WordPress Plugin Prices Are Too Low

111 Comments

WordPress-Plugins-PricingI’ll admit it, I’m on a mission. Just like you are. Only mine is righteous and yours is evil. Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme. :)

I spend my afternoons and evenings working with startups, and these days many of them are in the WordPress community. It’s easier for me that way – there’s more natural consolidation and alignment than if my coaching were with other startups and I still spent time writing and using WordPress.

In just about every call I’ve had in the last two weeks, I’ve noticed a trend. It’s a scary one.

Programmers are Pricing Poorly

I’m the one arguing for higher prices and the folks behind some amazing plugins, themes, and services have under-priced. But they’re not under-pricing for the normal reasons like insecurity and lack of self-worth.

They’re pricing at ridiculously low prices simply because they don’t believe the market can sustain a higher price.

But I beg to differ.

You see, I think this “race to free,” which is what I’m calling the trend for low price demand, will hurt everyone.

It will drive really great entrepreneurs towards other markets. It will drive some products into complex products at higher prices. And it will rob the community of some great products and programmers.

Let’s look at three simple but different examples.

Pure Productivity – Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms does a ridiculous amount of things for your site. From contact forms to list building forms, to polls and quizes, to surveys, to registration systems to post capturing. On a single site, I’ve seen it replace 20-30 hours of work, easily. Now imagine using it on 10-20 sites in a year. Easy math, incredibly conservative math, would suggest it saves you 5-10 hours a site.

I don’t care if you’re charging customers $1,000 a site or $10,000 a site. You can do the math on how much it saves you. In fact, in some cases, it’s not about saving. It’s about empowering. There are some projects you just couldn’t take on without Gravity Forms. So why isn’t their developer edition more like $400?

If you’re worth $50/hour and it saves you 5 hours a site, and you do 10 sites a year – it’s saved you $2500 – right?

So let’s be honest – at $200/year it’s still about half off of what those guys should be charging.

(By the way, some of you are worth way more than $50/hour, do way more than 10 sites a year – you know who you are.)

Customer Training – WP101

It’s up to you to calculate your own hourly rate. But let’s say you’re still wondering about all that and come up with a really conservative number: $40/hour. I know you’re worth more. But let’s go with that.

You build sites for people. And you know what they do? They call you. They have questions. And the moment you pick up the phone, you lose money. Because you can’t earn your regular rate while doing a free support call.

So what should you do?

Send them to wp101.com – that’s what you do. In fact, send them to the site before you finish your work – so they can start getting trained in advance.

For $36 they’ll train your customer via more than 17 videos. Now seriously – assuming your time is valuable and you’re charging well for your projects – wouldn’t you pay $50 for someone else to take care of your customer training for an entire year?

I know I would. In fact, it’s the reason I’m a customer. So let’s be honest – wp101 is selling a year’s subscription at 30% off.

Complete Solutions – WP Courseware

A lot of the folks that email me about membership and online training / e-learning solutions want to know about the best approach to take for their unique situation. As they write me, they tell me about their plans and the products they’re creating.

These are often some pretty serious and amazing things people are building.

So you can imagine the shock I might feel when people suggest that buying a plugin that will do 75% of the sites functionality (all in a single plugin) may be too costly – at $47.

Seriously? Do you have any idea what it used to cost to build a solution like what you get from WP Courseware? Thousands of dollars. In fact, when I work with clients to build their learning solutions or membership sites, I still charge thousands of dollars.

You know what I don’t do? I don’t complain that I can get a Developer license for $127 – for unlimited sites, unlimited upgrades and lifetime support. Are. You. Kidding. Me?

We could go thru the exercise to evaluate your time, the time savings, and all that. But you’re likely to tell me that you can get something else for less or for free.

That’s just crazy talk. Do me a favor – go get it now for $127 before they come to their senses and start charging $250 for that Developer license, or turn it into a yearly license.

You’ll thank me later – trust me, you will.

WordPress Plugin Prices are Too Low

Here’s what I know. These prices are all way too low. I set aside a budget of $2000 a year for plugins that help me make money. The last several years I’ve not spent it. Know why? Because the market keeps pushing these prices down. And the message is wrong, because eventually some folks are just going to look at doing something else.

You may not be in the place to set aside $2000 for tools. But if you aren’t – let me ask you some very pointed questions:

  • Would you visit a dentist who wasn’t using digital x-rays?
  • Would you take your car to a mechanic that didn’t understand the role of computer chips in cars / diagnostics?

I’m not saying $2000 is a magic number. For me it’s a small portion of profits from a year of consulting. It’s truly a tiny amount. For me. But you may need to set aside $500. And grow it over time.

What you can’t do, what you shouldn’t do, what I don’t recommend you do – is complain about the prices of the tools that make you move more quickly and allow you to generate revenue easier and faster. That’s just wrong.

Even if you don’t run out and spend some money with some amazing plugin developers, like Pippin Williamson and his incredible e-commerce solution, send them an email thanking them for being so generous as to offer such amazing trades of product for such small amounts of cash.

Trust me, they’ll love your email.

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  • http://bringuptospeed.com Dorian Speed

    Chris, you’re so right about the time that we can save by investing in quality tools. I think sometimes – speaking as a member of the wimpy freelancer community – it’s simply fear that keeps people from taking the plunge and investing in a developer’s license for a really great plugin. What if I don’t get enough clients to justify this, what if the plugin isn’t worth it, etc. I think just treating YOURSELF like a professional, one who brings value to a client, makes a big difference in your attitude towards purchasing licenses. I also try to “tip” developers of free plugins that I consistently rely upon. I’m amazed at how generous various developers are in sharing incredibly complex solutions with the rest of the WordPress community.

  • http://benmay.org Ben May

    Like I tweeted yonks ago, now knowing how awesome something like Gravity Forms, or Advanced Custom Fields is, I’d happy part 4 figures for it. It makes that back in a month for me.

    However the challenge for plugin developers, is how do you prove that you’re worth it?

    When we’re in a market dominated by $15 plugins, that are crap, how do we price it and sell that this one isn’t going to be another crap one, just 100x more expensive.

    • http://volatylthemes.com/ Sean Davis

      Exactly. This is exactly what Chris mentioned early in the article. The “race to free” hurts all of us.

      I recently dropped my first major theme (framework, actually) for WordPress and if I do say so myself, that thing is pretty sweet. But even I came out of the gate at a ridiculously low price simply because there’s a clear separation between the framework big dogs and then all of these talented developers who are releasing them for pennies or even for free.

      Why did I have to do that? Actually, did I have to do that? I think the answer is no. But if potential customers have mentally created a difference in quality in their minds because of the pricing differences, I now have a lot more to prove about my framework right out of the gate just to charge HALF of what it’s really worth!

      It’s ridiculous. It really comes down to not worrying about any of that stuff and pricing your work for what it’s worth. Easier said than done, though. Especially when no one knows you and their basis for product comparison is sales copy. Sheesh.

  • http://www.wpbeginner.com/ Syed Balkhi

    I think this will make a great discussion topic at our wpMBA session. Honestly its all about who your target audience is. If you are creating a plugin and your target audience is everyone and their mom, then yes you better keep it at $37. Heck you should even make a lite version for free.

    If your target audience is high level enterprise clients, then charge the crap out of your plugin. Make it a few thousand bucks if not more.

    I think Vladimir from ManageWP wrote a post once about how his highest level plan for his plugin SEO Smart Links Pro bring the most profit and the least amount of headache. That is very true. I bet Carl from GF can agree there with GravityForms as well.

    Its all about the target audience. However, I do see a flaw in the business model as well. I think that most plugin developers don’t have a good business model. I’m all for using low prices as an entry-level point. Big companies do this all the time, but the difference is that they actually up sell. They are segmenting the user and seeing what the person is interested in. Then they offer them the appropriate up sell for them. One way of doing this is by developing complimentary products.

    Copyblogger is a great example of this. They cross-promote their products all the time, and I am pretty sure it works. Why wouldn’t a user buy from you? They already trust you and love your product.

    A different route would be to to create premium features. Pippin does this in a great way. He has a lot of add-ons for his plugins which makes for a good up sell.

    Lastly, its also about the mentality and the way you think. I can go on and make this a really long 5000 word post, but I should get back to doing some work.

    See what you do Chris when you get me all excited. I’m really looking forward to the wpMBA session and hanging out with you in general.

  • http://gravatar.com/dianekinney Diane Kinney

    I think part of the problem is noise created by do-it-yourselfers and barely qualified “professionals”. When I see people cry and complain about the cost of these plugins I just have to laugh to myself – what Chris says here is incredibly accurate and if you are doing a professional job and charging appropriate pricing, these licenses are a drop in the bucket and so valuable.

