28 Comments

  1. M

    Very good post, thanks for sharing your experience, I am bookmarking this.

    Your website looks pixel perfect.

    Regarding your Posts Table plugin, I am a bit astonished that it doesn’t have many more active installations, it seems just so much convenient and theme independant that it should be in core :), it does look like the core posts table in the backend though.

    One question that I have is that, now it seems like you have much more free time at your disposition, if this is the case, then how do you spend it ? :) Leisure, planning or pet projects… ?

    Thanks again and good luck for the following years.

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    • Katie Keith

      Thanks for your comment! Maybe the free Posts Table with Search + Sort plugin doesn’t have more active installations because a lot of people upgrade to Posts Table Pro! This supports custom post types and pages, whereas the free version only lists normal blog posts in a table – so this is a good incentive to go Pro.

      We moved house in July, which meant that we had to take a lot of time off work (and still are!). We were also on holiday for a lot of the summer. It was really interesting to be forced to work fewer hours, as the plugin business kept ticking over nicely in a way that the client business wasn’t able to. Andy and I both have to work for a minimum of an hour or so each day to stay on top of plugin support, which we are very committed to. On top of that, we try to work a reasonable number of hours to focus on improving the plugins and marketing. But this isn’t essential and it’s nice to be able to go for lunch or for a walk when we want to!

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      • M

        You are welcome.

        Maybe the free Posts Table with Search + Sort plugin doesn’t have more active installations because a lot of people upgrade to Posts Table Pro! This supports custom post types and pages, whereas the free version only lists normal blog posts in a table – so this is a good incentive to go Pro.

        I sense the marketer in you. :) But that’s fair enough, I think I agree with that.

        The second paragraph of your comment is the summary of a “Dream Life“.

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      • Katie Keith

        I looked up a Dream Life but didn’t find it on Google, where can I find this as I haven’t heard of it?

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  2. Hashim Warren

    Very helpful advice!

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  3. Dan

    Really inspiring story. It’s hard being the jack of trades. It can be easy to create content but it can ages to make it look right on a site.

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  4. Brian Hogg

    Nice work getting the plugin side going! A good point of seeing the consulting/services side as a lifeline rather than a burdon.

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  5. Tai

    Well, at least I didn’t write a useless comment like: “Very helpful advice!” without getting censored ;-)

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  6. Kingsley Felix

    Thats great, wishing you guys goodluck and more clients

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  7. Khurram

    You didn’t mention, how many team members do u have or only ur husband is developing all these plugins. If there are other team members also then how much u pay to them.

    As it looks so good to say that develop plugins but in reality developing a plugin is not an easy thing so u have to tell about ur team.

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    • Katie Keith

      Sorry for the oversight! Andy and I run the plugin business without any extra help on the plugin development or support. Andy develops and maintains all the plugins and deals with the more technical support requests, and I deal with the business side of things, marketing, knowledge base and documentation, and general support enquiries.

      We work with freelancers on our client projects, although that has declined in the last couple of years now we no longer take on new projects. There are just 3 regular freelancers we work with these days – they deal with SEO, updates/maintenance, and changes to our existing client’ websites, but not the plugin side of things.

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  8. Richard

    Thanks for inspiring plugin business story Katie.

    I disagree that theme and plugin business is “passive income”.

    Supporting the clients, improving the plugin, fixing issues with the plugin and managing other aspects of the business does not make it passive income business. Affiliate marketing done in a certain way can be closer to the concept of passive income.

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    • Katie Keith

      Hi Richard, I don’t think I described it as fully passive income. I suppose I would describe it as “semi-passive”!

      We have to work a couple of hours each day as an absolute minimum to respond to support requests. This is essential and we do this even when we’re on holiday (and often at weekends).

      But the good thing is that once the plugin support is done, everything else becomes optional. We choose to work more hours improving the plugins, adding new features and marketing the plugins, but this is more flexible and less pressured than building websites for clients.

      I suppose it’s just a different business model. Client work is a service business, whereas plugins are a product business. With a product business, you do a lot of work developing your product upfront. If it’s successful, you have to continue supporting and developing it, but the work becomes more passive.

      With a service business, the only way to scale is to take on staff (which we didn’t want to do). If you’re providing the service yourself, the amount of work will always be (roughly) the same, or the money stops coming in.

