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I am wondering how most WP freelancers handle general maintenance for their non-technical clients.

A small to medium sized business may have someone with technical knowledge who can handle upgrades, plugin installs, etc. For a one person shop where they have no experience with WordPress, or any CMS, how do you handle maintenance?

I assume that a client may think they can pay for a site and once it's completed, it's all done without understanding that software like WordPress requires security updates and periodic maintenance to ensure everything is running correctly. Basically the things beyond just general use of the system (writing posts, moderating comments).

Do you:

  • Build in hours for support in the initial proposal?
  • Ignore it, and charge an hourly rate when issues arise?
  • Teach the client how to handle maintenance tasks?

I am curious to learn how other freelancers handle this with their clients.

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closed as not constructive by Wyck, kaiser, toscho Oct 3 '12 at 3:35

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I suppose there isn't one right answer, but it would be helpful to know the different ways people handle this. – jjeaton Aug 25 '11 at 5:27
up vote 1 down vote accepted

As you have already pointed out there is no right answer to this but here is how I deal with WP sites after they are done.

When building a WP site for a client, through the whole process we make them aware of our aftersales support.

Our support has different levels with the levels giving better SLA's than the last one. The client can purchase so many hours of a programmers time at a rate agreed by both. These hours can roll over but not into next years contract.

Many of our clients purchase 2 hours a month which is ample time to take care of upgrades and testing. As part of the contract we also install monitoring plugins to make sure we are notified of updates that need doing as well as any wrong doing on the site. The user account we hand over is also the Editor account as they have no need for Admin access. This stops the client from playing with things they shouldn't be. However if they want admin access that can be granted but with a warning that if something breaks because of that then they may have to purchase additional hours to fix.

The great thing with a support contract is that you get some regular guaranteed income. Much of the time the hours are not used so you are getting paid for very little work. The client gets an up-to-date website which helps keep it secure. Any additional big project work is more likely to come back to you as you are supporting them rather than coding and leaving them.

Now I'm part of a company that does this and I know you are looking for a freelancers view but I know a few freelancers that have a similar setup.

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As far as freelancing goes, I generally include documentation on the usual tasks and some update/security caveats (a PDF and/or something in the WP dashboard) in the initial fee and build and make it clear that any further questions and support will be charged hourly. This is 100% because of the nature of the clients I accept: classical musicians and the occasional one-man business, usually friends (I already have multiple jobs with companies doing WP). Even then, though, some will be on the ball and run updates and read instructions, some will let it lapse and prefer to pay for updates anyway. I think it's an essential skill for a freelancer to be able to read their clients and perhaps have a couple of different approaches based on different personality types.

I also make non-email support more expensive, since you can't really do anything else when you're on the phone or in person and it's often more stressful. A little off-topic, but I find that that also helps to set expectations, protect your time, and avoid situations where one party may get a little flustered or "het up" and cause a misunderstanding or bad feelings.

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