Quite a few people have asked me how WP Site Care started and I finally sat down and wrote it all out. I shared some of my mistakes along the way, and some of the most valuable things I've learned too. Hope you all find it interesting/useful :)
After reading Josh Pigford’s post on the Baremetrics blog last week about his journey from Maker to Manager, I had a flood of memories come to me about the time I’ve spent building WP Site Care, and all of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. My role at the company has changed a lot since the early days, and I thought it’d be fun to not only take a look back and where we’ve been, but also to figure out a lesson or two that I’ve learned along the way. Where it Began
I started to think about how far we’ve really come in just a few short years, and realized that I’ve never even shared our company’s origin story with the world.
Origin stories are generally reserved for superheroes, but why can’t a hip (ok, this could be subjective) and growing brand have an origin story too? The truth is that it can, and I’d like to share ours with you today.
Humble Beginnings, Hold the Krypton
I’ll apologize in advance for all of the terrible puns I’ll be using throughout the post. It’s a cheesy theme, but I’m gonna roll with it, mainly because I can. And because superheroes are pretty awesome.
WP Site Care has been 100% bootstrapped from day 1.
When I left my corporate job in IT, I wanted to build
Nick Haskins is putting up Aesopinteractive for sale. Aesop Story Engine, Lasso, Story.AM, etc.
A couple weeks ago I moved the entire family across a few states from Texas to North Carolina, in search of something better in life. You see in Texas, there just isn’t anything to do, or see. You can drive for eight hours (no exaggeration) and the land stays flat, and you’ll still be in Texas. Sure you can hike, for maybe 10 minutes out of the year when it’s not 200 degrees. Sure you can swim in the river, for a couple months out of the year and you’re guaranteed to have 3000 other people there too, because it’s the only place to go. You surely can’t live off the land very easily, and seasons? Yeah right, there’s two. Really hot, or really cold.
So we’ve been here in North Carolina for a couple of weeks, and we couldn’t be happier. My kids are happy. My wife is happy, and the weather is just amazing. During this time, I’ve learned one important lesson.
Family. Is. Everything.
But unfortunately the last couple of years I’ve been putting my code before my family. That stopped two weeks ago. At 3 o’clock I turn the computer off, and I spend time with my family. I’m committed to my job at CG Cookie, and at the end o the day I really don’t want to spend any more time on the computer than
Huge news! Wow, this came as a big surprise, but congrats to them, and best of luck to all.
Today marks the beginning of the next exciting chapter in our journey as WooThemes. The short and sweet of it – we are joining the Automattic family! Read more about this from WooThemes co-founders, Mark and Magnus and from Matt Mullenweg of Automattic. What does this mean for our customers? If you’re using WooThemes products (extensions, themes, or other) your licenses and experience will continue as before and there is no reason to worry. In the coming weeks and months you can expect business as usual from WooThemes, now with the added power of Automattic behind everything we do. For support, continue to reach out to us in the same way you always have done.
What does this mean for our team? The Woo ninjas are not going anywhere! They’ll continue working all around the world, with exciting opportunities for learning and growth through the cross-pollination of Automattic’s and our engineering, support and marketing teams.
In 2008, as three strangers in three countries, we set out on a quest to pioneer WordPress commercial theming, never dreaming of the rocket-propelled voyage into the self-hosted eCommerce unknown that lay ahead. It’s been an incredible ride, backed by a unique community,
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
Nice to see another European WordPress team getting an investment. Congrats to Borek and his team in Prague. I hope larger investments in WordPress businesses in general become a more common thing throughout the world.
Anybody who has ran or developed a WordPress-powered site, be it a humble blog or something more complex, knows that it’s pretty easy to make undesirable changes. This can be either content-related or a change to the WordPress theme or plugin you’re running. While backing up is crucial, a primitive backup doesn’t always let you roll back to the exact point where everything was fine. Enter VersionPress, a Prague-based startup that offers version control for WordPress. The company essentially wants to create an ‘undo button’ for changes you make to a WordPress site, with software built on top of Git, the popular open source version control system. To help further develop its offering, VersionPress has picked up $400,000 backing from Prague’s Credo Ventures.
“WordPress is a great publishing platform but has certain drawbacks that affect almost any website powered by it,” VersionPress founder Borek Bernard tells TechCrunch. “One example is that if something breaks a site, be it a failed update or a human mistake, there is no easy way back. It’s like if MS Office had all the rich functionality but no undo button. It’s hard to imagine but WordPress is like that today, which we aim to fix.”
