Business Idea: WordPress Plugins

Business Idea: WordPress Plugins

WordPress was originally designed for blogging, with a powerful content management system (CMS) at its core, but its ease of use and extensibility has seen it become a platform of choice for a huge variety of applications – from ecommerce stores to community forums. As at April 2016, the WordPress platform is used by 26.4% of the top 10 million websites worldwide (source: W3Techs.com).

WordPress can be greatly enhanced using plugins and themes. At a basic level, themes are used to transform the look of a website, while plugins are used to add functionality (new capabilities). However, in practice this line is often blurred. For example, along with offering a new look, many themes also add new functionality to a site.

This article focusses on developing and selling WordPress plugins, as they’re easier to get started with.

Given the enormous popularity of WordPress, there’s a thriving market for plugins. So if you have coding skills, or you’re prepared to learn (more on this later) – selling WordPress plugins can be a terrific way to make money from home.

Skills to be a successful plugin developer

There are some key skills required for successfully developing and selling plugins. Of course technical skills are the foundation; but marketing, branding and customer service are also incredibly important.

Technical skills: coding

There are a number of programming languages that can be used for developing WordPress plugins. Below are the main ones typically needed for plugin development – if you master these, you’ll be good to go!

HyperText Markup Language: HTML

HTML is the standard markup language used to create web pages, so it’s pretty important to be familiar with HTML.

Here’s some resources for learning HTML:

Introduction to HTML – paid video course with downloadable source files: $5 (USD).

W3Schools – free online tutorials.

PHP

PHP is a server-side scripting language. PHP is the main scripting language used for WordPress.

Resources for learning PHP:

W3Schools – free online tutorials.

Cascading Style Sheets: CSS

CSS is a style sheet language used to describe the presentation of a document written in a markup language, such as web pages. CSS is terrific for making changes to presentation and design.

Resources for learning CSS:

W3Schools – free online tutorials.

JavaScript

Alongside HTML and CSS, JavaScript is one of the core programming languages for the World Wide Web.

Resources for learning JavaScript:

JavaScript Fundamentals – paid video course with downloadable source files: $30 (USD).

WordPress.org: Using Javascript  – free online guide.

W3Schools – free online tutorials.

Marketing and branding

Effective marketing and branding will increase sales, it’s that simple.

Make sure your product description and other text is well written, as quality copy helps to convey professionalism. If a user sees mistakes throughout your product listing, then they may assume you’re just as careless with your coding and move on.

Use professional images and well thought-out typography, as attractive marketplace listings get more customers. If image editing and design is not your forte, get a freelancer to do the design work, as it’s cheap and the results will be well worth the investment.

It’s worth thinking about branding early on, as it takes time to build brand equity (i.e. brand recognition and reputation). For example, one of your first considerations will be do you sell plugins under your name or use a broader business name? It’s often sensible to start with a broader business name, as it’s more accommodating to your business scaling up over time; for example, as sales grow you may engage other people to provide customer support.

Customer service

To attract and maintain happy customers, you’ll need to provide user support. For example, this includes support for compatibility issues with themes and other plugins, and updating your plugin to address bugs or add new features. With the wide variety of websites, themes and plugins – users will encounter issues with your plugin, it’s inevitable. Plugin development doesn’t end when you release your product to market, it requires ongoing user support and product updates.

Providing exceptional customer service can help to differentiate you from other sellers.

Learning WordPress plugin development

If you’re a novice coder or even a complete beginner, don’t worry – there’s plenty of great resources available for learning how to develop WordPress plugins. The list below will help you become a code-wizard in no time!

It’s worth keeping in mind that WordPress (and coding) is continually evolving. Change is constant, so to keep on top of your game you’ll need to be comfortable with adapting to change and be prepared to keep learning along the way.

Book: Professional WordPress Plugin Development

The authors of this book are experts in the field and it’s packed with helpful guidance.

Video course: Introduction to WordPress Plugin Development

This is a paid video course with downloadable source files, for just $9 (USD).

WordPress.org: Writing a Plugin

This is a free online resource.

Tools of the trade

Plugin development requires very few tools to get started. You’ll need a computer and internet connection of course, along with a source code editor or basic text editor program.

For a source code editor, I highly recommend Notepad++, which is free to download.

If you’re going to be doing design work for your products, such as logos or promotional banners, then you’ll also need a graphics editor. There are free options available, but Adobe Photoshop arguably offers the most capable solution for a broad range of tasks.

Where to sell plugins: marketplaces

There’s lots of existing marketplaces for selling WordPress plugins. Before selecting a marketplace (or multiple marketplaces), you need to determine whether you’ll sell plugins suited to a broad range of WordPress sites, or plugins targeted to specific ecosystems, such as WooCommerce for example.

To maintain quality standards and to protect their customers, marketplaces will typically evaluate plugins before allowing them to be listed. For example, they will check for security issues or malicious code.

Marketplaces with broad coverage

WordPress.org

WordPress.org is the home of WordPress. You can list your plugins in the Plugin Directory.

You can’t sell plugins directly through the Plugin Directory on WordPress.org, but there are a few approaches you can take to generate revenue from your plugins. Below are the two most common approaches.

Freemium

A common approach that plugin authors take is to list a free, feature-limited version on  WordPress.org; and then offer a ‘pro’ or ‘premium’ version on their own website or another commercial marketplace. The idea is that the free version will attract customers for the paid version.

Donations

Some authors list their free plugin with a ‘Donate to this plugin’ link, with the hope that grateful users will make donations.

CodeCanyon

CodeCanyon is part of the Envato Market. As a seller on CodeCanyon you’ll pay a fee from each sale, to learn more see their author guide.

Ecosystems

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is an immensely popular plugin for WordPress, powering 37% of online stores worldwide as at April 2016 (source: WooThemes.com). As of 1 February 2016, the WooThemes website (creator of WooCommerce) is no longer accepting new submissions for sale through their website. If you’re keen to sell WooCommerce plugins, you’ll need to look at selling them on other marketplaces, such as CodeCanyon.

Easy Digital Downloads

Easy Digital Downloads is an ecommerce solution for selling digital and other non-physical products.

WP Job Manager

WP Job Manager is a plugin for adding job-board functionality to WordPress. However, it has also been extended by themes and plugins to cover a much wider variety of uses, such as themes that make use of the plugin to create a directory site.

AppThemes

AppThemes offers feature-rich themes for specific business models. For example, their HireBee theme can be used to launch a marketplace for freelancers. To create a seller account, sign up here.

DIY solution

You may also decide to sell your plugins from your own website. This gives you greater control over your product sales and you won’t have to pay marketplace fees, but it can be very difficult to attract a sufficient volume of customers, which is why many developers make use of existing marketplaces that offer access to an existing customer base.

If you’re keen to go DIY and setup your own shop or marketplace, check out the ‘Self-hosted: DIY solutions with WordPress’ section of our previous article: Ten ecommerce platforms for selling your products online.

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