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
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
"You see, EDD is seen around the WordPress community as this great plugin that is wildly successful and a model to look up to in the commercial plugin ecosystem. While this is a reputation that we take great pride in, the honest truth of the matter is our team has struggled with EDD for months because in many ways it has felt like a sinking ship."
On December 14, 2016, my team and I pushed a significant change to our Easy Digital Downloads products: we increased the price on all extensions by 50-250%. Yes, you read that right: up to a 250% price increase on certain plugins. This change was done for a number of reasons, which I will get into shortly, and has resulted in a very interesting last three months. Since I have always been very open with my company’s financials, I would like to now share some reflections on the change that we made and to also share some of the aftermath of the change. The backstory
Since the beginning of Easy Digital Downloads, and I imagine many products, customer support has always been our biggest challenge. Taking care of customers is hands down the most difficult job in the company. It is ripe with challenging problems to solve, long hours, relentless flows of new tickets, on-going conversations that spread not only over days but even weeks and months. Providing good and, when possible, great customer support is, to put it simply, exhausting.
There have been many times over the last 5-7 years where I thought to myself I’m sick of this; I just can’t keep taking care of these people,
Read why we are dumping $36,000 USD in yearly revenue and stop selling WordPress themes on WordPress.com. And what you can learn from it...
For those of you who don’t know, WordPress.com is a WordPress hosting company operated by Automattic, the company of WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg. WordPress.com is the entry level for many users who start building their websites with WordPress, as it doesn’t involve hosting your own website. In the past our flagship theme, MH Magazine, was available on WordPress.com as well, but we decided to stop selling themes on WordPress.com. Why? Let’s start at the beginning… As you may know, MH Themes was founded in 2012 and we launched our MH Magazine theme in February 2013. The theme quickly became popular and our business started to grow rapidly. In January 2014 Philip Authur Moore (a very nice guy who worked at Automattic) reached out to us and asked if we would like to become a premium theme partner of Automattic and launch WordPress themes on WordPress.com. As you probably can imagine, that was very exciting news for us.
Since this was an interesting business opportunity, opening up a whole new market for us, we were thrilled to sign the contract with Automattic. A few days later the theme review process started and it quickly became clear that WordPress.com
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,
An examination of whether or not the idea of a renewals discount benefits WordPress plugin and theme authors, after the topic was brought up due to the controversial manner in which WooCommerce dropped theirs.
WooCommerce just dropped their 50% Renewals Discount and got some heavy backfire from the community due to the way it was rolled out, so I thought it would be a great timing to shed some light on the topic of discounting renewals. Renewals Discount is an important topic which, for some reason, no one has ever covered in-depth before. I personally have had conversations about whether WordPress plugin and theme developers should be discounting renewals or not, in just about every WordPress event I’ve attended in the past 3 years (PressNomics, PrestigeConf, LoopConf, and WordCamps). When I try to understand the reasoning behind the discount, the common and not surprising answer is – “others do it, so we decided to follow the trend”. In most cases, I encourage developers to ditch the Renewals Discount for various reasons which I’ll cover in this article.
Was The WooCommerce Renewals Discount Removal Justified?
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room. I do think that removing the Renewals Discount was a smart business decision for the company, and I’m certain it won’t have any effect whatsoever on WooCommerce’s checkout funnel
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.
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
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
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
Michael Hebenstreit left his equity trading career behind to build a WordPress business. Today, he's making $30,000/mo, but it hasn't been an easy path.
Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on? Hi, my name is Michael Hebenstreit, and I'm a former stock broker and entrepreneur located in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
I'm the founder and CEO of MH Themes, a WordPress theme company specializing in professional magazine WordPress themes for online magazines, news websites and advanced blogs.
Today, we're making around $360k in yearly revenue.
What motivated you to get started with MH Themes?
My background is very different from what I'm doing today. I started my career in the banking industry, working as a stock broker (institutional equity trading) for various banks and broker firms in Frankfurt am Main.
A few years ago I didn't even know what WordPress was, so of course I didn't have any idea how to code a WordPress theme. Nor did I have have any education in design, development, or IT.
However, I tend to get bored quickly, and I often have crazy business ideas (which usually don't become reality), and back in the early days I experimented with creating HTML sites for all kinds of things as a hobby. That was long before WordPress existed.
In 2010 I became interested in online marketing and SEO, and at that time I launched
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.”
Too much cash. Geez, tough problem to have, I guess :)
A start-up often tipped as being one of the country's next "unicorns", Envato, has more cash than it needs to keep growing, so it has decided to make the unusual move of sharing its profits with its staff. The bootstrapped online graphics marketplace was founded 11 years ago in the garage of Collis Ta'eed's Bondi home with his wife Cyan, their long-time friend Jun Rung and two years later his brother Vahid Ta'eed. Since then it has emerged as one of the most profitable tech start-ups in the country.
In the 2016 financial year the company recorded $US29.4 million ($37.1 million) in net profit. While it is yet to file its 2017 numbers, it is expected that profits will be similar.
Envato chief executive Collis Ta'eed said he wasn't aware of any other start-ups having profit shares with their staff, partly because many are not profitable.
"We've been profitable for pretty much as long as we've been around, and we're bootstrapped, so last year at our 10-year anniversary we stopped and reflected and thought about what we're doing and where it's going and with us being profitable enough, we'd always wanted to reward the staff and people who contribute each year," he said.
