The Biggest Mistake I Made in my Previous Business

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I made a LOT of mistakes in my previous web design business, and most of them stemmed from a lack of experience. I knew how to make websites, but I had no previous experience doing it professionally. This meant that I was very much flying by the seat of my pants; trying to create systems as I went and constantly losing focus. And one of my biggest mistakes was not prioritising aftercare.

That’s not to say that I didn’t care about my clients after I built them a website. I really did care, to the point where I was doing heaps of free work after the website went live (software updates, content update, backups, etc.), but that didn’t benefit either party. It was a financially unsustainable model for me, and I wasn’t able to dedicate the amount of time I needed to do a stellar job, and it was therefore unfair on the client. Truthfully, I didn’t believe that anyone would want to pay me to continue caring for their website, because a lot of people see websites as something that you set up once, leave, and then come back in 3-5 years to refresh it.

These days a website is a living, breathing thing as soon as it goes lives. Website are dynamic, they consist of lots of moving parts which are constantly changing. And just like your car, your computer, your mower, and YOU, they need regular maintenance to keep them happy, healthy and in good working order.

I don’t want to make this entire article about the benefits of going on a website care/maintenance plan with your web developer, however I will quickly touch on a few of the main reasons as it is relevant:

  1. Security

Unfortunately, there are mean people out there in the world who want to take advantage of you and your website. It’s very common for websites to get hacked and have malicious code injected into core files. The most common cause of this is a website that hasn’t been updated regularly.

Updating your CMS and plugins is not like updating your phone software. If you’re like me, when you receive an update notification on your phone your first thought is “oh sweet, free stuff, gimme gimme gimme” *press update button*. However, doing this on your live website could bring the site down due to conflicts between the CMS, plugins, and the server.

  1. Backups

If you have ever had something go wrong with your website, whether it’s small (the last 3 blogs you posted have mysteriously disappeared) or large (your files or database have been completely wiped) then you’ll understand how important regular off-site backups are. If you have never had anything go wrong, thank your lucky stars and don’t make it a goal in life.

There are plenty more reasons why having your web developer involved in the care of your website is important, however I feel that those two are the big ones. It’s not a good look if your business goes offline, or if your website starts serving up blog posts to your visitors about viagra pills, and providing a link to a seedy website where they can buy them.

So, why didn’t I offer care plans to my clients in my old business? I didn’t think they wanted them – and I was sort of right. I did offer them a few times toward the end, but I didn’t get a yes. Why? Because I didn’t highlight the value and importance. When a website was launched I would timidly ask “so, I have these maintenance plans for 60 bucks a month if you’re interested. It’s all good if you’re not though…”. Yep, super convincing dude. Most care plans that web developers offer these days include updates, malware scanning, daily backups (and restores if needed), speed optimisation, training, basic SEO, coaching calls, content updates, and reports, just to name a few. That’s crazy good value for the price that is asked.

So it was all my dumb fault. I should have educated the client of the importance of maintaining their website before I even sent the proposal.

I had quite a few clients who had a small web design budget, so spending one thousand dollars for a website was a lot of money, and the thought of spending an additional monthly fee on top of hosting just wasn’t possible with their budget. Again, this was my dumb fault, this should have been addressed in the beginning so that we could work through the situation and find a solution that fit their needs and budget.

I have learnt from my mistake, and needles to say I now offer and highly recommend care plans for all my clients. I believe that the maintenance and care plans that web designers and developers offer are great value. They keep your website online and in good health, and they keep food on the table of your friendly neighbourhood web designer.

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