Andy claims that there are too many "cheap" WordPress developers which may drive prices down and scare away some good developers that could make more money specializing in other languages with higher hourly rates.
I was interviewing a potential client. He needed a hybrid Rails/WordPress developer. Lamenting how difficult it is to find someone skilled in both, he said “I’ll probably end up hiring a Rails dev and outsource the WordPress work”. I smiled and said:
“Yeah, WordPress developers are so much cheaper than Rails developers!”
Wait a second. Did that just come out of my mouth?
I’m a WordPress developer.
Shortage of WordPress Developers?
“He’s a super high level WP developer… Do you know of any open positions?” Yes, maybe a couple. Hundred.
— Brian Krogsgard (@Krogsgard) February 12, 2015
WordPress companies seem to be having a hard time finding qualified developers; at least that’s the impression I get as an outsider looking in.
I’d like to propose that the shortage of developers might actually be a pricing problem. Specifically, WordPress salaries and rates are not high enough to draw talent.
I live in the freelance world. My experience is with hourly rates and contracting work – not salaries. I don’t know what WordPress companies are paying in salaries.
However, I think it’s reasonable to assume that WordPress salaries are correlated with WordPress hourly rates. I’ll be working off that
A compilation of revenue statistics of WordPress product businesses, based on publicly released data.
A lot of people in the WordPress community have published transparency reports in the last year, and I wanted to gather them all in one place. It’s mostly for statistical data for presentations, and to analyze what business models people are using. I also have some knowledge that isn’t public information (from my own businesses, and people I know) that gives me a little extra insight.
Personal note to all my fellow business owners: don’t compare yourself and feel bad because you aren’t making what some of these businesses are. There is a lot of back story to these that you don’t know about, none of these people were overnight successes. If that’s you, read this post by Matt Medeiros.
There are lots of people I left out, if you want to be included in this list or update your numbers please leave a comment or shoot me a tweet.
Business model: Free + Paid extensions
Description: WordPress Membership Plugin, Paid Extensions
Business model: Free + Paid extensions
Description: WordPress Plugin/Themes
Business model: Premium
Description: WordPress Affiliate Marketing Plugin
I've done an extensive take on the WooThemes acquisition by Automattic.
Matt Mullenweg announced today that Automattic has acquired WooThemes, whose flagship product is the popular eCommerce plugin, WooCommerce. All 55 team members at WooThemes will join Automattic, swelling ranks at Automattic by around 18%. This acquisition is an important milestone for Automattic, validation for the bootstrapped WooThemes, and will be hugely impactful on the WordPress economy as a whole.
The history of WooThemes and WooCommerce
WooThemes was started in 2008 as one of the first commercial WordPress theme shops. It quickly became popular and paved the way for hundreds of shops to follow in their footsteps.
With the leadership of Adii Pienaar and co-founders Mark Forrester and Magnus Jepson, WooThemes did a ton of interesting things over the years, and dominated the market with a handful of other shops. They launched WooCommerce in September 2011, in the middle of the commercial theme heyday.
WooCommerce’s origins are a hot mess and a long story. WooThemes worked for a long time to develop, with partners, their own eCommerce solution. After numerous failed attempts and false starts, they hired Mike Jolley and Jay Koster full time, and forked JigoShop after acquisition negotiations
WPLift is for sale on Flippa - Here's some thoughts about the sale and a look back at designs for it over the years :)
No april fool! I have decided the time is right to pass WPLift on to a new owner so the site is officially for sale, I posted a listing on Flippa yesterday where I have written over 2000 words for the listing description, check it out if you are interested here. The listing has had quite a bit of interest already, lots of questions to answer :) Why am I selling ? Quite simply, I have been writing about WordPress now on WPLift since 2010 – I have posted just about every week day in that period and the site now contains over 990 posts, I have been finding it more of a struggle to keep up with running the site alongside ThemeFurnace and the addition of 2 children to my family! I would like someone fresh to takeover WPLift who can dedicate more time and fresh ideas to the site.
I still love working with WordPress but I’m a designer at heart so I would like to spend more time building new and interesting themes over at ThemeFurnace and also see how much I can build that business if I focus solely on that side of things. My favourite thing to do work-wise, is spend time in Photoshop trying out new ideas and fleshing them out into full designs – I have a partner who now does the coding side
Iain takes a little break from writing about advanced development to discuss the business models around WordPress plugins, specifically concerning addons. He even reached out to Mr. James Laws over at WP Ninjas for his perspective on the subject as they have a different addon business model than our own.
