Freelancing as a web designer is known to have feast or famine seasons. It seems like you either have more work than you can handle or you’re worried about being able to find another client before it’s to late.
What if I told you there was something you could put into place today to keep you from having to ride the roller coaster of ups and downs with your web design business?
Good news. It’s not that hard to implement and it’s something your clients are actually hoping you’ll offer to them.
I’m talking about website maintenance packages.
Website maintenance packages are a great way to make recurring revenue as a web designer. It keeps your income steady, so you don’t have to worry about where your next paycheck is going to come from.
It also keeps you at the forefront of your clients minds the next time they are ready to make updates to their site OR when they have a new project all together.
Website Maintenace Packages with Josh Hall
In this week’s episode of the Self-Made Web Designer Podcast I talk about all things website maintenance packages.
Josh has been building his web design business (that he just recently sold) for over a decade. And, one of the main things he did to find success was offer clients website maintenance packages.
Josh is a pro on how to communicate the value of a maintenance package to clients and how to make it easy on you as a web designer so you’re not spending tons of time updating sites.
Like Josh, if there’s one thing I wish I would have done sooner in my web design business it’s offering website maintenance packages to my clients.
Here’s your chance to learn all things website maintenance packages and grow your web design business.
- How to build a web design business with relationships and networking
- How to overcome your fear of networking
- How to look at networking as an opportunity to give value away rather than get value from others
- How to scale when you start getting more work than you can handle on your own
- How to set up recurring income as a web designer with maintenance plans
- How a maintenance plan will help you get future web design work from previous clients
- How to set up a WordPress site to easily maintain it for clients
- How to communicate the importance of your maintenance plans with your web design clients
- How to use a WordPress website builder like Divi to build websites quickly for clients
- How to choose the right WordPress website builder for your web design business
- Josh Hall’s site
- Josh’s Maintenance Plan Course
- Love is the killer app
- Selling Website Hosting & Maintenance Plans Podcast
- Divi Website Builder
The link’s to Josh’s site are affiliate links. That means if you take any of his courses I get a portion of what you pay. I do this because I highly recommend Josh’s content. Even if you don’t want to use the affiliate links I still highly recommend you check out Josh’s courses.
Chris: [00:00:00] feast or famine, highs or lows ups or downs. The roller coaster of freelancing can be exhausting if you've been doing it for any length of time, you're probably familiar with the fact that it feels like you either have way too much work that you can't do all on your own or you have absolutely nothing.
And you're sweating, wondering where your next project is coming from. But what if I told you it didn't have to be that way? What if I told you there was something you could put into place today in your web design business? To keep you from going on the roller coaster ride of freelance web design.
Hey, welcome to the self-made web designer podcast. My name is Chris and I am super excited to have you here with us this week. If you're new here, I just want to say welcome. I'm glad that you've decided to jump in with everybody else. If you've been here for awhile, you're awesome. In this episode. Of the self-made web designer podcast. I talked to a vet in the business.
His name is Josh hall and Josh outlines all the things that he's learned from a decade career of building a web design business that doesn't suffer from hi's and low's, feast or famine. How does he do it?
One word. Actually two: maintenance packages. So Josh and I dive deep this week into all things maintenance plans as a web designer. We talk about the practicalities from the plugins that we use to how we communicate the value of maintenance packages to our clients on to how having maintenance packages will actually keep you at forefront of your client's thoughts, so that when they're ready to do something new on their website in the future, you are the first thought and the most logical decision.
It's going to be a great episode. Before we dive in, have you signed up for the web designer starter kit course at self-made web designer.com? Over 2000 people, 2000, you heard that, right have been through this course. And in it, I outline for free all the steps that I took to go from knowing absolutely nothing about development and very little about design to having a full fledged freelance web design side hustle that doubled the income of my full time job while only working 18 extra hours a week.
It's a fantastic course to go through. Four emails with four videos where I lay out a blueprint for you to do the same exact thing that I have done. So take a second, go to selfmadewebdesigner.com and sign up today. Alright, are you ready to hear about maintenance packages and a lot of other good stuff with mr. Josh Hall. Okay, here we go.
Well, Josh, thanks so much for being on this self-made web designer podcast. Stoked to have you.
Josh: [00:03:16] Thanks for having me, Chris.
Chris: [00:03:17] Tell us a little bit about who you are and how you got to where you are today.
Josh: [00:03:22] Well, I am Josh and I am based in Columbus, Ohio with my family. I have a wife and two daughters and a hungry golden retriever.
And I have been a web design professional for just over a decade at this point. Uh, I was a solo freelance web designer and then eventually scaled my business. And now I have a full time personal brand at joshhall.co where I help other web designers learn how to build awesome sites and grow their own business.
So to give you kind of a summary. Uh, it sounds like my story, Chris is pretty similar to you. I was in a band. I was a drummer in a rock band. And at that time, like after high school, I was also working as a cabinet maker at a tour bus customizing shop here in Columbus, Ohio. Uh, I got to work on some cool buses and got to work on Metallica's bus.
At one point, Johnny Cash is busking through, uh, so got to do some cool stuff there. And I was essentially a cabinet maker by day and a band guy at night. We were traveling. You know, all across the Midwest here around Ohio and stuff. And then similar to you. Uh, I started getting into graphic design being in the band world.
