3 Ways For Web Designers To Earn Recurring Revenue (#2 Is The Most Profitable)


Ways For Web Designers To Earn Recurring Revenue

If you’re a free lance web designer or own a small web design company, you know the amount of money you bring in can be drastically different from one month to the next. It can be a feast or famine situation. One month you have so much work you don’t know what to do with all of it and the next month the phones are silent.You start to feel like there isn’t a single person in the world who needs a new website. These slow months can be extremely anxiety provoking and have you wondering if you’ll be able to pay your bills. This is why it’s extremely important to know some of the ways for web designers to earn recurring revenue.

Back when Ian and I started our web design business we knew those slow months a little too well. I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I had wondering if quitting my day job was a huge mistake. Fortunately, after a lot of persistence (and some tears shed by me) we started to experience the slow times a lot less frequently.  But just because financially things got better, I didn’t forget about those slow times. They stayed in the back of mind and reminded me how unpredictable the line of work we’re in can be. This got me to start thinking about ways we could “bullet proof” the slow months and not feel the financial strain from them like we had in the past. 

3 Ways You Can Earn Recurring Revenue

#1 Web Hosting

One of the easiest ways for you to start earning monthly revenue is to offer web hosting to your clients. While the concept of web designers hosting their clients websites isn’t a revolutionary idea in of itself, the fact is all websites need to be hosted somewhere, meaning it’s a chance for you to make money.

More than likely you’re clients aren’t very techy which is a great opportunity to get them to host with you.  And you can get them to pay you a good amount of money each month for it too.

Our clients now pay us $75 per month for hosting, which really adds up.

Our clients now pay us $75 per month for hosting, which really adds up. But in order to get your clients willing (and happy) to pay you a premium for web hosting, you need to sell them on the value of it.

Back in the day we were earning a little bit of money from hosting client websites. However, it was peanuts compared to what we now earn on a monthly basis.

In the past, at the start of the project I would very meekly ask clients if they were interested in hosting with us and left it at that. I never took the time to explain the many things to take into consideration when selecting a server.  So as you can imagine most clients didn’t sign up to host with us.  And I was only able to charge the clients who did host with us a small amount because my reseller server didn’t offer any stellar features. I was essentially offering bare bones hosting…which earned me a bare bones amount of money.

I cannot emphasize enough that how well (or poorly) you package and present web hosting to your clients can have a major impact on whether or not they’ll agree to host with you.  And also determine how much they’ll be willing to pay you each month for the service.

What you’ll need to get started:

In order to offer web hosting to your clients you’ll need to purchase a reseller server through a hosting company. The hosting company will charge you a monthly amount for the server, however it will give you the ability to host many client sites on it. My top choice for a reseller server is WP Engine. While it is pricier than the other reseller servers, the features that it comes with will allow you to put together a high quality hosting package and will give you the ability to charge a good amount of money for web hosting.

A HostGator reseller server would be my second choice. While it’s cheaper than WP Engine it would still be a distant second choice for me. It’s not terrible but doesn’t give you nearly as many features to include in your hosting package.

# 2 Create An All In One Website Solution

In terms of recurring revenue, hands down our all inclusive website solution is our most popular and profitable service (yes, even more profitable than web hosting).   I’ve outlined the steps below so you too, can offer a service like this to your clients. 

How It Started:
A few years ago we wanted to come up with a new product / service to offer clients. We wanted it to be something that would be packed with major value for the client and something that would build our recurring revenue stream at the same time.

In the past we’ve dealt with our fair share of clients who had a small web budget.  More often than not their website needs exceeded what their budget allowed for. So we decided to focus on creating a low cost web solution that would be a good fit for clients with a small web budget but that still had appeal even to clients with larger budgets.

As we were brainstorming ideas on ways for web designers to earn recurring revenue, we had this “aha” moment when we realized it would be awesome if could create an all in one website solution that included everything a website needs. To make it affordable for clients who didn’t have a large web budget, we set out to make the most valuable package we could and keep it priced under $100 per month.

What You’ll Need To Get Started:

Premade Design Templates:
Once we came up with the all in one website solution, the first thing that we had to figure out was what to do about the design of the actual websites.  Obviously at that price point (along with all of the other benefits that include in the package) we couldn’t create a custom web design for each client…it just wouldn’t be profitable. So we created a handful of design templates that clients could choose from for the design of their site.  Once the client selects their desired template, we then customize it with their logo, color scheme, font, images and content. 

Sample Premade Design Template:
You might be wondering, what do I do if I have a client who’s a dentist but I’ve only made sample designs that look like they’re for the industrial or restaurant industries?  The answer is once you customize your template with the client’s color scheme and content, it looks completely different.  You’ll find that your design templates are very versatile and can work for many industries.

The image on the left (below) is a template that we created called Oakwood. Looking at it, it’s easy to see that the original design reflects a construction company, but once it’s customized it looks completely different. The image on the right shows how Oakwood can look when customized for a furniture store.