The release of WP Offload S3 this year saw our portfolio double in size and, like our flagship product WP Migrate DB Pro, WP Offload S3 comes with addon plugins that extend and provide extra functionality. There are many WordPress plugins that have commercially available addons with various pricing models. But charging for this extra functionality is both complicated and challenging, whatever pricing model they use.
Why Addons Exist
Addon or extension plugins exist for exactly the same reasons that normal WordPress plugins exist: the ability to bolt on modules of functionality on a need-to-use basis. This keeps the base product relatively free of bloat, gives developers a level of abstraction, helps simplify the core offering, and the user to pick and choose what to install.
Generally commercial addon plugins exist in two forms of pricing:
Pay per addon, to bolt onto a free base plugin
As part of different price tiers for a commercial plugin.
Both models have their upsides and downsides for both the developer and the customer.
Free Plugin + Addons
There are a number of high profile plugins that operate with the fee core plugin and premium addon model:
Having a free core plugin is a
For every 1400 customers at $10 per month, a hosting firm can afford to hire a system administrator. How does this industry work?
The other day I was reading an article by a writer at a somewhat successful publication, that was basically a takedown piece on a particular large hosting firm where the plan they were on cost $10 per month. As someone who has been in the hosting industry for years, I knew why this particular customer was having a poor experience, but it dawned on me that others wouldn’t. It got me thinking, if people understood the economics of hosting companies, would their expectations change?
Hosting companies are largely like most others, where gross profit determines how many people they can staff for support among other things. A lot of hosting firms will have an average cost of goods sold (servers at data centers) of around 30%. That leaves 70% of each dollar they bring in to pay staff and everything else.
If the company is still trying to grow (and hopefully it is) then another 10% or so will go towards marketing expenses. After all, the cost to acquire a customer in hosting is actually one of the highest out there. Bidding on a keyword like “web hosting” can cost up to $50 per click with AdWords. So marketing and COGS (servers, infrastructure) alone mean that only 60% of each dollar they bring
Automattic is acquiring WP Job Manager, which was making $35k+ per month, from Mike Jolley. Not the last WooThemes employee side project you'll see a shakeup about.
Mike Jolley has agreed to terms to sell WP Job Manager to Automattic. Mike is already joining Automattic after the WooThemes acquisition — under his role as WooCommerce lead developer — and the sale of WP Job Manager is in part due to Automattic’s rules for employee side projects. Mike Jolley is the lead developer of WooCommerce by day, and has managed the very successful WP Job Manager plugin by night.
Mike created WP Job Manager (also on WordPress.org) as a side project for fun in June 2013. He released paid extensions through Gumroad (a hosted tool for selling digital downloads) in September 2013 and in May of 2014 — after the plugin had really taken off — he moved to WooCommerce.
WP Job Manager filled a void in the WordPress plugin space. It now has more than 30,000 active installs, according to WordPress.org, and the suite of add-on plugins and themes has been very successful.
WP Job Manager to be acquired by Automattic
As most readers know, WooThemes and WooCommerce were acquired by Automattic in May. Mike joined the other WooThemes employees at Automattic. Automattic has a strict policy that employees cannot have paid side projects, whether client or product work. For Mike to
Everybody loves revenue reports, here is an insight into another WordPress business.
Inspired by many other businesses in the WordPress ecosystem that have been sharing their revenue numbers and other details behind their businesses, we’ve decided to post a transparency report of our own. I hope this information will help developers who are interested in transitioning from a consulting business to a products-based business. We’re also launching our new PMPro Plus level of membership this week via a series of emails. The emails themselves cover the process we’re using to launch the new level; the details in this post will provide some extra context.
Who are we?
First, some information on who “we” are when talking about where this revenue goes. The company behind Paid Memberships Pro is Stranger Studios; and we consist of myself, Jason Coleman, and my wife Kim Coleman. We’ve also had a few part time contractors over the past few years. Most recently we have two, part-time contractors helping us with PMPro support and select development projects: Harsha and Jess. Things change week to week, but the basic time chart looks something like this:
Jason: 40+ hours per week.
Kim: 20 hours per week.
Jess: 10 hours per week.
Harsha: 10 hours per week.
Top line numbers.
This makes me sad... "next week 80% of all the WordPress websites in the world will use unsupported PHP versions". Sigh...