I started doing our artwork and I'll never forget it, we were playing a festival one time and somebody asked me, "Hey, how much would you charge to design our artwork and our tee shirts?" And I thought, Oh, I can actually make some money doing something I enjoy. So that's kind of how it all started for me. I was doing graphic design learning Photoshop. Uh, I got laid off from my job as a cabinet maker. In 2009, the economy got hit really hard and that's when I really dove into design. And I started learning web as well. Uh, the church I was involved with at the time basically had nobody to run the website and they knew I did graphic design and they were like, Hey man, would you be interested in learning a little bit of web design and doing our website?
I guess I'll give, I'll give it a go. And that was in 2010 and the rest is history love with web design. And then I started doing freelance web design and I was doing Nike classes, uh, at my community college to learn more about graphics and web. And my whole intention was to get through that program and then to become a professional.
Graphic and web designer at like an agency. Uh, but a couple years into it doing that, I realized I was making pretty decent money on the side as a, as kind of a freelancer. And I thought, you know, what, what have I went for this thing full time? So, uh, it was in 2013 when I just went for it for, for full time for my business.
And, uh, it's been awesome ever since I ended up scaling the business. Uh, from that point, going from a solo preneur to a legit kind of business owner for awhile. And then I scaled to the point where just recently, uh, as my personal brain here at Josh hall dot code soak off. Uh, with teaching other web designers, I just recently sold my web design business and now focus on this full time.
So, uh, that's kind of in a nutshell, hopefully that's enough, but not too much to get us going here, man.
Chris: [00:06:18] such and Epic journey. I'm sure there was probably like a lot of ups and downs through the midst of it all. Was there ever a point in time where you felt like this is too much? I need to hang it up or I need to go work for somebody else after you had started.
You know, essentially building a business from scratch.
Josh: [00:06:38] It's a great question. The only time that I can recall where I was like, man, I don't know if I can do this. Like practically and financially was just before I really started going like full time with it before I made that decision. I think it was sometime in like 2012.
Just. I had started getting some clients and doing things on the side, but I just got to a, the only dry patch I've ever had in business to where I just kind of ran out of the projects. And I was like, I just don't know if I can continue to do this. Luckily I was working other jobs on the side and stuff, and I was still going to night school.
Um, but I decided, you know what, I'm going to stick with it. And then I just kind of got past that point. I got my next client and I got my next one. And then the referral train started from there and throughout my entire career as a web design. Professional and business owner. I was fortunate to never have that dry period again, and it just, uh, referrals kept coming.
And then I started building my business and, um, yeah, happy to talk about, you know, all the kinds of things I learned with that journey. Cause it was definitely, it was a journey and it still is a journey, but man, I just love the world the wild world of web.
Chris: [00:07:42] So that's pretty unique to only have one season of, you know, essentially your whole business, where you kind of run into a dry spot. I talked to so many people who experienced ups and downs continuously. What do you contribute to the fact that you were able to stay consistent with the amount of business you were getting?
Josh: [00:08:00] I would say, cause there are ebbs and flows, inevitably just with any business, any industry, there are good seasons and bad seasons with web design.
The trick is, and the problem is kind of feast or famine. So you may have one right where you're working on a ton of projects that may carry over, but then you get those all wrapped up. It seems like they all wrap up at the same time, pretty frequently. And then you, you know, maybe you don't have as much for the next couple months.
So it's really about spacing and staggering. Those. Um, we had talked about potentially talking about maintenance plans and building some recurring income. That was a big thing for me. That's what kind of ended that feast and famine. Uh, but overall, the way I avoided that was honestly just doing good work and making good connections with my clients.
And, and it just seemed like I was always getting referrals. Uh, I did get to a place in my business after a while where I realized I just could not continue to do it myself, which is why I started scaling. But as a solo printer for a handful of years, uh, yeah, it was really just about doing good work, staying consistent.
And then there was a little bit of marketing and innovating those two. Those are really the two keys that I feel like every business has to do. You've got to keep on marketing yourself. And you've got to innovate your business. You've got to produce new things and keep on growing. Now. Marketing for me was basically just networking.
I've never been somebody bidding on ads or anything like that. I always, I was very involved with a networking group here locally in my town, and I always just relied on personal relationships and just really taking those to the next level. And that's kind of how all the referrals came to me. For the first handful of years there.
Chris: [00:09:38] So most of the networking was, you know, essentially in your local city, your town or, or,
Josh: [00:09:45] Yeah, exactly. And this is where I tell all my web design students to start is to start with your personal network because a lot of people start their business and dive into ads and spending a bunch of money when you have a potential.
Gold gem in front of you with your personal network and you never know, not only are they running their own businesses and might need your services, but it's about who they know as well. So when I got started, I let everybody, I know, realize that I was doing web and graphic design. And so maybe, you know, them and their businesses didn't need to be, but some, somebody they knew did a, so that's how it all kind of started for me, man.
I just got the word out to everybody who was already in my network and already who know. Uh, her knew me who liked me and who trusted me. And I did some broke, uh, pro bono projects at first just to build a portfolio. And I did some work for my church, but yeah, it spread from there, man. I didn't overthink it.
I just reached out to my personal network and then pretty early on, I got involved with a networking group. And it was a business to business like you meet once a week. And I know that intimidates a lot of web designers, it's different now with the pandemic stuff going on. But the cool thing is, is a lot of things are virtual, uh, which really, you know, web designers can shine in that world and learn to really just make good connections with local businesses.
And as soon as I started doing that, man, that's when things really kind of blew up on him, the freelance, uh, cause just cause it was good connections with businesses who wanted to help other businesses.
Chris: [00:11:11] Yeah. So how did you find that group and become a part of it?
