As a freelancer, you can build WooCommerce websites for clients and reap big rewards. There’s more money to be made and potentially more ongoing, reliable work. But WooCommerce websites also make for more complicated website projects, so you need to understand the ins and outs of selling WooCommerce services.
In this post, we’ll explore what makes WooCommerce websites different and what you need to know as a freelancer to make more money.
Why Build WooCommerce Sites for Clients?
So why should you build WooCommerce sites? Several reasons make it a tempting market to explore:
- More money: WooCommerce sites are more complex and require more time, which means you can charge more and make more money.
- Niche market: Focusing on WooCommerce makes you a niche WordPress freelancer. That will make it easier to stand out from the crowd and become an expert, which means you can charge a premium.
- Obvious ROI: The return on investment for an ecommerce site is immediate and trackable. The site you build sells stuff, literally making money, so clients can easily see how it benefits them. That makes it easier to convince them to invest in the site.
- Easier recurring revenue: Clients want to protect their income stream and ecommerce sites need more maintenance, so it’s easier to pitch a client on an ongoing maintenance plan and secure some recurring revenue for yourself.
While there are upsides, remember that everything matters more with WooCommerce. The stakes are higher, so you need to be prepared to deliver.
How to Scope WooCommerce Website Projects
Because e-commerce projects are more complicated, you need to be more careful about scoping the work. Bigger projects mean more complications, more cost, money changing hands—there’s a lot to consider. And a lot more can go wrong. One way to make more money is to make sure you’re not losing money.
Reduce Your Risk
First and foremost, you need to reduce your own risk. Reducing risk isn’t about passing the buck. It’s simply making sure you don’t get punished for someone else’s mistakes. That starts by making sure you’re not making any mistakes yourself. So you need to cover all the bases from the beginning, ask all the right questions, and structure the project and your contract in such a way that everything is covered.
Clear Client Communication
As you talk to potential clients and work through all the questions (which we’ll cover next), you need to make sure you understand what the client wants. The stakes are higher, so you need amazing WooCommerce client communication.
It’s all too easy for misunderstanding to creep in:
- A client may use industry jargon and you think they know what they’re talking about, but they actually don’t understand the jargon at all and want something else.
- Visual descriptions can be especially elusive: The client says slick and fresh, but what you deliver doesn’t match what they want.
- The client says they want something bigger. But how big is bigger? And how big is too big?
Always ask for examples. Always define the jargon. Always listen and repeat what the client says. Take the extra time and effort to make sure everyone is on the same page.
You should always ask why a client wants something. Get to the root of what they value. You might find that you have a better solution if you know what they really want. This is where you can prove your expertise and justify your rates.
Here are a few more tips for how to make more money building WooCommerce Websites for Clients:
1. Understand E-commerce Extras
Trying to build WooCommerce sites is everything you’ve done for a typical WordPress site and a whole lot more. So you need to be on top of the usual stuff, and then also handle all the complications of e-commerce.
So take your typical list of client questions for a normal website and add a whole new list of questions:
What types of products are they selling? They could be selling physical or digital products, or they could be offering some kind of recurring service. Or a combination. But it’s an important early question because the types of products will determine the complexity of the WooCommerce setup.
A store selling only digital products doesn’t need to worry about shipping at all. That’s a huge weight off your plate. But if they add even one physical product, that changes everything.
How Many Products?
Another early question to ask is how many products will the store sell? WooCommerce can handle about anything, but the number of products could factor into the setup and development time.
There’s a big difference between 10 products and 10,000 products. Who is going to enter all that product info? Will the client deliver a CSV file? Who is responsible for updates and price changes?
What if your client only has one product? You might recommend they move away from a full-blown WooCommerce store and create something simpler.
Does your client have all the relevant product information? A store can’t launch without these details, so someone has to get them. Make sure it’s clear who will get them (and if it’s you, be sure you’re charging extra).
- Short & long description
- Categories & tags
- Dimensions & weight
There are hundreds of options for accepting payments and lots of complications with payment gateways, merchant accounts, and the rest. You can minimize work for yourself by focusing on one or two payment gateways.
Insist your clients use the payment gateways you’re familiar with. You’ll be able to offer better service when you can focus on what you know.
Hosting & Security
Just as you simplify payment gateways, you should also simplify WooCommerce hosting. Work with just one or two hosts and insist your clients use your host.
By limiting your WooCommerce hosting options, you’re cutting down on the complications you’ll have to deal with in the future. You’ll know the answers to common questions and you’ll know what kind of a response you’ll get when something weird happens. No surprises. WooCommerce websites should also always use HTTPS, so make sure your host can handle that.
Hosting is an area where you may not have that many questions for a client—you want to dictate the answers to a client. But you still need to make sure it’s clear.
There are tons of options for shipping, and things can get very complicated very quickly. Try to start simple and add complexity slowly.
First and foremost, make sure your client understands that they’re responsible for shipping items. Seriously, some clients think the web developer handles everything—including trips to the post office.
Be prepared to recommend a shipping provider. Again, it’s helpful to limit a client’s options. That’s not always possible with shipping, but the more you can work with something you’re familiar with the better.
You need to be clear about who is handling taxes. Configuring taxes in WooCommerce is your job, but knowing what to configure is your clients’ job. Unless you’re a tax expert or are willing to outsource that, make it clear that your client is responsible. Point to resources for them, but clients should be responsible for their own taxes.
It should be clearly noted in your contract: “Client is responsible for providing tax rates. Service provider will enter rates as provided by client.”
Find out what currency your client wants to accept—and again, ask why. Enabling multiple currencies is incredibly complex. But simply displaying prices in multiple currencies, that’s pretty easy.
