Some of the success, challenges and lessons learned from running our WordPress plugin business in 2016. If you're a WordPress business owner, I hope you'll find some valuable insight.
In 2016 our plugin business had a 28% growth in revenue over the previous year. During the end of the year break, I took some time to analyze what this number really means and if this metric should be the most relevant one to focus for the years to come.
To put things in perspective, during the last 4 years, since we’ve focused on building and selling WordPress products, we saw a yearly growth with values ranging from 28% to over 100%. This came mostly due to us constantly improving our plugins, offering great support, as well as taking advantage of the growing WordPress market share.
That being said I think we tend to not appreciate enough what just went by, and simply rush to set targets for the new year. I feel this makes it more about the destination, not the journey.
That’s why I’ve decided to look back at how 2016 unwinded, in our first “year in review” post.
Our company revenue comes from three plugins, all of them using a freemium business model:
At the beginning of last year, shortly after launching Paid Member Subscriptions, we decided that in 2016 our main focus will be on improving and consolidating these three plugins.
These EDD add-ons will help shape your store into a complete platform. Learn from customers, keep them coming back, and keep them buying.
Platform building is serious business. As we progress our trend of e-commerce tutorials, specifically Easy Digital Downloads, we’ll uncover why EDD should be at the heart of your own platform. Wether you’re selling one-time purchase e-books, or recurring payment to software products, choosing EDD positions you for long-term success. Couple that with the flexibility of WordPress, and you’ve got the horsepower to compete with the big boys.
Let’s dive in.
What is a platform?
Facebook, Medium, and Google — to an extent.
These are all platforms that want you to exist within their walls, contributing in-app time and content, only to see their own stock values increase. Without going crazy, the bottom line is, you don’t own the full customer experience. If you want to sell your product on Facebook, which arguably has the most eyeballs right now, you have to pay to play. Sure they have handy pixel advertising features you can harness, but ultimately, you’re in their sandbox. If you want to reach all of your hard-earned followers, ante up.
Every product company should be thinking about building their own platform to own the end-to-end customer experience.
Everybody talks about saving time & money, but more often than not people in the WordPress ecosystem mess up by making decisions based solely on the price point.
We humans are inherently flawed when it comes to money. If it’s a new iPhone or a pair of sunglasses, we’ll dish out $500 in a heartbeat. But if you ask $40 for a year of managed WordPress hosting, a lot of people will look at you like you’ve just insulted their grandma’s crochet skills. WordPress is fantastic because you can find so much for free, but at the same time it spoiled us. We expect fully functional themes and plugins to be free, with stellar support that has nothing better to do than to solve our every inane issue.
I do understand your side of business but still the wp market needs #opensource solution and not services that cost you more money
― An actual tweet to a WordPress SaaS with a functional free tier
It’s bad for the developers because they need to pay the bills. And it’s bad for you, because you’re sabotaging yourself with this mindset.
Why time and not money?
TL;DR answer: time is finite, money isn’t.
Let’s say you’re making $20/hr as a WordPress developer. You occasionally need to migrate a website for a client. You’ve got 3 options:
Do it manually in an hour
Use a quirky free migration plugin (instant,
If you run a WordPress business, then this info on Pippin’s Plugins will be a good read. You can't get much bigger or better than Pippin’s Plugins, and overall a taste of WordPress plugin industry in general.
It is that time of year again! As in years past, I like to look back on the previous twelve months and see how we did. In this year’s review, I will share revenue numbers, challenges, achievements, insights, and more about my business building and selling WordPress plugins. Previous year in review posts:
There are a lot of great things that happened in 2016, but it was also easily one of the most difficult years I can remember in my adult life. 2016 put before me challenges and decisions I did not expect. For the most part, each of the challenges was overcome, though some of them are still being battled with, and I believe I’m a better person and a better business owner for having faced them. I’ll talk more on the challenges below.
When I started this plugins business 5-6 years ago, I never envisioned I’d have a team working with me, much less a team of 15!
