I have built a number of websites for friends, family, etc. and I have put them all on a single shared web hosting account. Now that they are built, I want to get out of business of supporting them and paying for them (my friends are reimbursing me but I am paying for the actual bill) so I was thinking of having them create their own hosting accounts and slowly migrating the sites over.

It got me thinking how does any freelancer do this? Do they force their clients to setup their own hosting up front and let the programmer log into the customer account during development. What if there is a bug in the future and they need to go back in?

I was curious to see what model most people use who build websites for others as it seems like a tricky situation.


I've done it in different ways, based on the type of project, the skill level of the client, and their level of trust/ongoing relationship with me.

For example, I have two customers who are small businesses and are very non-technical. Since I was creating a web application for them, and they didn't really need their own domain name (internal use), then I just set them up as a subdomain on my server, and they pay me a set yearly hosting fee. This was a win-win situation, because asking them to setup a hosting account and deal with that would have been difficult and it gives me complete control over the environment so that I can make sure the web app stays available for them.

For another customer who needed his own domain (commercial web app), I just advised him as to what exactly his hosting plan needed to be, and he purchased it and gave me the login information. Since I do continual work for him, I basically act as an admin on his hosting account. But if we ever severed our relationship, he could just change his passwords and I'd be out.

For other clients who already have the knowledge and infrastructure and it's just a one-time project, I usually set up a subdomain on my server for them during development (makes it easier for me to control and make updates), and then send them the code for them to install on their own server when everything is ready.

  • 2020 UPDATE: Great answer. More recently for clients that have very little knowledge of hosting I really like to use tiiny.host which is just a super simple & cheap tool for hosting multiple static sites for clients. – User24231 Apr 26 '20 at 13:32

There are two ways to handle this:

  1. Move them to their own account that you make them sign up for. Personally, I think this is bad for a host (pun intended) of reasons. First, they are most assuredly non-technical and have no idea if they need a 25GB or 50GB of bandwidth or storage space. Next, the definitately won't know what to do in the event the host has a problem. That's what they hired you for. Third, if they ever want anything they will call you and at some point you'll need all of the passwords etc... Essentially, you are going to be managing it anyway so it may as well be under your account.

  2. Keep your own account, and bill them monthly or annually. I like this one a lot. You can handle the problems as they come up (and they will) AND you can pick up a few extra dollars each month for it. Again, you're the expert. If you can get them on a plan that costs $20/month. Then charge them $30, and pocket the difference for your time / trouble.

Finally, the second option adds a bit of "stickiness" to the relationship. They will always go to you for things. This is generally a good thing. Of course, don't hassle them if they want to switch (that's a bad thing), but do provide good service and bill appropriately.

  • Going off your second point, which do you find more well received by clients – monthly or annual billing for hosting/maintenance? And do you know of/recommend any particular service that handles recurring invoices without making clients input their credit-card info for every payment, i.e., the info is auto saved after their first payment? I'm trying to make this as easy for the client as I can. – Friendly King Feb 15 '16 at 22:56
  • @JohnZ: Some people like annual because the amount is actually trivial. Others like monthly because that's the way they plan things. When I did this I used paypal for the recurring payments. – NotMe Feb 15 '16 at 23:40

This is business, and to be honest with you, I've seen many models. For example, I know a guy who has hired a physical dedicated server (not virtual), and he hosts almost all of his projects on that (with low user statistics, of course) server. He usually gets even more money from his freelancing, doing support job. This way, he says that he gets kind'of job security, because he charges his customers for any kind of support task and he actually is paid good for that.

On the other hand of this model, you can see developers, who only develop the website/web application for their clients and simply deliver the code in return of the agreed-upon money. So, in this model, clients are all responsible for their networking issues, including network security, renewing their domain, etc.

To be honest, there is a golden rule in business:

The better way is the more economical way.

In business, people are after money. Some good businessmen tend to follow business ethics, but there are also people who don't care about that. So, I think you should choose your plan based on the most economical benefit it can bring you.


I create websites in ASP.NET so I need my customers to use a web hosting company that supports that technology. I tell my clients to sign up at the URL of a specific hosting account and exactly what plan to select and how much it cost. (No, I don't get a markup - it just makes my life easier this way). I tell them once they get their "Welcome Email" from the hosting company to forward it to me so that I have their FTP username and password and can setup their server. I, of course, also offer that if they'd rather, I could send them all of the web files and they can do the setup of the server and FTP the files over themself. Most of them are so very non-technical that just hearing the words 'server and FTP' is enough for them to say, 'no, that's okay, I'll let you do that." I then use FileZilla and transfer the files over. Easy.

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