Not everyone with a WordPress site needs to keep a developer on retainer, but a lot of companies will actually save money in the long term if they think smartly about their short and long term needs. In this article, I am going to cover all the major reasons why you should consider a retainer for ongoing WordPress development. By the end of this post, you will know whether or not a WordPress retainer is right for you and your business.

Reason #1: Ongoing WordPress Changes That Need to Be Made Periodically

If you have a project that requires technical work to be performed once a month or more, then you should retain a WordPress developer for these express purposes. It may seem kind of obvious, but it’s definitely easier to keep one developer or team retained instead of searching for help, again and again, each time you need to make a periodic change.

Every new developer that looks at your project is going to spend valuable time getting up to speed. If you retain the same developer then you don’t waste time & money having them get reacquainted with the project over and over again.

Reason #2: Your Site Starts Receiving a Large Amount of Traffic

When your website goes from a ghost town to a site overwhelmed by traffic, your first call is going to be to a sysadmin who can help keep the site up during the storm of its newfound popularity. Congratulations, your website is a success, but now it makes sense to keep someone on retainer who can further optimize and strengthen the site so that it can withstand even greater levels of traffic in the future.

If you think about your website as another location of your business, it makes sense to expand staffing for a location that has grown its customer base beyond capacity. When your website has exceeded the initial expectations and grown into a force of its own, it’s time to keep an expert on retainer so that the ship can keep sailing smoothly.

Reason #3: Your Site Has a History of Problems

If your WordPress site has a history of “problem after problem” for as long as you can remember, you may want to think about firing your webmaster right away and replacing them with someone who can deliver stability. However, you can’t ignore the past and so your new webmaster should be retained to help work through any future problems.

There can be a lot of underlying causes of the technical issues your site has been experiencing, but a fresh set of eyes should hopefully help them eliminate the root issues. As a good rule of thumb, if you’re not going to retain a developer indefinitely, you should at least retain them twice as long as the typical interval between problems.

Reason #4: When You’re Not Sure if the Current Project Is Going to Work Out

Some of the best-laid plans in business fail to return the intended results. When it comes to launching a website, if you’re not confident that it is exactly what you need it to be, then it is a good business decision to retain your web developer so that they can see the project through and help you make course corrections so that the project achieves it’s intended purpose and goals.

Not to be a pessimist, but most new businesses fail and most websites require a couple of revisions before they start tapping into their potential. The best way to make sure your site succeeds is to:

  • Clearly define what goal or goals you want from the website (examples include e-commerce, acquiring new clients, providing information, capturing emails, making money from ad impressions, etc.)
  • Set up tests, A/B splits, and analyze traffic data to know exactly how many of your visitors are reaching your goals.
  • Make data-driven changes to improve the website.

This process is perfectly suited for a WordPress retainer so that once every few weeks or months you can analyze the test and traffic data, make new tests and perform any other changes required to get the most out of your website.

Reason #5: Custom Functionality That Needs Tweaking or Active Support

It’s a great idea to have a unique WordPress theme and custom functionality tailored to your business offerings. However, the more custom coding you require, the greater your long-term support needs in order to maintain the custom work. The reason for this is that WordPress is constantly updating, and custom functionality that works on today’s WordPress might not work correctly on a future version. Of course, any good developer is going to do their best to future proof their work, but that doesn’t guarantee compatibility.

Here is a great real-world example that happened to a project I was working on. This was a business that had multiple locations and years ago they had us use the Google Maps API in order to embed an interactive Google Map on their site that showed all their store locations. We custom coded this functionality correctly at the time, but a few years later, Google changed the way that you access the Google Maps API which broke our client’s location map page. Luckily, they still had us on retainer and we were able to update the code and get everything running smoothly in less than an hour.

Reason #6: When You Have No One Qualified to Routinely Check On Your Site

It is extremely common in smaller and even some medium-sized companies to have a website and no one on staff who is qualified to maintain or update it. This is a disaster waiting to happen because your website is getting more and more out of date and vital security patches are not being applied.

The longer a WordPress site sits without being updated, the more likely it is to be hacked because of unpatched security vulnerabilities. The reality of running a website is that it has to be regularly maintained or else it becomes a liability. If you don’t have anyone on your team qualified to perform regular maintenance, then you really have no choice but to retain a WordPress development company to keep you healthy.

