. Tons of good info in here. I can’t wait to hear more about your forthcoming WordPress security plugin. We’re constantly monitoring attacks on our client’s sites and we love any tools that help make our lives easier.
    Keep up the good work!


    Tarfoot.com — Website Design and Digital Strategies
    Santa Barbara, CA

    • Bradley, we’re very close to the public beta of our Security plugin and I can’t wait to get that rolled out and into the hands of those in our community to help protect your work online.

  7. Hey Kevin!!

    Thank you for the EmbraceWP nod!

    Great article. Would like to mention one piece of the puzzle that is not often mentioned. Marketability of the brand on the web. We provide SEO consulting services with some of our EmbraceWP packages as well.

    That way, one month you can have us develop something in your website, and the next, we can test your SEO!

    • Dan, that’s an awesome service for clients. We want to try to provide some of those tools (or integrations with SEO tools) in Sync in the future. Thanks for sharing here and keep up the great work!

  8. Hi all, great article, thanks for all the great advice. I have to attest to the positive outcomes of providing ongoing maintenance for your clients. I started selling maintenance plans over a year ago for my own small freelance business, and quickly how valuable this service is to a great many clients.

    Due to the popularity of the service, I created a new company specialized in maintenance and launched it just a couple of weeks ago. Its called Total WP Support and located at totalwpsupport.com

    Until today, the only company i knew from your list was wpsitecare and its really interesting to see the other companies offerings. Although all in the same field, everyone has a slightly different approach and set of features offered that will appeal to a very wide range of clients.

    Its all very exciting to see and i fully agree with the author that everyone wins with maintenance plans!

    • I think the biggest part of the learning curve is controlling what amount of support you offer. Define it, put it in your contract and make sure that its clear up front for both you and your clients.

    • awesome backups & a clear contract!

      1) there is backupbuddy for the first one; for a good start on the other, see

      2) http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2013/04/03/legal-guide-contract-samples-for-designers/

      (in particular, https://www.docracy.com/3884/contract-of-works-for-web-design) – (read more about its origin here: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2013/01/16/killing-contracts-interview-andy-clarke/)

      My thoughts are: Don’t promise what you can’t deliver; or at least only promise things you’re pretty sure you can quickly develop the capacity to deliver. 😉

      If you’re clear with your client that the Internet is indeed a really big and sometimes dangerous place, and that you are only one person doing their ingenious best… and just keep great backups, on a regular schedule, and test them once in a while… and due your due-diligence with security… and have a clear contract… then you’ll likely be totally fine & your client will probably appreciate how smoothly their site is restored and that you insisted they budget for backups!

      Just my thoughts, those links above are golden though; hope they help!

      • Good thoughts. My concern, as someone else expressed above, is that I’m a one woman show. I think it would be nearly impossible for me to guarantee 24/7, 365 days a year emergency maintenance for someone’s site (nor would I want to.) While I enjoy doing design work, I have a life outside of it. Providing on-going maintenance is one thing ( I can work that into a Mon – Friday, 8-hour a day schedule) but being expected to be on call for emergency situations like someone’s site going down, at night and over weekends is more than I’m willing to provide. Unlike a company with staff, I don’t have a backup so taking vacations without the worry of someone’s site going down would be tough, especially since I travel outside of the country from time to time.

        I’m wondering how anyone who provides maintenance deals with this issue.



  9. Hey Kevin, excellent article.

    Just wanted to suggest another service: moving WordPress sites from one host to another. I do this a lot for clients, usually because their current host isn’t as good as some other host they’ve heard about.

    Very often the move will also involve a change of domain name.

    I’m just about to launch my new site at migrately.com which will offer this specific service for a reasonable fee. There’s a sign-up page there at the moment for folks who want to find out more or maybe even get a free move in return for a testimonial :)

    Thanks again for the post!

    • You can do this pretty easily with their other plug-in backup buddy. I do this all the time, as a web designer. Not for people changing hosts like you, but because I build sites on my host for testing and then transfer them over to the client’s host.

      • Hey Trinidad,

        true. BackupBuddy is a great plugin and I’ve used it many times.

        I guess I’m pitching the service more at those site owners who aren’t web pros themselves and who don’t have the luxury of getting one hooked up just to do the move.

        They typically know what they’d like to do but aren’t confident in actually doing it. That’s where I come in :)

  10. Hi Guys

    I really enjoyed this article – I’ve started doing WordPress maintenance full-time now after getting lots of enquiries from various friends and local businesses.

    I use WPEngine as the host for most sites but STILL do additional backups.

    I sure would appreciate a critique of my site – I think it looks a little plain but gets the message across – some say it could do with more (some) pictures. Thoughts?

    I’d love to be part of a community with anyone offering similar services.

    Craig Rippon
    Brisbane, Australia

      • thanks for noticing Steve – a couple of hiccups during the year – kept the customers that I had but did not need any more – about to kick it all off again


        Craig R.

  11. Hey Kevin,
    We were seeing an increasing number of folks contact our design agency for WordPress support, not because they wanted a new website. So last year we established a dedicated Australian WordPress support business, WP Copilot, http://www.wpcopilot.com.au.

    With the dominance of WordPress in the CMS space, and tools such as iThemes Sync, WordPress support services have become easier to manage and more affordable for clients.

