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Why Maintenance Plans Aren’t the Best Idea for Bloggers or Developers

You want a professional you can trust. Someone familiar with your site and consistently available to help you reach your goals. You ask around and find a few companies that offer maintenance plans. You compare your options, pick one, and are so excited to move forward! Just a few months in, though, you get an itchy feeling that you’re unable to express: Why does your maintenance plan suddenly feel less fulfilling, yet like something you can’t afford to give up?

I call this the maintenance paradox. It’s the idea that the service you’re receiving is both invaluable and unsubstantial. How can it be both?

  • Lack of developer expertise
  • Difficulty expressing and understanding scope
  • The hourly trap
  • Restricting mentality

Lack of Developer Expertise

Developers who offer blanket maintenance plans have to be knowledgeable in everything, which makes it difficult for them to become experts in anything. That’s because the maintenance plans they offer eat time and inhibit growth.

Despite this, you’ll feel as if the developer handling your maintenance plan should be doing everything for you. After all, you’re already paying them and they’re theoretically capable of it.

Relying on a developer for services outside their expertise can lead to low-quality work that costs you more over time, unfortunately. That cost might be measured in time, energy, peace of mind, traffic, or money,

The Hourly Trap

Most maintenance plans are based on a number of provided hours, due to the difficulty in defining what will and won’t be needed. These hours are intended to provide flexibility to the client, but instead fail to address the true scope of a project or expertise of a developer.

When you think of work in terms of hours, you stop measuring its value in terms of convenience and outcomes. This is perhaps the worst pitfall of maintenance plans, as it manipulates your mindset from an abundance viewpoint to one of scarcity. Instead of seeing what a task might lead to, you worry about how many of your hours it will use up.

When a developer’s work is measured hourly, they may not have the time to give your request the proper attention it requires or implement the best solution… just something that works within the limitations they have.

Difficulty Expressing and Understanding Scope

Every client, business, and website is unique. The paths we take to our goals and the areas in which we’re willing to compromise vary. As such, each client will have their own needs, which will evolve in many ways over time. How can developers know where to draw the line between what’s covered and what’s not?

Although X hours feels like a clear indicator of what you’re receiving for your money, the reality is that you’re left with a vague idea that you have “time,” although you have no clue what kind work that translates in to. You don’t know what the developer’s expertise is, how they’ll grow with your company, or if the tasks you’ll need over time will be covered.

When you and your provider understand the outcome of “an hour” differently, an uncertainty arises, leading to dissatisfaction for both parties because clear expectations were not understood early on.

Restricting Mentality

This all culminates in the ultimate problem: You’ve placed yourself in a situation that limits your ability to see the best option.

You’re already paying for the service, and the developer can theoretically do the service, so why would you pay someone else? After all, anything that can be done within X hours is included, right? Plus, if you don’t use your time each month, you’ll lose it. So, if you haven’t already, you need to come up with some extra tasks that they can do.

In your attempt to ensure that you’re receiving the best value for your money, what’s happening is you’re handing off tasks that do little to save you time or progress your business. Instead, you begin to forget how to do these things and feel as if you cannot spare the time to take them on again.

You now rely on this maintenance plan but it isn’t growing with you nor providing valuable insights. Instead, it’s eating up a portion of your expenses while underdelivering on the tasks you wish it could provide.

How can we overcome this?

Maintenance plans aren’t a bad idea, as long as you’re aware of what you’re getting and understand the limitations of it.

Start by asking the developer about their expertise and what kinds of tasks are and aren’t included. This will give you an idea of what you should and shouldn’t ask of them, even if the agreement doesn’t state this information outright.

To be certain handing off these tasks will be valuable to you and your business, make a list of tasks you need done and evaluate:

  1. How long you typically spend on these tasks
  2. What value handing them off will provide to you
  3. What value having them done will provide to your business

Consider the type of tasks you want to hand off and hire someone with the right level of expertise. Ongoing agreements seem to be the best fit for repetitive tasks. If you need someone to consult with or handle a complex problem, that may be a better fit for a one-time project with a specific goal in mind.

Looking for a plan?

  • For backups, security, etc (and even a few small, occasional fixes), try Blog Tutor.
  • For audits, particularly in regards to your server health, and priority support, try WPopt.
  • For education and community, try Food Blogger Pro.

Can I hire Once Coupled to maintain my site?

At this time, we have only one type of maintenance plan: Speed: Google PageSpeed Insights Score Monitoring. This includes small fixes as required, but doesn’t include any hosting management or plugin/theme replacement, even when advised as part of your month audit.

Hopefully we’ll be able to offer more options in the future, but at this time we’re focusing on our expertise in theme development and site speed. 🙂

Why Maintenance Plans Aren’t the Best Idea for Bloggers or Developers

One response to “Why Maintenance Plans Aren’t the Best Idea for Bloggers or Developers”

  1. Andrew @ Blog Tutor Avatar

    Absolutely. The most successful bloggers and businesses will build a team of people who can help them in various areas… hiring a “jack of all trades, master of none” doesn’t usually work out so well.

    We’ve decided to be experts in maintenance, security, and support — rather than in design and development — for exactly the reasons you mentioned. Narrowing our focus has allowed us to provide even better service for our clients. (And that has also allowed me to stop pretending to be a graphic designer!) 😉

    You also make a great point about the “hourly” features of most other support plans. I totally agree — which is why we include “Quick Support Requests” instead of “hours.” The idea is to provide solutions to problems (and answers to questions), without our clients having to stress about whether or not they’ve “used up” their hours in a given month.

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