I started bringing on people to help me with customer support in 2013 and doing that was easily one of the best things I’ve ever done. One became two, two became three, and now we have 16 members (counting myself) of the Sandhills Development team. These 15 are comprised of full time and part time
This guide breaks down the ecommerce trends expected to take off in 2017 and how you can use them to build a better online store.
Many retailers were unsure of what to expect going into the 2016 holiday season, what with a disruptive national election kicking it all off. The onslaught of political news headlines generated a lot of attention throughout Q4, so it may have been difficult to spot the news that mattered most to retailers. In case you missed it:
“Data from the National Retail Federation shows that many consumers no longer find it necessary or appealing to shop in physical stores. The trade group’s consumer survey found that 108.5 million people shopped Black Friday deals online while 99 million went to stores.”
While 99 million customers are nothing to scoff at; this is fantastic news for e-commerce companies. As online shopping shows no signs of slowing, it’s fair to assume that 2017 will be a great year for ecommerce businesses looking to increase sales. How exactly they will do that depends on how successfully they can adapt to trends – and this is where WordPress developers should get involved – and capitalize.
As a developer, you understand that the key to a website’s long-term success is in its ability to adapt to trends (even before they become mainstream).
Although we had our minor setbacks in 2016, it was a pretty great year for us overall at Delicious Brains. In this post Brad reflects on the year, writes about the good and the bad, the goals we achieved, those that got away from us, and sets some goals for the coming year.
For the last couple of years, I’ve published a “year in review” post on my personal blog. (In fact, that’s all I’ve published on my blog in the past two years. But it’s not like I didn’t write. In 2016, I wrote 10 articles for the Delicious Brains blog, 1 for the Better Search Replace blog, and recorded 21 episodes of Apply Filters. So there!) Anyways, instead of publishing about me to my personal blog that only my mom reads, I’ve decided to write about Delicious Brains here instead.
In January, we acquired the Better Search Replace plugin from Matt Shaw and he joined our team to continue maintaining it and work on WP Migrate DB Pro. Later in the year, we welcomed Peter Tasker and Ian McFarlan to the team and reorganized into the following product teams:
WP Migrate DB Pro: Jeff, Matt, Peter
WP Offload S3: Ash, Ian McFarlan, Ian Jones (Jonesy)
Mergebot: Gilbert, Iain
Yes, we have two Ian’s and an Iain and it’s not confusing at all.
In June, our team met in Vienna for our second annual company retreat. The trip was just about perfect, I don’t think I’d change a thing.
As an experiment, we also did two regional
A really long article from someone trying to get some passive income with a ThemeForest theme and getting a whoooooooole bunch of feedback.
A little background of myself: I made my first website in 1997 and have been a developer (or "webmaster" as we called it back then) ever since. I started programming in PHP in 2003, and starting using WordPress in 2012 as a CMS and making simple custom themes. In September of 2015 I started developing a WordPress theme with the intent of selling it on ThemeForest (a highly-trafficked marketplace for WordPress themes) with hopes of adding it as a new passive income stream and helping secure my dream of becoming a digital nomad, working remotely as I travel around the world. I figured it would only require occasional updates and support when needed. Having created a couple simple WP themes in the past, I thought creating the new theme should take about 3 months at most. I figured if the theme generated at least $1,000 per month over 3 years ($36k total) it would be worth it. I mean, why wouldn't it... right? The top themes on TF generate over $100,000 PER WEEK!
Because ThemeForest allows the buyers to leave ratings, I really wanted to create a well-made, well-tested, highly-customizable, well-supported theme that the customers would praise.
If I thought of a feature that customers
Its not a 3min read, to begin with. Medium kind of accepts that it tried to grew too fast without understanding full business model and which game exactly they are playing. Its an account from Ev Williams, their co-founder.
Renewing Medium’s focus We’ve decided to make some major changes at Medium.
I’ll start with the hard part: As of today, we are reducing our team by about one third — eliminating 50 jobs, mostly in sales, support, and other business functions. We are also changing our business model to more directly drive the mission we set out on originally.