Josh: [00:11:13] So I delayed in going to a networking group because of all the apprehensions that everyone feels, it's like, Oh, I got to get out of my house.
I gotta go somewhere once a week. There's like some guidelines and rules to it. I just, it didn't interest me too much, but I had a, one of my clients, their it guy. Was working with me and he had sent me a couple of referrals and he was like, Hey man, I'm in a network in group. And I think you get a lot of clients if you came to this because we don't have a web designer.
And we're looking for, you know, like a lot of people have that need. So I went to it and it ended up being really good. I got to meet a bunch of businesses. Now, it wasn't in my hometown, so I could join that one. But I found out through that same organization that somebody else was getting ready to start a group where I'm at.
a large percentage of my leads, probably at least 50% of my leads for, for the better part of a decade came from. Was through that group and just everyone we knew, you know, through that group, because the cool thing about any sort of networking, or even like a chamber of commerce or something like that, anything that's business to business-related is they become your Salesforce.
So you're not in there to get leads from these 10 or 15 people. You're in there to make a name for yourself, and then you become their reference for all the businesses that they work with and know. So I was automatically opened up to like, you know, two or 300, maybe more businesses that would eventually hear about me.
Chris: [00:12:42] So key. And I think it's something that a lot of web designers, especially in the gig economy. Don't really dial into is a relationship factor. And we've talked about it a lot here on this podcast, but there's a book called love is the killer app that I just absolutely love. You know, that talks about the importance of making those connections and looking at it, not as I'm trying to use this person to get money, but I'm trying to give away my connection so they can benefit.
And you know, what happens essentially is that. It's impossible for that, not to come back to you. And so that's just one way that I think a lot of web designers are missing out on buildings.
Josh: [00:13:21] That's funny, you mentioned that book because one of the members in my networking group bought that for everybody.
So I read that it's a short, quick read. It's I'm glad you mentioned that. It inspires me to revisit that cause it's been a few years, but yeah, it really kind of nailed home. The thought of the more you give, the more you get and it's true in life, in every area and it's extra true in any sort of.
Networking or just business growth, if you can. The cool thing about networking that I like is that, you know, you, they become your Salesforce, but then you're automatically connected with a great group of people. Ideally, a great group of people who you can refer people back to as well. And there's so much power in being a connector that I've found like if you can refer people, even if it's.
Even if it's within web designer, outside of web design, if you have people you can connect to other people, too, it just elevates you to a different status to where you just have a lot of leverage to use that for growing your own business. And you don't have to come across salesy. You can just be you and talk about what you know, and it's a great way.
One of the biggest things that I realized was. With web design, the cool thing about taking a more organic personally. So, you know, step by step approach is that you don't have to be salesy. You also do need to get a ton of clients every month. You can just invest in these relationships and the referrals will start to come and it takes the pressure of needing to land like three or four clients a month.
When sometimes you could just land one or two and that's going to be fine because you're building your network and they're coming to you. So, yeah, that was a big part, a big aspect of me kind of making it in the early days.
Chris: [00:14:54] Yeah, I love that. And, and taking it slow and, and being patient. I think it's such a crucial aspects to success because it sounds like, you know, you came to the point to where, um, after a little bit of time, you, you couldn't do it all on your own and you had to start scaling meaning, bringing on people to help you out with projects.
And I think even brought your, your wife on the team to kind of help you out as, as well. And I think what happens a lot of people is if they try to grow too quickly, they're not really ready for that. Level of success and they can kind of implode and go backwards. Um, so talk a little bit about that process of getting to the point where it's not just you and you've got to bring other people to help.
Josh: [00:15:36] That's a great point, man. Some people do, I, this is the one thing I tell my students too, like, okay, let's say you do have an overnight success. What then? Like, are you, do you have the systems and processes in place? Do you have the bandwidth to take on 20 projects at once? Like. There, there is a point where you, you just can't do everything yourself.
And for me, I was very happy and content being a solopreneur for a handful of years. Um, my wife and I got married in 2015, I was already about five years into my journey. And at that point I was a pretty successful solo printer. Although I was already at the brink of where I was like, okay, I can't continue to do every single task myself.
So I brought her on, she joined the business to do a lot of administrative. And then, um, we had just started our website maintenance plan. So she was doing like reports every month and some stuff like that. And then there was a time I still stayed a solopreneur, although I did start hiring out people like periodically to help out with stuff.
Yeah. I either didn't want to do or wasn't good at, or, uh, you know, to help out with some aspects of the sites.
And then there was a point. I think it was, uh, 2000 at the beginning of 2018 where I had 23 projects. And I was like, it was just a huge, it was like the beginning of the year in 2018. It was cause I've found that a lot of companies want to start their projects in the beginning of the year.
Usually they get stuff settled in and then February is usually a boom for a lot of web design projects. And I was just like, how the heck. Am I going to do, how the heck am I going to manage 23 projects? Cause it wasn't like these were all, uh, they weren't all massive builds, but they were all decent sized projects.
So. I was fortunate at that point, because I had already just hold that til I had already started really building a big network of designers and stuff. And that's when somebody came to me, I did an interview series, uh, asking people about how they scaled their web design businesses. And then my eventual full time designer heard that series and just messaged me and was like, Hey, I'm a, I'm a designer coming up and I love your stuff.
And I'd really love to. So, you know, if you have any opportunities to do some work for you, then just did. And that ended up being a great fit. And he's the one who I brought on, um, essentially full time as my lead designer. And what was really interesting about that was I decided to, I decided to scale my business right before my first daughter was born.
