Create a local copy of a client’s WordPress site

Many companies and freelancers ask the client for the FTP and WordPress administration credentials with the intention to work directly on the live website. This is really stupid. No one should do that.

What you should do instead is download the database of the client and their files and then create a local development environment on your own server. The advantages of this development environment are many. First of all, you get all the source code right there on your computer, so you can search it, trace it, edit it, whatever. And if you screw up, you won’t be taking down an entire live website.

So, the first thing that you should do with a new client is, yes, get their FTP and admin credentials, but only to copy and download their entire website.

Here’s how to make a copy of their website:

Download the website

Install the BackUpWordPress plugin, it’s really good. Once installed, the settings page for this plugin is under Tools >> Backups.

BackUpWordPress plugin

BackUpWordPress plugin

Here’s what you should do on the settings page:

  1. Disable automatic backups. (Your client didn’t ask for regular backups)
  2. Set it to backup both files and database. (That’s the entire website)
  3. Set some excluded paths. (Those are paths that you don’t need for your local copy)

Click save changes and then “Back Up Now”. Once the backup is complete, it’ll be displayed on the plugin’s settings page and you’ll be able to download it. Don’t forget to delete the backup after you’ve downloaded it.


Now that you have a copy of the website, you’ll need to install it on your local web server.

Creating a local development server and importing into it is another broad topic on its own, but I won’t leave you hanging. I’ve gathered below some of the best tutorials on how to create a local development environment for WordPress:

Now that you have the entire website of your client in a zip folder, and you know how to manage a local development environment, you’re ready to start to import the client’s site into your local development environment and start applying your magic.

Let me know if you have any comments, tips or questions about creating a local copy of a client’s website.