Yes, there are lots of CMS options out there and while some may suit different needs, there is currently a clear champion and it’s name is WordPress. Over my 10+ years building sites I’ve worked with a huge variety of businesses and for all of them we’ve turned I to WordPress.
I’ve helped people sell antiques, scooter parts, car parts, real estate coaching, and supply intranets to their companies. WordPress was a great option for each of these business, and it’s a stellar option to get your business off the ground.
While some may say that the time to specialize as a WordPress agency is past, I’m certainly not in that camp. We may not see the huge growth that has happened in the past, but there is still so much room to build a viable business around providing WordPress services. There are so many niches to explore in WordPress and so many areas to become the leader in. This will remain true for a number of years to come.
Today we’re going to dive into some of the fundamentals of what it means to build a business around providing WordPress services to your customers.
Should you Host Sites for Your Clients?
Hosting your client’s sites is always a big question for a business. Yes, you get extra revenue regularly as you keep up client sites. Yes that extra revenue can smooth out the lean times in your business. Yes, a number of my coaching clients have turned this into a viable revenue stream.
But, it can also mean that you have a bunch of crazy support calls at 3am. It could mean that you have to deal with a hacked WordPress site because you’ve gone with a low budget host trying to save some money.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. With some great planning you can turn hosting sites into a decent side revenue and the place to start with that is by choosing a great managed WordPress host.
While there are many out there to choose from, there are only a few that are stellar. I’ve worked with a number of managed WordPress hosts, and currently prefer Liquid Web, specifically their Managed WordPress plan. By going with a managed WordPress host you can take a bunch of the hassle out of hosting sites for your clients.
First, a solid managed WordPress host like Liquid Web will have people to help you manage WordPress. They’re going to keep your sites locked down for you. They’re going to be on top of security updates. They’re going to make sure that your server stays updated properly.
While I’m entirely capable of managing servers from the command line, it’s not my core business so I try to stay as far away as I can from doing it. I also don’t want to fiddle with any of the basic optimizations that WordPress needs to run fast, like caching and such. I let Liquid Web take care of that for me.
If you’re just not going to be into hosting, then Liquid Web also has an affiliate program so you can refer your clients to a host you like without needing to take on the management of their sites. At the very least you should be taking advantage of a program like this when you get your clients set up with their own hosting. I have clients that I haven’t worked with for years that still bring in a bit of revenue every month because of their hosting plan purchased through my affiliate link.
To Theme or not to Theme?
One of the next questions to ask yourself as you get your WordPress business built, is do you need a custom theme or can you go with one off the shelf? In most cases you’ll be just fine going with something off the shelf and then tweaking the colours to suit your business.
The same goes for your clients. Yes, there is some benefit to getting a custom design. No one will have the exact theme that you have, but you know what, none of your clients care.
Most of your clients, and your clients clients, want to see a high quality mobile friendly site. One that feels like it matches with their expectations for the company they’re dealing with. For many clients this can be achieved by grabbing an off the shelf theme and then making some adjustments.
If you’re willing to spend a bit of money then I recommend Theme Beans and StudioPress as two great theme shops. Theme Beans builds solid themes that are easy to work with from a developer’s perspective. StudioPress has Genesis backing it, and if you’re going to go with some framework that’s not vanilla WordPress the only one you should be looking at is Genesis because it’s been around so long and has such a huge community of people that can help you1.
If you’re not up for spending anything then you can look at the WordPress.org theme repository. Every theme that has been approved in the last many many years has been vetted. A volunteer has looked at the code and made sure that before it gets released to the wide world of WordPress, it’s coded in an acceptable way. I’ve happily used themes from the WordPress.org repository for projects that didn’t have the budget for a premium WordPress theme.
WordPress Plugins to Complete Your Site
Next up, it’s time to complete the functionality of your customer’s site. This is one of the areas that WordPress shines because there are so many plugins out there that can help you build exactly what you need.
Again, WordPress.org has a huge list of plugins that are free to use. You can find something to suit your needs there almost every time, but just because you can find something free to use doesn’t mean that you should only ever look at free options.
I have some free plugins on WordPress.org and let me tell you what I don’t do for those plugins. I don’t follow the support forums, I simply don’t have time to keep up with support and keep my kids in clothes. I only sometimes update the plugins to confirm that they work with the latest version of WordPress, again this takes time and I don’t have much of it for work that’s not paid.
Now, there are many plugins that do support well for their free plugin. Many of them don’t even have anything to sell you as an upgrade for the plugin. I guess they’re just better people than I am.
I also have a paid WooCommerce Membership plugin and let me tell you what I do with that. I do provide email support. I do check the plugin compatibility with WordPress and WooCommerce to confirm that it works as new versions are rolled out. I do fix bugs quickly and interact with my customers.
Again, a plugin doesn’t have to be paid to get support, but assuming any type of instant support for someone providing something for free is a best foolhardy and at worst a big old jerk move. Make sure you gauge your expectations as you dive into WordPress plugin land.
Some plugin recommendations
For Membership Sites:
- WooCommerce with
- Restrict Content Pro
- Paid Memberships Pro
Other plugins I use regularly:
- iThemes Security
- Easy Pricing Tables
- Restricted Site Access
- iThemes Sync
- Elevate SEO
- WP Rocket
- Thirsty Affiliates
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a short list of the plugins I use regularly on my sites and on my client sites.
Advanced WordPress Functionality
One of the final big awesome things about going with WordPress is that you can do whatever you want with the platform. I’ve built a business building custom WordPress Membership sites and it’s kept my kids fed for their entire lives. I write custom code for customers that have a membership need that they can’t fill out of the box.
There is so much room in building your business around WordPress, in fact the hard part might be figuring out exactly what your niche should be inside WordPress, so we’ll be talking about that in a future post.
PS: I’m writing The Freelancer’s Guide to Niche Marketing. If you want to get the best pricing when it comes out make sure to subscribe to my list so you get the first chance to get it at the lowest price.