How Training Your Clients to Update Their Own Websites Helps You

training your clients

Ok, bear with me here. I understand the concern many of you have about fully turning over the keys of a website to a customer.

In the years I’ve been a web developer (16 or so), I’ve heard everything from customers from “I have no clue” or “I don’t have access to that” or “My other web developer handled that, but now they won’t answer my emails.”

When a business doesn’t have control over their foundational marketing piece, i.e. their website, that’s very bad news for me. However, this is a way for you to strike a happy medium of giving them control without worrying about them breaking that site you spend so many hours creating.

They Deserve to Have Control

Let’s just get this first point out of the way. I know that you’re worried that your client might break something or you’re concerned they don’t know what they’re doing, but you also don’t get to choose whether or not they break something. You created a website for their business, not your own. I actually have in all of my contracts that my clients own the copyright to their site (just not my code specifically) and thus they get full control of it.

A website is the centerpiece of a brand’s marketing. It’s where all the paid ads should drive traffic to, where they should be creating weekly content, and is basically the only piece that they have real control over without fear of changing algorithms. When you don’t give your clients access to their own domain names, full WordPress administrator, or another platform account, you’re tying them to you indefinitely and that’s not really fair to that client. They deserve to fully own their only piece of owned media in their marketing.

Training Your Clients

How do I walk that balance of giving a client control and empowering them to make changes to their own website (without touching a line of code or breaking it)? I take them through a training session after we build their site and/or provide training videos or PDFs that walk them through the routine tasks I know they’ll want to make.

There’s a few things I do to make training successful, so let’s break those down.

Ask Up Front What Changes are Frequent

Here’s my real secret that surprises every single client and makes them incredibly happy to keep working with me – I dig into their business during our discovery phase and ensure that I know exactly what they need to change on their website on a regular basis. I also ask how they plan on growing their business over the next year, two, and five years. While those plans might change, it’ll clue me into the kinds of changes they’ll need to make on their own website over time.

Because of these questions up front, I know the places I need to make easy to update – like adding new team members, creating landing pages for paid ads, writing new blog articles and linking those, adding videos, or adding new testimonials.

When I know what they’re going to want to change, I put most of my focus on making those super easy for my customer to manage on their own and ensure we focus on those pieces in our training session.

Using Advanced Custom Fields

How exactly do I make those frequently changed pieces easy to update? For years now, I’ve relied on Advanced Custom Fields Pro to make my themes incredibly flexible and customized for every business I work with. If you’re unfamiliar with ACF, it basically allows you to create custom meta fields throughout your website – but like on steroids.

I can create flexible layouts, repeatable fields, and universal content blocks quickly and easily with ACF. It also means my clients are able to swap out pictures, change up text, or even create entirely new pages without worrying about breaking their design or having to code anything.

In fact, my goal when I create ACF fields is to make everything so easy that once a client gets into their site, they’ll be able to figure it out intuitively. Plus, with my focus on hyper consistency in my designs, it ends up saving me a lot of time to use ACF to supercharge my custom-coded WordPress themes.

Screen Record When You Make Changes

If you want to make those training videos super easy, all you have to do is screen record and narrate what you’re doing when you’re making a requested change. You can walk through and do a dummy edit (which I typically do), but for your first couple of websites that you’re planning on training, I’d recommend offering 30 days of free support (just include that in your flat rate price upfront) and have them send changes to you. Then, simply use Vimeo or Streamyard and a simple mic to record the screen as you make those changes. Explain what you’re doing and show the entire process, then simply share that private video link with them.

You can also use plugins like Video User Manuals which provide WordPress generic tutorials and let you upload custom videos for that specific website. They embed those in the WordPress admin side, so the videos are all right there as your clients are making changes.

How Does Training Help You?

OK, so you get why training is just a best practice for dealing with clients and how to do it, but how exactly does it help you and your business? After all, isn’t training taking away potential revenue for you?

The short answer? No, it’s not. Here’s the thing, in my many years of working with clients on WordPress sites specifically, those that want to be able to make changes themselves are going to do it regardless. Providing them training and building their websites to be easy to update means it’s less likely that they’ll break something. That means you don’t have to worry about using a live link to that particular project in your portfolio (Oh come on, we all have those projects) because you’ve given your clients the tools they need to maintain their website without breaking your pretty designs.

I’ve also found that even when clients receive their training, through live video sessions with me or pre-recorded, they still may not want to make those changes on their own. And the fun part? You’ll get really good at figuring out when a client is the kind that will be empowered and want to make those changes and when they won’t.

When I get the type of client who doesn’t want to make changes, I still ensure that they have access to literally everything, but then offer them a Care Plan where I take care of it. Those Care Plans typically include hosting, WordPress & plugin updates, and minor changes. It’s nice recurring revenue for me. And bonus – those change requests are even easier for me to make because I’ve made them easy for my client to make. I actually get a lot of clients on care plans because I point out that even though changes are relatively user-friendly, it might take them an hour where it can take me 15 minutes; what’s their time worth in comparison?

While yes, training your clients may take away a little bit of money from your bottom line at first, more often than not what it’ll do is turn that grateful client into a referral machine (I’ve had one client who loved being able to update her site so much she’s sent 4 quality referrals my way and counting).

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