On Freelancing: Hosting & Domains

minute read. Posted on January 18, 2015 in Business & Tech Code & Design

I’ve freelanced for about 8 years now, either full-time at times or part-time (like now). While I don’t claim to know everything about selling your design/development services, I have learned a lot of lessons over those years. I realized a couple years ago where I stand on hosting and buying domain names for clients, so thought I’d share my stance on it here.

My #1 rule

Don’t buy domains for clients.

My #2 rule

Don’t host client websites.

Now that that’s out of the way…

Here’s why I don’t like hosting websites for clients anymore and why I especially won’t buy domain names for clients.

When I first started freelancing, I created a reseller account with good ‘ol HostNine and paid them $20/month for enough space to hold, oh, 20 sites (I worked with really small businesses). On top of that, whenever I got a new client I would either buy their domain for them through HostNine or transfer their domain (usually from GoDaddy) to MY HostNine account. Why? Because I was young and stupid and thought that hosting enough sites would make me rich.

You’re not going to get rich off of hosting

Don’t get me wrong, I made an extra $6,000/year or so in profit by hosting my clients’ websites. But that money came with a lot of newfound hatred for the process of making money that way. From my point of view, the headaches outweighed the money I made. I’ve come to the conclusion that I simply don’t want to deal with “how do I set up email on my new Droid?” and “why the hell did my website go down right after I sent out this email campaign?” anymore.

Don’t be the gatekeeper

Here’s the deal: when you host sites for people, you become the gatekeeper between them and their website. Hosting company goes down for a bit? It’s your fault. Clients need a change on their site? They go straight to you because hosting their site means, in their mind, that you’re their “webmaster” and take care of everything they need. Now, if you choose to run a business with that mindsight, then disregard what I’m saying. But most freelancers these days should freelance because they’re good at a particular thing (designing websites, for example) and want to get paid for doing that.

Companies need to own their own domains

I think it’s become more acknowledged now than when I started freelancing, but just as companies own, say, their building or street address, they should own their domain name. Even though you’re a trustworthy person, your client should never put their domain name ownership into someone else’s hands. And I’ve dealt with too many “I don’t know” answers when asking who owns a client’s domain. Seriously, I once spent probably 10 hours total tracking down the person who held the keys to a client’s domain name. Again, it just goes back to my realization that hosting and owning domains is a pain and not satisfying in the least.

What to do, then?

I like to solve problems and write code. That’s what people pay me to do. So when a client comes to me and either doesn’t know how or where to host or get a domain (that happens a lot, which is why I would say “here, I’ll do it for you”), I now consult. And charge for it. If you get pushback because they want a “one-stop shop” for all their web needs, simply explain that you’re an expert at designing or coding, while Company ABC is an expert at hosting and Company XYZ are experts at owning domain names.

My process now looks like this:

  1. Don’t have a domain? Go buy one from Hover.
  2. Once your site is ready, I set it up on Flywheel and transfer the billing to you.
  3. Once your Flywheel billing is set up, I walk you step by step through the process of pointing your new domain there.


Whatever you choose to do, don’t host email.