Web design is an industry that is loaded with opportunities for upsells and extra revenue. Odds are that your clients will benefit from services that go beyond basic design and development. However, just because you can offer extras doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.
One such area is web hosting. While there is the potential to make some (fairly) easy cash, there are some serious considerations. To do things right, it takes a long-term commitment. Plus, it adds an extra layer responsibility to your workflow.
So, before you add hosting to your services list, think about the following:
Where Will You Host Client Websites?
The first thing to consider is where your client sites will be hosted. For instance, do you want to build your own server or lease one from a third-party provider?
Administering your own web server can be very time-consuming. You need a certain level of expertise to keep things safe and secure. That’s why freelancers typically go the route of leasing server space from an established company. It can be better on your stress levels and your wallet.
Still, there are some risks in going with a hosting provider. You’re giving up a certain level of control. In addition, you’re taking a leap of faith that this company will keep things running smoothly. And you’ll want them to be there for you when there are problems.
Therefore, it’s important to pick a hosting provider that you have experience with. It’s crucial to know what you’re getting into and who you’ll be working with. This doesn’t guarantee a problem-free experience, but you will have some extra peace of mind.
Beyond that, the setup of your hosting space is also worthy of consideration. While the server’s OS, version of PHP, etc. is important, it’s only part of the story here.
Technical specs aside, you’ll want to think about how you’ll manage everything. Will the host’s control panel, for example, enable you to host multiple sites? Will it allow you to delegate access to individual clients, or is everything reachable only by a single admin? Is email included in the package?
All of these items represent the day-to-day maintenance you’ll be responsible for providing. You may be the one creating email addresses and tweaking account settings. In the short term, that may not be an issue. But over time, it can become a burden.
The Inevitable Losses
Clients don’t stay forever. They can move on for any number of reasons. This can be a bit of a problem when you provide hosting. If they no longer want or need you to maintain their site, should they stay on your server?
Sometimes this situation works itself out. In instances where your client moves on to another designer, they may decide to move their website as part of the transition. But that’s not always the case.
It may be wise to try and sever that relationship completely, rather than hanging on to their hosting revenue. The little bit of money you make isn’t usually worth the awkwardness of dealing with a client (or their new designer) after the fact.
If you do offer hosting, prepare yourself for those clients who come and go. It’s only a matter of time before you face such a situation. Therefore, it’s better to have a policy in place when it happens.
What if Something Happens to Your Business?
Nobody likes to think about these things, but life is unpredictable. Your business may not last or your life may change unexpectedly. Offering web hosting could further complicate your situation.
Again, this is where server setup is important. If clients don’t have access to their data and/or they pay you directly for service, you need to have a plan in place so that they won’t be left in the cold. This can be difficult if you’re a solo entrepreneur.
One possible solution is to have some documentation that a friend, colleague or family member can reference if needed. That way, there is at least some method for clients to get what they need and move on.
Let’s say that you’re reselling server space that you’ve leased from a provider. Then, one of your clients has an issue. Or maybe there’s a massive outage that has knocked out all of your client sites. Who do they call?
The most likely answer to this question is: You. Quite often, hosting companies only provide direct support to the person whose name is on the account. When there’s a problem, that means you are the one who has to act as a go-between.
The process of communicating back-and-forth between your client and the web hosts’ support staff can be frustrating. It’s the one area of responsibility that can make or break your decision to offer hosting. If you pick a host that runs into frequent problems, it can also destroy your profit margin. Think long and hard about what you want to do here.
There Are Rewards, Too
Reselling web hosting can provide you with a healthy source of recurring revenue. In turn, this puts you on more stable financial ground. Another bonus is that you’ll know exactly what kind of server environment your clients are on. This makes it easier to run your preferred CMS, plugins, etc. That continuity can lead to a more efficient workflow.
There are a lot of potential benefits to be had. However, this is not something you want to dive into without careful consideration. Think of the pros and cons and, if you decide to move forward, plan ahead to set yourself up for success.
There will undoubtedly be challenges along the way. But the more prepared you are, the better your outcome will be.