The RIGHT Way To Handle Updates (And Save Your Time) On Your Client’s WordPress Website

When the development stage of a WordPress website is over and after a careful check-through, it’s time to hand the website over your client. There are some scenarios I can tell you about. In one case, your client is willing to pay for post-production maintenance. In the other case, they aren’t pleased to do so, and they want to update everything on their own (of course if anything goes wrong, they’ll turn back to you for help).

If you are building website for your own use, it won’t be that complicated, right? But negotiation is not that hard, you know. And negotiation is not the only medium to reach an agreement on website updates with your client.

Here are some good experiences and tips to smoothen the maintenance process on your client’s website so both parties will be happy.

#1: Talk to Your Client About Updates Before You Start Your Project

It’s an inevitable part of working with WordPress or any other CMS that CMS-powered websites need to be upgraded. In a new update release, there is always new functionality, new features, security fixes, etc. It’s essential to update a website when there is a major, stable long-term update.

However, not all clients take it seriously. Updates are not bad thing at all, yet many are reluctant to install updates since they are afraid of the extra maintenance cost or a broken website after the update. Since the developer is the one who is directly involved, it’s your job to help your clients be aware of the need for updates before jumping into the project.

The shortest way to deal with this is by talking to your client about possible updates after their website is complete. Don’t put too much emphasis on whether or not they should pay you for updates and maintenance seriously, updating a website is not a big deal and should not be a deal breaker your only goal is to make them understand how important updates are for their website. That’s all. Once they understand that, they’ll make their own decision.

#2: Offer A Maintenance and Backup Plan For Your Client

If the client is not comfortable with doing the updates by themselves, they will need to hire someone to do it for them. In this case, why not offer them your detailed maintenance and backup plan with a fair price?

With this presented, in your client’s eyes, you are truly a professional and thoughtful developer. There are two ways for you to carry it out:

One, make it clear which parts you are going to take care of in other words, draw a clear line of where your responsibility is. For example, you can offer WordPress-related updates on a regular basis, but you won’t be in charge of any third party plugins that the client uses in their site. Why? Because in many cases, your client uses poorly-written plugins which cause their website to break. Personally, I don’t recommend this method (I believe that it’s not fair to put updates and security stuff on your client’s shoulders it’s the job of the pros) but some developers prefer it this way.

Two, take responsibility for any updates needed within your client’s website as well as backups for a monthly or yearly fee. If anything breaks, you’ll fix it for free unless it requires massive re-coding. You can avoid serious breakdowns and other damage by testing updates on your own site before applying them to your client’s.

#3: Take The Lead In What You Need To Do (Even If You’re Not Asked to)

I’m sure that your client will be very satisfied and happy when you take on all the boring stuff with updates so they can concentrate on doing their business. Therefore, even if your client doesn’t agree to sign a maintenance contract with you, you can actively take care of updates and backups for later use. Believe me. Your client will be thankful because they will need it from you.

Plus, with self-managed updates and backups, you can email your client after each backup with statistics on the number of updates applied, backups done, etc. This is a smart way to remind them that you do exist. And it helps for referrals down the road they see you as professional and devoted they will refer your name to people in their circles.

Like I said above, the responsibility of maintaining website should be yours and yours only. Let them know you are a rock-n-roll developer who knows how to get your job done well and always puts client’s benefit above all.

#4: Train Your Client To Do Things On Their Own

Training for your client is necessary. A WordPress tutorial on backups and regular updates will help your client as well as increase your free time.

A training course will be a must if:

  • Your client is not willing to pay a maintenance fee, or,
  • You are too busy to take care of maintenance. You’ll get this if you are a freelancer. The more websites you build, the more weight of maintenance there will be for you. And you lose time for non-maintenance work on the new updates. If you are lucky, you won’t encounter any problems after an update. But often, it does have problems and always urgent problems that need to fixed as soon as possible.

Note that for the first scenario, if the client thinks they can handle maintenance, make sure there is a clear demarcation of responsibility.

For the second situation, you can train your client. A WordPress admin job doing updates is not hard at all. Simply, show them how to update WordPress core, plugins, themes, etc. Show them how to do a proper backup regularly. You don’t directly update their website but sometimes, you should pay a visit to your clients’ sites and send a reminder to them if you notice any websites left without updates for a while.

What if people don’t like to do things by themselves but don’t like to hire you to do them either?

Then introduce them to some update/backup solutions. WordPress has many excellent services that help update, backup and secure a website instantly. ManageWP and InfiniteWP are worth being in your recommendation list.

#5: Bonus: Is It Safe To Update Your WordPress Website to WordPress 3.9?

Talking about updates, I’d like to mention a little about WordPress installation of the latest version: WordPress 3.9 “Jimmy Smith”. This is a long-term and stable release from WordPress. Should you update your websites with this version?

The answer is, it depends on your website’s themes and plugins. Should you update immediately or wait for a while? If you are using plugins that are related to TinyMCE (visual editor) and if your server is using PHP 5.5 and above, you should not jump into an update. Wait for the plugins’ developers to update their products to be compatible with WordPress 3.9 because in this version, there are many significant changes in the visual editor.

Fortunately, those who don’t rely on plugins much and write their code themselves will have an easy time updating to WordPress 3.9.

Before updating: you should take a copy of your website first, either on a test domain or local server. After that, upgrade to WordPress 3.9 and run all the tests before updating your live site to WordPress 3.9.

WordPress Website Updates? Nail It!

Do you always include a maintenance plan when dealing with a project for your client? This should not be a win or lose game but a win-win game for everyone. The clients are happy because their sites are safe and up-to-date while developers can spend time on other projects.

I hope that the tips above will help you have peace of mind with your maintenance jobs and leave you free to focus on what you do best. Do you have any experiences in this case to share?

by Vivian Vu

I'm a proud minion in the WooRockets Team. Enjoy life, music, writing blogs and LOVE to read comments for my blogs - So feel free to connect with me by leaving a comment right below or tweet me @vivianjedi

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