Many of our users use WordPress to build websites on a freelance basis. We however get a lot of recurring questions like:
- How to manage WordPress maintenance
- How to make certain CSS edits
- How to deal with email settings
- Etc etc
Freelance web design using WordPress
The goal of this guide is to go through all the facets needed to build and sell a website. We will go through:
- What software to use
- How to decide how much to charge
- How to create email addresses
- How to install WordPress with automatic updates
- How to configure backups
- How to edit CSS
- How to do a security sweep
- How to do maintenance
This post assumes you are familiar with the basics of WordPress, like:
- The difference between posts and pages
- Installing of a theme/template
- Read about themes
- Editing and creating menus
- Read about menus
- Managing widgets
- Read about widgets
Getting your tools ready
Using the right software is going to save you a lot of issues. Sometimes common software is actually quite impractical. Filezilla for example has a bunch of protocol errors on Mac devices.
Use our recommended software, listed here
Be sure to read up on the capabilities of your tools. There is no shame in reading the manual. You will discover amazing hidden features that will save you time, like for example auto-indentation in sublime text.
Decide how much to charge & contracts
This step is essential! If you charge too little, it will hurt both you and your client. Not using contracts will likewise hurt the both of you.
Read our freelancing guide here
As a designer/coder it is easy to underestimate the importance of these business aspects. Please pay attention to them.
Setting up emails
Once you bought a domain and webhosting, set up email addresses before you start building the website. This allows the client to take some time setting it up, and lets you use info@ emails and such during the setup of your WordPress.
Use our email guide here
Please realize all configuration details for email clients can be found in cPanel.
Installing WordPress fast and safe
Most people can manage to install WordPress. Less people manage it within 5 minutes, including automatic backups and updates.
Use our quick setup guide here
Do not neglect the update and backup parts of this setup. Both of them will save you security breach issues and protect you from potential messing up.
If you did it right, you did this in the last step. Just in case you can also create an external backup, for example to Dropbox.
Read here how to back your WordPress up to Dropbox
Again, do not neglect backups. Its a small effort with big impact.
How to edit CSS
This part is a bit more complex and multi-layered.
First read our 5 minute CSS intro
If you understand those basics make sure you know
The most important in your workflow is to use custom.css for css edits so
Once you understand the above, you can save yourself time by playing with CSS in your browser window
Edit any website in your browser window to preview your changes
Most browsers can do this, though we recommend using Google Chrome.
If you want to make sure you truly understand the basics, take this Codeacademy course of 7 hours.
Do a security sweep when you are done
The WordPress systems has a number of security issues, but most can be fixed quite easily.
Use this security guide after every website you make
It will save you from malware issues and website hacks.
If you are the upselling kind, you can charge extra to your client for this. If you however don’t end up doing a security sweep, make sure to be clear about that fact that you will not fix issues for free if anything is hacked or breaks.
Do a speed optimization when you are done
Like the security sweep it is something most freelancers neglect to do. It is however not too much effort and will make your client really happy.
Use this speed checklist to save time
You can also charge extra for this. Not doing it however is less dangerous than neglecting the security aspect.
In principle we’ve covered most maintenance aspects:
- Create backups
- Update WordPress
- Update plugins
- Update themes
- Do periodic speed audits
We also recommend periodically browsing the website as if you were a user, to detect any odd behavior. This can happen due to theme and plugin updates.