And I don't know how much you've seen about this, Chris, but we, um, she was born and we ended up spending two months in the NICU, which is the newborn intensive care unit. And thank goodness that I had just started bringing on Jonathan, who is my lead designer and that I had my website Bateman's plan because there was no way I could have handled all those projects while you know, going through that situation so that I think it was in about.
It was like January and February when I had all those projects. And then I started working with my lead designer, Jonathan, and a couple of other subcontractors. I got them working on a bunch of stuff and that's when my daughter was born. And we had that NICU experience for that journey for two months.
And I essentially just oversaw all of them. I had to kind of cut down on new projects and, um, you know, we were going to the hospital every day. Luckily there was a Panera across the street, so I was able to work there. Um, but I, I kind of scaled like right at the perfect time. Um, but, so I was almost, I say that to say I was lucky that I had started the scale, but that situation, for sure, to just like, let you know, unload some of my, some of my workload.
Chris: [00:19:08] Yeah, that's great. And you mentioned how important the maintenance plans were in the midst of that as well. And I think that's such a good strategy and we've kind of touched on it with a few guests here before, but never really like taking a deep dive into it. Talk about that process. Talk about how you set up those plans, how you marketed them, you know, how you kept them going and so on and so forth.
Josh: [00:19:34] Yeah. I'll say this. I don't have many regrets in my journey so far, but the biggest one I do is not starting a website maintenance plan sooner because I didn't start mine. And so I think it was about 2015. Um, and again, it goes back to that feast and famine when you're going project by project, inevitably, you're going to have really good months and really bad months because they just never overlapped perfectly typically.
So I found that a website maintenance plan. Builds these two lovely words called recurring income. And that's, there's a ton of different ways to set it up. I'll be happy to kind of share what I learned in the early days and what we do now. Um, but. For me. So a little side story on how I decided to launch my maintenance plan.
Um, when my wife and I were on our honeymoon last day, we were there in Mexico sitting by the pool and this guy was talking about WordPress and I was like, Oh, you do work for us. And he's like, yeah, he was from the UK, we've got the chat and, and really hit it off. And then we connected after the honeymoon and he had this idea of this maintenance plan for his agency.
So we actually talked about partnering up and. Um, really got the gears, turning it. We didn't end up partnering up, but it nonetheless planted the seed for me to manage my clients ongoing and have this recurring income. And I realized there's not only so much benefit for us as web designers, but there's also so many benefits in necessities for clients because.
My sites. When I got done with them previous to launching our maintenance plan, I did whatever really designer did. We basically just send clients it's on their way and I would just cross my fingers hoping they wouldn't get hacked. And for any new designers, listen to this. One of the biggest problems with not.
Maintaining a site and updating all the plugins and the tools is that the biggest thing is you're susceptible to getting hacked because anything that's out of date needs to be patched and upgraded, and your client is more likely not going to do that. So you need to be the one and never trust a re recommend, relax, hosting companies to do it.
So the big thing for me was, you know, I had sites getting hacked and then I also realized. It's a great way to keep top of mind with clients because a lot of my clients would move on and then they'd forget about me or they just wouldn't work with me moving forward. And it wasn't anything personal. It's just, you're a busy business owner.
If you don't think about it, you're just, you're not going to reach out to your web designer unless you need work. So I really thought about that and I decided to launch a maintenance plan. And, um, that's how it all works. Sorry. That really started this amazing thing for me to where I was able to build that recurring income right out of the gate.
And I was pretty fortunate because I already had a lot of clients up leading up to that point. So I launched my maintenance plan and got, I think, 20 some clients initially. Um, so it was a big boost. And then the really cool thing was the next month. I didn't have to keep on selling to them. It was automatic.
I just had this money coming in and maintenance plans are so profitable because you can charge whatever you want. And you can work it out to whatever you want with doing updates and optimization and backups. And I'll talk about some tools you can do that with. Um, but the first taste of recurrent income was amazing.
And then the really cool thing was that it added more and more projects and side work for me because. I was sending my, well, my wife was sending them a monthly report or every month, and then they would be like, thanks so much for the poor, by the way, we're adding a few more pages and then we up, so, and do some more work.
So it just, there's so many loads of benefits to it. Um, that's kinda how it started in the early days. And I'm happy to answer any questions you have on that, Chris with, you know, what the plan looked like originally as in how it morphed or wherever you want to take, whoever you want to take it from here.
Chris: [00:23:09] Yeah. Yeah. Let's dive into that. Um, so talk about the practicalities of it all. Where were you hosting on your own server? What were you charging? What did it look like from month to month, as far as what you had to do per client on that.
Josh: [00:23:22] Yeah, so I, I use SiteGround for hosting. I've been with them since I think 2016 and it's been awesome.
So. With my maintenance plan, we decided to use a tool called manage WP, which is what I still use and what my agency uses to this day. Um, and it's been awesome. There's some other ones out there too that are good as well. We just, I've stuck with managed WP. And at first I strictly just updated plugins and cool thing about manage WP is not only.
Is it dirt cheap? It's like crazy cheap, but it gives you all the tools to do maintenance plan. The backups are there. The client reporting is there. It's all under one dashboard. You can have all of your sites in there and you can access them and update plugins globally across all sites. Just a great tool.
So I use that initially. And I would have clients typically host on their own servers or like have their own hosting on Bluehost or GoDaddy or SiteGround eventually I realized that I was having all kinds of problems with clients choosing terrible hosting. And I'm not sure how you feel about this, Chris, but.