    Of course, I have been in this industry since every line of code for a website was written by hand by large, expensive teams, and it wasn’t unusual for an intermediate website with a content management system to cost $100,000. When you have coded your own website forms from scratch, you KNOW what an incredibly value Gravity Forms is.

    I think developers will have to focus a bit more on who their ideal clients are and price accordingly.

    • http://www.newlocalmedia.com/blog Dan Knauss

      That’s all, true, but it’s the DIY “whiners” who make up the vast majority of the user base and market, so what you are talking about doing is pricing them out by professionalizing the market and moving WordPress into the space that platforms like Drupal, DotNetNuke and Expression Engine have been in a long time. That would severely contract the WordPress community as it is reduced to professionals who pass the rising costs to their clients. Raise costs enough and you end up with a lot fewer clients, so the number of WP professionals will shrink too. At the same time you’ve created a huge opportunity for others to pick up the low end market you just gave away. At the end of all that are plugin developers going to make more a lot more money selling to fewer customers at a higher price? Maybe, maybe not.

      • http://chrislema.com chrislema

        I’m not suggesting pricing anyone out. Sorry you heard that.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dan.knauss Dan Knauss

          I didn’t. I was replying to Diane.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dan.knauss Dan Knauss

          Chris — I’m actually not against anyone raising prices, or even of pricing people out, which is an inevitable effect of rising costs. :)

          • http://www.creativeperspective.com.au Paul

            I agree. Those at the lower end will never pay more – but if providing for them doesn’t make you money, then so be it. We still need to eat.

  • http://gravatar.com/blackmondo traversal

    Another great post Chris.

    Ben is spot-on about this too – it can be difficult to prove that a plug-in is worthwhile. I would add that it’s especially tricky when it can be hard to offer a “trial version” without giving the whole thing away (without even going into the whole quirkiness of selling GPL-based software). Many developers are coming up with creative ways of doing this as Syed has touched on, but it’s all extra work on top of what you’re already doing to maintain a high quality plug-in.

    In a way though, I guess some of these challenges are applicable to any business. A large part of marketing any product or brand is about building a reputation in your respective industry and earning people’s trust, especially if you’re a new player. Once you get that reputation, it surely becomes a little easier to charge more from the get-go. Anyone would wager that if Rocketgenius released a completely new plugin for $499 at the top end, they’d have a much better chance selling that on the back of the rep they’ve built up with Gravity Forms. See also the “halo effect”, the term often used when talking about how Apple have been able to sell more Macs on the back of the iPhone and iPad.

    I’ll certainly be doing something myself in the “free as in beer” space in the next few months to boost my own reputation. I’m confident that my plugin MasterPress is a good product, but proving that isn’t trivial if customers can’t try it out (or at least part of it) in the context of their own projects.

  • http://bradt.ca Brad Touesnard

    Great post Chris. I’m with you on this, but I still don’t have the balls to up my prices relative to other plugins.

    If the plugin saves you $2,500 per year, then even if it was priced at $1,200 it’s clearly still worth it. But in my limited experience so far, it seems people just compare the price to other plugins and don’t consider it’s value as a factor of time savings.

    When I received my first complaint about the pricing of WP Migrate DB Pro last month, I replied explaining the time savings value and it immediately convinced the customer to buy. Here’s what I wrote:

    Hi Nathan,

    Thank you very much for your candor. It is highly likely that there are others who feel the same as you about the price, but didn’t take the time to write and say so.

    That being said, I can tell you that this is a complex piece of software. It was not easy to build. Data migration is tricky which I believe is why respected WordPress developers are praising this tool as a huge time saver. If you value your time at $50 per hour, this tool only needs to save you 2 hours in 1 year and you’ve broken even.

    Setting prices is certainly tricky business and I haven’t read a ton on the subject and am certainly no expert. But I can say I am a big fan of Gravity Forms, looked to them as a sustainable model, and have chatted with Carl for advice. This is largely what our pricing was based on.

    There are plenty of coupon codes floating around, but you can use SUPERSAVER to get 20% off any of the licenses (expires April 30).

    Again, your feedback is much appreciated. You could have just walked away and said nothing. Now I know that at least someone is not happy about the price and that’s valuable information. Much appreciated.

    Cheers,
    Brad

    Like I say in the email above, other people were probably thinking the same thing but not emailing, so I added a big bright callout just under the pricing table of WP Migrate DB Pro.

    Seem a little pricey?
    Some quick math… say you charge $50 per hour. Then 2 hours of your time is worth $100. So, this tool only needs to save you 2 hours to pay for a Developer license!

    My conversion rate has doubled since I put this up. :)

    • http://www.wpmayor.com Jean Galea

      That’s very clever Brad, love the idea of including a little math beneath the pricing table. Maybe other developers should adopt it, especially since it really applies to this discussion of higher pricing vs customer expectations.

    • http://bradt.ca Brad Touesnard

      Thanks Jean! I’d love it if others would adopt this. Copying would be a compliment in this case. :)

      • http://www.sunshinephotocart.com Derek Ashauer

        I just copied you, great idea Brad. I am going to be creating a calculator for users to compare all the other competitors to see how ours is ultimately cheaper.

    • http://gravatar.com/ashokrane ashokraneAshok Rane

      Copied the same text on my plugin page & I believe it is working. :) Thank you.

  • http://gravatar.com/granatdesign akismet-bb85f6f3fd3a30218c171c61785dfe71

    I agree with article, but one trend I don’t really like is the limit on sites. It seems like less and less plugins are offering an unlimited option and/or lifetime updates, etc… I understand, but really love how gravity forms is done that way, as well as genesis. I think the problem becomes more of a domino effect, as most plugin buyers are web designers like myself, who have a difficult time selling that benefit to the end customer.

    In other words, the end customer still wants to pay the same amount for a website, and couldn’t care less what you have to pay for a plugin…

    I guess what this will do is push us web designers to charge more…

    • http://www.newlocalmedia.com/blog Dan Knauss

      IIRC, limits based on domains/sites are in violation of the GPL. Have you ever heard of them being enforced?

      • http://www.seedprod.com John Turner

        Limiting updates and support on a domain level are not violations of the GPL. If you disabled the code it would be.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dan.knauss Dan Knauss

          Right, but the idea that is usually put across to the customer is that you can’t install the product on more than a certain number of domains, or sites, however they define it. Yet under the GPL you can do that, right? And if the product owner doesn’t want you doing that, what is the GPL compliant and cost-effective, practical means of enforcing a restriction?

  • http://www.seedprod.com John Turner

    For me, as a plugin developer, it’s not just finding the highest price I can charge, it’s finding that magic (price vs sales) number that generates the most revenue. Plugin pricing is an ongoing adventure :) and find that magic number takes time and testing.

    My biggest jumps in revenue have been playing with my plugins pricing. For example I found that pricing a single version license @ $29 converts just as well at it priced at $19. And that’s a instant 50% increase. Multiple packages increase sales. Though I’m still testing the right combination of packages. I don’t believe in unlimited updates and support , though I did test it and found that an unlimited packages didn’t convert any better than just selling it for 1 year of support and updates.

    If your product solves a real issue someone is having then price generally is not as big of a factor. Especially in the B2B market.

    If you are a plugin developer I encourage you to:
    1. Create your own site and sell you plugin. Code Canyon lets you do 0 price testing and there is no way to set yourself apart. It’s OK to start, but you need to build your brand for long term success.
    2. Price test your packages, finds that sweet spot in the curve.
    3. A/B your site and your pages, optimize the funnel. Most developers know nothing about conversion rates and that’s it easier to optimize the traffic you have vs generating more traffic.

    Developers tend to want to develop, but if you can learn the marketing side you become very dangerous.
    Educationing myself on the marketing side has been one of the most profitable things I have ever done.

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  • http://jchristopher.me Jonathan Christopher

    I think this post is spot on, but does a very unique thing at the same time: identifies the segmentation in the WordPress ecosystem. There are now a ton of various user groups for WordPress, the bulk of which (if we’re honest) are looking for free everything. There is a completely new segment of users though that are absolutely willing to pony up and recognize the value in well written software. I don’t think we can completely generalize a stance that all WordPress plugins are too cheap for their own good. Instead we can enjoy the fact that the entire economy is maturing; it’s an exciting thing to watch.

