Add Recurring Revenue to Your Web Design Business!

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Wanna create recurring revenue in your web design business?

If your web design business feels like a roller coaster of income, you need to add recurring revenue to your offer lineup.

So many web designers struggle to book clients from month to month and feel like they’re spending all their time marketing to a brick wall instead of designing.

And if you don’t book a client that month? It can be really stressful because you’ve got no income coming in!

Recurring revenue is the answer.

Please note that I did not say “passive income” which is rarely truly passive and may or may not recur on a monthly basis. Recurring revenue is where it’s at, and it can be, on occasion, passive.

What exactly is recurring revenue?

Recurring revenue is, of course, revenue that recurs.

That means, that each month (or whatever time period you specify), you receive a certain amount of money for providing a certain service. It’s the same amount of money each month, and your work is more or less the same each month.

Most recurring revenue streams will be either monthly or yearly fees for your clients, and you’ll want to ensure you have a solid contract that outlines how cancellations work (can they cancel early, is there a penalty, and what payment is still owed?).

The rest of the details largely depend on the service you’re providing.

Why do you want recurring revenue in your web design business?

In short, recurring revenue takes the stress out of running a web design business!

One of the biggest struggles I see designers and developers facing is that they need more clients to pay their bills.

Meanwhile, they have a slew of happy past clients who would love to continue working with them but don’t have the option.

Recurring revenue services allow you to continue working with your past clients, stop hustling up new clients each month, and be pickier about the new clients you bring in, because you’re able to pay your bills (and possibly a lot more) and rely on consistent income each month.

How do you get recurring revenue in your web design business?

Take a look at your past clients. What do they need? How can you offer them assistance on a recurring basis?

Your past clients will always be your best guide on what type of recurring revenue services you can offer. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask your clients what they need help with.

Most web design clients will have similar struggles, and we’re getting to the popular recurring revenue options, but even if you simply choose an option or two from this blog post, you should still reach out to your past clients to figure out their unique struggles and tailor these offerings to them.

Your services will always be more effective and sell better if you understand your audience and their needs.

Alright, let’s talk about different recurring revenue options! Use these options as a starting place, and tailor any you choose to your specific audience.

Retainers

A retainer is when a client pays you a fee (typically monthly) to be available to work on their projects. Whether they actually send you work or not, they pay you to keep the time available.

Usually, the retainer time does not roll over into the next month or only rolls over for one month. This prevents clients from banking 11 months of retainer hours and then demanding to use them all at once.

For example, a client may keep you on retainer for 10 hours per month to make updates to their website. You keep time free in your calendar so that you can provide this service to them in a timely manner.

For example: maybe you block time every Tuesday and Thursday morning to work on retainer requests. This allows you to fit other work around these times, but still turn work around quickly for your retainer clients.

There are all sorts of retainers you can offer, depending on your skill set.

  • Website updates/tweaks (adding content, creating pages, editing menus etc.)
  • Graphic design (social media graphics, blog post images, ebook design, etc.)
  • Strategic changes (analyzing Google Analytics and making website adjustments to increase conversions)

No matter what type of retainer you choose to offer, you’ll want to be clear on what is included and what is not. For example, website updates may include adding and scheduling blog posts, but may not include designing a new sales page.

The biggest downside to offering retainers is that they can make it difficult to take time off or can “get in the way” of bigger projects if your days are filled with retainer work. But with proper planning, retainers can be a great asset.

Website Maintenance

Website maintenance is a crucial aspect of owning a website, but many clients are extremely lax about it. Then, the next thing they know, their website has been hacked.

If you have some technical skills, you can offer website maintenance to your clients. Keep in mind that maintenance can be tricky, and you’ll need to do research to determine if it’s for you.

Most website maintenance plans include the following:

  • Regular website backups
  • Updates to WordPress, plugins, themes, etc.
  • Security to keep hackers out
  • Uptime monitoring

While website maintenance is a pretty easy gig 90% of the time, be aware that when things go wrong, they can go really wrong.

