1. Michael Torbert

    Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all solution.
    Plugins generating leads for consulting or custom development, support fees, donations are all definitely viable solutions, but won’t necessarily apply in every case. At the end of the day, a developer may need to realize that writing WordPress plugins just isn’t going to be what pays their salary.
    I could name many large (larger than any WordPress plugin) open source products (that are free of charge) which don’t generate a significant amount of revenue for their developer.


  2. Andrea_R

    Support. Send the plugin out into the wild, and support is paid. there will *always* be people willing to pay to ask questions.

    Go look in the regular support forums and see how many threads are about plugins that are really just drop in an go. Still plenty.


  3. Robert

    On additional fact to be considered by those advocating support forums, related services like consulting or custom coding, or paid gigs: It doesn’t scale. Almost none of the proposed income sources scale like repeated sales of a piece of software.


  4. Kevin

    What about a freemium model? The e-Commerce plugin uses this business model. They have a free version and a premium version as well as paid support. That seems to be an agreeable compromise, no?


  5. Chip Bennett

    Somebody really just needs to challenge the “WordPress is GPL, therefore all plugins must also be GPL” mandate.

    I have serious doubts that a legal challenge against a non-GPL, distributed WP plugin would prevail. The “derivative work” argument is tenuous at best.

    The GPL is great. GPL fascism isn’t. If a coder wants to attempt to make money from his code, that is and should remain his right.


  6. Claudius Raphael Paeth, A3lyphe

    I totally agree to Chip Bennett’s comment and also think that Kevin did mentioned it well.

    I am as user not willed to pay any price for something that might possibly harm my system, because what most developers forget is that due to the fact they are releasing under GPL they can not be hold for security issues and therefore resulting effects, neither on law nor on moral perspective.

    So how could a developer get into making money out of beloved work?

    Surely not through donations or similar ways which heavily depend on the ‘big spender’ to generate an income that might make a living of it.

    It is surely the own way to operate right, if you decide to keep things real and not only code the great plug-in or theme for our favorite blog/cms-system, if you are able and willed to give support on a fixed rate.

    Personally i have to make the addition, that it wouldn’t and won’t fit my aims as a developer. But i think that is the only way, besides building a small community of your best friends and transform these into partners, to gain profit. Though the last might sound dreamy, isn’t it the way how good and in long term profitable agencies roll up?

    I think it can all be reduced to two aspects:

    a) Any developer who is willed to put strength, time, concentration and love into his/her creation has to realize that the coding itself might be possible as a soloist. The distribution might also be, but the monetizing won’t.

    b) Codes are kids. They have to grow. They leave. We have to accept that. And often these kids die before their creators. And we think of it as ‘that wasn’t well designed’. Would we ever think about kids that way? So finally we have to accept that good code work or even bad, has it’s right to exist but we have to feed it and support it.

    As a conclusion:

    If we think we can ‘create’ and ‘generate’ code we can’t be proud of it. But pride is essentially to live of and off your own work.

    I think it’s just the question of stating a decision. In this case it is the decision of ‘to be willed to take the limitations and do the work needed’ or ‘i just wanna humble around, make some here, some there and please get off me…’.

    Okay, to stay true to the game there is an option left:

    Be normal. Be part of the society. Don’t dream.

    We have to decide…


  7. Andrea_R

    I think people miss that fact that you can have a GPL plugin, and you CAN charge for it.

    The freedom doesn’t mean free, it means freedom to do with it what you like.


  8. Chip Bennett

    @Andrea_R – None of us, to my knowledge, have missed the fact that the GPL does not preclude one from charging for GPLed code.

    However, one very prominent person in the WP community – namely, the (ostensibly) benevolent dictator for life (to borrow a term coined by Mark Shuttleworth, the BDFL of Ubuntu) Matt, has a very clear agenda to discourage WP plugin developers from doing just that. It is patently obvious that Matt does not want developers charging for theme or plugin code.

    The problem, of course, is that Matt is enforcing that position using a specious GPL argument.