  • http://twitter.com/andrea_r andrea_r (@andrea_r)

    Actually, the people who complain about the cost of paid plugin aren;t thinking about how much time it saves over them coding ti from scratch, because they don;t code. Their argument is “Why should I pay for this when I can use a free plugin?” ;)

  • http://www.web-savvy-marketing.com Rebecca Gill

    Preach it brother!

    As a developer I am happy to pay for premium anything. I use Soliloquy, Gravity Forms, and Genesis with every custom build or theme we create. I feel guilty with each installation because I do not feel that I pad enough for the software. All three are worth their weight in gold to me.

    • http://chrislema.com chrislema

      Totally agree.

  • http://interconnectit.com David Coveney

    It’s a selling problem – we got a lot of surprised responses when we launched The Auditor at $250 for the developer license. Some called it the most expensive WP plugin. I don’t know if it is or if it isn’t, but at that price it’s able to sustain itself, and the people who have bought it really appreciate. And in fact, because they’ve paid good money they seem to be more engaged with leveraging it, using the filters, and so on.

    I think at $25 there wouldn’t necessarily be ten times the market – in fact, it could even be positively dangerous – low cost hosting and logging of frequent events to the database don’t go too well together. So if somebody cheap were to buy the plugin it may just lead to dramatically increased support costs and a lower overall return, even if we did sell ten times as many copies.

    So yes, a very good point there – there’s no need to be cheap. But I suppose psychologically we look at WP, how awesome it is, and anchor our minds to the price we paid for that – $0. That makes anything other than $0 pretty hard to market.

  • http://www.wp101.com/ Shawn Hesketh

    Thanks for the mention, Chris. And yep, I’m guilty.

    Over the years, I’ve been told by dozens of WordPress professionals that we don’t charge nearly enough for the value WP101 delivers—especially in alleviating some of the burden for time-challenged developers.

    And the WP101 Plugin has become one of the first plugins many developers install on their clients’ sites, saving them countless hours in customer training.

    But the reality I’ve continued to bump into is that it simply doesn’t convert at a higher price point.

    Since I launched WP101 more than 4 1/2 years ago, we’ve experimented with just about every price point and model imaginable, and have finally arrived at what appears to be a “sweet spot” for most folks’ budgets.

    Any higher and folks simply don’t sign up. Any lower and we risk the long-term future of the company.

    And I want to be doing this for a long time!

    Like others who have weighed in here, I would happily have paid twice as much for Gravity Forms… once I realized how powerful it was. That wasn’t the case at first, and I’ll admit I was initially hesitant to pull the trigger.

    But after I’d included Gravity Forms on a couple of sites, I was thrilled. The add-ons have saved me hundreds of hours of development time over the years. And I recommend Gravity Forms to anyone in a similar position. Looking back now, that Developer License was one of the best business purchases I’ve made.

    So does this just boil down to doing a better job of communicating the value up front? If so… how?

    Thanks again for this article, Chris. Happy to be used as an example any time! :)

  • http://www.wysija.com Kim

    Here’s my observation over the 1 year of existence of our freemium newsletter plugin called Wysija.

    1. Our plugin is considered expensive at $99/year. One of the reasons is that people compare us to other Premium plugins.

    2. WordPress offers a variety of customer segments. ie, we have conglomerates and lone bloggers as customers.

    3. If you’re not a service, or SaaS, you’ll have to offer a single price. Sorry!

    4. The “commercialization” of WordPress products is still new. Users still expect free, or cheap, just like myself.

    5. The margins for website creators are slim since WordPress sites are sold for cheap.

    Most WP shops are very small and amateurish. Their budgets won’t grow. In fact, they’ll decrease. This segment will probably grow, although I have no stats to back this assumption.

    6. Look at prices of plugins in Magento, Prestashop, Joomla and Drupal. WordPress is in synch, if you consider the audience and their budgets.

    7. You loose money offering coupons.

    8. Stop your affiliate program. WooThemes did it, for all the right reasons.

    9. A few Premium plugins have actually increased prices (tri.be), or offered a paid version (Yoast).

    10. Our “unlimited site” site package was considered too expensive at $599. We lowered it recently to $399. Are we making more money? Time will tell.

  • http://gravatar.com/mathetos Matt Cromwell

    I understand your point, and I think it has merit. But I think it’s important to add that most all of us had to start somewhere, and most all of us didn’t start with bundles of cash to spend on tools. That had to develop over time. If all of these SaaS products and giant (and amazing) plugins could offer low-cost versions with the basics and the ability to upgrade at a discount in the future, that might be very enabling. Premium products are not what people who are building their skills learn with, they learn with tools that are available to them, then they reach the ceiling of those tools and demand more. That’s hopefully when they’ve got enough revenue to buy into better products.

    I think you had this in mind, Chris, at the end when you encouraged folks to AT LEAST say thank you to developers who provide amazing products in general. I think things like http://flattr.com/ can also be beneficial in this way.

    • http://chrislema.com chrislema

      If I had to encourage someone starting out today, I’d tell them to put aside 50% of their jobs for the first three projects and use that to fund time-saving premium plugins. They’ll net better profits the rest of the year.

    • http://gravatar.com/dianekinney Diane Kinney

      Many of these plugins do have that option. My first purchase of Gravity Forms was a single site license, which I them upgraded to a developer license during the next deal they offered. I had budgeted the single site cost into the project I was doing. I own premium versions of the better plugins for WordPress development, and I certainly haven’t spend bundles of cash. Perhaps a total of $600 over the last few years?

      • http://gravatar.com/mathetos Matt Cromwell

        Thanks for the reply Diane, I have done the same thing over the past few years, but I feel like there is a trend towards pricier plugins and SaaS memberships which are “pricing out” folks without providing lower end options. I think this speaks to Chris’ previous posts on Barnacles and Dolphins, or Minnows, Dolphins, and Whales.

        It just can’t be overstated that the REASON why the internet is so dynamic and amazing today is because it’s so accessible for people to jump in and teach themselves and become skilled and knowledgeable in a relatively short amount of time. A trend towards pricing out the low-end seems a little near-sighted in some ways. I don’t interpret this article as suggesting we should price out the low end, but I think that trend ALSO exists out there right now.

        • http://chrislema.com chrislema

          I’m not suggesting that the lower price entry for a single site should move up dramatically. Not at all. That’s typically set for an end user using it on their own site. Single purchase – single site. But when you move out of that realm into using plugins to help you run your business – be it a consultant, developer, etc. then I think you owe it to yourself to have quality tools and to pay quality prices for them. I also have seen people use free products for a long time, only later to pick up a premium solution like Gravity Forms and then smack themselves on the head for not getting it sooner – simply from the productivity perspective.

  • http://philderksen.com Phil Derksen

    Thanks for the post Chris. This raises a very important topic for all of us wanting to profit from plugins so we can make our business work and sustain awesome value and support for our customers long-term.

    While I agree with you on leaning towards pricing higher, like John said you need to test and find that sweet spot that works. I also tested my single site license (with annual renewal) at $19 for a short period but then moved it back to it’s original $29. Same sales in dollars in the end, but with more support and refund requests.

    Recently I tested eliminating my single site license altogether, and I haven’t yet gathered the data, but I believe it may NOT work. Like Syed mentioned I think that’s only because of my target audience. I think too many of my customers are non-technical single-site owners that don’t make a ton off their sites. But I’m going to dig into the numbers and post more on this soon.

    If you have a plugin that’s more B2B or appeals mainly to other WP consultants, I bet your chances are better of a higher price for your cheapest plan working. Or maybe you don’t need a single site license plan at all. But you won’t know until you test, even if it’s only a split test and/or only for a couple of weeks.

    As part of your test don’t forget to include support costs, whether it’s your own time or support staff. I got a lot more support requests per customer at the cheaper $19 plan, and I bet that’s the case for the majority of plugin shops.

    As for lifetime licenses, I believe they should rarely be used. Following the common model of other non-lifetime plugin plans, I’m using a discounted annual renewal rate as well. However, I haven’t quite yet reached a year since selling my first premium plugin so the jury’s still out how many renewals come in.

    I agree on eliminating lifetime licenses except for one scenario: Quick cash injection (but very infrequent). When launching a plugin maybe offer a lifetime license only for your higher priced premium plan, possibly doubling your current highest plan. State that it’s time or quantity limited. A boost of cash when launching a plugin can be a huge motivator for keeping the project going. Another cash boost where you might consider lifetime licenses is when using a deal newsletter like AppSumo or Mighty Deals, especially since you’re discounting it pretty heavily already.

    But I don’t have a documented test to prove the lifetime license exception. It may only work for motivation and probably not a good move financially for established plugin businesses.

