Letting Others Set Price for Your Plugins is a Very Bad Idea

The only thing standing between you and work-free life at a beach is passive income, right? Not entirely true or false, but if you want sand on your beach apartment floors to be the biggest problem you have, passive income can help you get there.

But what exactly is passive income? According to Wikipedia:

Passive income is an income received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it. It is closely related to the concept of “unearned income”.

Little effort required to maintain it. If you want to sell WordPress themes and plugins which you personally provide support and updates for, it barely qualifies. So, if it’s not passive income, how about making sure there’s income at all?

When you create a theme or plugin you want to sell, using hours you could’ve spent earning directly, invest your time to provide support and updates and set your own sales goals, how can any of it make sense if it’s not you setting the price? Would you participate in a race if someone who never saw you was picking the shoes you’d be running in? It COULD work out just fine, right?

The reason I’m writing all of this is a support request I received this morning for Fanciest Author Box. User was very polite and support request was straight-forward and clear. In total we exchanged eight messages, four each way (so far). The entire discussion could’ve been avoided if user read the documentation, but that’s not the point, I’m not a fan of documentation myself.

The point is, this simple support request makes the sale, and next two sales (if it ends here) non-profitable.

If you want to create great products, keep your users happy and stay motivated, you just can’t let others dictate the price.

The Numbers Game

Let’s assume this:

  • you’re a freelancer and make $30/hour, this plugin is your ticket to freedom
  • it took 100 hours to launch (develop, document and market) the plugin
  • updates and marketing take 10 hours per week

That’s a $3,000 hole that potentially gets $1,200 deeper each month.

You then submit your plugin to a marketplace, it gets accepted and awarded a price tag that leaves you with $10 per sale, after they take their fair share. Forget about support for now. With 120 sales per month (fairly optimistic, only around 50 plugins on CodeCanyon top this) you will cover your updates and marketing expenses each month ($1,200) and constantly live in that $3,000 hole.

You’re WordPress version of the Atlanta Hawks, good enough to make the playoffs, not good enough to make some noise, and not quite bad enough to rebuild.

But it’s a new plugin, there will be bugs and people will want them squashed. Some of those bugs will have nothing to do with your plugin, but you’ll have to earn that five star rating, because it will help the sales. Of course, some users will request features no one but them needs, even have pre-sale questions promising that if you spend several hours adding a feature they need they’ll “totally spend $20 to buy your plugin”.

So, let’s say every fifth customer reaches out with a support request or a pre-sale question and responding takes 15 minutes on average – $7.50 per request. That’s another $180 out of your pocket each month.

The entire equation changes if you value your time less, or more than $30/hour and that’s the whole point.

If you want to make money selling WordPress themes or plugins the only way to do it is by owning the entire process. You want to stop “working for the man” because you want to control your own destiny, not have it controlled by a number set by someone else.

Don’t like the price set by marketplace? Talk to them about raising it. Still don’t like it? Try another marketplace or grab Easy Digital Downloads and start selling on your own.

Charge more and sell less so you can earn more and make sure every single customer is satisfied.