    As you said, everyone wins!


  12. Hi Kevin,

    Great article! This may just push me into exploring the support and maintenance space, so thanks a lot!

    I think you have covered all aspects of it except the one that bugs me the most. So let me ask you (and other maintenance package providers), do you know of an easy to use platform to handle billing and subscriptions?

    Say I want to offer maintenance for a monthly fee, and want to be able to see all active subscriber sites that I have to backup and update, is there something that will tell me? Also may be if I want to setup a yearly fee package of $299 per year that saves people money over choosing a monthly package of $29 per month, is there anything that will activate the subscription period accordingly? Basically I want to create 3 monthly packages and a yearly discounted package for each. Thanks for any help.


    • Mohsin,

      Maybe using “membership” types of plugins will help since it allows you to create “subscriptions”. Simply create different types or levels, along with discounts for longer terms. Then let the plugins do [most of] the work for you. Set them up on auto renewal or they get suspended til payment is made, etc. It’s what I plan to do for my project I’m working on.

      I’m sure there are others, but a few that come to mind are:

      – WPMUDEV Membership
      – Wishlist Member

      There are a few others, so look around, but I’d say that’s your best bet.

      Just my 2 cents.

    • Mohsin,

      You can use Stripe for subscriptions or Paypal. There are free plugins and some paid ones that manage the subscriptions pretty well.

      We use Stripe for our WordPress support services.


  13. Great article, sorry I’m late to the party.

    The content replacement calculator really put’s it into perspective for clients.

    I run http://www.blueburst.net.au and we are seeing plenty of uptake on WordPress maintenance plans, particularly when we sit down with a client and do that simple content replacement calculation with them.

  14. Hi!
    Will your product do, or do you know of one that will, create a detailed report for clients on what was updated on their website.

    I know some will say something like:
    21 May – Updated 3 plugins

    but to make the value more apparent maybe something like:
    21 May Updated xxxx from v1.2 to 1.3
    21 May Updated yyy from v3.2 to 3.4

    etc, I see you are building a reporting option, will it be to that level of detail?

  15. Hi,

    I’m wondering if these maintenance plans, including the ones offered from the sites you listed, offer emergency restore services as part of the package. I don’t see it listed. I know if you keep a site properly monitored and safe-guarded, a site crash should be rare but we all know that it still happens. My concern is offering 24/7 emergency support when I’m only one person with no backup.




  16. Also, does anyone actually offer monthly ‘content’ updates with a package? In other words, the client doesn’t know how to post content on WordPress so they want you to do it. They create it, and you post it.

    • Hi Melissa,

      In response to both your questions:

      I am very upfront with my clients that I don’t offer 24/7 emergency response. It’s just a case of deciding what you can offer and sticking to it. Some people don’t need that offering and they’ll make great clients for you, whereas others need that, in which case, you can point them in the direction of someone who does provide that service.

      Secondly, I don’t offer that service per se (and I don’t know of anyone in the arena who does), but I do provide a monthly development allowance which can be used for anything that the client wishes, including posting content. It’d be overkill to pay for my development skills just to post content, but if that’s what the client wants and is willing to pay for it, then everybody’s happy, though it may be worthwhile for their benefit to teach them how to do it themselves.

  17. I am literally just in the middle of trying to launch my maintenance services to my web clients, as when they ask me to check something for them on there site, I notice they haven’t updated it since I was last on there!

    But I have a question, How do you sell or sign up clients to the services? do you do it online, or set up a form to take info and get back to them for setting up monthly payments for your packages? This is one thing I am struggling to decide on.

  18. It looks like most of these services are geared towards single site owners. I have another situation I’m looking at solutions for. We are a design agency and we have migrated to using WP almost exclusively to implement our sites for obvious reasons. But as the list of sites grows longer, the maintenance tasks have become a nightmare. We don’t want to spend our time maintaining these sites and keeping them up-to-date. We just want to keep building new ones! So we are looking for a partner who could do a ‘behind-the-scenes’ regular maintenance service for us, which we would of course pass through to our clients. Anyone know of a service like this?

  19. This is definitely an article worth bookmarking. Thank you for putting this out there. The one problem that bothers me, however, is the few clients that think maintenance should be free. I wish there were a really good article to which I could refer these people.

  20. Hi Kevin,

    Amazing article – I should have read that earlier :)
    I have actually done what you describe and it works amazing for me!!

    I have created a WordPress Maintenance Service called http://www.wpservicemanager.com to help startups and small businesses handle their WordPress sites.

    Is it possible to get listed on the list? If you would like review our service, please contact me :)

    Best regards from
    Martin Bengard – WPServiceManager.com

  21. This was a great read. I’m about to out together some maintenance packages and reach out to clients. I plan to offer the first month free to entice them. This article gave me some great ideas and pointed me in the right direction. As a freelancer this is a great way to ensure some money every month. I wish I had thought of it sooner!

  22. We actually started our business through offering these services to freelance clients and then growing from there – so it’s definitely something I’d recommend to people!

    If you fancy adding us (https://wpnexus.io) to the list in the article then feel free, we do stuff a bit different with just one fixed price plan and keeping everything in-house.

    One thing I’d recommend to any freelancers looking to do this – KEEP EVERYTHING IN HOUSE. Clients want to deal with YOU not someone on the other side of the world.



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