  • http://www.mathewporter.co.uk Mathew Porter

    I think you can charge what ever justifies the plugin, I do see many that are useful and well built and charge a small fee for use when I would assume many would still buy them at a higher price, but the producers dont deem it necessary. All conditional I assume.

  • http://wpspeak.com Rudd

    I’d agree with Syed from WPBeginner. It depends on what is your audience.

    How about custom theme vs premium theme?

    How about custom plugin vs premium plugin?

    Why custom theme is more expensive than the premium theme? Premium theme usually comes with lots of features, CPT, Post Format and has really good looking appearance). But why it usually priced at lower price : $35 – $55 (at Themeforest), $67 (Genesis), not for $300?

    Btw, I love the freemium model (like EDD), people only pay for what they need.

    • http://gravatar.com/carlhancock Carl Hancock

      Custom is always more expensive because it’s custom.

      A custom theme will cost more than a “premium” theme because that premium theme can be sold over and over again. A custom theme is sold once.

      The same applies to plugins. A custom plugin is custom made for a specific customer. A premium plugin is made to be sold over and over again to multiple customers.

      Economies of scale.

      It’s the same reason it’s cheaper to buy a can of Coca-Cola than it is to hire a chemist to create your own soft drink formulation.

      As for themes that are loaded with features? A theme that comes with every bell and whistle? 1000 shortcodes? Custom post types for everything under the sun? A feature list a mile long and is being sold for $35? Be afraid. Be very afraid. That theme will likely cost you money, not save you money, when you find out just how poorly developed it is.

      A good theme shouldn’t have a list of features a mile long. If it does, it’s doing things it shouldn’t be doing. There are exceptions to this, as with anything. Headway for example is an extremely complex theme and for good reason. It’s circumstances are unique.

      But most of the themes I see on these marketplace sites scare me and the fact that they sell for so little scares me even more. Why? Because these are the themes that cause businesses such as mine so much money in support time due to conflicts caused by poorly developed themes.

      A theme should provide the design for a site and plugins should provide functionality not available in WordPress itself.

      • http://www.creativeperspective.com.au Paul

        It takes me a week to develop (& graphic design) a one off custom theme. That’s all I do – there’s little money in the mass produced themes.

        • http://gravatar.com/draphael21 Magdalena

          I beg to differ – just by throwing Envato numbers at you – a good theme, 50 a pop, assuming half of that for the author after Themeforest’s cut and your costs – multiply, to be modest, by 500 sales. Hardly money to be frowned upon for a week’s worth of work (taking your timeframe here)

          It’s not how long it takes you to develop a theme, it’s more the time and effort put into support that brings you an ongoing profits from it.

          Those themes across market places, who’s authors are active on the support site, sell in hundreds and thousands. Same is true for plugins.

          Someone mentioned Gravity forms – I have the license – I find it not only overpriced in comparison to Quform, that I use on all my sites, but with poor support – recently found out, they are even closing down the forums – so effectively, the easily accessible knowledge base that was created over the years, is being snatched from under us, with a very irrational reason provided that forum tickets are hard to keep track of ;)

          I have recently invested close to 400USD into an ecommerce solution for WP – got little to no support from the premium addons for it, could not customize it to fit my not so unusual needs – ended up picking up a payment plugin off Codecanyon for 20 dollars, emailing the author regarding a paid customization – and an hour, and hundred dollars later, I had everything working – since there were multiple people in my line of business, looking for a similar solution – I have suggested to a theme author to accommodate for what this plugin does in the next update – win for all of us – me personally, the plugin author, as well as the theme author, whom with small amount of work, has turned his theme into a viable solution for that particular niche with little to no competition at the moment, at least on Themeforest.

          Truth is, if you want to make money, you can – it requires an ongoing effort – it doesn’t matter whether you’re knocking up scripts or selling shoes, if you stop working, the money stops.

          There are many people out there willing to pay for solid solutions, but equally many growing tired of devs charging for things then dropping the development at the site of first difficulty – be it with a WP update, support or anything else.

          We all should be paid for our work, but there is just way too many authors out there who’s products grow big, and the moment they do, the support becomes tough to come by, or is put behind a paywall, when a lot of the times, people are after one off, minor customizations.

          I’m sitting on couple of thousand of dollars worth of plugins and themes that never left a dev site – some of which vanished from the market place following their author’s .

  • http://gravatar.com/carlhancock Carl Hancock

    You guys can blame Chris when we increase Gravity Forms pricing. :)

  • http://www.newlocalmedia.com/blog Dan Knauss

    This subject is at least half about people wanting to prove they are legit “professionals” by buying into some type of major “theme framework” or functional extension of WordPress for efficiency and also to use the brands to certify themselves as professional designers/developers/site builders, and that’s really a whole ‘nother issue Chris has covered before.

    • http://www.newlocalmedia.com/blog Dan Knauss

      (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, necessarily.) :)

  • http://www.websitedoctor.com/ Alastair McDermott

    Some gold in the comments here.

    I work mostly in the consulting/custom services end of the market, and frequently purchase premium themes because of the incredible value for money they provide. I encouraged Envato to raise pricing on Themeforest (and still think they’re low).

    My concern is that there’s a huge segment of the WP market in a low cost mindset, and that has a knock-on effect on everyone, from plugin and theme authors, to client pricing expectations, to freelancer setting their own hourly rates at poverty line levels.

    The only thing is it is a free market economy, so by rights should it not eventually self-correct over time if it’s out of whack?

    Great topic.

    • http://gravatar.com/mathetos Matt Cromwell

      But Envato themes are a supreme example of why raising prices generally isn’t the answer either. One $50 theme from Envato is worth $200 easy, while other $50 themes should be PAYING developers to help debug and optimize them for use.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dan.knauss Dan Knauss

        Carl was totally right in what he said about that too. What’s the solution? :D

        • http://gravatar.com/mathetos Matt Cromwell

          In the case of Envato, they could quality test their themes a bit more and have influence over the pricing. Smaller marketplaces do that (shameless plug: FooPlugins does!). But that’s never going to happen. Plus, the downside of that is that when Envato says “You’re theme’s code is a nightmare, we can only sell it for $20″, those crappy themes end up being sold to folks who don’t know how to trouble-shoot, optimize, or repair. It just goes to the root of why Envato in the long run is actually not helping in terms of quality of code out there.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dan.knauss Dan Knauss

        If smaller marketplaces with higher quality products and premium prices can capture and cultivate the market that cares about quality, isn’t that good enough? Or would it be an unqualified improvement if the low end stuff just faded away or was forced to move up-market? Hosted CMS and blogging services ought to have that type of effect over time, no?

      • http://www.websitedoctor.com/ Alastair McDermott

        True – that’s one reason I usually like to go for themes with over 1k sales – all the testing that’s gone before (the exception is if I buy a new theme from an author I bought from previously).

        The great variation in quality of code is the worst thing about marketplaces with multiple suppliers. The great variation in front-end design is a very big counterpoint to that, and whatever about code quality, Envato definitely do enforce good quality in design.

        There is an element of Caveat Emptor where two themes fairly similar on the surface have a price differential of 50%+.

        I’ve tried to create awareness of page load speed a few times over ont he Themeforest forums: http://themeforest.net/forums/thread/theme-authors-please-consider-page-load-times/91269

        • http://www.websitedoctor.com/ Alastair McDermott

          Edit: the above post was in direct response to Matt’s comment at 7.55pm here http://chrislema.com/wordpress-plugin-prices/#comment-3491

          Meta: Chris, could do with a couple extra layers of indentation for replies here :)

        • http://gravatar.com/carlhancock Carl Hancock

          I can tell you from experience supporting one of the most popular commercial plugins in the WordPress community that using number of sales as a way to gauge the code quality of a theme is a horrible metric to go by.

          The fact that a theme has over 1k sales means it’s a nice looking theme. People like shiny things. It has no bearing at all on the quality of the code under the hood. Absolutely no correlation.

          You would think that with the vast number of themes on ThemeForest that we’d encounter a wide variety of themes when we encounter theme conflicts caused by ThemeForest themes. You’d probably guess that it would be a wide variety of themes that probably aren’t big sellers. You would be wrong.

          Some of the themes that have consistently caused us the most headaches from a plugin support standpoint have been themes that were extremely popular and had a high volume of sales. Which is exactly why we’d run into them over and over again when assisting customers with conflicts caused by a poorly developed theme.

          We saw these themes over and over again because of the fact they had a high sales volume and therefore more users were using them.

          If you are using sales volume and popularity as a metric by which you judge if a theme is good or not on a marketplace such as ThemeForest then I would strongly suggest you find other metrics to base your decision on.