The final part of an analysis for WordPress product creators, made on the 2 largest Envato marketplaces: ThemeForest & CodeCanyon. Once and for all - which is more profitable? Themes or plugins?
This is the final part (Part III) in our series of WordPress themes & plugins market analysis, where we’re looking at the unit economics of Envato, the company that owns ThemeForest and CodeCanyon. In this final post, I’ll try to answer one simple but critical question – can a developer expect to make more money by selling plugins or themes? The answer will be based on the data from the two previous pieces of research. Part I: ThemeForest By The Numbers: Thought The WordPress Theme Gold Rush Was Over? Think Again!
Part II: CodeCanyon By The Numbers: Can You Pay Your Bills Selling Premium WordPress Plugins on CodeCanyon?
ThemeForest Or CodeCanyon: Results By The Numbers
Let’s start with unit-economics comparison combining data from the previous parts of the research.
ThemeForest Premium WordPress Themes
CodeCanyon Premium WordPress Plugins
(Out of 28,644 Templates)
(Out of 19,006 scripts)
WordPress Themes Gross
80.5% of all templates sales
WordPress Plugins Gross
71.6% of all scripts sales
ARR(Annual Recurring Revenue)
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
This is a major shift. Great news for plugins/themes authors as the potential reach increases. At the same time WP.com vs WP.org lines are more and more blurred.
For many years, WordPress.com has been a simple way for people to create their own beautiful WordPress website in minutes. But that simplicity came with a tradeoff — WordPress.com did not offer built-in support for the thousands of third-party plugins and themes that helped make WordPress the world’s largest and most open web publishing platform.
Now, we’ve made a significant change to the WordPress.com Business plan: you can access and add third-party plugins and themes built by the WordPress community. It’s the simplicity, speed, and expert support that you’ve always loved about WordPress.com, plugged in.
People love WordPress because it is totally customizable. With support for plugins and third-party themes, WordPress.com Business users will be able to connect their sites to great email and social media tools, ecommerce solutions, publishing and subscription services, and more.
This is a big step for us, and there’s a lot more work to do — over the coming weeks and months, we’re going to be working with partners and developers to help make the experience even easier for you to install and use these plugins and themes on WordPress.com.
Tom McFarlin just reviewed our brand new Freemius Checkout. Helping plugin & theme developers to sell their products from any website in minutes.
At the end of last year, I had the chance to meet Vova Feldman and see what he was working on with Freemius. It was a cool product, to be sure, and it’s been neat to see it take off over the last few months. Just as I did with Freemius, I had a chance to see what else Vova has been working on and this time it’s something geared towards those who are selling products via their site.
Thus, there’s the aptly named Freemius Checkout. This product is geared specifically to those who are looking to sell plugins or themes.
Freemius Checkout at a High-Level
I’ll share more in-depth information about the product a bit later. But for those who are more interested in a survey of the actual product, I thought I’d highlight it here.
The Freemius Homepage
In short, Freemius Checkout is positioning itself as:
An easy way for you to sell your WordPress products from anywhere on the internet. It’s basically a Buy Button you can embed on any web page.
There’s a variety of solutions for things like this that are available, but I always enjoy seeing competition entering the market (it feeds innovation, right?). Plus it’s neat to see how other developers tackle
Dealing with hateful Support requests is super challenging. Jason Coleman breaks it down with great tips.
Entrepreneurship is hard. To run a successful business takes knowledge, skill, and money. It also takes a certain kind of personality to persist through the innumerable issues many entrepreneurs struggle with. Some business owners struggle financial risks, competition, failures, and more failures. Some struggle with the responsibility of providing for one’s family and employee’s families. There’s one more thing many business owners struggle with: hate. No one was talking much about this, but as our business grew, I found I was unprepared to deal with the increasing amount of hate mail and negative interactions happening online around our company and products.
I thought I was coping well, but in reality the stress was getting to me. Work wasn’t fun anymore, and the stress was bleeding into my personal life. I found myself more angry and quick tempered around my wife and kids.
I’m not alone. In conversations with other entrepreneurs, this topic of dealing with hate mail and negative communications often comes up. I notice some people are avoiding certain business models or business opportunities all together for fear of becoming a target of hate. Our community
There's almost no public information on plugin and theme acquisitions in the WordPress ecosystem. Part I in this series is looking to change that by sharing Phil Derksen's vast experience, especially after his recent acquisition.
If you’ve been following the WordPress products space, it’s hard to ignore all the plugin and theme acquisitions going around. While it’s a common thing, surprisingly, there’s almost no public information on the topic. In the past few months alone I was contacted by 4 different developers who were interested in selling their plugin/theme business and didn’t know where/how to start the process. So, since M&A (mergers and acquisitions) are an integral part of a healthy and maturing ecosystem, I thought we should host a series of posts, shedding some light on the topic through guidelines and best practices, based on the acquired experience of people who have done it. To kick this series off, we asked Phil Derksen to share his vast experience here, so others interested in selling can get an idea of what steps to take and what the process might look like.
Take it away, Phil:
I’m the founder of WP Simple Pay, a WordPress plugin that lets you accept one-time and recurring payments using Stripe. I formerly acquired, re-built, and eventually sold Simple Calendar, a Google Calendar events plugin, in June 2017. I also built and sold a Pinterest sharing plugin
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
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
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