If you’re not prepared to deal with hacked websites (which always happen on the weekends, somehow), maintenance isn’t for you.

That said, if done properly, maintenance can be a very lucrative and even mostly automated stream of recurring revenue.

Website Hosting

Every website needs a host! If your clients are fed up with their budget hosts who are constantly going down and where the support is sub-par, you could offer hosting.

While possibly the most passive option on this list, hosting is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can make a mess quickly.

But if you are comfortable with configuring servers or find a host you love and they offer reseller packages, website hosting can be a great option. Just make sure you do your homework and are prepared to offer support to your hosting clients.

Things to consider if you’re wanting to offer website hosting:

  • Do you know what you’re doing?
  • Are you willing to handle support on nights and weekends if needed?

Managing a server is an entirely different skillset than building a website. Just because you’ve poked around cPanel doesn’t mean you are ready to be a website host. Research, learn, test, and then offer hosting to your clients only when you’re confident you know how to manage a server.

The biggest downside to hosting is that you have to be available (or have someone available) to support your clients seven days a week. While you may not need to stay up all night answering support tickets, clients will expect a response within a few hours. Budget hosts are able to provide this, so you can bet that if they pay you more, they’ll expect you to provide it as well.

The support really bothers some people, but others, not so much. It really just depends on what works for you. But if the server goes down, be prepared to drop what you’re doing and get it back online, or, if you’re reselling, at least field questions and complaints from your clients while liaising with the host.

SEO Services

Ever have clients who love their new website but then complain that it’s not getting traffic or bringing in new customers?

Offering SEO services is a way to ensure the website you just designed delivers real results to your clients–while adding recurring revenue to your bank account each month!

I know what you’re thinking–you’re a designer, not an SEO-er. But really, it doesn’t have to be that difficult, and there are tools like Pathfinder that walk you through every step of the SEO process.

Here’s what you should consider before offering SEO services:

  • Do your clients need help with getting visitors to their website?
  • Do you enjoy doing research (like for keywords)?
  • How are your writing skills? If you hate writing, SEO services are not for you!

SEO is one of the best ways for your clients to actually see results from their website–because if no one is going to their website, it doesn’t matter how good it is!

When you combine SEO and great design, your clients will see better results than with design alone.

But SEO does take time and is a different skill set from design. There’s a pretty steep learning curve and not all designers enjoy things like keyword research or SEO writing. If those are your jam though, SEO services can be a great source of recurring revenue.

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Some sort of combination

Here’s a bonus for you: You can offer some sort of combination of the options we talked about above. You might offer a few hours of website tweaks with a maintenance plan, or a maintenance plan with hosting, or website tweaks and SEO, or a combination of all four. Do what works for you and your clients!

Tl;dr:

Recurring revenue can take away a huge amount of stress and hustle each month. Instead of constantly digging up new clients, you can create a steady stream of income which can allow you more freedom.

Retainers are a great option to keep working actively with past clients. Just make sure to block your schedule so that you don’t overbook yourself between retainers and other work.

Website maintenance is a popular option because it can be relatively simple once you get your processes in place. Just be ready to deal with hacks and plugin conflicts!

Website hosting is a great option if you know the ins and outs of server management. If you’re comfortable with servers and want something more passive, hosting can be a great option. Just make sure you really know what you’re doing!

Finally, a combination of two or even all four of these options can be extremely lucrative and a huge benefit to your clients.

Ask your clients what they need, and create recurring service packages to help them. You’ll be so happy you did once you get those income streams coming in!

Increase your digital agency's recurring revenue with Pathfinder SEO

Increase Your Recurring Revenue with this FREE course!

Learn how to start offering SEO services and grow your customer’s business while growing your recurring revenue.

Take the free course now!

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Originally published 8/17/17. Updated 10/26/23.

About Erin Flynn

Erin Flynn is the founder of Design Bread and has been making websites professionally since 2012. Erin has made it her mission to help web designers raise their rates and create profitable web design businesses that support the life of their dreams!