  9. Kevin

    Hey Chip,
    Are you sure Matt is totally against commercial themes and plugins? I wonder if he is changing his tune since Brian Gardner’s Revolution2 theme advertisement was placed in the theme directory? See image here: http://justintadlock.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/revolution-ad-wordpress.png

    Uh oh, I just checked the theme directory and the Rev2 ad is no longer there. Anyone have any update on this?


  10. Chip Bennett

    @Kevin – let me take a representative quote from Matt’s 2-hour interview in the special WPWeekly episode back in December:


    JC: Ok, so here’s the next question: Why is it that so many people within the inner circle of the WordPress community believe you and Automattic don’t want anyone else profiting through or around WordPress? It seems to be this notion, primarily from those who make a living selling premium themes.

    Matt: *laughs* Well, I have said it before that it’s hard to convince anyone that the way that they currently making money is wrong, *laughs* you know, if you are paying your bills with the way you’re making money, you’re going to find ways to rationalise and… sort of believe in that.

    Be sure to read through all three parts. Some of Matt’s opinions on the matter don’t become clear until having read all of his responses.


  11. Kevin

    It sounds like Matt doesn’t care if you sell themes, plugins, or whatever as long as you don’t try to do it on WordPress.org.

    Obviously however, he is willing to display your themes on WordPress.org if you only charge for support and the theme itself is free.

    Why doesn’t Matt realize that this will ultimately lead to consumers not trusting the designers? What is going to prevent a designer from designing a theme in a way that it REQUIRES support in order to use it?

    And why would a designer choose such a business model when it would require more work on his part to just provide support? That is, he could make just as much, and realistically, probably a lot more money, selling the theme and not providing support. I mean once you build the theme, it’s done; you sell it and make money. The only time required is the time it takes to build it and advertise. If you are only going to make money by supporting it, it’s going to take a lot more time, expenses, and your earnings potential will be much less because support requires hands-on paid work which is also a limiting resource. Selling a theme however, really doesn’t have a limiting resource except for your ability to advertise it I guess. Hence, I don’t see designers adopting this service based business model any time soon.

    Which reminds me…why is the Rev2 ad on WordPress.org no longer there? Did Brian Gardner bail on the whole “Premium Open Source WordPress Themes” idea?


  12. Chip Bennett

    @Kevin – I also have a problem with the “as long as they don’t do it on wordpress.org” sentiment – *especially* now that plugins and themes hosted on wp.org can be searched/installed from within the admin UI.

    Some enterprising theme/plugin author is going to have to write a plugin to allow for non-wp.org sources to be searched from within the admin UI, or else as time goes on, *only* wp.org (i.e. Matt) sanctioned themes/plugins will ever get any real exposure.

    Also, I have a problem with Matt giving lip service to wp.org being a community-driven website, yet at the same time making unilateral decisions by fiat regarding these issues. I don’t remember the community ever being consulted regarding inclusion of non-GPL (proprietary) or for-cost (premium) themes/plugins in the wp.org directories.


  13. Michael Torbert

    Community Driven != Community Owned

    Matt doesn’t need to consult with the community of WordPress users to make decisions for a website he owns.
    wptavern.com is a community driven website, but if I go start a thread that Jeff feels is inappropriate, he can certainly delete it. Refer to Jeff’s TOS which say you can’t plug your commercial product/service around the forums. I don’t remember him consulting me on that.


  14. David Gwyer

    Personally, as a plugin developer and plugin user, I really like the idea of high quality free plugins. Currently (at least for the foreseeable future) all my plugin are free and available on the WordPress.org repository. The only thing I would then charge for is services (support, customisations etc.). It is too early days yet to know if this is going to generate enough revenue on its own to support full time plugin development.

    I do plan to develop some online/desktop WordPress applications as well as a foray into theme development to provide a more rounded revenue model, but for now is limited to mainly plugins. If I had a very successful plugin and could generate enough revenue then I may not even need to go into theme development but I suspect that may not be possible, but who knows!

    Another route is to join forces (i.e. two or more one-man-band plugin authors), and putting combined resources into a premium plugin or putting all the free plugins in one place and making them very high quality with paid support.

    Fingers crossed that plugin development is possible to do full time.

    If any other plugin developers are in the same position feel free to contact me for further discussion/collaboration etc.



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