Website maintenance keeping you up at night?

I know: you’re a designer, blessed with Illustrator superpowers and an eye for design as sharp as Paula Scher’s. You’re not a developer cracking Javascript jokes at dinner parties (and getting crickets). Website maintenance is probably not something you enjoy doing or even thinking about.

But that doesn’t mean that you should let your WordPress updates pile up (they’re at a ridic 14 right now… busted!) or let your website get hacked during the first day of your first course (yep, this happened to a graphic designer while I took her branding course last month). Ack!

Regardless of whether you wanna offer website maintenance as a service — and even if you wanna hire out your own maintenance to a developer! — there are a few things you should know as a designer, so you can either DIY or make sure your developer is doing her job.

Plus, there are things you absolutely should know how to do if you work on client sites.

So let’s cover website maintenance for designers to have in mind for your website and your clients’.

Website backups

Having a copy of your website (or your client’s website) can save you hours (or days!) of stress and headaches if something goes south with your website.

Benefits to getting off your butt and getting backups set up and automated:

  • You’ll have backups

The downside of not having backups:

  • You won’t have backups

But seriously, without ‘em you’re screwed. I don’t care how many guardian angels you have, if you have Jupiter in your 12th house, or any other woo woo or non-woo woo things you may believe — you need backups.

Without backups you could be starting from scratch if your website gets hacked or an update goes awry. And we don’t want that, do we?

Pro tip: Use backups to migrate websites between hosts and testing environments. You can use a tool like the Solid Backups (formerly Backup Buddy) plugin for WordPress to speed things up–sure beats wasting half a day downloading/uploading tens of thousands of files via Filezilla!

Working on client sites on your own server (a.k.a. test sites)

Ever try redesigning a website on the client’s server? Besides having to figure out where their weird hosting company hides the tools you need, you also might run into limitations you’re not expecting.

Like, if they don’t have staging sites, or even the ability to create a separate site at all!

Benefits to redesigning on your own server:

  • You look pro(fesh). Win!
  • You know how everything works/where everything is so you spend a lot less time hunting around for things
  • You get to use your own sweet, faster-hosting provider as opposed to Dreamhost, GoDaddy, or any other godawful hosts some of our clients use. Win again!
  • You make sure you get paid because you ain’t deliverin’ no website ‘til you get your damn payment. Super win!

Pro tip: Create subdomains on your server, one for each client site you gotta work on simultaneously. Set up your test sites, one per subdomain. Use Solid Backups to create a copy of your client’s site on your server and redesign as needed. Get that final payment from your client and move the newly designed website back to your client’s server. Boom.

Keeping your site in tip-top shape

You don’t wanna be that designer whose website goes down–trust me! There’s nothing like an offline website to scare your potential web design clients AWAY from hiring you.

Here’s where those 14 updates you still haven’t done come in.

This is what can happen when you don’t do your website updates:

  • Outdated software can conflict with new software when you add a new theme and plugin or even update WordPress itself. A virtual explosion ensues (things move around on the page, your website breaks, etc. and you proceed to make a margarita at 10 am on a Tuesday).
  • Security holes in WordPress, themes, and plugins don’t get patched up. Meanwhile, hackers know they’re there. (You can guess what happens next. Hint: it happened to the designer I mentioned earlier!)

This is what’ll happen when you do do your updates:

  • Things will work. An updated website is a happy website! Like a puppy with a new toy. Awww.
  • All is secure = peace o’ mind for you, sister.

Pro tip: Use a plugin like Solid Backups to easily create backups (that you can restore with one click!) and update your websites.

Offering website maintenance to clients

Wanna get that recurring revenue cha-ching every month?

Offering website maintenance (backups and updates) to your clients is a great way to keep that cash rolling in!

Here’s what you might include in a monthly website maintenance package:

  • Weekly backups
  • Weekly updates
  • An hour of changes to the website

What’s actually included is up to you, but you can charge anywhere from a few bucks to several thousand each month for keeping your clients’ websites up and running smoothly.

Pro tip: Use Solid Backups to easily backup and update your client websites with just a few clicks! Something goes wrong? Just roll back the backup!


Website maintenance for designers doesn’t have to be complicated.

There are plugins and tools that make running backups and updates a breeze.

While not the most exhilarating tasks in the website world, these website maintenance basics will save you from a nervous breakdown and are virtually guaranteed to save you many thousands of dollars throughout the years.

Plus, you can offer website maintenance to your clients and get that sweet recurring income heading to your bank account each and every month.

Just sayin’.

Raise Your Web Design Rates by Creating a Luxury Client Experience

Get your step-by-step checklist to create a luxury client experience that you can charge more for.

It’s FREE, so grab it now!

Get the Checklist!!

Keep Reading:

This article was originally written by Natalia Real and published 2/4/15. Updated 10/26/23 by Erin Flynn.

Dive Deeper