It’s no secret that the prospect of offering website maintenance services is stressful to many design agencies. Not only does it bring ongoing website additions, new plugin configurations, uptime monitoring, and emergency troubleshooting to the table, but it also requires a different mindset than standard web design work does. And the more websites your team manages, the more difficult it becomes.
Whether you manage a handful of client websites or several dozen, we’ve got 4 suggestions to help you get everything done and avoid burnout.
Before you take on any new retainer clients, you need to be clear about your capabilities and availability. This is true whether you have new web design projects in progress or not. (You’re human and there are only 24 hours in a day.)
Clarifying your bandwidth for your clients often involves discussing the following:
The standard response time window for change requests and emergency troubleshooting
Turnaround time for common change requests (or an explanation of how that will be determined)
Explanation of the “queue” for non-emergency change requests and updates to client sites
Process of handling emergency issues like site crashes, security breaches, and the like
Breakdown of the retainer contract and what to do when they exceed their hourly limit for the month
In no way is any of this information designed to deter your clients from requesting updates or support with their site. Quite the opposite. But by setting these expectations early, you can make the process run more smoothly by giving your clients a realistic view of what is possible.
Once you have a set number of retainer clients in your calendar for a given month, you need to carefully consider the available time you have left as you map out new design project timelines.
But you need to look deeper than your standard 40-hour workweek. To plan reasonable due dates and useful check-in meetings, you need to know what your daily load looks like too. Everything from client meetings to the time you spend on change requests each day needs to be factored into the equation. And you should block out a liberal amount of time each week for emergency requests, as you never know when a time-sensitive (and time-consuming) issue will materialize.
Ultimately, having a clear understanding of what your team members already have on their plate enables your agency to effectively balance web design and site maintenance clients without burning out.
Since not every web design project turns into a site maintenance project, it’s easy for your team to get unbalanced. You might have a designer who’s successfully transitioned three or four clients to a site maintenance retainer contract, but there may be several more who have zero or only one to manage in an ongoing capacity.
This can spell disaster, as the designer managing more retainer contracts can get overworked or frustrated with their schedule.
Spreading the workload around your agency – regardless of who originally designed a given website – allows your team to take on more work while maintaining good relationships with your current clients. And more importantly, it ensures that no one is left to manage multiple websites on their own.
To respond to change requests successfully, you need to have an organizational system for them. Arguably, the best option is a helpdesk.
With helpdesk ticketing system features, your clients can submit support tickets for virtually all types of requests. Updates, additions, backups, and even troubleshooting can be discussed and resolved within a single dashboard. And completed tasks can be checked off from individual tickets. You can even track the time spent on change requests by simply subtracting the minutes and hours from the monthly allotment.
Not only does this allow you to create an organized queue for all client requests, but it also creates a paper trail for the website maintenance work you do, so you never have to worry about forgetting a project.
Balancing web design work with website maintenance can exhaust even the most efficient employees. Fortunately, by communicating your bandwidth clearly, planning around retainer contracts, sharing the workload, and adopting helpdesk tools, you can manage multiple websites like a pro.