There are a lot of hosting companies like GoDaddy like Bluehost and some of these other ones that have just gone downhill by frankly. So I tried to get all my clients in the psych ground. What I found that was really beneficial was to do hosting and maintenance together. It's something I wish I would have pushed from the early days because having a maintenance plan is great.
But having a hosting and maintenance plan combined is even better because clients may leave a hosting plan. It doesn't happen frequently, but I have had some step away from the maintenance plan. For whatever reason, maybe they need to cut costs. Maybe they're just not interested anymore. Maybe they don't see the value, but I'll tell you what a client is not going to turn off or step away from.
And that's the hosting for their website. So they're not going to turn off their website unless they go out of business. So I learned pretty early on. To mix those two together, do the website hosting and the maintenance. And the cool thing about that is SiteGround. And a lot of other hosting companies have reseller accounts and have all sorts of ways that you can host your client's sites and you can do the maintenance and the really cool thing about that for the clients is they don't have to worry about anything.
You're just, you're their guy or you're their girl. You are their web person. They pay you monthly, whatever you work that out too. And then you handle everything cause I was doing maintenance and then I had problems with their hosts company and then I had to get their hosting details. And, uh, the only pain about doing anything like that is you're kind of the middleman.
With their hosting. However, I found even the clients that had their own hosting, I was still the middleman. I was still getting the calls on why their domain was expired or why something wasn't working. Uh, so I just learned it's better to just host and do the maintenance altogether. Um, and for me in the early days, the pricing for me looked like 59 bucks a month to do maintenance.
And then 75 a month to do hosting and maintenance. And then we would scale that up. If there was like an eCommerce site, I did those for 95. Uh, and then now. I mentioned, I sold my agency a few months ago. However, I still do have some ownership in that agency. So I oversee the team, oversee our processes and still work with them on everything we do for clients.
Uh, and we have a couple of different packages and plans now that have higher tiers that include like a certain number of hours for content updates and stuff like that.
Chris: [00:26:40] Has there ever been any. Road bumps with clients, as far as the maintenance packages that you've run into. And how did you navigate it?
Josh: [00:26:50] I wouldn't say road bumps per se. I mean, the cool thing about maintenance and hosting. I just feel like it's needed. I mean, it's, it's for web designers, it's the best way. To build recurring stable income. It'll end that feast to famine. Like I said, it opens up all sorts of doors for new opportunities.
Keeps you on top of mind to your clients. And I think you asked previously, Chris, what, the amount of work looked like month to month. It really wasn't that much work like I have the first course I ever built for web designers was a maintenance plan course since because I was so passionate. About how it helped me through our time in the NICU.
Um, but one thing I share in there is like an update schedule. Like you can create when you do updates. Uh, one thing I'm really big on as far as managing ongoing work is to have in this kind of gets into how you run your day, but it's to have some sort of time block for reactionary work. That way, if a client emails me and they say, Hey, my widgets down on a site, unless the site's broken or down, or it's, you know, there's something detrimental.
Usually those updates can wait. So instead of being just tied to my email all day playing whackable, I'll just have a reactionary work block from like three to four every day. And that's when I know I can get caught up on those quick little tasks. And then sometimes if I don't have anything cool, I've got that hour to do whatever I want to do.
So. Um, that was really huge. The only like road bumps are, I would say, um, I mean, it really wasn't. There was, there was many more road bumps. Yeah. Without having maintenance and hosting because sites were getting hacked. It was a huge issue. Um, you know, yeah. There's really, I can't think of too many negative things with it.
I mean, it's every once in a while you might update something and you might have something break or it goes down, but that's cool. Thinking about managed WP, is there a restore points? You can, you know, there's a loads of options with backups and stuff like that. And for the most part, it's been smooth sailing as far as us maintaining all of our tools.
Uh, so yeah, I really can't think of too many negatives to it. That's great. It's so
Chris: [00:28:46] It's a win, win. I'm I'm interested to hear because I've. I had moderate success with maintenance packages. And so I wonder if it's me not pitching it. Right. And so I'd, I'd love to hear what the pitch looks like for you with the client whenever you're onboarding them into a maintenance package.
Josh: [00:29:05] And I will say, man, I just, so I have a podcast as well. I just released an episode on selling website, hosting and maintenance plans. It's episode 49. Maybe I can give that to you if you want to link it in the show notes, because for you and for anyone listening, I interview somebody who, who got 150 maintenance plans on their plan in two and a half years.
It's a, an agency who's colleagues of mine and they're just killing it. So, um, we talk about in detail in that episode, but one thing I realized in my experience was. It has to be, it's something that should be talked about fairly early on. You don't want to try, you don't want to get a, uh, a lead and just hit them with, uh, a monthly charge right away.
But you do have to let them know, you know, in order to build the website website, hosting and maintenance is a huge aspect of ours. I'm going. And the analogy I like to use for clients, you just have no idea which let's face it. Most clients have no idea. What domains are hosting or any of this stuff. It's very confusing.
So for me, I'd tell them like, I try to use this analogy as much as possible. We could build this beautiful website and view it like a health. You know, where, where are you going to put this website? Where are you going to put this house? If you're in a really nice neighborhood, it's going to be worth much more.
It's going to function better if you build a beautiful house and it's in a terrible, shady, scary neighborhood. It's not going to go well, you know, it's not going to have much, you're not going to, there's a lot of problems with it. So that's how I like to explain hosting, which is why I tell them to stay clear of the super cheap hosting companies like GoDaddy and some of these other ones.