      So it’s definitely more passive than our previous work, but we still have to – and want to – work hard.

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    • Brian Hogg

      I think she means the income is scalable relative to spending her time on a one-off project, and she’s getting income after putting in the effort (though also ongoing with support like you said). Passive income probably isn’t the best choice of words for that :)

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  9. U.khan

    It is interesting and inspiring story, I’m also planning to move from service to product based business, but not sure what best for me I’m good in marketing and WordPress development, and looking for some solid product idea.

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    • Katie Keith

      Have you developed any custom plugins for your clients that could be expanded into a unique plugin that’s not available at the moment? That’s always a good starting point, as you already know what your customers need – and other people will need the same thing. Otherwise, it’s worth browsing forums, Facebook Groups etc. to see what people are asking for.

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  10. Azeem Abbas

    Very inspirational!

    As an aspiring developer from a pedagogical background, I’ve always dreamed of launching my own custom Learning Management System, rather as open source or as a WordPress plugin. I haven’t started yet but this gives me hope that nothing is possible! Making money has never been priority to me it’s all about giving it back!

    Keep it up!

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    • Katie Keith

      Good luck! SAAS is a good business model which you could use if you go in that direction, and if you can add a good unique selling point that will improve on other LMS systems, and put enough into marketing, then it can work!

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  11. John Divramis

    Hello, the plugin business can offer a steady cash flow. On the contrary, web design is a one time business and is affected by many fluctuations.

    l have been a Web Developer for many years and l know it on the first place.

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    • Katie Keith

      Thanks John, yes that’s essentially what I mean about the 2 different ways of earning a living from WordPress. Not everyone might like the phrase ‘passive income’ but selling plugins is certainly less active than designing websites for individual clients – even if it’s not 100% passive either!

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  12. Marcio Santos

    Congratulations!

    And thanks for sharing the details of your journey. It really helped me to visualize what you guys went through.

    Also very cool how your work together and complement each other’s skills.

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  13. John Langlois

    Here’s another WooCommerce idea. We need a plug-in that will permit us to completely tailor the content, look and feel of the emails WooCommerce sends.
    The products currently on the market only address style.
    We need the ability to rearrange fields, add or exclude content, process custom fields and send confirmations to selected users and administrators.
    Thank you.

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    • Katie Keith

      Hi John, you’re right, I had noticed this too. I don’t think there are any plugins that let you change what information is included in the WooCommerce confirmation emails – they just restyle the email template.

      You can use the official WooCommerce Advanced Notifications extension to send confirmation emails to different people depending on which products are ordered etc., but that doesn’t change the actual content of the email.

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  14. Guido

    Hi Katie, thanks for sharing!

    Very interesting and useful article for people (like myself) who want to do something else with WP, but don’t have the courage or just need a push to take the next step ;-)

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  15. Donal

    Hi Katie,

    Well done on a great move to creating products.

    How do you find the move to mobile with your woocommerce table products (free and pro)?

    Does it adjust to show all the same info on a small screen?

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    • Katie Keith

      Hi Donal, all our WordPress table plugins are built on the DataTables jQuery plugin, which is already responsive. We still have to do a lot of testing and extra work to ensure all the features included in our plugins are fully responsive in WordPress (e.g. the filter dropdowns and how they fit alongside all the other possible elements above the table). But the basic tables are responsive by default and adjust to fit any screen size.

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  16. Chris Mooney

    Hi Katie,

    Congratulations on successfully transitioning your business from services to products!

    It was a pleasure meeting you and Andy earlier this year at WordCamp Paris and hearing about your story (and your incredible teamwork).

    Thanks for sharing your story, some great tips (especially on customer support) for businesses going through the same journey.

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    • Katie Keith

      Thanks Chris, we were pleased to meet you too. It was lovely to meet another UK plugin company!

      I think you have a really good attitude to plugin support which we can learn a lot from, as you provide good support when it’s actually needed, but do a lot of work to prevent the need for it in the first place. I was particularly interested to hear how you managed to bring support back in-house by reducing the need for it so effectively. This helped to reassure me that the next step isn’t necessarily to hire someone to do our support, and that if we work smart then we can keep growing our sales without having to do this. We will keep growing and improving our knowledge base (which uses the Hero Themes knowledge base plugin) with this in mind!

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