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Web design/hosting/domain business in need of advice
So this is going to be a really long post and the TLDR is that I’m not sure “what to do”. I’m going to cross post this on several different subreddits because I’m getting advice from people in real life but I think really that I need to talk to people online to make the advice objective. I am going to dox myself hard so anyone in my field who reads this will know who i am and thus this is a throwaway.
I’m at a moment where i’m like “what next”.
The situation: So around 2005-2006 I was able to restore web services to a significant number of domain names and hosting packages, setting most up with Google Apps back when it was free, after a natural diaster, i’ve kept most of them all since then. The stats are below.
The 3 main services i provide are web site design, 99% wordpress, a dozen or so static sites still on my legacy dreamhost account, the majority of them on my veerotech server and all new clients going on wpengine just because...well, i like them. We also host web sites and do branding/design work as well.
Domains: At 241 domains, my domain registration is pretty standard pricing $34.99 minus whatever enom takes, i think it’s like $10-13 per domain per year? The thing with domains is they are a bitch to move for non tech/web people so they tend to stay with me, with people just paying it because it’s a hassle to unlock/request epp, transfer, get the transfer going, etc. The only issue is that enom keeps going up in price and i’ve never raced my price since 2005 but enom bumps their prices up over and over and it’s almost not worth the hassle of dealing with it but it’s kind of just something i have to provide if you are a web host or a web site designer. Also having it all under one roof makes me kinda more attractive in a sense and honestly i like being the registrar so i don’t have to deal with clients calling because they didn’t pay godaddy for a domain renewal because they thought “we handled it”.
241 active domain name registrations at $34.99 with enom so very little profit there but i kinda “have to do it”...
151 active clients in my whmcs account, lots of free hosting given to non profits in exchange for publicity at events,
1 dreamhost account as a legacy type server, mostly static sites - $19.99 a month
1 web server with veerotech - 213 cpanel accounts, lots of accounts are just cpanel accounts that forward to another site so it’s not as bad as it looks KVM VPS-400 - Managed Managed VPS $327.99 USD Monthly
1 web server with wpengine for new clients - 15ish sites - $290 a month
Whmcs install license/support - $whatever
I have a lot of $35.00 a month clients left over from 2005. This is almost 15 years without a single price increase, in fact the service has gotten better since i took it over. I’ve setup lets encrypt on existing clients to get them the free ssl, etc as well. We have a ticket system that is monitored by my overseas employee who takes care of 99% of the updates to the site such as content, etc. I’ve tried over the years to get clients to make the changes to the sites themselves or a office manager but I’m starting to wonder if the direction to go in is more of a concierge thing where they just submit changes and they are done and there is no hourly nickle/dime situation.
Veerotech has been great support, good uptime, really can’t recommend them enough but with the cpanel price increase causing a huge ? in the web hosting world, i’m really wondering if they are going to increase their prices just because.
Wpengine is the cadillac of web hosting in my opinion and I’ve bumped up my web hosting prices to $49.99 a month for new clients but it’s still amost not enough for basically unlimited content updates, etc.
My problem is that i have certain clients that i never hear from but they cut me a $400 a month check a year for web hosting that requires absolutely no support, etc. Mostly the static sites they don’t want to redesign, just easy money.
Everyone says i should raise my price etc but i’m so afraid of losing a $400 a year per client on mailbox money client because i rose my price and made them think about it and shop around. Cutting off your nose type situation. I’ve often thought about just moving the price up on every client but doing it in waves so i might lose more hosting clients but if i move it to $99.99 a month then maybe it comes across as “better service but more expensive”. This also gets into the clients that are condo associations and stuff that don’t update their web sites ever, just a static point of presence site on a $20 a month dreamhost account, why lose that money?
Design: I have a overseas developedesigner who makes incredible work. We do logo and branding around $750 for 4 logos, cards, kind of a basic branding package. Seriously amazing work.
We’re known for our wordpress designs tho. I charge about $3,500 for a wordpress site, they are all custom but i follow a equation with call to action items, etc to try to make them as effective as possible. I pay my web design team about $1,300 a month to create this work.
Please understand I’m scared to dox myself too bad on this but this is roughly what my market charges, i’m in the united states so don’t say “oh i charge $10k a site and live in L.A.” please, this is all relative.
Internal Marketing: I was paying someone locally to update my facebook/instagram/web site blog to try to get more organic search, also paying about $500 in PPC with google. I got a few cold calls from it but it just didn’t turn ROI enough so i had to stop. I’m thinking about starting back up with PPC in september to try to get more work in to try to turn this ship around but i’m so far in debt that i’m nervous going even farther. I talked with someone who can do a email marketing campaign with 100% verified emails, etc but i can’t really make a move on marketing until summer ends and my local market picks up. I’ve tried BNI many times and it just seems like a lame/weak way to get clients and the time it takes is insane. I network in other groups and what not but it seems like so much effort for so little reward.
The issue: My problem is i’m just not making enough money to support it. I have a mortgage note, child support, a office lease, car payments. I’ve taken loans to do balance transfers on credit cards but i really feel like i’m in a borrowing to pay situation. I know most people in this world are in debt in a sense but mine just seems to continue to get worse and worse. The city i live in has the worst insurance of the country, the cost just to live here is insane with rent and mortgage prices.
I’m a “local” web designer so if i do decide to just liquidate my assets and move, i start over from scratch which is tough at my age(i’m 40).
I don’t even know where the latest version of my resume is. If i did update it, i don’t really have a history of work since the last job i had was in 2006-2007 before i went back to freelancing full time. I’m not adverse to moving and starting new, it actually sounds amazing but I’ve lived for so long with the freedom of being self employed that it would be weird to just say “i didn’t do it right and now i sit in a fucking cubicle in a boring city”.
I just don’t know what to do. I’ve posted before about selling the domains/web hosting for a bulk sum and walking away from it and just focusing on design work, which is where the profit really seems to come from and totally walk away from “hosting” all together. Outsource hosting for everyone and just say “if you call me and need something i need you to pay in advance and we’ll do the design work, otherwise call godaddy or wpengine because if you want me to do anything it costs money up front”.
The problem is then it’s totally all design work and zero residual mailbox money from web hosting. The domain name stuff is even worse. It’s so little profit but over the years so many of my clients just call me first before even thinking about calling godaddy or anyone else.
Overall I’m feeling a real sense of dread. I have loans that i’ve taken out coming up due soon and i just can’t seem to bring in enough money. I’d post my monthly budget and people would tell me i’m spending too much on my car, house, etc but i really try to live within my means.
I’ve had people offer to buy it outright and i can just walk away and maybe keep the design business going but remove all the overhead of servers and the hassle of dealing with domains even tho that’s pretty much automated. The hosting is mostly automated as far as invoicing goes, etc but it still almost seems too much of a hassle vs profit.
Also the way hosting seems to be going, i almost just want to lose 90% of my clients by bumping up my pricing but i don’t even know what the value of the service I’m offering even is at this point?
Anyway, cross posting this to a dozen subreddits because i need advice.
submitted by bigblackboots