Obviously, this is a tough thing to do, made tougher by the immense respect and love we have for these people who have helped make Medium what it is today. We reached this decision when Medium’s management team came together to review the last year and take a hard look at our business — where we are and where we’re headed. While we could continue on our current path — and there is a business case for doing so — we decided that we risk failing on our larger, original mission if we don’t make some proactive changes while we have the momentum and resources to do so.
In terms of momentum, 2016 was our best year yet. Key metrics, such as readers and published posts were up approximately 300% year on year. And we witnessed important stories published on Medium — from world-famous leaders
Season 2 is back and the first episode is with Pippin WIlliamson, hot off the heals of his 2016 year in review. This was a great interview where we talk about RCP, business, and of-course, beer
It’s the first episode of Season 2 and I’m glad to be back! Leading off, I got to talk to Pippin Williamson about resurrecting Restrict Content Pro, what it’s like being in the WordPress product space, pricing, developing, finding balance, and lots more in this jam-packed half hour. Show Notes
This is collection post, it contains some of the best Year in Review by some of the cool companies around.
Year in Review sites never fail to push the boundaries of design, making them wonderful sources of inspiration. From fabulous layouts with effective hierarchy to inspiring graphics and photography, these microsites always seem to find a way to do it all (and make it work well). To kick off the new year, check out some of our favorite Year in Review sites from 2016!
If you’re a fan of microinteractions and subtle animations, head over to Campaign Monitor’s 2016 Year in Review site right now. Their parallax design has some of the smoothest scrolling around with some delightful animations mixed in. If this doesn’t inspire you to create some incredible sites this year, I don’t know what will! Check it out.
The design may be simple, but it really complements the content. Instead of focusing on facts about Behance as a company, they focused on stories and themes from members of the Behance community. (Which is incredibly inspiring, in and of itself.) As your scroll down this site, you’ll find success stories, beautiful works that members uploaded, and just a whole lot of design greatness to pull from this year. Check it out here.
I had a chance to interview Josh Strebel of Pagely to discuss moving your business up channel, and building a great team.
Doubling your agency rate is a great way to grow your business. Even if you’re a beginner freelancer, moving from $50/hr to $75/hr can start to move the needle considerably. Sounds obvious, but so many people that I talk to still won’t take the leap. Which totally makes sense, it’s a move filled with fear and uncertainty. You’ve been selling your work at a set price, for the last 3 years, and asking clients for more money can be jarring. Further, moving your price up will also change the expectations from clients, and you’ll discover new issues like more legal paperwork or insurances.
In today’s episode with Josh Strebel, founder of Pagely (sponsor of this podcast) we’ll discuss all of the intricate points of moving your business up channel, and how to shift your mindset to focusing on customer service. We’ll also dive into the deep end of where WordPress is going from a user experience perspective, and how WordPress hosting companies have a particular advantage in shaping it’s future.
Make sure to buy your tickets for PressNomics 5
Enjoy the episode, don’t forget to thank our sponsors Pagely & Valet.
Watch the live stream
How does WP Site Care continue to grow their business in a crowded market? What lessons have they learned from creating multiple channels of revenue? Tune-in to my latest episode!
WordPress support companies are one of the fastest growing business models that I’ve seen in our space in quite some time. The concept being, for a monthly fee, you get a dedicated WordPress support company that can tackle all of your technical needs — around your WordPress website. Here’s the issue, it’s easy to start a company like this, but it’s not easy to keep it sustainable.
How do you survive as a business owner? That’s what Ryan Sullivan of WP Site Care joins us to talk about on today’s episode.
Interview with Ryan Sullivan of WP Site Care
WordPress support businesses
My first Matt Report Startup challenge featured WP Curve, who entered the market offering a shockingly low-cost monthly offering. A price point that spurred attraction to their services, ultimately lead to fast-paced growth and a recent acquisition by GoDaddy.
