The team behind AffiliateWP is celebrating its second anniversary today. The plugin and its suite of add-ons has rapidly become one of the most successful products in the WordPress ecosystem under the leadership of Pippin Williamson and his team.
Williamson, who is known for his yearly transparency reports, shared that AffiliateWP was the fastest of his products to reach $100,000 in annual revenue. It took just nine months for the plugin to reach that goal and in 2015 it passed $30,000 in monthly revenue.
“Our first month to break $30,000 was April, 2015, when we brought in $32,904.90,” Williamson said. “Since then, we have had only 3 months that were below 30, and they were only just barely below the 30 mark.”
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and this was certainly the case with the creation of AffiliateWP. Williamson said that his customers were always asking for recommendations on affiliate plugins but at the time his team could not confidently recommend any of the existing solutions. They found most to be “unreliable, unpleasant to use, and generally not a good fit.”
“After a particularly painful support ticket where it was discovered that one of our customers had paid (or not paid) thousands of dollars to the wrong people due to a bug in their affiliate tracking plugin, we decided to do something about it,” Williamson said.
He worked in his spare time and late at night to develop AffiliateWP while supporting EDD and Restrict Content Pro during business hours. The product’s revenue now supports a full-time team of six people.
“It humbles me to think that my little side project could go from an after-hours project to providing for the full time jobs of an entire team,” Williamson said.
AffiliateWP’s Business Model Helped it Grow Faster than EDD
Easy Digital Downloads, Williamson’s first venture, is touted as having pioneered one of the most wildly successful business models in the WordPress ecosystem, but AffiliateWP was not built on the same model. EDD offers a free base plugin with commercial add-ons available a la carte. AffiliateWP does not have an official free product and is not directly supported by commercial extensions.
Pricing for the product starts at $49 and ranges up to $449, with different packages that include varying levels of support and Professional add-ons.
“Utilizing this business model is without any doubt one of reasons AffiliateWP accelerated at the rate it did,” Williamson said. “This model has not only been lucrative for us, I personally think it’s superior in many ways to other models common throughout the WordPress ecosystem.
“I like it enough that we recently chose to migrate Restrict Content Pro to the same model,” he said. “If I had the opportunity to start over with Easy Digital Downloads, I would almost certainly opt to use the same model there as well instead of selling each add-on individually.”
AffiliateWP’s total revenue for 2015 was $379,078 and Williamson projects that figure to be in the neighborhood of $420,000-$450,000 for 2016.
The fact that AffiliateWP is also available for free on GitHub has not compromised the product’s success. In fact, Williamson believes it has only enhanced it. The open source plugin has received contributions from 49 different developers.
“This is a stat I’m particularly proud of considering AffiliateWP is a commercial product, a category of WordPress plugins that tends to get very little development from anyone outside of the core development team of the product,” Williamson said. “We chose to make AffiliateWP 100% open on GitHub with a public repository specifically to help facilitate contributions from other developers. I believe firmly that this was a good decision that has worked out quite well for us.”
Williamson’s transparency about his plugin revenue serves as an inspiration to other entrepreneurs in the commercial plugin space. AffiliateWP’s success is an example of what’s possible in the WordPress product space with hard work, high quality code, and the right team.