Hosting

The pros and cons of selling web hosting

If you’re a web designer, you’ve probably had more than one client ask you about hosting:

  • Where will my site be hosted?
  • Do you provide hosting?
  • Can I continue hosting my site with my current provider?

Some clients are particularly hands-off and need someone to handle everything relating to their website, including domain registration, hosting, and help with email setup.  Designers and agencies with clients like this typically do one of two things:

  • They point the client in the direction of a recommended hosting provider, and perhaps guide them through the signup process.  This might be a trusted local company that they partner with, or a major hosting provider they’re familiar with.
  • They find a hosting company whose services they can resell, and then handle everything for the client, billing them for hosting/support on a regular basis.  Eventually, they might cut out the middle man by setting up their own server or leasing one, effectively becoming a hosting provider themselves.

So, the question that many successful designers will eventually ask themselves is:  Should I sell web hosting services to my clients?

Shortly after going into business I answered “yes” to this question, and nearly 15 years later, my company hosts the majority of the websites it builds, and relies on hosting for a large portion of its revenue.  I’ve learned some hard lessons about the hosting business over the years, and although I would probably make the same choice again, it would have been helpful to know the ramifications of that choice up front.

With that, here are some pros and cons of selling web hosting to your design clients.

Pros:

  • It generates a recurring revenue stream that can keep you afloat during lean times.
  • It helps you build relationships and retain clients by changing your business model.  Instead of being a one-time service provider, you become a one-stop shop for any need that a client might have relating to their website.
  • It gives you greater control over sites and the ability to solve clients’ problems.

Cons:

  • There’s a steep learning curve.  Although you’ll be able to rely on your hosting provider if you choose to resell hosting, eventually you’ll be asked to handle things and troubleshoot problems that will stretch your abilities and force you to learn at least a basic amount of server administration.
  • Clients will expect you to be available to resolve support issues.  If you’re a freelancer, selling hosting effectively changes you into a company, at least in the eyes of many clients.  You won’t have the luxury of being able to say that you’re too busy to take on their request, or that they’ll have to wait until your schedule clears up.
  • It’s incredibly stressful at times, especially if there’s downtime or some other problem that’s beyond your control.  You’ll also have to be concerned about security, data backups, and a variety of other potential responsibilities.

So why did I choose to sell hosting, and why does my company continue to provide hosting to clients?  In addition to the benefits listed above, hosting our clients’ websites gives us the ability to serve them better, because it minimizes our reliance on third parties.  We can customize a client’s hosting environment as we see fit, and more importantly, troubleshoot and resolve most hosting issues without having to be at the mercy of another company.

Nevertheless, this choice isn’t for everyone.  (In fact, my company works with several designers and small agencies by providing hosting for their clients’ websites, so they don’t have to worry about it themselves.)  If you choose to rely on another company for hosting, the key is to find a provider with the experience and reliability necessary to keep you from losing sleep at night.

Have you made the choice to sell (or not sell) hosting services?  If so, what were your reasons, and would you make the same choice again?

pxMag on Twitter

Advertisement