WordPress.org Statistics page has a fresh new design. And it has a new “Local Data” section presenting the active installs segmentation by language. WordPress Stats Updates
The good old pie charts are now using subtle colors making it easy for the eye. They also use larger charts to help you distinguish between the inner items.
In addition, they added a new “Local Data” chart. The data was always collected by api.wordpress.org but it was never shared publicly. Up until now.
Every WordPress site in the world needs to check whether it uses the latest version. This is why WordPress has a 12 hours cron job that send your site data to check for newer versions. The data it sends is the core version of your current install, installed plugin list with their versions and installed themes list with versions. It also sends server data like PHP and MySQL versions to check for compatibility. Other information like translation files is also being sent.
The wp.org API compares the data from your site to the latest data it holds in it’s servers, and returns a response telling your site whether it needs to be updated or if any of the plugins/themes need to be
A great article on working with Developers, and I quite like that poster too :).
Interruptions are to developers what kryptonite is to Superman—they kill productivity and there’s a significant recovery period. There are two types of interruption: the planned meeting and the one where someone walks over to your desk to talk to you (or if you’re unlucky enough to have a desk phone it’s when the phone rings). The random interruption is akin to walking up to a someone building a lego tower, kicking it over and expecting them to continue from where they were the moment before you arrived. The planned meeting is a lot longer and kills productivity before, not just during and after. So, there are two types of problem that need addressed here.
What happens when a developer is interrupted?
A huge amount of what a developer is doing is in their head. As we write code we need to keep a mental model of how parts of the application that have already been written and are yet to be written interact with the part that we are writing at that moment. We need to have a solid picture of exactly how the code is working as a whole and maintain that picture. It’s not easy, it requires a lot of concentration and has to remain in place while we think of creative and efficient ways to solve
Chris Klosowski on creating opportunities, seizing them, work life balance and more cool stuff in this post.
Outside of the development world, it’s difficult to describe how I landed on my current ‘remote worker lifestyle’. The concept of working from home isn’t new to most people. Some think it’s a late night infomercial’s pipe-dream, and some 100% understand it. When I tell them, though, that I work when I need to, where I need to, and how I need to, without “being my own boss”, they get curious. Where I lose them though, is that it all started with open source. To be fair, this occurs mostly due to the fact that I then have to explain open source and the philosophy of giving back to a community via code (or “Working for Free” in their minds), but once we get past that, it’s kind of an inspiring discussion that actually excites me.
Just a little push
Back in 2012, a service called Pushover was released that allowed an API to talk to a mobile Application, basically giving you the platform to send push notifications with just about any data you wanted, to your mobile device. I was digging this. It was pre-WordPress push notifications for mobile apps and I hate email. I built Pushover Notifications for WordPress (not my first plugin but, my first big one) to allow things like comments and password
Scott Bollinger, creator of AppPresser and Reactor gives a counter-point to Tom McFarlin's argument that WordPress plugins are really just selling "support" and not "products".
When you sell products, you do a lot of customer support. It takes up a lot of time, and some would say product companies are really selling support, not the product. Is support for sale, or is it the product?
If support is really what we are selling, should we tell the customer that?
There is an important distinction to be made here. What we think we are selling, and what the customer actually wants to buy.
What you’re selling vs. what they are buying
Even if you are selling support, the customer doesn’t want to buy support. The customer wants to buy a shiny new product that makes them look and feel like a rockstar, and they assume they will get any help they need after purchasing.
This is important because if you want a successful business you have to sell what people want to buy. You can’t sell them what they don’t know they need, or else you won’t be in business for long.
In the case of products, you sell them a shiny new product and you give them awesome support along with it. If you give them the product free and then ask them to pay you a premium for support, your sales will suffer.
Free Premium Products
Recently a developer name Tom McFarlin announced that he will be moving
Impressive work on the new Happytables from Human Made. A great highlight of WordPress as a platform.
The new Happytables is a slick setup, and they’ve invested more time and energy into a hosted WordPress solution than perhaps anyone but Automattic on WordPress.com. The difference here is they are going after a niche, and it’s a huge one with a big need: restaurants. The Human Made team has been hard at work preparing Happytables 3, an all new platform for the restaurant website builder.
Happytables was one of the first major hosted initiatives after WordPress.com, and launched in early 2012. You can see the post I wrote about them then. They’ve matured a lot since that time, investing more into products, finding their footing from a sales perspective, and expanding their team.