Premade WordPress Design OakwoodPremade WordPress Design Oakwood Customized

Where To Create Your Design Templates:
To start creating design templates you’ll need a domain to install WordPress. Unless you use a framework or theme that allows you to create a different header and footer on a page by page basis, you’ll need to purchase a new domain before you can get started.  Then each time you create a new design template, you’ll need to install WordPress in a sub folder on the domain and then install WordPress / create you design in that folder.

However, a much easier way to go about doing this is to simply create a new page on your existing site.  This will save you from having to install a new copy of WordPress each time you create a new sample design.  This is the method we use when creating our design templates.  We’re able to do this using the Beaver Builder framework, combined with the free Beaver Builder Header Footer plugin.  This combination allows us to hide the default header / footer on a page by page basis and create headers / footers that are unique to each individual design. 

How To Create Your Design Templates:
Once you have WordPress installed the design process is essentially the same as if you were creating a custom design from scratch.  Each of the design templates we create typically consists of two pages; a home page and one inside page such as an about us or services page.  Below is an example of the home page and services page that we made for our design template called Mayfair.

Mayfair WordPress Design Template

We also select an industry to create the design for.  While it’s true that most design templates can be customized to work for a variety of industries, when creating a template you want to make sure the design is cohesive.  Otherwise if you just start randomly adding images from different industries such as adding banners with lawyer related images but further down the page you have pictures of ice cream cones and tow trucks, it will look weird. 

Pro Tip: When searching for images to use in your design template, Pexels is a great source to get royalty free images for a variety of industries.

Once you’ve selected the industry that you want to create a design template for the next step is to create a color scheme, design a demo logo related to the industry, create the design layout for you demo pages and fill it in with placeholder content…and voilà you’ve got yourself a premade design you can show to your clients.  Okay…I realize saying voilà sort of understates the steps that are involved when creating a new design.  However, even though creating a handful of designs is more time consuming than simply offering web hosting…it’s worth it in the long run.  And don’t forget that if you sign up for our newsletter, you’ll get two free design templates to help get you started!  

Pro Tip:  If you’re just starting out in the web design business, creating an all in one website solution can kill two birds with one stone.  Not only can it help increase your recurring monthly revenue but they can also double as portfolio pieces to showcase your ability as a designer!

How To Import Your Design Template:
Once a clients selects one of your premade designs there are two ways that you can easily import it to wherever you’re building your clients website (whether it be on a development server or directly on their domain).

Option 1:  Make a backup / migrate the sample design
With this option you’ll start by making a backup of your sample design and then migrate it to the server that you’re creating the site on.  While there are many WordPress plugins available backup and migrate a site from one domain to another,  if you’re unsure what to use, I’d recommend the Backup Buddy plugin by iThemes.  It’s easy to use and you can backup and migrate a site in less than 10 minutes.  Once you’ve migrated your sample design, you’re ready to start customizing it with your client’s content.

Option 2:  Export the design settings
Depending on the framework / theme that you use to design your template, it may offer an option to export the design settings as well as each individual page layout and simply import them into the WP install where you’re building your clients site.  Currently we use Beaver Builder to create all of our design template and they provide the export / import option which makes things very easy.

#3 Backups, WordPress and Plugin Updates

Another way to earn monthly revenue is to offer your clients a monthly maintenance plan that includes creating complete backups of their websites and updating WordPress and any plugins that are out of date. Keeping WordPress and plugins up to date goes such a long way to help prevent a site from getting hacked. One of the most common reasons a website gets hacked is because people let WordPress and plugins sit out of date on their site. 

We include this backups / plugin update service in our hosting package, but any of our clients who do not host with us can sign up to receive backups / plugin updates. For $29 per month we create two complete backups of their website site, store it on Amazon S3 and update WP and any plugins that are out of date twice a month.

Bonus Tip: For any of your clients who have tons of plugins installed on their site, I’d recommend getting them on a weekly update schedule and adjust the monthly cost accordingly.

What You’ll Need To Get Started:
In order to offer this service the main thing that you’ll need is a way to create a backup of you’re clients websites.  If you have a WP Engine reseller account, they’ll create daily backups of the site for you which is an awesome time saver. Another option is to use a plugin such as backup buddy. 

You’ll also need a place to safely store the backups.  You definitely don’t want to store them locally. Not only will they take up a ton of space…should the device you keep them stored on sh*t the bed (as my MacBook Pro decided to do this week) you’ll lose all of the backups.  And Murphy’s Law would suggest when that occurs, it will of course be the time that a client breaks their site or it gets hacked and they ask you to restore one of the backups you’ve saved them.  So to prevent that from happening, I strongly suggest utilizing some sort of cloud service such as Amazon S3 or DropBox.  

Once you have a backup / storage system in place the last point is actually updating WP and plugins.  To do this you can simply login to each site and manually update the plugins…or use a service like iThemes Sync which will allow you to update plugins on multiple sites all with a single click (which because I like to save time, is my preferred choice).

Wrapping Up:

Obviously there a ton of different ways that you can increase your monthly revenue stream, but the three above are the most profitable for us (again with #2 being the most profitable.) If you have another revenue stream that’s working for you, we’d love to hear about it. Help out other web designers and share it in the comments below!