        • http://pippinsplugins.com Pippin Williamson

          I can second what Carl said 10x over. The themes that cause me the most trouble, and consistently cause me trouble as a plugin developer, are some of the most popular on the market, in terms of sale numbers.

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  • http://www.shafermedia.com Dan Shafer

    This is easily one of the most valuable and interesting discussion threads I’ve read in the years I’ve been doing WP work. For me, with a background in software development before I migrated to the Web in its earliest days, one big missing ingredient in all of this is some accessible aggregated resource where I could shop for plugins (themes would be messier, but maybe it’s also possible) that had passed some screening test, had customer reviews, and allowed feature comparison among competing products. IOW, an authoritative source where one or more highly credible WP developers would list and recommend only the best plugins for serious WP developers and designers.

    I’d easily pay an annual membership fee to have access to such a service. And if it also offered discussion forums on each plugin (perhaps as a small additional fee per plugin you buy or want to explore further), it could be a highly sustainable business model.

    It may be that such a service/site already exists but if it does, it’s hiding. There are tons of static reviews (“The 10 best eCommerce Plugins”, “Top WP Plugins of the Month”) but not, as far as I can find, a single authoritative source that’s kept up-to-date and has serious cred. If you know of such a service, I’d appreciate knowing about it. If not, maybe this is a biz opp for someone reading this site?

    • http://www.facebook.com/dan.knauss Dan Knauss

      Check out WPengine.com and the plugins they allow and those they disallow.

      Isn’t it inevitable that a service like you’ve described will function like a guild or union at best and a cartel at worst? Plus if it’s not owned or controlled by Automattic, that’s going to be a really complicated relationship.

      • http://www.shafermedia.com Dan Shafer

        I’ll check that out, Chris. I have managed to steer clear of the political machinations you allude to in your response. Does Auttomatic do something with plugins (like screen them for something other than whether they’ve been tested with the latest version of WP) that I’m unaware of?

        I’m not so sure that if a service like I propose functioned like a guild or union, that would necessarily be a bad thing. Several posters have commented on the segmentation of the WP plugin buying audience. I think they’re right; DIYers who just want to play with WP on a single personal site will be less exacting and far less willing to spend any more than necessary to buy into some functionality while those of us who count on WP for all or part of our livelihood are far more likely to follow the great advice in this thread in buying and using more expensive, better-supported tools.

        • http://www.shafermedia.com Dan Shafer

          Dan, sorry I called you “Chris.” I should have gotten your name right, at least! :-)

        • http://www.facebook.com/dan.knauss Dan Knauss

          No problem! Good thoughts.

          There is more screening now at WP.org for themes and some changes have occurred with plugins, but Automattic has never tested compatibility AFAIK — that info in the plugin repository is based on user feedback. I’m not up on the details but how this all works is in flux. Check out the current rules and processes for submitting a plugin to see what goes on.

          I agree, a guild/union is not simply a “bad thing.” They tend to be things you like or accept if you’re in them; if you’re not, it looks very different. It’s a tradeoff for insiders too.

  • http://mathematicalmischief.com Josh Young

    I’d just like to point out that many of these plugins you can get for even lower prices if you look up offers or coupons online.
    I’m a small blogger – I don’t like to sound mean, but it’s better when prices are lower because I don’t have to spend $300 or $400 on a plugin I really want.

    For example: Gravity Forms. I really, really like it – and it integrates with a separate plugin that I have. I was prepared to buy it for $40 for the year – then found a discount and saved $10.
    WPCourseware? Same deal – offer was $37 for the Developer license (I mean seriously?). Found it on a forum where the developers had posted months earlier and hadn’t closed yet.

    In all honesty, there’s different types of WordPress user. A low price market works well for individuals or small groups, and it’s user oriented (low price, high competition). Increasing the costs for developers (while a nice idea) seems like a good idea, but they’ll probably switch brands if they aren’t happy with the price. (Gravity Forms -> Contact Form 7, etc.)

    • http://www.shafermedia.com Dan Shafer

      I can only speak for myself but I so agree with Chris’ original point that I can’t agree with your final suggestion. I never switch tools once I’ve bought them, learned them and gotten comfortable with them unless a compelling reason presents itself, generally in the form of a FAR superior tool that solves the same or more problems.

      Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, my current cash flow doesn’t meet my wish list very squarely and I’m forced to settle for something less than I really want. But when that happens I make purchasing the really right tool a higher priority

      The WP plug-in and theme markets are messy. They’re chaotic. There’s no central aribter (person or group) whose judgment everyone can trust (and having one is probably infeasible) and many if not most people offering tools to other WP developers aren’t primarily in the tools business. So they don’t really study and understand their markets and pricing strategies, and marketing plans, etc. Can’t blame them; they’re mostly developers just trying to help other developers and make a few bucks.

      • http://mathematicalmischief.com Josh Young

        I generally have the same standards, Dan – I switch only when the situation presents itself (and it’s worth it).
        For example – I use an LMS called Train-Up on a subsection of my blog. I jumped to that from Sensei (by Woothemes) last month because it was a whole different level above it (and didn’t cost me $99).

        I agree wholeheartedly that the system is a mess because developers don’t understand marketing concepts. At the same time, I think there’s a few developers that try to rip the consumer off – which is quite infuriating.

        I quite liked CF7 – in all honesty, I wouldn’t have switched to Gravity Forms if my theme didn’t play up with it. Although in that respect, I’m going to jump to the Developer license after my current license expires (even though it’s costly).

        I agree, the markets are messy. I can’t imagine it’s any easier for developers when they go through places like Envato (personally, I think a 75% fee if you’re not exclusive is extremely excessive). Whilst I don’t think a central arbiter would be infeasible, I think we need to keep in mind that all plugins and themes are subjective, and we’re all going to see them differently.

        I’ll still stand by what I’ve said – a low price, high competition market is probably better for WordPress than the alternative.

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  • http://twitter.com/leehblue Lee Blue (@leehblue)

    It seems that all plugin developers charge an annual fee. What about charging a monthly fee instead? A low price like $5/month would give the developer $60 per year (more than most plugins cost) and keep the cost really low for folks to try out and see if the plugin works for their needs? So monthly fees keep the barrier to entry low for the consumer and make more money for the developer yet it seems to be a very rare business model for WordPress plugins? Is it because the technical aspect of dealing with recurring billing is too hard or is charging monthly a bad idea for other reasons?

    • http://www.danshafaerblog.com Dan Shafer

      Monthly fees are a good idea in some situations but one possible drawback is that PayPal makes you jump through hoops and pay a monthly fee to have an account where you can collect recurring payments. There are other issues (how do I prevent you from continuing to use the plugin if you don’t pay me?), but this is probably a deal breaker for some.

  • http://www.websitedoctor.com/ Alastair McDermott

    @Carl (May 26, 2013 at 9:57 am) & @Pippin (May 28, 2013 at 7:32 am):

    I appreciate your viewpoint, and using sales numbers alone is not a good guage of code quality. I certainly wouldn’t use it as the sole measure.

    However, a theme that has 1000 sales and has quality problems will be in one of these camps:

    A) it had basic problems that the author fixed after getting 100+ complaints, OR
    B) it had basic problems that the author didn’t fix after getting 100+ complaints.. and so has complaints in the comments, and a low rating, OR
    C) it had no basic problems, no low-hanging fruit issues that haven’t been addressed, and I know can handle any of the other stuff that needs doing.

    Therefore I find sales volume is a useful metric, particularly when used in conjunction with date of release, number of updates, number of themes from author, and especially author replies to comments.

    • http://bradt.ca Brad Touesnard

      You’re assuming that people will give a theme that that doesn’t follow best practices a low rating. I don’t think that’s true and in fact, they probably blame the newly activated plugin.

      • http://www.websitedoctor.com/ Alastair McDermott

        I’m assuming that some percentage of folks who experience problems will give negative feedback somewhere. Be that low ratings, negative feedback in comments or negative reviews elsewhere.

        In my experience, I have found that to be the case when buying the many themes that I’ve bought from Themeforest and other places.

        Your experience may be different, particularly if you’re involved in a different part of the site lifecycle (installing a new plugin on a pre-existing site).

        • http://gravatar.com/carlhancock Carl Hancock

          Unfortunately Brad, Pippin and other popular Plugin providers can tell you that the most likely place that the user in this situation is going to leave negative feedback is with the plugin that their shoddy theme is disrupting.

          Users don’t understand the complexities of WordPress and how a Theme can be running perfectly fine without any issues itself while breaking other functionality completely unrelated to the theme itself, such as another plugin.

