Should You Host Your Clients Websites?

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Chris Coyier on (Updated on )

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This question was sent in by jamie y.

I have been asked before when talking to potential customers if I could host their site. Right now I have been referring them to a hosting company. But I was wondering how I might be able to host them myself and pocket that hundred bucks instead of giving it to the hosing company. Is there an easy way of doing this?

Absolutely yes, you should offer to host your clients sites and profit from this.

If a client already has their own hosting, that’s fine, but if this will be a brand new site and they don’t already have hosting, I think you should go so far as to suggest that you host it. As a freelancer, you should invest in some decent hosting, and host all your sites right on that server. Why?

  • You’ll be more comfortable on your own server. You’ll learn how to create and manage databases quickly. You’ll have access to any logs. You know what the environment is like, what software its running and on what platform. Your backup procedures don’t need to change. You’ve already dealt with customer support. You know how the backend works, how to set up cron jobs and all that. The list goes on and on and on. It just feels better to work on a site on your own server.
  • You’ll have the control you need. Need to upgrade versions of PHP? It’s your server, you can do whatever you want with it. If the client owns the hosting, you might have to go through their IT guy and who knows what all red tape.
  • It’s a value-added service. Knowing how to handle web servers is a high level skill, even at the basic level. Most clients don’t even want to think about it, they just want their website to work. Handling the hosting of a client’s site can makes you look even more valuable, which of course you are!
  • You can charge for it. Never once have I had a client complain about the fees charged for hosting. They know it costs money and takes time.

At Chatman Design, as of maybe a month ago, we have now consolidated every client site we have onto a single server. It’s so sweet, I gotta tell ya. We have the 1GB Joyent Accelerator, and there is about 15 sites on it. Each one is different. There are Ruby on Rails sites on it, ExpressionEngine sites, WordPress sites. The Beacon Athletics site we do has about 5 different softwares running different parts of it. And it all runs on our one server and everything works wonderfully. The yearly cost for the server is $1,250. We probably pay for that with just 2 of the clients fees, and the rest on top of that is gravy.

As I’ve mentioned before, CSS-Tricks runs on Media Temple (the grid-service), which only costs me $480 a year (because I had to upgrade to a bigger MySQL container). Media Temple is also very nice. I bet I have 40 different random sites all in that one account.

Should you buy the domain name as well?


Don’t buy the domain name for the client. They own the business under that name, they should own the domain name. If, god forbid, the relationship goes sour, you don’t want to be in that position. Plus domains are annoying to transfer. They are easy to buy, let them do that part and give you the login and you can handle the DNS stuff.