On the flip side, their growth spawned a lot of “me too” companies, that simply copied their model and charged a dollar less. I commend Sullivan for his ability to navigate these waters, and continue to find growth. It’s a testament to sticking with something, and realizing you’re in it for
Scott Bolinger looks at the WordPress product space in 2016, and where the WordPress business space may be headed in 2017.
Is Envato's premium plugins marketplace the best option in terms of revenue for WordPress plugin authors? Vova dove deep in their numbers to find out.
CodeCanyon is the leading marketplace for selling premium WordPress plugins owned by a digital marketplaces conglomerate – Envato. The marketplace grossed over $70,000,000 since 2009, processed 2.3 million sales of WordPress plugins, and has a growing community of 7.8 million members. After seeing relatively optimistic results in the previous post where I analyzed ThemeForest, this post focuses on the CodeCanyon marketplace, trying to dive into its unit economics and understand what are the chances of “making a living” by using it to sell premium WordPress plugins.
What is CodeCanyon?
CodeCanyon was Envato’s 6th marketplace launched in 2009 which focuses on scripts and plugins. The first item was listed on June 2009, a jQuery plugin called Zoomer. The first CodeCanyon WordPress plugin was published only a year later (June 2010) by Wim Mostmans from Belgium (if you’re curious, that’s the link to the plugin Owit with Myows).
How Big is WordPress on CodeCanyon?
CodeCanyon Plugins & Scripts Inventory
From a total of 19,006 scripts and plugins on CodeCanyon, 4,861 (or 26%) are premium WordPress plugins.
Since 2009, the CodeCanyon marketplace
Jonathan Perez recaps his year in business at SureFire Web Services, and lets us know who to watch in 2017.
What a fantastic year it’s been. A lot of people are saying 2016 sucked, and I guess with all the tragedies and craziness that has happened, it has, but for business, it’s been great! Here’s my year in review of 2016 and what to look out for in 2017!
Sure Fire Web Services
This is my main brand, and it’s been kicking ass! There have been a lot of ups and downs, but money was made, work has been done, and the direction is clear.
Early in the year, I started pushing more white label work. I could have definitely pushed harder, but this was a new realm for me, so I wanted to test the waters.
Right off the bat, I landed a pretty large contract. I say contract loosely because my biggest mistake for a project of this size was not having one in place. However, this ended up working to my benefit.
This was a $20k project. I had to get other developers and designers in to help me out, and what initially started as a pretty smooth process, quickly turned horribly wrong.
The main issue was communication and expectation. Personally, I think I was a little blinded by the amount of money that it didn’t dawn on me how much work was actually involved. And believe it or
Fred Meyer looks at three areas where a project may go off the rails: developer warning signs, client warning signs, and project warning signs. Great read.
Fred Meyer / January 4, 2017 Happy New Year! In the long break between 2016 and 2017, I had a lot of time to think. My thoughts kept returning to a number of patterns that crop up in own my WordPress client work, and in what I hear from others, both clients and other developers, about the shape and outcomes of their own WordPress projects.
These patterns are, specifically, negative: consistent signs that either a developer or a client, or even an idea, may not be well-positioned to succeed as a WordPress client project.
Because I had a lot of time, I wrote pretty much all of these thoughts down, in what turned out to be a 7,000-word-and-counting account of what I view as WordPress danger signs. This article’s structured into three parts:
Developer warning signs: signs that the developer lacks important knowledge
Client warning signs: potential signs of trouble behavior
Project warning signs: signs that a project idea itself may not be well-conceived
I really hope this is of general use to people—both WordPress developers and people looking for WordPress development help—as they look to make 2017 a year in which more WordPress projects are a success for all involved.
According to Stuart Duff, the data from BuildWith shows now WooCommerce leads 42% of the entire online store on the web. The growth is also true in many segments including Top 100k Online Stores.
Back in August of this year I posted a tweet indicating that WooCommerce was powering a 39% share of all online stores according to data gathered by the service BuiltWith. WooCommerce now powers 39% of all ecommerce sites on the internet according to stats from https://t.co/hJ5ZY4Vs6v pic.twitter.com/rCkszjpW27
— Stuart Duff (@stuartduff) August 19, 2016
A quarter later that percentage has grown to an approximate 42% market share which equates to around 1,742,053 stores using WooCommerce according to statistics.