          So when these issues arise, the user points the finger at the developer of whatever functionality appears broken. The plugin.

          It’s not until after the plugin provider assists the user and pinpoints the issue to be poor code in their theme is the user made aware of the fact that their theme has underlying issues that weren’t immediately obvious AND that all code running within a WordPress site is tightly connected and themes can cause problems with plugins and vice versa despite the fact the culprit appears to be running fine.

          Unfortunately in situations like this it’s the plugin provide that has spent the time to assist the user and the theme developer, who’s theme is the cause of the problem, get’s off scott free. Ultimately the user usually simply continues on, thanks us for our hard work but doesn’t spend the time and effort to complain or point out the flaws of their product to the theme provider.

          I can tell you as Brad and Pippin have echoed that theme sales, at least when it comes to marketplaces such as ThemeForest, is a horrible metric to use when comparing themes. Most of the themes we’ve consistently run into major issues with were some of the hottest selling themes on ThemeForest at one time or another.

          There was a very long period of time where I could tell you with 99.999% accuracy that when our support team encountered a conflict caused by a poorly developed theme that it was a ThemeForest theme. I didn’t even need to see the theme, the site, etc. They simply accounted for practically all of the conflicts we encountered. I am not inflating that number to provide some hyperbole to my statement. It literally was practically a guarantee that if our support team encountered a conflict caused by a bad theme that it was a ThemeForest theme that was the culprit.

          Luckily things have gotten a better and ThemeForest has been more proactive with trying to make things better… but I still wish they’d actually wield a stronger hammer when it comes to badly coded themes. Pull them from the marketplace as soon as an issue arises and only allow them to return when the issue is corrected. They should also boot sellers who are repeat offenders when it comes to bad code being reported if they aren’t already doing so.

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  • http://www.comparativadebancos.com/ Comparativa de Bancos

    Hello all

    totally agree if you are a developer using the plugin in multiple sites. Anyhow, plugins like Gravity Forms is charging you the maximum ammount also for having all the features they provide, and when you are using it in a single site is not so cheap.

    In my case, I am using mailchimp, paypal and the rest but just for my single site so it should be different also the “developer” license to the “all-features” one. I.e. unlimited sites should be more expensive that having all the features.

    BR

  • Jenny

    I am a plugin developper and I am getting weekly complaints because the free release of my plugin doesn’t contain all the premium releases. So people are using arguments like : “this is scrap”, “it is doing nothing”, “it contains security risks”, “it is useless”, etc etc… Without even testing it, just because they see that there is a premium release that costs 50$ which contains the features they need.

    They never think about the fact that without a premium release, there wouldn’t be a free release because it is impossible to maintain a good free release on the long term without any background coverage.

    The big issue is that WordPress community gives a lot of credit to these freebies and doesn’t really back developpers. So it creates a wrong mindset in the ecosystem that everything should be free and that if you are trying to make money out of your plugins, then you are wrong because it is only those freebies that are allowed to make money by selling out websites with your plugins…

    This is quite discouraging sometimes. I am spending a lot of time to justify my position but those freebies just seem to stand on their irrealistic position…

    • http://www.facebook.com/dan.knauss Dan Knauss

      You don’t have to reply to these complaints, and you really shouldn’t. Filter them into a folder you seldom or never check. But you also ought to recognize that giving away stuff for free generates this kind of reaction. Maybe it’s without good reason in your case, but people often experience this sales model as a modified bait and switch where you release crippleware to hook them into buying more. They get into your plugin and realize late that they need some of the pro features. Instead of paying for them, they resent you and accuse you of having a low-level drug dealer’s business model. To curb that reaction you should be very clear up front what the free version does and does not include in order to manage expectations and get in front of the complainers.

      You also don’t have to give away anything for free, and if you don’t, you won’t get these pointless complaints. If you feel you MUST give something away on WordPress.org in order to get attention, then the pointless complaints are the price you’re agreeing to pay for the wider exposure. You might rethink that approach if you can market your work as an entirely commercial product. Premium products for a well-defined niche market may do as well or better if you peddle them in more exclusive networks rather than seek the widest exposure.

      WordPress would not have become so popular without a lot of themes and plugins being given away cheaply or for nothing. I doubt that will ever undergo a complete reversal so that almost nothing is cheap or free, but there can never be more than a few people who are willing to subsidize development (and especially support) for free software over the long term even if they are making enough money by some other means. The only incentive to do this I can think of would be to dampen a competitor’s market share, maybe as a prelude to releasing a competing commercial product.

      • http://www.shafermedia.com Dan Shafer

        Dan, I agree with about 85-90% of what you say here. The point of disagreement comes in the latter part of your final paragraph. I think there are sound reasons — some business and some emotional — for writing and releasing free or cheap products into an ecosystem like WordPress.

        Besides the upsell to a premium version, one might release a free plugin or theme in an effort to:

        > gain new clients
        > create business relationships
        > establish cred in the developer community
        > avoid feeling obligated to provide responsive support

        Other than that nit, I think your comments are, as the Brits say, spot-on.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dan.knauss Dan Knauss

          Sorry, I didn’t mean to exclude any of those reasons.

          I would say it’s clearly a mistake to offer stuff for free on the idea you won’t have to be responsible for your untended code clogging up the repository and pissing off people who will surely pester you.

          I would also say free stuff is a bad/inferior way to gain clients and create business relationships that comes from selling yourself short, but there’s possibly a necessary path that starts exactly that way for young developers. Maybe if that were more widely understood we would have the free stuff as a proving ground and innovation arena that doubles as a business and talent incubator. Forward thinking and kind, established commercial developers might see value in patronizing and supporting that sort of thing as a special part of the whole ecosystem. It shouldn’t be free versus commercial in a conflicted way. It should be clearer to users/customers what quality is in both areas.

      • Jenny

        I think you are completely right. The issue is that the bad complaints come on wordpress.org reviews and so it gives a wrong picture.

        I have clearly mentionned what the free and premium releases were doing but I think it creates more frustration than clarity…

        If there wasn’t any free release, then I would probably not have those bad comments but I would lose 90% of my exposure and probably a lot of premium sales.

        I would like wordpress.org moderators to take more actions to filter out unjustified complaints. With these, it is so easy to kill a plugin credibility.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dan.knauss Dan Knauss

          Oh, now I understand where you are coming from. You need a presence in the plugin repository but get many of the complaints there where everyone can see them.

          Unless you are willing to pay for moderation, which would be a total conflict of interest, there’s no way moderators could fix any of this. It’s just too massive with no justification for the cost of doing that work.

          Maybe I am atypical, but I pay no attention to plugin “reviews” or ratings. If it’s not a plugin developer I’m familiar with, I look at the plugin’s age, the last update, the developer’s site and identity, and then I look at the plugin if nothing scares me off. Everything else is trivial. The goal is to determine the maturity of the software and the person/people behind it.

          If there are no recent updates, some users will say the plugin breaks on the latest version of WP. There will be complaints and “is anyone there?” posts in the forum every time. Why should I ever look at that once I see there’s been no update to version 1.0 in 500 days? The ratings add nothing because they are unevenly used. Plugins with a lot of downloads have more ratings, usually high, but that says nothing about quality. Same thing for seldom downloaded plugins with few ratings. I only look at the forum posts when the plugin hasn’t been updated in 6-10 months.

          Just show people you’re alive, you’re a professional, and your plugin is actively developed. Put some sticky posts in the forum making it clear you don’t provide support there, but if people really want support they will have to pay for it, which also earns them access to the pro version. Then ignore the noise, but if you’re concerned about ratings and reviews, ask your happy users to vote and share their experiences.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.landolfi.9 Joe Landolfi

    Chris – for a web production professional who has recently been made redundant and looking to get into WordPress development as my possible next career move, your articles are just plain **inspiring**. Everyday, there is yet another article that is so pertinent to me it’s sometimes scary. I look forward to the next and next and next article… Thanks!

  • http://wibwnewsnow.com Dave N

    It’s funny when like-minded people get together and pat each other on the back for stating what is obvious to other like-minded people. And every like-minded group I’ve ever known or been a part of believes they are in the majority, so of course they are right.

    That said… Most software developers are good at programming, but poor at business. And the WordPress marketplace is filled to overflowing with good programmers who are bad at business. Yet, they’re poor business skills are affecting your bottom line (you can’t raise your prices unless they do too, or you’ll lose market share). So your goal is to convince them to raise their prices.

