Setting your rates is a tricky balancing act. If you charge too much, your clients will balk and leave for a competitor. But if you charge too little, you can find yourself working for free and building a reputation as cheap (inexperienced) labor.
So how do you find the sweet spot in pricing your site maintenance services? In this post, we’ll look at 6 strategies that expert web developers consistently use. Plus, we’ll break down the pros and cons of different pricing models. Let’s get started.
First and foremost, you need to decide how you’ll bill your clients for the work you do. For some, the best option is to charge clients a predefined hourly rate based on the amount of time spent updating and managing the site content. But for others – namely agencies – flat rates in the form of website maintenance packages are the way to go.
Unfortunately, there’s no perfect choice. Every web agency and freelance developer has to pick the best option for their business. But there are obvious pros and cons to each option. Here are the biggest ones:
Pros: No risk of scope creep; pricing security for you; no need for custom quotes; easy to cap monthly retainer contracts
Cons: Risk of a client walking; less income if you finish a project faster than expected
Pros: You control the scope and pricing for all projects; shorter projects have a greater ROI; you can package your services into different tiers to appeal to more clients
Cons: Scope creep is possible
The real question is though: how do you decide what your flat or hourly rate should be? There must be some formula out there that can spit out the perfect number, right?
Not exactly. But there are some factors you can (and should) use to calculate your pricing for site maintenance work.
Since site management typically includes responsibility for domain name renewal, annual hosting costs, server management, and plugins, you need to account for that in your price. Otherwise, you can wind up footing the bill for hundreds or even thousands of dollars in your clients’ administrative costs.
For flat-rate pricing, this is relatively easy to do, since you can just lump it into your total monthly cost. But for hourly projects, you’ll need to tack it onto an invoice once a year as an added expense.
Perhaps the most important factor you need to consider when setting your rates is the maintenance needs your clients have. This includes their content creation frequency, security and backup requirements, and lots more.
Generally, this is all tied to the type of website your clients have, as a templated WordPress site will require less intensive work than a custom Node.js site or eCommerce site will.
But even in the case of a simple WordPress site, the ongoing work required can differ from client to client. As a result, you need to carefully analyze the current site elements and your clients’ plans for website growth before making a financial decision.
Part of pricing your services depends on your value. In essence, what can you offer your clients that they can’t get anywhere else?
Can you patch complex security issues quickly and prevent malware attacks? Do you have the skill to create rank-worthy content on a weekly or monthly basis? Are you well-versed in plugins? The more unique skills you can offer your clients, the higher the price you can command.
Website maintenance requires a unique tool stack – including SEO platforms, security plugins, and helpdesk software. But if you don’t include this in your pricing, you can land financially in the red.
That doesn’t mean a single client needs to foot the bill for all of your site maintenance tools. However, you do need to consider all of your expenses before setting a minimum rate for your site maintenance work.
While your competitors’ pricing shouldn’t be the deciding factor in what you charge for site maintenance, it’s important to think about it. The reason being: your prices need to be comparable to be competitive.
If your rate is significantly lower than your competitors’ rates, you may attract penny-pinching clientele with high expectations. And if your rates are way too high, your best clients may leave to work with a more affordable website maintenance agency.
Finding the happy medium is fairly simple, though. All you have to do is identify agencies that target the same audience you do and who offer similar services and see what they charge their clients. Then, you simply set your rate somewhere in or around the range you discover.
Every hour your spend on website maintenance work is an hour your can’t spend on other web design projects – so you need to make sure the pay is worth it. If you don’t, you can miss out on valuable income that your business needs to thrive.
That doesn’t mean you need to charge the same price for ongoing work as you might for a one-off project, though. After all, there are benefits to ongoing client relationships that one-off design projects don’t provide – like steady income streams and new client referrals. However, the compensation needs to be well worth the work you do.
Ultimately, the takeaway is: your clients should pay for what they get. The expertise you offer, the tasks you tackle, the time it takes, the costs you incur – all of it should play a role in what you charge for site maintenance. Not only does that ensure a fair price for your time, but it also increases the likelihood that you’ll attract the types of clients you actually want to work with.