WooCommerce has also overtaken other eCommerce platforms within the Top Million sites with WooCommerce now being the most popular choice with a 21% share.
In the Top 100k section WooCommerce has also taken the lead for the first time with a 17% share.
This only leaves the Top 10k section remaining where Magento currently powers 12% ( 18% if we add in Magento Enterprise ). WooCommerce however has also increased it’s share in this tier and is now up to 10%.
The data above is free to view for anyone and you can see this data in the BuiltWith eCommerce Data section.
If you've ever wondered if it was possible to "make a living" by selling on ThemeForest - we pulled data from their public API and analyzed it to answer some questions.
Envato’s ThemeForest and CodeCanyon are de-facto the leading marketplaces for WordPress plugins and themes. With a growing community of over 7 million subscribers, both marketplaces sound like a lucrative place to start selling your digital products. We’ve all heard of the amazing success stories of the Avada theme and the Visual Composer plugin. Those exceptional stories are what attracts developers to join the ship, but is it really possible to “make a living” from selling WordPress plugins/themes on CodeCanyon/ThemeForest? If so, what type of product will yield a better ROI – is it a WordPress plugin or a WordPress theme?
Those are some of the questions this series of 3 posts will answer based on rock-solid unit economics and numbers analysis, pulled directly from Envato’s public API. This first post in the series will focus solo on ThemeForest.
Let’s start with some history…
Envato was originally founded on 2006 by two designers from Sydney, Australia, who started a marketplace for Flash files named FlashDen. Moving 10 years forward, Envato owns 7 different marketplaces and about 7.7 million members worldwide.
Very happy to welcome new colleagues to GoDaddy family. With this acquisition I expect that GoDaddy's WordPress support will get to new highs.
Since 2013, we’ve solved 105,000+ WordPress problems, earned coverage in major media (Fox News, Forbes and Lifehacker) and helped thousands of entrepreneurs with their WordPress sites. We’ve also built a world-class team of WordPress developers, shared lessons learned on this blog, and even enjoyed a few beers along the way. With your help, we’ve been able to build a 100% self-funded and profitable business. We’d like to thank you for reading our blog, referring your friends and using our service – we appreciate you and are truly grateful for your support.
Recently, we’ve been looking at how we could help entrepreneurs on an even bigger scale. Today we’re excited to announce that we’ll be doing that by joining GoDaddy.
We’ve answered some questions you might have below:
We first met with GoDaddy’s hosting team in June 2016. We shared details about the WP Curve model, our team and exactly what we’ve done to get where we have. We quickly agreed that WP Curve services would be a great fit for GoDaddy’s customers. WP Curve complements GoDaddy’s expanding WordPress offering including Managed WordPress
Financial management has been a struggle for me as a business owner & previously as a freelancer. This is a great article by the person who know manages my business on how to handle freelancer finances properly.
About two weeks ago, Josh and I pulled off Caldera’s first-ever promotional event. While we while we were running around downtown Philadelphia shopping for the event, we had a series of funny conversations about what constituted a business expense vs. what did not. In my mind, the definition of a business expense is very clear. The buckets of expenses that are each of our income statement’s lines live very clearly in my consciousness, always.* However, Josh pointed out something I had never realized before: that’s not the case for most people. In fact, he pointed out, freelancers struggle to understand the financial management of their business overall. It really got me thinking about the WordPress adage that all community members have something to offer, and most don’t realize it. But that’s for another day – today is a quick and dirty course on financial management for freelancers.
The challenges of cash flow are usually the main obstacle to most freelancers. Simply defined, the flow of cash is the money you get and the money you spend at any given time. Automating most of your interaction with your capital transactions will go a long
Mario Peshev delivers a toughtful and fact-filled article on the breakdown of WordPress developer salaries, considering all factors.