    But many, if not most, are actually paying bills with what they make and the thought of doing anything major to affect their livelihood is extremely scary. If I raise my prices and I my sales drop off enough that I make less money, how will I continue to pay my bills?

    But while the majority of people reading this are probably making bank off of WordPress, I would bet good money that is NOT the case of MOST consultants. I would bet that just like the majority of plugin developers who are under charging for their work, the majority of consultants are also under charging for their work and not making the mythical $40 or $50 per hour. I’d be surprised if that true average for the majority of consultants is around the $15 per hour mark.

    As a software developer, I want to make the most money that I can off the work I do. It’s only natural. But as a consumer, I want to pay as little as I can. So, more often than not, I’m willing to spend less on something slightly inferior that I can fix up myself. Time is an easier investment than cash.

    I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment, but I think it’s just not realistic.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dan.knauss Dan Knauss

      It’s only unrealistic if you think most people building WP sites as a commercial service would rather screw around with free plugins than pay for them. I don’t think that’s true, and I don’t agree with the idea that the free options are frequently only slightly inferior to the best commercial ones. The most important thing you are paying for when you buy a commercial plugin is the expectation that the software will work and go on working for a long time. If there’s a vulnerability discovered, or if it breaks compatibility with something else, that’s not going to be on just you to find out and deal with yourself.

      If plugin developers learn to do business better, raise their prices, and professionalize more, then it will help clarify levels of quality in their marketplace and press consultants/designers-developers/sitebuilders who buy their wares to do likewise. This is, more or less, what has been happening over time, and the only problem I see with it is how the 3rd party software and services market is like an army with too many units advancing every which way deep into new territory with the main army trying to keep up and keep control. Joomla toppled rapidly from its peak of popularity largely because it couldn’t cope with this situation.

      On the question of how much people are really making in the WP market, are there any good sources about that you know of? It sounds like you’re guessing, but your guess is the same as mine.

      If you look at the 2011 WordPress user and developer survey data and other sources like folyo.me or Newfangled’s 2012 digital agency survey, “raise your prices/rates” is indeed the big takeaway. Few freelancers make a living from WordPress, but a lot more say they are self-employed WordPress developers. Typical site development projects seem to fetch between $1-5k (usually the low end) and definitely under $10k for all but an elite few. Agencies who very often rely on freelancers for web development usually do 5-10 site builds a year for somewhere between $100-$300k in revenue that has to cover all costs and feed 2-10 people. The only way I see this really works outside of the agency model is if you replicate it with a small, dispersed team, negligible overhead, and can access good, long-term clients by providing them with a very focused *technical* competence and/or a wide range of skills.

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  • Kellie

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that Gravity Forms raises its prices dramatically because the plugin is “worth it”. They are simply opening the door for a competitor to come in and offer a similar product at a competitively lower price. The customers who are largely price-concerned will certainly jump ship. More seasoned developers will either buy Gravity Forms because it’s the perceived “best” or extend the functionality of the lower-cost plugin. The loyalists will stay as long as they can or until the price becomes so high that they don’t have another choice but to either truly code something themselves or find a lower cost option.

    At the same time, the folks at Gravity Forms will have a lot of pressure on their shoulders to remain at “best” status. I guarantee you if people are paying $300-500 a year for a developer’s license, they are going to expect nothing but the best and that includes more features and gold-standard premium support 24-7-365.

    You have to remember that these plugins are simply “parts” of a whole site. Easier than coding it yourself? Absolutely. However, these plugins operate on a one-size-fits-all platform. They have to in order to make money and remain cost effective. So additional functionality and customization still falls to the end-user.

    I’m not saying that plugin developers shouldn’t raise their prices. I’m saying that at the end of the day they have to keep their target market in the forefront of their mind.

    • http://chrislema.com chrislema

      My point with a plugin like GF is not to say the end-user pricing is off. But developers who use it and know its true value know that it’s underpriced.

      My other point is that by pushing for cheaper and cheaper pricing, we’re going to destroy the community for some very talented developers who will go elsewhere. It’s a mistake we won’t notice until its too late.

  • http://www.fitforblogging.com Jean

    This might be interesting too, a collection of most expensive WordPress plugins http://www.wpmayor.com/articles/wordpress-curiosities-the-most-expensive-plugins-on-the-market/

  • http://None Glyn

    I really don’t agree. A wordpress plugin is if anything generally overpriced the day it gets anywhere near the cost of “desktop software”, for want of a better phrase, because the development work that goes into these 2 very different applications are worlds apart. The WP community is large enough to support good high volume sales if you market properly and are on the money.

    When I hear people say that plugins are too cheap, what I know I am hearing is “I want the world to beat a path to my door instead of market effectively and until then you guys can finance my lifestyle goals by paying more for my plugin than you paid for a software license of Coda and the new Mac OSX combined”.

    You got to keep some perspective guys – it’s a few pages of php that add features to a free app – and the very same people moan that Photoshop is too expensive.

    • http://None Glyn

      Caveat: I should have added in fairness though, that I DO believe a coder should be compensated properly for his/her work but that the route to achieving that is by better marketing not by punishing the few who will actively find you and invest in your plugin. I think almost every buyer is willing to pay an annual license fee instead if a lifetime fee if give no choice so you have the capacity for a good revenue stream as well.

      • http://pippinsplugins.com Pippin Williamson

        Not all plugins are “just a few pages of PHP”. Take Gravity Forms, or any of the prominent ecommerce plugins: they all have as much, or more time invested in development and support as applications like Coda.

    • http://gravatar.com/ashokrane ashokraneAshok Rane

      Few pages of PHP? You should find out the time & quote to create those “few pages of PHP” by a third party developer and then think on whether plugin prices are too low or too high. For any plugin, the price to develop it would be at least 15-20 times the plugin price. I know clients who value a $29 plugin at $800.

      The developer is not only selling a “bug-free” plugin, he/she also has a responsibility to provide support.

      It is unfair to say that those who buy expensive plugins are being punished. Developers do need to market their plugins more efficiently though.

    • Carl Hancock

      “A wordpress plugin is if anything generally overpriced the day it gets anywhere near the cost of “desktop software”, for want of a better phrase, because the development work that goes into these 2 very different applications are worlds apart.”

      As the co-founder of the company that created Gravity Forms I have to call bullshit on this one. Gravity Forms isn’t a plugin. It’s an application. A very complicated, extremely powerful application.

      Are there small plugins that are just a few pages, or even just a few lines of PHP? Sure. But that isn’t really what this discussion is about. This discussion is about complex plugins like Gravity Forms, WooCommerce, etc. Which aren’t plugins, they are full blown applications.

      The fact that it is called a plugin is merely because that is WordPress calls it’s extensions. To make the claim that the amount of development that goes into a desktop application and a “WordPress Plugin” is simply false.

      Gravity Forms isn’t the only advanced WordPress plugin that is every bit as complex as a desktop application. Plenty of them are out there, most of them commercial plugins.

      We have a team of programmers. We’re working on things like REST API’s and iPhone apps FOR Gravity Forms. To try and make the claim that it is somehow not on the same level as a desktop application is insulting.

      The only difference between Gravity Forms and a desktop application is Gravity Forms OS is WordPress and a desktop application is Windows, OSX, Linux or whatever OS you are running.

      So maybe you are the one that needs to get some perspective, software applications like Gravity Forms are not “a few pages of PHP that add features to a free app” it’s an extremely complex piece of software that adds massive amounts of functionality on top of WordPress as a whole.

      • http://pippinsplugins.com Pippin Williamson

        Even non-commercial plugins are often in the realm of applications. Easy Digital Downloads, for example, does have a full REST API AND a mobile app (like Carl mentioned are coming for Gravity Forms). These are not characteristics of small plugins with “just a few pages of PHP”. The personal investment it took to build a full iOS app alone is enough to prove that point completely wrong.

    • http://www.wpuniversity.com Ben Fox

      http://insideintercom.io/product-strategy-means-saying-no/

      Scroll down about mid page where it says “But it only take a few minutes”. This about sums it up.

