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.

Staying on Top of WordPress.org Theme and Plugin Support Requests

No one should ever sell a WordPress theme or plugin before releasing one for free to a WordPress.org repository. No, karma is not the reason why, not the main reason anyway.

The thing with WordPress.org themes and plugins is that they are reviewed by other WordPress professionals, so even if you don’t really know what you’re doing and your product is bad, you’ll get some tips on how to fix it, for free. So, just do it, OK?

Once You’re In, Don’t Forget About the Users

If your idea of fun is checking download numbers too many times a day, this is where the fun starts. As those numbers go up, so will the frequency of support requests, so it would be cool if you could know as soon as one is posted. You can, just don’t expect it to happen automatically.

WordPress.org doesn’t send you email notifications related to plugins or themes you release. Luckily, there’s a few options.

When you release a plugin or a theme WordPress.org will generate RSS feed for its support requests. Unfortunately, link to this RSS feed is semi-hidden and very easy to miss. You have to visit Support tab in your theme’s or plugin’s WordPress.org page and that’s where you’ll find this tiny 10px font link to RSS feed.

WordPress.org support RSS link

The problem with this? Let’s say you just released your first theme or plugin, so no support requests yet. Main page only has this green button that takes you to support forum and the tiny RSS link, but why click if you know there’s nothing there? “Out of curiosity” makes as much sense as “Don’t you have something more important to do?” does.

Anyway, support RSS feeds for themes and plugins can be found at:

  • http://wordpress.org/support/rss/theme/theme-slug
  • http://wordpress.org/support/rss/plugin/plugin-slug

I don’t like the fact that RSS is the only option. Sure, for plugins you can “Subscribe to Emails for this Plugin” and wonder what that even means, but if you’re a plugin author, theme author and a neat freak at the same time, no way you’re handling plugins one way and themes another.

Being a Gmail user, here’s what I did.

IFTTT + Gmail Filters

IFTTT (If This Then That) is awesome. It helps you connect different web applications (Channels) together through simple conditional statements (Recipes).

For example, every time there’s a new support thread in WordPress.org RSS feed, you can receive an email notification, Twitter DM, Android or iOS notification or even an SMS message (carrier rates may apply). That sounds better than checking Support page all the time, doesn’t it?

Once you’ve registered for IFTTT account you can start creating your own Recipes. For this, you’ll need a “if feed then email” recipe and here’s what it looks like for my latest theme – Gumbo:


This will make sure I get an email evey time there’s a new support question. But these are not just any old email, they should be treated differently. Luckily, Gmail filters (Settings > Filters) can take care of this.

Because of how I set up IFTTT recipe I’m now able to create a Gmail filter that looks for all messages that have “WordPress.org Gumbo Reviews” in subject:

WordPress.org support and Gmail filters

And then make all emails that match skip inbox and apply a label (WP Support/Gumbo) to them:


All I need to do now is check my email, which I already do more often than I should.

RSS Reader

Another option is using an RSS reader, since both themes and plugin give you feeds for support and reviews. I use Feedly to handle my feeds and this option is slightly easier to set up. You just need to add all your plugin and theme feeds and optionally organize them.

WordPress.org support with Feedly

The thing with feeds though is that they can be slightly delayed. Not necessarily a problem, but worth knowing.

Reviews Are Important, Too

Since you’re setting all this for support requests, don’t forget about reviews. These are the feeds WordPress.org generates for theme and plugin reviews:

  • http://wordpress.org/support/rss/view/theme-reviews/theme-slug
  • http://wordpress.org/support/rss/view/plugin-reviews/plugin-slug

Not sure if this is the best way for you to handle wordpress.org theme and plugin support and reviews, but I just wanted to get all my notifications in one place, rather than being forced to check manually if there’s something going on. IFTTT + Gmail combo worked great.

We’re Going To Release Some Plugins Together

It’s happening 🙂

Last two days felt like a WordCamp. Since I published my previous post about releasing a WordPress plugin together on Tuesday almost twenty people expressed interest in co-releasing WordPress plugins. Can’t name drop everyone here, but @Josh412‘s enthusiasm about this is something that can’t be properly described.

So, How Do We Do It?