Whereas SiteGround, it's a little more expensive, but it's not that much more expensive. It's also much more affordable than some of these other really high tier hosting premium hosting companies. Um, so that's kind of one thing I explained and just let them know, you know, there's. Apart from just the website design.
There's also a lot of things that you need to think about with the site in order for it to be successful moving forward. So I always mention it initially. Now I don't make people sign up if they don't want to do hosting and maintenance, we'll still build the site. However, One thing that I had. And one thing that I talk about in that podcast episode, I mentioned was having some sort of disclosure at the end of a project that basically says, you know, if you don't host with us or use our maintenance plan, you, you are responsible for these things.
Updates need to be, or excuse me, plugins need to be updated. WordPress needs to be updated. You're opening yourself up to hacks. You're not using the site is not going to be backed up. It's not going to be reported on. So there's a lot of things. Yeah. The clients would see and go, Oh, you know, yeah. Maybe I do want to do this from that though.
I definitely, I'm not big on any sort of sales scare tactics. For me. It was at the end of a project coming in again with the maintenance plan. So they, you know, they knew we were going to talk about this, um, and then really selling them on the. Reasons why, like, why it's so important, but also what we're going to do for them.
And, you know, ongoing to make sure we keep the site successful. And for me, one of the biggest sellers, apart from the optimization, the updates, the backups and the reporting is in those plans. I always, I always offer up to an hour of updates and content for free. So if they wanted to use, you know, if they had updates, they wouldn't need to pay our higher hourly rate.
They have an hour covered. Um, And that worked out really well for me, because to be honest, there was only a handful of clients that ever did that. Now, if you have 50 clients on your planet, every single one of them is using those hours. That becomes a little bit of an issue. And there's ways to work around that.
But more often than not, you know, you might get a handful of clients that use that. And again, it's just a great way to add more work if they have some updates. So you use your hour, then you can say, you know, we're up on time this month, we can either, you know, save this work for next month or you can buy a retainer of ours.
And we can do that. So that's how I really built up my business as a solo printer and managing a small team. And that goes back. So what I said earlier with not having to get a ton of clients every month, if you have 20 really good clients on your maintenance plan and they're giving you more and more work that takes a feast and famine out of it, and you can just continue to scale that it's very manageable.
It's very scalable as well.
Chris: [00:33:14] Yeah. That's, that's great insight. And I think something that. Makes, you know, getting into web design that much, that much more appealing, you know, because it becomes less of a money for time, but money for value and peace of mind. And this service that you're providing that. You know, people might not necessarily know how to navigate through, you know, for us, it's probably super easy, but for most folks, it's, it's something that they have to really kind of pivot and learn.
Josh: [00:33:43] Yeah. And that's, most clients don't want to do that. Like most clients don't want to be logging into their site. They have no idea how to update plugins or what most of my clients don't even know what WordPress is, you know, they just wear their web person. So yeah, it's really, that's one of the biggest things.
And I will say too, one thing I noticed with, um, with. Clients who passed on the plan is they would come back for whatever reason. A lot of times they would need more work and it'd be a great chance to upsell the plan, but then also some clients, their sites get hacked and we're like, well, you know, we told ya, uh, so we've got a lot of clients that way as well.
Chris: [00:34:18] Any final words on maintenance plans or advice to offer people.
Josh: [00:34:23] Um, for maintenance plans, the biggest thing is I feel like you just gotta remember. It's so, you know, it's a big win for you as a web designer because you can build a recurring income and it's produces a steady stream of work, but there's so many benefits for your clients too.
And that's what you need to relate to them because you become their trusted web person. And you look after the hard work that you did on their website, and it's such a crucial part of their business, their website. So somebody needs to maintain that. And I found too. There's just a lot of value. And again, just being that person ongoing because when you're a web designer, I realized early on web design is not a quick one and done service.
Like a lot of other industries are, even if they decline your maintenance plan and they, you just build a website for them. At some point, you're going to hear from that client again, whether their site gets hacked or whether it goes down or whether they need to change or maybe, you know, they get somebody new in the business and then they're like, we should redesign our website who designed the website.
And they're like, Oh, who was that? Jimmy or Jeremy or Josh or somebody from like, you know, eight years ago. So you're going to be involved in the future at some point. So I always tell clients, we're starting a relationship that's gonna last a long time. And it's also another reason why you don't need to get a ton of clients.
You can invest, you know, in really good service for one client at a time. And that's how it builds. And then next thing you know, you've got 20, 30, 40 clients for life.
Chris: [00:35:46] So let's pivot a little bit and talk about what you used early on to, to build your websites. Um, and I know that you're a big proponent of Divi and I'm sure there's a lot of listeners who are familiar with it, but maybe kind of explain what DV is and your process in finding it and starting to use it.
Josh: [00:36:06] Yeah. So I'll start by saying I learned web design with Dreamweaver and hand putting websites. Like I mentioned, I think it was back in 2010 when I got into web was before WordPress really took off. And so I was doing hand coded HTML websites. And then I heard about this thing called WordPress. I got to know it and I enjoyed using it.
The problem in the early days though, was I was going to these sites like theme forest, and some of these other theme sites and finding a site that would a WordPress theme that would look like something that my client wanted. So we'd pay, you know, 50, 60, 70 bucks for this one theme. Then I would try to build it.