  • http://www.jennybeaumont.com Jenny Beaumont

    Have to agree most with Jonathan Christopher – isn’t this a basic question that all products face? Where is the breaking point? What’s the “right” price? I definitely am both willing to pay good €$ for these amazing tools that help me create a better service for my clients…and think that some developers could be charging more. I also love seeing how this community and the market for paid plugins and themes is growing. However, I think it would be a shame to see community transform into pure commodity. For me that’s where the break point is. And damn you Chris if this creates a hike in the Gravity forms pricing ;-)

  • http://gravatar.com/draphael21 Magdalena

    Interesting read, I do agree at concept level. I like to get paid for what I do, and do like to extend that very same courtesy to others, however, few things that I find should be considered:
    1. It’s the low prices that make WordPress so immensly attractive compared to other CMS out there, it’s not the only factor, but definitely an important one.
    2. Good quality WordPress plugins sell in thousands – and as long as they are being actively updated, they will continue to sell for many happy years
    3. From a perspective of a WP user, not a dev, just someone that chooses to create and admin their own sites, there is absolutely, no guarantee, whatsoever, that the author plugin, will make sure the plugin stays compatible from one WP update to another. I’ve been in a situation before, where I invested in a purchase, only to find out, 3 months down the road, the dev decided to drop the whole idea, and the plugin isn’t compatible with new, shiny WP X.XX ;) It wasn’t a random free lancing dev either, but a fairly known ‘team’, for a lack of better term :p

    There are without a doubt, certain quality products coming from reliable developers, that are a bargain, no matter how you look at things, but I personally prefer a reasonably priced buy out option bundled with a paid support solution – chances are, the financial aspect of such business model will benefit a dev better in the long run, while at the same time, providing that little bit of ‘motivation’ to continue supporting the product, for those that would be inclined to cash in on the sales and move on.

    From a non programmer point of view, we’re absolutely dependent on the themes/plugins we use. Having to swap everything on yearly bases at times is not particularly fun to beging with, but would be flat out unnaceptable if prices where much higher. WordPress would start loosing it’s appeal somewhat.

    • http://chrislema.com chrislema

      My point however is that the low prices are part of what drives developers out of the market, creating the work you face to change things. Paying a bit more could keep them engaged.

      • http://gravatar.com/draphael21 Magdalena

        I do agree, it’s a bit of a deadlock. Again, my opinion is just that, based on personal experience, which wasn’t necessarily always that great with certain plugin/theme developers ;) If I could have the piece of mind, that what I buy will serve me for at least a couple of years without interruptions, then I’d be much more inclined to cheer for the higher prices idea. As it is now, the level of post sale support diminished greatly with time. Hence my idea of reasonably priced buy out but sub based support or even updates. Little chunks are easy to pay over time from customer’s standpoint; the end sum, often greater then fat initial sales, for the developer.

        It was a good read though, it’s easy to be blinded by your own point of view, and nice to hear the other side’s arguments :)

        We’re all on the same boat, shouldn’t be sailing in different direction lol…;)

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  • http://www.creativeperspective.com.au Paul

    There are many free form plugins around that do a fantastic job, however, the reason why I pay for a Gravity Forms developer license is the fact that it is still way better than the free alternatives, and, more importantly, by paying for it, it is well maintained, updated and supported, which is piece of mind when it is on a client’s site. The problem today is people are expecting the web to be free or cheap! If Gravity Forms raised their price, sure, someone else could create a competitive, lower priced product, but then you’ll be in a situation of you get what you pay for. A solid application like plugin would need constant updating for security reasons, for compatibility with updated versions of WordPress and for the inclusion of new features. The hypothetical competitor version may end up being an inferior version, and Gravity Forms, at the higher price would have the background of developing it from scratch and have better knowledge of updating it and adding features, which would be worth more.
    When I research for new plugin, my first port of call is to find an established premium and subscription based one. If I can’t find one, then I will find a highly recommended alternative. If the only option is a well free supported free one, then I’ll use it – if it is great and fantastic, I often suggest the developer should start charging for it.
    I knew of someone who charged $2,000 for a site and would only load it up with free versions of the premium plugins, with the attitude that if a free alternative is available and would then leave it, then why pay for it? I then refer back to a site I took on that had not been updated in 4 years, was full of security holes, was being repeatedly hacked (and consequently shut down regularly) and was a mess. It was loaded up with free plugins all over the place. I explained that his client’s site will more than likely be like that in 4 years.
    in short, hacker’s are getting more sophisticated, so client’s need to be educated that their sites will need to be regularly maintained in order to stay ahead of that, so we as web designers need developer skills to maintain the great plugins we use that save on development time, and the developers need a reason to keep doing it, and that costs money.

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  • http://DigitalAccessPass.com Ravi Jayagopal

    Hey man, did you kidnap the real Chris Lema or something? :-)

    Because the Chris Lema I know said in another article on this site, that “Digital Access Pass costs $167 (because apparently they didn’t get the memo letting them know it wasn’t 2004 anymore).”

    You wrote us off *just because* we charged more. And that too, it’s not like we’re charging more for the sake of charging more, but for many valid reasons – like more features built right in without having to buy additional plugins just to do the basic stuff (like shopping cart – oh, and we do support Stripe too, Authorize.net, and 50 others, built in email autoresponders, broadcasting, upsells & downsells, affiliate module, etc), larger number of support techs for providing support 18x7x360, tons of updates and new features every year due to sustained development, etc.

    But for no apparent reason other than costs, you mocked us and dismissed a very valid, serious, committed company like ours. And now to see you talk about not charging too less?

    DigitalAccessPass.com completed 5 successful years recently. And we’ll be around for many more, only because we have the sense to charge what it takes to be successful and be in business for our customers who depend on us being around for a long time. And those others who are in a “race to the bottom and to oblivion” charging anywhere from $0 to $pittance for their excruciatingly support-intensive membership plugins (not just any plugin, but a membership plugin specifically that has to do 10,000 different things) will go the way of the dumb dodos :-)

    So, tell me, where have you hidden the real Chris? Not that I miss the guy – I prefer this new Chris, really – you seem to be much more business-friendly :-)

    Cheers!

    • http://chrislema.com chrislema

      I’m sorry that I wasn’t more clear about DAP. It is one of the most complicated and non-intuitive plugins out there for membership sites.

      Yes, it’s been around a long time and was coded/created before WP 3.0 so it had to solve things before CPTs existed. I get that. But that’s still no excuse for the barrage of features that feel bolted on.

      I didn’t dismiss DAP because of price. I simply didn’t go into all of the reasons I wouldn’t recommend it.

      Should plugins charge more? Yes – particularly when they’re saving people time. I don’t find that DAP does that.

      • http://DigitalAccessPass.com Ravi Jayagopal

        Hi Chris,

        Thanks for responding. What you said in your original article (I quoted your exact words where you mocked us saying “costs $167 – haven’t gotten the memo” had nothing to do with how “complicated” you feel DAP is.

        Regardless of how you feel about DAP and whether or not you recommend it, that specific statement very much sounds like it had to do just about your worldview about pricing – about how charging more for something “meant to be cheap” means that one is out of touch with the business world, according to you (and hence your comment about “2004”).

        You are very much entitled to your opinion, and we’re glad our large community of users – many of whom have been with us for a majority of the 5 years we’ve been in business (see our blog for all of the comments on our recent anniversary post) appreciate our pricing model, the quality of our product and our obsessive commitment to support, and long-term success for our sake as well as their sake :-)

        Anyway, thank you for the opportunity to comment here about your comment :-) Appreciate it.

        Peace.

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  • http://twitter.com/newlocalmedia Dan Knauss (@newlocalmedia)

    I thought of this post when I ran across this more recent article from Mike Jordan, which I hope Chris might respond to some time: http://knowmike.com/church-of-wordpress/

    The question is how do you grow the “elite” and various commercial tiers within the WP community and still keep the same friendly, accessible culture?

    It’s not as much an issue of people getting priced out (which is inevitable) as it’s about the culture changing as a result of it being increasingly monetized. If you end up with a class of “elite,” commercial developers who relate to the average WP user mainly or exclusively as a potential customer, that’s a radical change and some good things will be lost in it — especially if some of those “elites” take a very dubious approach to pricing, support contracts, and how they treat their customers.

    This is probably the natural way for things to go unless there is an intentional effort to retain a culture that is fundamentally different than say, a convention for Microsoft platform users and developers.

  • http://wishlistmemberdevelopers.com/ Bob Tolbert

    One of the things I’m always saying, to much WordPress plugins worth much more than the prices that they sold in.

    One of our business is a online store ( http://happyplugins.com ) which using the EDD platform and the price the we paid for all the plugins that we bought to operate the store was just a no-brainier vs the profits.

    You post is exactly the reason we are pricing our own products for at higher prices than the market and do not offer unlimited licences / lifetime update it’s just not a sustainable business model.

    I know that even if all EDD plugins will cost 4 times the prices that we bought them (for single website) we would still wouldn’t think about no buying them again.

    From our point of view we would prefer to sell to less customers and give them much higher value in support and features that to sell in bulk and not being able to give a good support or continue developing new features.