With so many people involved, we need a system or it all falls apart. For ideas and plugin discussion we’ll use P2 installed at make.wpcollab.co. It’s actually a mapped WordPress.com blog, so you don’t need to create another login, all you need is a WordPress.com account (this awesome idea brought to you by @cFoellmann). For development we have WPCollab organization at Github (still setting it up and adding people). There’s also #WPCollab on Twitter, if you want to join the discussion there.

We already have a few plugin ideas I think we’ll start working on over next few days. Check make.wpcollab.co for details and if you have your own ideas, please post them. Still don’t know what to do with main domain there, maybe list all contributors, or have a contact form, signup form, something like that? Suggestions?

If you’re in this and think we can improve the process, please share it here, on Twitter or make.wpcollab.co.

How You Can Be a Part of This

You don’t need to be a developer to contribute.

  • If you’re a project manager, please help! I’m not a project manager, I just play one on TV right now.
  • If you’re a designer, least you could do is create wordpress.org repository banner image for a plugin.
  • If you’re a copywriter, documentation is something developers are usually too burned out to do after hours of coding.
  • Finally, if you’re a developer, you probably know how to release a plugin. If you don’t, there’s enough of us who have done it and we’d love to guide you through the process. And if you’re really good, but also super busy, you could do a code review or share some workflow tips.

Next steps

Not sure, but I think we can start actually working on some plugins this weekend. Let’s use today and Friday to decide which ones it will be and let people volunteer to work on them. What are your thoughts? Anyone up for some weekend side projects?

Let’s Release a Plugin Together

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend WordCamp Norway. It was my first WordCamp since the big one in Leiden last October and even though this one was smaller in numbers the vibe was the same. It was so great to see some of the familiar faces again. The only things missing were North End pub and poor Wi-Fi 🙂

As much as I loved WordCamp Europe, looking back I feel like I blew it. Coming back I was full of ideas, planned to get in touch with people I met and build all those cool things speakers were talking about, blog about it and who knows what else, but it didn’t really happen. I really want this time to be different.

Last February Tom McFarlin, Pippin Williamson and Andrew Norcross did something similar when they released Comments Not Replied To plugin. For added degree of difficulty they did it during a WordCamp, which makes it even more awesome.

If you’re a developer thinking about releasing a plugin, let’s do it together. I’m sure we can learn from each other while doing it.

Main reason I want to do something like this is so I could work with another WordPress developer. I really love my job, but I’m the only WordPress person there and that’s hardly ideal if getting better at WordPress, as fast as possible, all the time, is your goal.

A few things though, it has to be free, released to wordpress.org repository and lean. Other than that, anything goes. So, let’s do it together. Leave a comment or send me a tweet if you’re interested.

Camping in Leiden #wceu

Continuing the tradition established by Rhys, Nuno, Jeremy, Daniel, Florian and Thomas I’d like to introduce myself as well:

My name is Slobodan, I live in Västerås, Sweden (moved here yesterday, actually) and WordPress has been a huge part of my life since 2007. The reason I fell for it is the same reason so many people have when they chose WordPress over any other CMS – its simplicity. The reason I stuck with it is a bit more complicated, though. At the time I started learning about WordPress development I was studying for a profession I didn’t really care for, doing a job I didn’t feel like doing, desperately looking for a way to change my life.

Turns out, WordPress was my way out and that’s why I’m so crazy about it staying as easy to use as it is now, if not easier. I honestly think that if WordPress’ learning curve was steeper than it is, lives of so many WordPress professionals, mine included, wouldn’t be as good as they are now. So if you’re not a fan of stupid, mile-long options pages, blurred lines between themes and plugins, anything that prevents you from being able to just publish and worry about what you’re publishing vs. how you’re publishing it, I would love to meet you in Leiden.

I’ll arrive in Leiden on Friday evening, so if you’d like to discuss any of these, please get in touch:

  • Theme development and blurred lines between themes and plugins
  • Challenges of selling organic themes (organic = would pass wordpress.org theme review) in WordPress marketplaces
  • Contributing to WordPress – see you at Contributors Day
  • NBA, cause new season is right around the corner 🙂

You can connect with me on Twitter, or you can send me an email, whichever is easier for you. See you there!

Featured image credits: Flickr