You know, if it was a medical office, I'd find a medical theme or something like that. Well, I was starting subcontracting for this company in Columbus. It's just on the side. And they use this tool called Divi and it was a WordPress theme and it was kind of a blank slate. It was kind of just a one thing that you could customize the heck out of it to design it, whatever you were.
It did take me a couple of months come around to it. But then I remember I was working with another client and I went back to theme forest, and I tried to find a theme and I just had such a nightmare cause I had to relearn themes over and over all the different settings. And I was like, man, I should just use Divi for this.
And then I realized I should just use Divi for this site. And then once I got used to how it's all set up and I got used to in technical terms, the IDs and the classes, and as I started knowing, learning how to customize things more with CSS, I realized that I could pretty much build any type of site I wanted on Divi.
And since 2014, I have not used another theme. Since Divi. So I know there's a lot of builders out there. There's, Elementor BeaverBuilder and some of these other ones and that's fine, but for me, Divi has been like the rock of my, of my business. And it's just, it's increased my design time in record time because I don't need to relearn anything.
I already know how it's built. I can save my layouts and the way I like to do stuff. And this was huge man for scaling my business because when I brought Jonathan my lead designer on, he already used Divi, he was already familiar with it. So he didn't need to learn a whole new system. He already knew Divi.
I just showed him how I used it and the way I like to code stuff and what we do. And we took off from there and it was also really crucial for updating our mate, for our maintenance plan, you asked earlier about how much time it took. Well, I will say one reason. It didn't take much time at all is because all of our sites were primarily Divi.
There is only a handful of sites that we were managing or, uh, previous to Divi, uh, which that's very, very interesting when you log back in into a site that did it eight years ago, and you realize how far you've come, but yeah, Divi just became the tool that just made my life easier in so many ways.
And the cool thing about Divi. Elegant themes, which is the company that makes it is very community-driven and user customer-driven. So they're constantly updating it and innovating it in good ways. It's not overwhelming when they add to it, but the community around it, man, the community is amazing.
That's honestly, one of the biggest draws for me that the DV community is definitely something special. And it's where I made my name client frequently. When I. When I started this personal brand joshhall.co, the first thing I did was as I started doing tutorials on Divi, I just shared little tricks and tips that I, that I use and I knew, and that's how I built my YouTube channel.
Um, and then I also did get connected with Elegant Themes and I became a, a blog author for elegant themes. And I wrote for them for a handful of years. Uh, I just reached out to the content manager. I saw he, he happened to live in Columbus, so I just Facebook message and say, Hey man, um, I'm a local DV designer.
I'd love to take you out for coffee and just kind of told him about my business. And he asked me if I'd be willing to contribute to the blog. Um, so that's kinda how I segued from being a freelance designer to becoming an authority in the Divi realm. Uh, and. It's likely that if you search for DV tutorials, you'll see one of my videos pop up at some point, I'm still trying to do more of those.
Um, I'm investing more on my podcasts and courses now, but I'm still heavily involved in the DV community. Big time.
Sounds like, you know, community was a big aspect in the reason for you kind of going down that road. I'm sure there are plenty of w. Web designers out there who are weighing their different options, you know?
Cause there's, there's so much more now than when I first started. And for sure when you first started, as far as what is available to you, so what kind of things play into the factor of what. Web designers should be looking for when it comes to like a visual builder, like Divi or Elementor or whatever.
That's a good question. So obviously I'm biased to Divi, but in any case, I would say, look at the company that makes it. How long have they been around? What kind of company are they, are they like, you know, really big on innovating and pushing forward? Um, you know, do you feel reliable? Cause th the thing, the most important thing to remember when you pick your tools, not only are they the tools for your company, but they're the tools for all of your clients' websites too.
So it's a super, super important decision. Um, now having said that, yeah, Again, we do still have a few clients. We manage and sites that we manage from when I design a backend, like. 11 and 12 before Divi. And, um, you know, there are ways to revamp those. And a lot of times, some of those clients that I designed sites for, I would circle around and say, listen, we use a whole new set of tools.
The site's five years old. Are you guys interested in the redesign and we'd end up redesigning the site with Divi. So that's, that's a really cool option. You can always pivot and you can always change those tools. But it's a great question. You know, what you're looking for is something reliable. Not only the tool, but the company again, because the company is the one that's, you know, are they going to be around in two or three or five years or 10 years?
Are, do you think they have it in them just to be the law to be in the long game? Um, so for me, elegant themes was that I used them before Davy because before Divi, they just produced, you know, themes. You could, you could try out just like theme, forest. So I knew they were reputable. Um, but again, and in the other aspect is the community, what is the community like?
Divi? There's just something about the community that everyone is open. So many people are giving the share code, they share their stuff. And I mean, WordPress is like that in general. I think the WordPress community is incredible and there's word camps and there's meetups. Um, but the cool thing about kind of niching to a certain tool is.
You have WordPress, which is, you know, millions of users or whatever, however many there are, but then you have like a smaller, a segment of that, which is Divi, WordPress, web designers. And that's kind of what I'm in, but I know Elementor and some of these other builders have similar growing communities. I can't speak on those cause I'm just not a part of them, but for me, the Divi community was just.
You know, it was a big seller. And to be honest, as everyone will find out when you're a solopreneur, particularly as a web design freelancer, it just gets dang lonely when you're working from home by yourself all the time. So having a community where you can get that, um, you know, community, I was going to say fellowship, it's kind of a funny word to think about with web design, but, uh, yeah.
You know, you hear from other people you share tricks. It's a really good chance to share your knowledge, but also gain a lot and kind of expedite your journey. Uh, it's also really good networking and a really great way to not only find work, but then again, to scale your business. Cause for me, I didn't have to put a job ad out on Indeed.
