Websites for writers (and other folk)

July 20, 2018 No Comments

Like a lot of authors, I have a day job: I run a web development company called Creative Implementations, and I build WordPress websites for writers. And other folk.

I’ve been asked a couple of times lately what I do for clients. This post gets a little detailed, so bear with me!

(NOTE: Prices posted are current as of July 2018.)

First and foremost, if all you want is a blog or a really simple website, your least expensive option might be to go to https://wordpress.com/ and set up a free one. You may or may not want to pay for some of their available upgrades, like a custom domain name or a better template. A lot of authors never outgrow that – especially traditionally published authors whose publishers play a role in creating and maintaining their public profile.

I don’t handle those folks. Honestly, I’ve never set up a blog there (although I have moved clients away and to their own website/blog). I help the folks who want more than the free wordpress.com platform can deliver, by building them a self-hosted WordPress website. I don’t work with services like Wix or Weebly or Squarespace, either.

Having your own self-hosted website/blog involves several components:

Domain Name

Your domain name is how people find you. Think of it like a telephone number that you rent from the phone company. You “own” your domain name for as long as you pay for it. If you let it lapse, you run the risk of someone else scooping it up.

Even if you use the free blogging platform, if you want your own domain name I recommend that you register it separately from wordpress.com. I use GoDaddy because I like their interface and customer support.

But there are tons and tons of domain registrars out there. Whatever you do, don’t use the same company for domain registration for hosting. If you ever want to change to a different company, it’s much more difficult if the two are tied together.

Domain names can run you from $5-25 a year. Choosing a longer term when you register will reduce the cost. Country-specific domains like .ca or .uk are more expensive; so are some of the less common endings like .net or .info. I recommend sticking with .com, as that’s generally what everybody thinks of.

Some of my clients manage their domain registrations entirely on their own. Some set up their own accounts at a registrar, but have me manage it for them so they don’t have to keep track of renewal dates and billing. And some have me register their domain name into my account – they are always listed as the owner, but I am on file as the admin and billing contact.

If I register a domain name for a client, I pass through whatever I’m charged by the registrar without any markup. I do it as a convenience for both of us; if I set it up, we know the billing won’t lapse!

Hosting

A hosting account is rented space on a web server computer. It’s where the files that drive your website physically sit. There are a bazillion web hosts out there; some are better than others. I usually recommend that folks stay away from anything owned by EIG – they are a big conglomerate that has been buying up hosting companies over the last few years, and their customer service has an abysmal reputation. (They ruin what they buy!)

I also don’t recommend GoDaddy for hosting. While their customer service is better than it used to be, they are expensive by comparison and sometimes nickel and dime you to death for little things that other hosts include as a matter of course (like an SSL certificate, the thing that turns http:// into https:// and gives you the green padlock).

I have a reseller account on A2 Hosting. Their customer service is very responsive, and all the sites I have there work well.

A couple of other good (non-EIG) hosts are Siteground and NameCheap.

They’re all about the same price, at least for the first sign-up period. About the only thing I don’t like about A2 is that in order to get the price you see advertised, you have to pay in advance for a couple of years. But they do have a cancellation and refund policy. A lot of hosts don’t.

I offer hosting, for $75 per year per site. I can’t compete with the hosts who offer unlimited sites in a single account, but for a single site it works out about the same. I can offer a fixed price like that because I have pre-paid that multi-year account.

Just like with domain registrations, some of my clients come to me with their hosting already in place, some set up their own accounts that they have me manage, and some sign up under my account. It really doesn’t matter to me. I charge enough to break even, and host as a convenience for me and my clients. If I host it, I have full control and can get into the back end if something goes sideways.

Development

I build custom WordPress websites, based on the free code from https://wordpress.org/. I have a number of tools (themes and plugins) for which I own multi-site developer licenses. As long as a client doesn’t hire someone else to take over management of the site, they can continue to use my license.

If a client comes to me with their design / branding / logo already done, or really doesn’t needs anything more than their name in a pretty script and maybe a stock photo banner, I build a website around that without getting as designer involved.

If they need design work done, I have a couple of designers I can go to – and either the client negotiates with them directly, or I simply pass the cost through. A logo and/or website banner can cost as little as $50 and as much as… how deep is your wallet? For authors, I usually tell them to start with their cover artist. A lot of those folks also do web and social media banners.

Cost of development for a straightforward website/blog = $500. For things like private member areas (for authors with street teams), or ecommerce (selling directly from your site), we’d have a discussion on what exactly you wanted and I’d come up with an estimate.

Technical Maintenance

Once a WordPress website is built, someone has to maintain it. I’m not talking about adding or editing content; I’m talking about running backups, installing updates, troubleshooting if an update breaks something, controlling spam, configuring and monitoring security, and scanning for malware. Some hosting companies offer what they call Managed WordPress Hosting, which covers most of that. It can get expensive.

I offer a WordPress Technical Maintenance package for $275 per year. It includes all of those things. I log into all of my sites about once a week – more often, if it’s a week of many updates, less often if I’m travelling without my laptop – to check on them, take manual backups (I also run scheduled backups weekly), install updates if needed, etc.

One thing about hosting with me: I can’t host a WordPress website that doesn’t also have a maintenance package with me. An out-of-date site is a site susceptible to hacking, as most updates are security related. Having one endangered site in my hosting account puts the rest at risk.

I have a couple of clients who like to play in their websites. They’ve signed up for my Tech Maintenance package, and for them I also do a very basic WordPress installation at no additional cost. But I don’t design and build out the theme; they do that themselves because they like to play in there and they want more control than most of my other clients. So they’ve saved the $500 development cost that way.

Content Maintenance

I have some clients who really don’t want to ever log into their sites, so they send me updates by email. When I add or edit content, I charge $100 per hour in 15-minute increments (and usually save up the increments until we reach a billing threshold like $200).

That same rate holds if you ask me to do something like install and configure a plugin, or fix a problem that arises if you install one and it breaks something. Not all themes and plugins play nicely together!

Next Steps

I know this was a lot of information, so please feel free to contact me with questions! You can use the form here, or the one on my web development company site. And if you do decide to start with a free blog at wordpress.com, you can always transition it later to a self-hosted WordPress site. Themes don’t transfer, but all content does.

About Win

Win Day is a multi-published, award-winning author who loves to read and write about strong men and savvy women. Her first novel, On a Whim, won the RWA Contemporary Chapter’s Stiletto contest in two categories: Best Contemporary Short and Best First Book. Treasure in the Library is her second published novel. Visit her writing website at www.windaywrites.com or her web development company at www.creativeimplementations.com.

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