What kind of localization does a client need? Multiple languages and translation plugins can be difficult. A better approach might be multiple sites specifically geared for unique locations.
Every e-commerce site needs to be tested, so be sure to include extra time. Some clients will be more paranoid about this than others. There’s a baseline amount of testing you should do no matter what, but you should find out how much testing your clients expect above and beyond that.
Clients always want a site that scales, though they don’t always understand what that means. A lot of things can come into play, including traffic, sessions, and concurrent checkouts. Most e-commerce sites won’t have a problem with this. And generally, it all depends on your host.
But make sure you know what your client is worried about. You need to know if they have something planned that could put serious stress on a site—like a Super Bowl commercial or an extremely critical Black Friday sale.
2. Watch for Red Flags
So you’ve worked through all the website questions with a client, including all the e-commerce extras. Now it’s important to be aware of some red flags. When you build WooCommerce sites, red flags cost you money.
These are issues that can seriously derail a WooCommerce project. Again, the stakes are higher. While these issues might be surmountable for a simple brochure website, you don’t want to mix these issues with the complexity of e-commerce.
Out of Date Plugins & Themes
If you’re working with a client’s website that has out-of-date plugins and themes, that’s a major red flag. A few minor versions out of date is fine. (For example, if WordPress 4.5 is out, and they’re running 4.49, that’s not a big deal. But if they’re running 2.6? Run for the exits!)
OK, you don’t actually need to jump ship. But you definitely need to plan for WooCommerce website maintenance and the unexpected issues that can come with out-of-date software. If you’re trying to upgrade a client’s ancient site and tack on an entire e-commerce site, that’s a huge project built on a foundation of unknowns. You’re asking for trouble.
It’s kind of like a plumber working on a hundred-year-old house. They don’t know what they’re getting into and can’t guarantee there won’t be additional problems.
One good solution is to clarify those unknowns up front. Tell a client that before you can even give them a price on an e-commerce website project, their site needs to be updated to the latest version of WordPress and all themes and plugins.
You build WooCommerce sites, but you can also make money getting a site ready to be upgraded to a WooCommerce site. You can also charge to do a smaller project first to upgrade their website: Put it on a test server, upgrade everything, test it, keep a list of anything extra you need to fix and roll it out. Then you can talk about adding an e-commerce component.
Every host is different. They’re all going to handle issues in different ways, and that can multiply your potential headaches. Minimize those issues by minimizing the web hosts you’ll work with.
Only work with one or two hosts and force your clients to use those hosts. Your client is not the expert—don’t allow them to pick the host. If, for some reason, a client insists on a specific host, let them know you’ll charge hourly for any host issues (and let them know it could be nothing and it could be 40 hours).
Be wary when clients demand the site uses a certain theme. Some themes are way too complex. Or they include too much custom functionality: testimonials, affiliate systems, integrations. Those features should be part of plugins so you can change the theme and the site still works.
Again, you’re the expert, so you should be making the recommendations. Use themes you’re familiar with. Keep it simple, like the basic Storefront theme.
3. Don’t Let Access & Assets Slow the Project Down
There are a lot of things that can trip up and slow down a WooCommerce project. Don’t let access and assets be one of them.
Access and assets are the basic info and materials you need to get from a client. You’re doing everything you can to help them meet their goal on time. That’s going to require keeping them on task. It’s not about making it their fault (though it’s nice to not be blamed), it’s about helping them get stuff done.
So make sure you’re asking for this stuff up front and making it clear that delays will delay the project. You’ll have to decide how hard of a line to draw and how many reminders you want to give. Clients don’t always know where this stuff is, and tracking it all down can be an ordeal.
Access You Need
- Domain registrar
- Hosting account
- FTP access
- Admin access to an existing WordPress site
- Google Analytics
- Vendor logins (for any plugins and themes)
- API keys
Tip: WooCommerce allows you to submit tickets under a client’s account. This is a good way for you to handle tech issues, but still allow clients to retain a record of past issues. That can be helpful if they ever switch developers in the future (and it can help you if a previous developer did that). You just need to have a client add you to their WooCommerce account.
- Logos (vector is best)
- Images (get the largest size possible)
- Product info (CSV file)
4. Have a Solid WooCommerce Project Process
The complexity of a WooCommerce project requires a solid process. You should have a well-defined client consultation meeting to get the basic details, followed by a proposal and contract. Then you should have a freelance system in place to work through every step of the process.
Make sure you don’t leave clients hanging when the project is done. You should make a maintenance plan a standard part of every project. Set yourself up to have ongoing, recurring work. Build WooCommerce sites, and then keep them running. That’s money you can count on.
As much as you can, you should systematize your process:
- Work with only one or two hosts.
- Focus on a single payment gateway.
- Work with a few simple themes you can customize as needed.
- Create a standard WordPress installation with all the basic plugins you recommend.
- Standardize your maintenance work so you can stay on top of it.
- Set expectations for communication and use standard language for contracts, emails, etc.
5. Pitch a Discovery Phase
This is a short one, but it may be an idea you’ve never considered before.
WooCommerce can be complicated, and if a client doesn’t know what they want, that’s a recipe for trouble. Pitch a discovery phase so you can help a client figure out what they need while making money.
A discover phase can be another (profitable) element of your freelance website design process.
More Training on Building WooCommerce Websites for Clients
When you build WooCommerce sites for clients, you’ll face bigger challenges, but you’ll also make more money. Maximize that opportunity by asking the right questions up front and then leaning on a solid process to make the project go as smoothly as possible.