I just did. I did a series of interviews where I interviewed other Divi web designers and that brought me really good people. So, um, just a handful of things I can think about. You know, off the top of my head as to what you're looking for when choosing a tool.
Chris: [00:43:37] Yeah. That's awesome. And you can certainly tell that somebody has been a part of a church when they use words like fellowship.
Josh: [00:43:44] Are we all enjoying our web design fellowship today.
Chris: [00:43:46] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I, I, I, those things come out of my mouth all the time. I'm like, wait, that's not the right context for that word.
Josh: [00:43:54] It's interesting too. What I will say. Because in my experience, particularly as I've grown this brand and I've really expanded my network of web designers, I'm fascinated by how many people come from.
Not only churches or different industries, but particularly musicians. Uh, there are a high level, a high amount of really good web designers and creatives who are come from the music world. So, um, it's just a really cool thing just for web design. In general, if you're thinking about getting into web design, I'm a big proponent of.
These different path B making sex successful web designers, because you don't need to go to a four year college to be successful. In web design. I actually am a firm believer that the people who go to a four year college a four year college degree are very far behind and they take things so much slower.
And I've actually had several students come through my courses that say they've learned more from my courses. And, you know, a month or two than they did in four years in college. So I say all that to say, you know, if you're coming from a different industry into web design, awesome, uh, particularly musicians, we just have in the way of like tinkering with things and figuring stuff out.
And, uh, it's pretty cool to see that, you know, web design is just, WordPress is just a collection of awesome people from different industries.
Chris: [00:45:11] Absolutely. And I have a similar, um, experience with a lot of people I know being in bands and then realizing the skills that they learned to promote their band were actually something that they could use to live off of rather than being a musician, you know, because you don't make a lot of money from playing your guitar for somebody.
Josh: [00:45:31] So the great thing too is your experience, no matter what it is, but particularly for musicians who are in bands is it's amazing how much traffic that translates to web design. Uh, whether it's, you know, mixing the creative process with business, but also working with other people. And, um, you know, there's just so many things that translate to business and particularly web design, because like I said, you're right, musician, you're tinkering with stuff you're experimenting.
You're, you're fixing things that break with your instruments. And that is, yeah, exactly what you're doing. Web design on a daily basis, you just experiment, you try something new, something breaks, you fix it, you figure stuff out. Uh, so yeah, it's pretty cool, man.
Chris: [00:46:09] That's awesome. Well, I've so appreciated you being on the self made web designer, podcasts, such, such good insight.
And, um, and I think there's a lot to chew on here. So super thankful for having you come share your, your journey.
Josh: [00:46:22] Well, thanks for having me on, Chris. Yeah. When you reached out, I checked out your podcast. I've heard a few episodes so far and I've been a new fan. It looks like you've got some really good content growing and very excited for yourself, man.
Definitely the way to go. You don't have to, you don't have to be in the game for too long before you start sharing what you know, and then it just opens up all kinds of doors. So, uh, yeah. I appreciate you having me on man. Hopefully this was some encouragement to folks, particularly if you're just getting started in web it's, you know, it's a wild, big, crazy world that's changing constantly, but I think the really cool thing about web design, if I can just end with a final thought is there's not a right or wrong way to go about it.
There's so many different paths. There's so many different ways you can set up your business for what works for you. Like my business, when I got started was completely different because I was single. I was living with my dad for the first few years. I didn't need too much, but as you know, I matured and grew and as I got married and now that I have two kids, my business needs to be well into the six figures to support.
Me and my family. So the cool thing is web design can fit your life no matter where you are and what you're looking to do. And then as you evolve. So can you,
Chris: [00:47:27] Yeah, that's great. So, so tell us for anybody who's wanting to connect with you where they can find you and how they can connect.
Josh: [00:47:33] Yeah. You can go to my web, the site, which is Josh hall.co, and that's kind of my hub for all of my content.
I've got courses there, but I also, 90% of my stuff is free. So you can look through tutorials. I've got a podcast as well, which I'll probably. Talk to you, Chris, about getting you on here pretty soon to share your story. Um, but yeah, I've got all kinds of content that is just based off of my experience with over a decade with building my business.
And, uh, I'm putting out more content now about what's going on recently, where, where I did sell it and kind of have some ownership of it. So, uh, yeah, the journey continues, man, but yeah. Josh hall.co you can find me there. I'd love to help anyone get started in their journey.
Chris: [00:48:11] That's awesome. One final question. Will you come back to the podcast later on and will you set up your drums and play for us?
Josh: [00:48:18] Yeah, I haven't packed away in the basement. I, I do have a drum solo clip, all Cynthia, maybe, maybe that we'd have to do it between nap times since I've worked from home, we get the baby's napping, but, uh, I'll consider it for sure.
Chris: [00:48:32] I can tell already that Josh is somebody that I'm going to be connected with for a long time teacher. He's such a great guy, such good information on how to build a thriving web design business. I hope that you've benefited from it. I know that you have. Go ahead. Check out Josh hall dot C O and his podcast, the Josh hall web design show.
I know that you're going to love it and Hey again, we're going to do this next week with another great episode. I just want to say thank you again for listening. If you haven't already be sure to sign up, subscribe to this podcast, leave a review, leave a rating. It'll go a long way in helping you. Other people find this podcast and benefit from it as well.
But until next week, Wednesday night, midnight. Just remember if you don't quit, you win.
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