Human Made has a products team of six people, including some WordPress back-end development heavyweights. The new Happytables 3 is built using a custom REST API to make it unrecognizable from WordPress, though it’s built completely on WordPress. Ryan McCue, who is leading the official WordPress REST API project, is lead on the Happytables API as well.
The new Happytables dashboard is catered directly to restaurant owners. It simplifies much of the decision making for theming, utilizing a single standard template
An interesting event just took place, I am sure there is more to come
As business owners focused on selling WordPress GPL products, it’s our duty to take an action and legally protect our business against trolls.
Software licensing can be very confusing subject, especially in the open-source world. Boundaries of legality and ethics aren’t always clear. But as business owners focused on selling WordPress GPL plugins, it’s our duty to understand these topics thoroughly. This post will not address ethics and will focus on the legal considerations. It will provide you a step-by-step actionable formula, including feedback from experienced attorneys in this space, to protect your WordPress business against plugin ‘trolls.’
As a plugin developer for the past five years, I’ve read tons of articles discussing the GPL, its freedoms, and the challenges associated with running a GPL-compliant business. But in the last few months, this topic has become even more significant for me.
In August, a Twitter account named WordPress Plugins (https://twitter.com/plugswp) followed me. As a matter of habit, I checked their profile to learn more about that user. I soon discovered that the handler was associated with ‘wppluginscheap.com,’ a plugins & themes ‘troll’ that touts itself as “the number 1 source for Cheap Premium WordPress Plugins and Themes.” Browsing the site, I found many popular premium plugins like Yoast
Matt's announcement really drives home how big this news is. The video production, the data. Automattic is taking Shopify head-on and with gusto.
For years, we’ve been working on democratizing publishing, and today more people have independent sites built on open source software than ever before in the history of the web. Now, we want to make it easy for anyone to sell online independently, without being locked into closed, centralized services — to enable freedom of livelihood along with freedom of expression. It’s not a new idea: at a WordCamp a few years ago, someone stood up and asked me when we were going to make it as easy to create an online store as we’d made it to create a blog. Everyone applauded; there’s long been demand for better ecommerce functionality, but it’s been outside the scope of what Automattic could do well.
That changes today — drum roll — as WooCommerce joins the Automattic team to make it easier for people to sell online. Along with Woo’s announcement, here’s a short video explaining more:
In the past few years, WooCommerce really distinguished itself in its field. Just like WordPress as a whole, it developed a robust community around its software, and its products meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
Woo is also a team after Automattic’s own distributed heart: WooCommerce
Great to see sites like Inc writing about WordPress. No doubt if you ask me that plugins can be more profitable than themes.
If you think that, you're missing a pretty big part of WordPress. Yes, it first became popular as a blogging platform, but nowadays, WordPress is one of the most popular and profitable destinations for website creation on the internet. For those who weren't convinced, however, consider some of these mind-boggling statistics from the ManageWP blog. Indeed, there are lots of good reasons why WordPress is by far the most popular CMS site on the market today, among them are its great options for small businesses and its ease of use. And the explosive growth of WordPress in the last few years has led to a number of extremely profitable sub-industries within the WordPress world. Perhaps one of the key reasons for the rise of WordPress has been its customizability, and the rise of WordPress themes has pretty much directly mirrored the rise of WordPress itself. As it stands now, there are literally thousands of WordPress themes you can employ to customize your website. Sites like Envato's ThemeForest and TemplateMonster are just a couple of the many sites that have popped up in recent years, all with the goal of providing a forum of all sorts of themes for WordPress users keen to customize
Jami Gibbs of the challenges of marketplaces such as Envato. Same problem is anywhere, look at iOS App store.
I’ve been thinking about a scenario brought to light over on the Envato Market which suggests one of the top selling themes may be involved in bulk purchasing licenses to their own theme. Bulk purchasing on the Envato Market isn’t particularly unusual especially for files that haven’t adopted the GPL license. The default Envato Split License only allows for a file to be installed on a single instance so, if a theme or plugin isn’t GPL, the license will need to be purchased multiple times if a user wants to use it multiple times.
The Envato Market Membership terms [ Section 25b ] outline that authors aren’t to purchase their own files but the fact of the matter is that the number of sales a file has directly impacts the popularity of that file (e.g. sales) so it’s hard not to think about ways to bend the rules, right?
I believe the current situation directly relates. Allow me to divulge in my own theory about how this theme has managed thousands of overnight purchases and the reason behind it:
Thousands of copies of the theme have been purchased as a “give away” to each person who signs up for a webinar. The purpose of the webinar? Teaching people how to use the theme, of course.
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