I don’t know about you but the idea of reselling web hosting is generally negative 👎. And for good reason. There are plenty of bad examples of companies that resell web hosting with very little value add built upon old technologies.
I suppose people think web hosting is an easy way to make money. The truth is web hosting is hard and always changing. I tell people that want to get into web hosting, or reselling, it’s almost all technical support. Don’t do web hosting unless you love technical support. 🛠
Anchor Hosting is a managed WordPress host reseller. 👍
I’m not ashamed to admit that I don’t have my own servers but rather rely on companies like WP Engine and Kinsta. In my opinion that’s actually a selling point. I mean who wants to trust a micro company like mine, currently only 1 employee, to keep their sites up and running.
By relying on other companies I can say to potential customers, I’ll have my eyes to keep everything running smooth and the underlying web host also is doing their best to keep things running smooth. It’s only an extra value add not a negative when compared to going direct with WP Engine or Kinsta.
Of course there’s always a question or two about my contingency plan at which point I get to tell them about my “get hit with a bus” plan. You’d be surprised how often I get to tell others what happens with their website when I die. 😮 And yes, I have a plan.
Tips to make reselling WordPress hosting awesome. 🌟
There is so much I could say here. I broke this out into 7 do’s and 7 don’ts which cover how to build an amazing WordPress web host reseller as an individual developer or small team. These are my highly opinionated thoughts based on my experiences running Anchor Hosting.
1. Don’t do the web hosting.
This point should be obvious. I mean if your reselling web hosting then your likely not also attempting to do self hosted web hosting. That’s a good thing as you can focus on everything in between the web host and the customer. That’s the gap to fill in. If you want to do self hosting web hosting, that’s cool too. You should probably check out SpinupWP and stop reading here.
While your reselling web hosting, keep your eyes open for better web hosting providers. Over the years I’ve transitioned my customers from MediaTemple to WP Engine to now Kinsta. As a reseller I can remain objective and simply pick whichever web host I feel best serves my customers. I’m not locked into any specific company. In fact I’m typically utilizing a few providers at a time capitalizing on the advantages of each.
Not having to do the sysadmin work required for the actual web hosting frees up my time to pursue things I feel directly adds value to my customers. One of those is working on my management toolkit, which I’ll mentioned below.
2. Don’t offer email hosting.
It’s 2019. Hosting email on web server is archaic and asking for trouble. If you want to host email then start an email hosting business not a web hosting business. Email is hard and shouldn’t be taken on lightly. Spam is ever changing and keeps email businesses on their toes.
Instead recommend to customers to use a proper email provider like G Suite (referral link) or Office 365. I personally use and recommend G Suite to my customers. I’ll even help them create their own G Suite account and migrate over their emails at no extra change. This sets them up for success and doesn’t tie their email to my hosting services should their web hosting needs change.
3. Don’t offer affiliate/reseller programs.
If you have time to focus on affiliate programs you most likely aren’t focused on providing things your customers care about. Don’t get me wrong, you can make money doing an affiliate program. They just aren’t essential and shouldn’t be a high priority. Maybe come back to this one after you’ve grown you web reselling business to a team larger than.. maybe 20 people? I’m still a company of 1 employee so what do I know.
Reseller programs are likewise a waste of time. Also gets overly complex when the web hosting is resold twice. I mean how many layers of management do you need? Just focus on doing great web hosting work and don’t worry about a reseller program as form of income.
4. Don’t do marketing.
Okay I’ll preface this by saying, yes, everything you do is marketing and you should do everything in power to attract customers. That said, you don’t need to spend anytime focused on the “sales” role of your business. I’ll define that as anything you do that is an “ask” rather than a “give”. For example “You should host with me because XYZ feature” vs “Let me help you fix your WordPress site”. Want to attract customers? Then do amazing work and get noticed.
Up until 2013 I was only hosting WordPress sites which I also developed. These were my own web development customers. Things shifted when I began to focus on just web hosting and started to take on hosting WordPress sites for agencies and other web designers/developers.
I didn’t do direct “asks”. These were people and relationship I had established as a web developer. They all knew me as a competent web developer and had previously worked with me on various WordPress projects. When I informed them that I was going to focusing on just web hosting and take on fewer web projects, that’s when hosting related conversations took place. It was sorta a natural fit for many of them. All of my customers have come through referrals or personal relationship. Only, more recently, a few have come from finding me online or reading my blog posts.
5. Don’t offer server hosting panels (like cPanel or Plesk).
Instead invite them directly to the backend provider like Kinsta and/or use a modern hosting panel. Any hosting panel should focus on just what they need not an entire server management system. If the customer wants a server management system they should probably just go direct with a Digital Ocean or Linde, not a managed WordPress web host.
As for doing your own modern hosting panel, you should check out CaptainCore. It’s my own open source WordPress management toolkit that I’m developing and currently use on this very site https://anchor.host. It’s what my customers see when they sign in. Still early in development and not officially released however I am posting a monthly updates on it’s progress.
6. Don’t do hosting contracts.
These are annoying and completely unnecessary. There is no value add in making it difficult for a customer to cancel hosting services. I generally charge yearly for hosting services. Whenever a hosting plan is cancelled I refund them back the unused months of hosting.
7. Don’t stop learning.
Web hosting is no place to settle down. There is no set it and forget and then walk away. Hosting is always changing. People seem to forget that the internet was invented within our lifetimes. Why should you expect hosting to remain unchanged?
If you want to keep up you’ll need to keep learning and adapting with changes. More recently that looked like installing and deploying Let’s Encrypt SSL for all customers and upgraded to the latest PHP 7.3. There is always something new on the web hosting front.