While you may look at some of the other reasons to retain a WordPress developer in this article and have arguments against them, this is a clear case where you should have someone on retainer, at the very least to run security updates on a semi-regular basis.

Reason #7: Sites With Big Seasonal Redesigns

It’s especially common on bigger e-commerce sites to have a holiday and seasonal design elements throughout the year. This can be accomplished in several different ways, with the easiest to maintain being if the site automatically changes based on the date. Regardless of how the redesigns are triggered, it is helpful to have a WordPress guru handy for times like these, but so much more so if the site requires manual tweaking each redesign.

Having a WordPress retainer for these types of semi-regular design changes makes sense since it is reoccurring technical debt that must be addressed on a regular basis.

Reason #8: Running and Optimizing Ad Campaigns

Ad campaigns can do wonder for your business, but it generally takes 6 months or more of testing and changing stuff before you start maximizing your ad’s effectiveness. To get the most out of your ad campaigns, smart companies will set up a series of tests and collect detailed analytics so that any changes to the ad or landing pages will be done based on data.

If you have someone on staff who can edit landing pages and set up A/B split tests in WordPress, then by all means use your staff. However, if you don’t have someone with the WordPress knowledge needed to optimize your ad campaigns, then you should retain a developer at least until the ads have been optimized.

Reason #9: If You Part Ways With Your Previous WordPress Development Company

Businesses part ways with their web developers all the time, but if you do that and don’t have anyone left to manage your website, then you’re asking for trouble. When you part ways with a developer, it is always smart to retain another WordPress development company right away so that you can get a fresh set of eyeballs on the project and so that any critical security updates get applied to your site.

Reason #10: To Keep Up With Google & Other Changes

The only thing that stays the same is change, and when it comes to the internet, change comes fast. If you want your website to stay as competitive and modern as possible, then you need someone who can correct the course and make necessary changes on the fly to comply with the latest best practices.

Google regularly releases updates to its search algorithm and if your website relies heavily on organic search, then it makes sense to keep up with the latest changes to avoid penalties. It’s not just Google that changes, it’s social media, WordPress itself, and even your industry and customers. Since all of these things are slowly (or sometimes quickly) changing, having a developer on retainer to help you pivot when needed is critical.

Reason #11: Keep Your Site Running Fast & Optimizing Performance

One of the most important ranking factors that Google considers is how fast your site is. If you’re not careful, it’s quite easy over time to add a plugin here or a change there and while the site seems fine to you, to first-time visitors it is too slow to be usable. In order to avoid the baggage that causes a website to slow down over time, keeping a WordPress development company on retainer is a smart move because they can monitor the site’s performance and make the changes necessary to keep your site running fast and smooth.

Reason #12: Regular Backups & the Ability to Quickly Change Hosts

When you have a WordPress development company on retainer for ongoing WordPress work, you can easily have them perform regular maintenance which includes periodic backups. These backups ensure that if something were to happen to the site, such as a hacker, drive crash, or data-center fire, that your site could easily be transferred to a new host and be put online within minutes.

This is such an essential part of running a website that it always amazes me how many companies don’t have adequate backups. Unfortunately, I have worked with a few businesses who failed to backup their websites and the result was years of work flushed down the drain in an instant. This is the critical reason why every website needs a regular backup routine and a qualified developer who knows how to quickly restore the backup on the same server or on a completely different web host.

Reason #13: You Will Save Time & Money

If you go out and find a new developer every time you have a little work on your site, you are going to be charged a premium every time. However, if you can work out a long term deal with a WordPress development company, then they will be more likely to cut you a deal. In addition, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, you will also save time since they will not need to get reacquainted with the project each time some work needs to be done.


It’s easy to overlook the long term implications of running a website, especially if the website was an afterthought or built just because a business is expected to have one. However, we live in a time where websites have become an important part of many businesses, and if your website becomes a critical part of yours then you need an expert who can quickly make any needed changes on the fly. Hiring a new developer every-time you need a quick change is a waste of time, money, and effort when compared to the advantages of keeping a WordPress retainer.

Having an amazing website doesn’t have to be a burden as long as you find the right developers to support and maintain it over the long term. Hopefully, this article has helped you decide whether or not WordPress retainers are right for you and your business. Thanks for reading!

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