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Oct 21, 2023 | 0 comments

The Oversight That Cost My Agency Big: A Realization in Website Maintenance

Back In Time

4 Minutes read

Hidden Cost Of Web Maintenance Plans Blog Cover Photo
When I first devised our website maintenance plans, I thought I had it all figured out. Four distinct levels, each including hosting, designed for seamless client retention and operational efficiency. Everything was standardized, from processes to themes, and it was working like a charm... until it wasn't.

The Issue That Crept Up on Us

In our agency’s initial hosting and maintenance packages, we calculated pricing based on market-value hosting and a small fee for maintenance. We based our hosting cost on the starter plan from WP Engine, because 99% of our clients fit that bill at the time, and we added a small margin for our maintenance efforts to the total monthly fee.

We were so in the website maintenance mindset that we overlooked hosting as a real cost factor.

-Bill, Agency Owner

This made for a straightforward, easy to sell plan, where clients loved the simplicity. But then growth happened — not our agency’s growth, but our clients’. And with growth came increased website activity and resource usage, something our original plans didn’t account for.

Our clients sites performed excellent for years with no issues. However, over time what started as a $400/mo fixed cost became $600, $900, then an additional server at $400, $600 and so on. While our clients rates stayed the same, because we didn’t have a clear system in place to charge fair overage charges.

Disclaimer: our agency uses WP Engine and we confidently recommend them for 3 reasons:

  • their unbeatable and rapid support
  • a personalized partner program where you are highly valued and prioritized
  • higher profitability by offsetting the expense required to pay a web developer to maintain a high standard of server maintenance and 24/7 support (allowing us to scale faster)

The Resource Spike Dilemma

We found ourselves in a predicament when we began taking on larger websites. After migrating sites to our server, we’d get hit with the reality of their resource spikes. Try explaining to a client why their hosting costs just skyrocketed by $200 after 3 months — it’s as tough a conversation as it sounds. We were so in the website maintenance mindset that we overlooked hosting as a real pricing factor.

At one point we had one single membership and a small restaurant site on a $900 server and it was maxed. Not ideal. Hosting and maintenance went from being a high profit margin, bread and butter service, to a total loss on the books.

You can only come close to maxing resource capacity for so long before the consequences of running out of of gas hits like a ton of bricks. Picture 50 clients with an internal server error because one website had a massive spike and their reaction.

Finding a Solution

We needed a strategy that allowed for scalability without complicating billing or overloading our servers. That’s when we introduced a variable dollar amount per of bandwidth into our hosting plans, setting a benchmark for changing billing based on resource usage. We also needed a re-evaluation of deciding when a client should be put on their on own dedicated server, forgoing much higher profit margins, but ensuring they are able to utilize full server resources.

We decided to adjust the terms on our 4 maintenance levels to address any ambiguity specified that you get 1 site, 10gb storage, 40gb bandwidth, 25,000 visitors/mo on all of our maintenance plans, with the base plan being priced at $49/mo. With this benchmark established, we could then monitor concrete resource usage reports from WP Engine, and adjust our clients’ billing by $0.49per additional gb of bandwidth required to keep the website running smoothly. In this model the client gets fairly charged based on resource usage, and the amount corresponds roughly to costs involved in upgrading or downgrading WP Engine servers to keep up with demand.

AgencyPortal Download Free Website Maintenance Package PDF For Free Blog Cover Photo
Follow our knowledgebase article with step by step instructions to implement these packages.

Implementing Fair Billing with WHMCS

Thanks to WHMCS and its web host reseller capabilities, were able to implement this formula by utilizing configurable options, which account for a website’s actual server usage and transparently adds the modification to the invoice. Now, we’re able to clearly explain to our clients why hosting costs might fluctuate, and provide tangible data explaining why.

The Revised Plan

Today, our website, hosting, and maintenance packages still offer four fixed levels which we’ll talk more about in another post, but with a crucial difference: a variable component for hosting. This flexibility ensures we can scale without unforeseen expenses, preventing one resource-heavy site from impacting our entire client roster or our bottom line.

Key Takeaways

  • Always factor in potential growth and resource usage when creating maintenance and hosting packages.
  • Implement systems that allow for transparent, fair billing based on actual usage.
  • Regularly review and adjust your plans to ensure they remain beneficial for both your clients and your agency.

Closing Thoughts

This journey taught me that even the best-laid plans need revisiting and revision. It’s not just about what works now, but also what’s sustainable in the long run. Now, we’re better equipped to handle growth — ours and our clients’ — without it costing us an arm and a leg. And that’s a win in my book.

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About the Author

Bill Fow is a committed professional who balances his time between leading Aspire Digital Solutions and innovating at AgencyPortal. With an extensive background in digital marketing, he understands the challenges faced by marketing agencies and uses this insight to drive improvements and create client-oriented solutions. His dedication to his work is matched by his commitment to learning about the latest industry trends. When he's not working on his businesses, he enjoys spending quality time with his family.