When should you NOT release premium WordPress plugins?

chrislema-face

premium-WordPress-pluginsIt's all about making money, right?

If you've spent a lot of time on my site, you know I like to write about new product development and WordPress. I also write about pricing. So you might easily come to the conclusion that I would be completely behind the business dynamic of always selling premium WordPress plugins.

Guess what? You'd be wrong.

Premium WordPress plugins

When I write “premium WordPress plugins” I'm simply talking about a plugin you charge for.  And when I say you'd be wrong, I'm saying that I don't always believe monetizing the plugin itself is the right course of action.

Now I'm not saying they're bad or that I'm against any of the ones out there. After all, I've bought many and there are some that I think are significantly under-priced.

What I'm really saying is that there are different business models to consider, and even beyond that, different things you might value that would dictate whether you should commercialize your plugin.

So with all that, here are five reasons you shouldn't release a premium WordPress plugin, and instead give it to the community for free.

Reason one: You don't love support

Ok, in other communities this might not be a big deal. But in this community, if you release a commercial/premium plugin, people are expecting that they're really paying for support. So you really have to love support.

If you don't – if you don't have time or the inclination to support your plugin much – selling it is a bad call (unless you sell it to someone who wants to support it).

Reason two: You charge for support

Hey, if you're already planning to charge for support, then you may want to look at what Jason Coleman's been doing with Paid Memberships Pro – where the plugin is not only 100% GPL but also completely free. You simply pay if you want additional / personal support and/or installation help.

If done right, this gives you the best of both worlds. You get the joy of giving back to the community while also applying direct costs where costs occur (support).

Reason three: One word – extensions

My friends over at WooThemes, as well as Pippin Williamson, have gotten this nailed. Again, their core plugins (WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads) are free. People like free – even though these plugins have massive amounts of code and took developers a serious amount of time to develop them. So they're worth more than free. But people like free.

Additionally, rather than turn the baseline products into huge messes, they've apportioned small features into extensions that people can individually buy. This is helpful (in terms of the business model) in so many ways that it's worth it's own post. But the upside is that revenue is still created – but by people who need specific features, and only for the features they need.

Reason four: No future plans

Now this reason may not make a lot of sense to you. But it was the main reason I didn't release a commercial plugin. So if it's applied to me, maybe it will apply to you.

At one point I started creating a crowdfunding extension for WooCommerce. Then I found out I'd have to support multiple payment gateways (like Paypal) and not just Stripe, like I had intended. I got it. It made sense. But it wasn't something I wanted to do (I don't like Paypal).

I decided that I had no intention of doing that. And since that would be a pre-req for getting it into the WooCommerce store, and because I didn't want to sell it outside of that, I realized that I had no future plans for this plugin.

So I pushed it to GitHub and left it there for anyone to play with.

Reason five: It's how you roll

Now admit it, life is good. You have everything you could ever want and your job pays well. You don't need $19 every time someone buys that little bit of code that only took you a few minutes. So why nickel and dime people – just get it out there. Bless the community.

In all seriousness, the WordPress community is fantastic and generous. So this last reason is why a lot of people create amazing plugins and then simply make them available for free. Others sell them, but at ridiculously low prices.

My Conclusion

So here's my take. Know yourself. Know what you like and don't like. And if you plan to support a plugin, then make sure your business model can sustain you. If you have all that, you'll be in a good spot. If you don't, get some help.

The last thing you want to do is release a premium plugin with a bad business model and then have to kill that business and your plugin.

About Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

Join more than 7,500 others

My posts. Your inbox. Beautiful.

Chris Lema Speaking

Do You Want To Pick My Brain?

Over the last few years, through private consulting, coaching, and using the pay-by-the-minute Clarity service, I've helped hundreds of folks like you solve their WordPress problems and overcome their technical challenges.

“In 18 minutes Chris was able to save me months of lost time and tens of thousands of dollars by directing me to the right technologies to create my course marketplace. The value was 100x what I paid.” — Josh

Have a question right now? Most of my Clarity calls last less than 20 minutes. Let's set up a call.