A while back managed WordPress host WP Engine announced they were offering free unlimited staging for WordPress projects to freelancers and agencies. “Free and unlimited” aren’t usually things associated with services with real-world costs, but this offer from WP Engine is real and actually comes with some handy developer tools for working in WordPress.
How free staging works
WP Engine is offering free $29 hosting plans to verified freelancers and agencies. The $29 plan only allows for one live site, but like any other WP Engine plan comes with free and unlimited password protected WordPress installs you can use to stage client work. These WordPress installs (called “transferable installs”) do not count against the account’s total number of allowed installs so you can use as many as you need.
You’re even allowed to use the free staging for clients who don’t want to host on WP Engine. Basically, you can stage all of your WordPress projects for free on WP Engine.
What’s in it for them?
Hearts and minds of course. WP Engine recognizes that you are the influencers over where your clients host. By giving away free staging and developer tools that make your job easier, you’ll be more likely to refer customers their way.
Also, by staging your work on WP Engine prior to releasing the site to your client, you can showcase your work in WP Engine’s impressively fast environment, which can ultimately help retain your client. .
How easy is it to work inside of WP Engine?
So WP Engine has a suite of advanced “built for developer” features which we detail below, including a few workflow tools that stand out at helping freelancers and agencies onboard customers and launch projects faster and easier.
Onboarding: Use the WP Engine migration plugin to quickly move a new customer’s site into your free account so you can instantly start working. All the customer needs to do is give you wp-admin access and even a Project Manager can use the plugin to move a customer’s site into your account so your devs get to working on what they do best.
Launches: When your customer pays their bill and it’s time to move the site you’ve created to their hosting account, WP Engine makes it super easy to transfer that site to the customer.
Within the WPE portal, you can select to “transfer the site” to any email address you’d like. Current WPE customers can simply “accept” the transfer via a link in a confirmation email. Non-WPE customers can sign up for a new account and have the site you built them automatically available after they sign up.
WPE will also co-brand all of these emails with your logo and can automatically insert your affiliate link for new customer signups (WPE pays a minimum of $200 per referral). You are able to transfer client sites to 3rd party hosts using typical FTP workflows.
Backups / Rollback: Within the WP Engine portal (and in wp-admin), you can quickly trigger a backup or roll back to a previous manual or automated backup. This can be super handy for customers who make mistakes and come crying for you to fix. A few simple clicks in the portal and you can help customers quickly recover from mistakes.
One-Click Staging: If you need to perform a plugin update or quick change, you can use WP Engine’s one-click staging feature inside of wp-admin to quickly spin up a copy of the site to test changes and updates. You can easily then push to production in one click and roll back changes if things go wrong.
Enough with the parlor tricks, where’s the meat?
So WP Engine’s simplified site management tools are handy, but their platform goes much deeper when it comes to supporting tools and workflows for agencies and freelancers.
This suite of tools is available in the free account they offer to freelancers and agencies.
Collaborate and Maintain Control With Git Push: Use your favorite code versioning workflow to make your job easier.
Actual smart support people: WP Engine staff are 100% focused on WordPress, filled with WordPress influencers, and super deep in their ability to support developers. WP Engine’s team is literally the best support group in the world (not just hosting) having won the prestigious 2016 Customer Service Department International Gold Stevie award.
Performance Intelligence: Run deep WordPress speed performance analyses on your sites.
Universal Login: Your login can be tied to multiple customers’ WP Engine accounts for all-in-one access.
Copy / Template Site: Instantly create copies of sites (or starter tech stacks) to use as a jump point for new projects.
One-Click CDN: Quickly add a CDN to any site. Available for free on all plans except the “Personal” plan.
Free SSL: With Let’s Encrypt, WP Engine offers free SSL, easily set up in your customer portal.
Vulnerability Scanning: All sites are regularly scanned for PHP vulnerabilities and Cloudflare is used to help mitigate outside attacks.
Environment Specifications Audit: If you have a large client who needs a larger cluster or to prepare for aggressive growth, WP Engine’s account team will help with right-sizing and load testing to make sure your big customers don’t have big problems.
Vagrant Environment Integration: WP Engine offers a vagrant environment solution; however, with one-click staging and super fast servers, you can replicate a site’s environment (including the CDN) with just one click directly on the server itself. Either solution gives you the flexibility you need.
Any tips on getting the free staging account from WP Engine?
All you really need to do is apply and their team will verify you as a freelancer or agency. They do require you send them four referrals per year to maintain the free account, but you have a whole year to get there. The WP Engine team is extremely laid back and easy to work with.
Make sure to ask about the co-branded experience for your customers and some free options WP Engine has that can help *you* get leads for your business.