A known problem in the WordPress industry are the $500 projects and hundreds of thousands of clients looking for free and warez plugins and themes, unwilling to pay a few pennies for a premium solution, and completely baffled by any estimate that is equal to the actual salary of a developer. They often proceed with DIY solutions or site builders, and don’t understand the cost of building a professional solution that is scaled for growth, stability, compatibility, speed and security. And some customers simply don’t need a professional solution – they’re just starting and haven’t faced the challenges of a growing business yet.
I love the overview by Brian at Post Status on the cost of a WordPress website, which seems totally legitimate to me, but completely ignored by the majority of the population.
The cost of a WordPress website – detailed review
We are constantly approached by customers looking for eCommerce solutions, subscription-based websites, scaling large multisite networks. They ask for a custom design, a bunch of hand-crafted plugins, several meetings, revisions, iterations, some maintenance time included and what not. Which is totally fine,
In depth explanation from acquisition to implementation. Check out the new GoDaddy Pro!
Back when we announced the GoDaddy acquisition, a lot of you were surprised. A lot more were concerned about the future of our service. Now it’s time to talk what we’ve been quietly working these past few months. No, it’s not a space octopus that devours your opponent’s websites; that’s on the 2018 road map. But a bit of context first.
Our goal has always been to make your life easier by giving you rock solid tools and making sure you don’t waste your time on trivial tasks that could be automated. We wanted a better hosting integration. A more secure transfer of client credentials. A way to provide you with business leads. Hiqh quality training and certification. All this and more require experience, funding and the manpower we didn’t have.
That’s why it made total sense to team up with GoDaddy: we had the reliable and intuitive way to manage multiple websites, and they have everything else – hosting, training, business leads, the whole shebang. So we joined them and started working with them on relaunching the Pro program.
So, what’s GoDaddy Pro?
GoDaddy Pro Family of Tools
Simply put, GoDaddy Pro helps web developers
A view different than the usual one. Looking at iOS app store one can definitely make such an argument.
You are probably thinking what is Nick smoking, the last time I checked WordPress themes were cheap, like really cheap. True, they don’t cost a lot monetarily but I think cash is only one metric for measuring true cost. A more relevant metric is time. What do I mean by time? I’m talking about the time it takes for someone to set up a theme. Let’s get real. WordPress themes are more complex than they’ve ever been. I think this is a result of a crowded market where people add every feature they can think of in hopes of getting just one more sale. The term “multipurpose theme” gives me nightmares. Everyone’s time has value. If you aren’t setting up this theme you are could be working on your business or spending time with your kids. Time is something that you never seem to have enough of. For the sake of this example let’s say your time is worth $50/hr. If I had to choose between two theme one that cost $35 and takes 3 hours to set up and one that cost $100 but takes only 1 hour to set up if I looked at monetary cost the $35 theme would be a no brainer. However, when you factor in my time the affordable theme’s true cost is $185
I highlight 15 ways to make money with WordPress. Do you have any others?
Tune into my WordPress business podcast: https://mattreport.com/go/itunes Here are 15 ways to make money with WordPress. If you're planning a new business for 2017, or you're just looking for a way to make side income, these 15 ideas might help you kickstart that new venture.
WordPress is a great platform for a variety of business opportunities like services, downloadable products, and more. WordPress has a huge market share (for CMS) and a large energetic community behind it. Keep in mind, it's still just a tool, and your mileage may vary.
In the following notes, I'll link you to the areas I already execute on, in hopes that it gives you an idea of how you can work with my speaking points.
*** Skip ahead ***
00:12 1. Client services. I run a client services agency at https://slocumstudio.com
00:27 2. Consulting. I trade time for money, consulting on WordPress and other areas, on my Clarity channel https://clarity.fm/mattmedeiros
1:02 3. Support services. You could offer support services for a monthly fee or retainer. Checkout my friends at https://www.wpsitecare.com/plans/
1:53 4. Selling WordPress themes. I sell themes at https://slocumthemes.com using Easy Digital Downloads https://