1. Do free site migrations.
This isn’t common yet among managed WordPress web host so it’s one way to stand out. Making it as easy to move to your hosting service is a huge value add. While migrating people’s sites for them does add some extra time it’s time well spent.
Migrations are always a good way to get the site in good shape before putting it on a regular maintenance schedule thus saving on potential technical support time later on. As an added bonus, doing lots of site migrations increases your capacity and speed.
I guarantee that if you perform 1000+ site migrations you’ll figure out the quickest way to accomplish that. It also prepares you to better handle future internal site migrations between host providers.
2. Do basic maintenance services.
Most managed WordPress hosts will make sure that WordPress core updates are installed however they generally do not touch themes/plugins unless there is a big security issue. By reselling you put yourself between the web host and the customer which puts you in the perfect position to handle some basic things like theme and plugin updates.
Be proactive and regularly install theme/plugin updates. I have this automated on a weekly schedule. Every wednesday morning all of my sites receive their updates. The amount of technical issues you’ll deal with by updating regularly is far less then the issues you’ll need to solve by not.
3. Do your own backups.
Even though most web host providers include website backups, always have another backup. If it isn’t backed up twice, it isn’t backed up. There is a wide range of backup solutions, my personal favorite is to use a custom backup script which incremental syncs all sites via sftp locally or to a VPS.
4. Do offer to handle domains/DNS but be flexible.
Specifically for small business most times it’s just better if the domains and DNS is managed by someone with more technical knowledge. That said larger business with internal or external IT support may require that domains or DNS be with them. So be flexible.
I offer the first domain free with each hosting plans. This provides some incentive which most take me up on. This makes my life way easier as I don’t have to track down as many domain logins when doing site migrations. Managed DNS is also is something I include with hosting plans. I recommend using a managed DNS provider for increased performance and reliability.
5. Do give back to the WordPress community.
There are many ways to give back in the WordPress community. I highly recommend focusing time here instead of doing direct sales (as mentioned above). Over the years I’ve helped organize and speak at WordCamp Lancaster, lead many WordPress Lancaster Meetups, attended many WordCamp US events and contributed code to WP-CLI. Whenever at a conference or meetup I’m always looking for ways to help others and give back.
6. Do things that reduce the need for technical support.
No one likes contacting you when they could solve the issues themselves. I invest a large amount of my time working on CaptainCore. The mission here at Anchor Hosting, to provide hassle-free WordPress hosting which I feel deeply will be solved by better software not humans doing technical support.
Technical support is a band-aid that will never go away unless time and energy is spent attempting to solve why the technical support is needed in the first place. CaptainCore is that pursuit. It’s an attempt at building better tools for myself and also enabling my customers to do more themselves.
7. Do hosting at a similar or lower price point.
So if I’m adding value why not charge more then the host provider? I know this is something that I’ve thought about a lot. This really comes down to your target audience and how you think of your managed service offerings.
My target web hosting customers are the small businesses. I personally don’t think a small business should need to pay for a basic level of maintenance services. You know the sort of stuff every WordPress site needs. It should just be included and handled as part of hosting.
Pricing is tricky. I see lots of companies chasing themselves here. They innovate new features then need to charge more for the additional value they’re providing without actually considering, “Does my customer actually need this additional value?”.
With WordPress hosting in particular I don’t think most small business need all of the bells and whistles like: SEO reports, 365/24/7 coverage, website edits, performance optimization and etc. Sure those are useful services however there are plenty of other folks/experts to recommend that can do these services. No need to muddy up the hosting offer. Just give them the hosting with the stuff that everyone needs. No more, no less. 👌
Keeping the price low sets limitations. Limitations are good. Within this price range the question then becomes “What can I sustainably add?” not “What can I sell?”. Focus on the essential. This is enough to close the gap between the underlying web host and customer. That right there is the sweet spot. Being able to add value without adding unnecessary value.
Profitable since customer #2 💵
I know what your thinking, it’s must be impossible to be profitable considering the strict pricing limits. Not so! I’ve been profitable by reselling web hosting since the beginning.
My first few web hosting customers I put on a MediaTemple Grid account. I was paying $20/month and with only 2 paying customers I had a profit. The first customer was paying me $20/month which was enough to cover the hosting bill. The second hosting customer was profit.
While web hosting costs vary greatly I’ve found that this basic breakdown still exists in my business even scaled up to over 900 websites. For each $20/month basic plan I sell roughly half covers my hosting expenses and the other half covers human time. The hard part is definitely taking the proper time to focus on things that drive the business forward rather than all of the time working in the business.
The trick is to ease into it slowly while getting paid through either a day job or other consulting services. When I launched Anchor Hosting I was at about 25% revenue from hosting and 75% revenue from development. Check out my announcement post from 2014. Over the next 3 years this slowly transitioned to 100% hosting revenue. That means 2016 was the first year that I was fully sustained by reselling web hosting. 🏆
Challenging the status quo of what a web host reseller can be. 💪
I believe web host resellers are greatly underestimated. They have potential to build on top of other managed web hosts and continue to add value while still keeping a similar price point by focusing on a few essentials for a particular target market.
They also have the advantage that most people in the WordPress maintenance space don’t have. That’s the ability to only use amazing web hosts of their picking. FYI, Kinsta rocks! It’s much more efficient to focus technical support for a few web host providers then deal with every host provider.
If you, like me, run a reseller WordPress hosting business, definitely reach out. I’m always looking to connect with other folks in a similar pursuit. ⚓