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Developing a Premium WordPress Plugin

Developing a Premium WordPress Plugin

First of all, I just wanted to give a brief update.  Since its my blog, I figure I can do that.  I have been working from home full-time now since March 11th and it has been AMAZING!  I love being at home and working on projects that I enjoy.  I look forward to getting up every morning and building niche websites or working on other projects.

As far as earnings, the month of March was by far the best month I have ever had.  So, leaving my full-time job and essentially negating the MBA I spent tons of money on, has actually been better than expected so far.  Its only been a few weeks, but I look forward to the next several years of building and enjoying my business!

So, one way in which I am considering growing my business is by developing a premium WordPress plugin.  I do have a couple of different ideas, but right now I just want to discuss the feasibility and opportunity of developing and selling a plugin.  A WordPress plugin could be a number of different ideas that helps you run your blog better, track stats, posts content, builds an email lists, sells products, automates tasks, or any number of other functions.

The WordPress Market

First of all, lets take a look at the size of the potential market.  By developing a “WordPress” plugin, I am obviously limiting the product to only WordPress users.  However, there are many millions of WordPress users.  I wanted to find a better or more exact stat on how many WordPress blogs are out there, but I couldn’t really find anything.  I did find how many users (not self-hosted users) there are – that’s 18,914,826.  In my estimation, there would be many more than 20,000,000 users of self-hosted WordPress blogs.  Either way, we have a pretty healthy market.

Now I wanted to take a quick look at some of the premium WordPress Plugins that have sold well.  This will give you an idea of the types of plugins that can be developed for profit:

  • Wishlist Member – Membership software to turn your WordPress site into a membership site quickly and easily.
  • WP Robot – Autoblogging software to add content, Amazon listings, pictures, videos, and other items hands free to your blog.
  • Formidable Pro – Quickly add forms, polls, surveys to your site.  Track stats and manage other data from your contacts.
  • WP Review Engine – Set up product reviews with ratings and customize listings.
  • Pop-up Domination – A premium pop up to collect names and email list.
  • PhpPro – Quickly turn your blog into a eBay affiliate website with listings and automated postings.

Okay, there are thousands of other premium WordPress plugins that I could have listed here, but I just wanted to give you an idea of the type of products that are selling.  So, I could literally think of any number of areas to target – whether that be tracking stats, optimizing ads, enhancing shopping experience, managing comments, or anything else having to do with WordPress.

I actually do have a couple of ideas that I could pursue here, but I don’t want to dive into too much depth into that right now.  Of course I will if this is chosen as the winning idea for my niche pursuit.  I actually do plan on getting voting started before the end of the month here.

My Failed WordPress Plugin

I have actually tried once before to develop a premium WordPress plugin, but failed miserably.  I actually hired a developer and got most of the plugin developed.  It was a plugin that would take your posts and allow you to “spin” them, and then automatically post them to about 50 of the top article directories – all from within WordPress.  I actually spent over $1,500 getting this developed.  However, for a number of reasons, including the fact that the programmer was not really delivering the quality product I had in mind – I cut my losses.

So, I ended up with a semi-working product that looked terrible and a bill for $1,500.  It hurt to cut my losses like that, but it was the right decision as it allowed me to focus on other projects which have been much more successful.  Never mind the fact that I would have had to spend much more than that to get the plugin done right.

Anyway, so if I jump into this project again – I will be a bit less naive this time.  I will be aware that it takes hiring the best possible programmer (which is probably more expensive) to get the best product.  I wish I knew how to program myself sometimes, but I have confidence in the fact that I can find a great programmer to outsource this type of project too.  Since that original failed plugin, I have outsourced a number of successful projects including Long Tail Pro (my keyword research tool).

Your Thoughts

So, there you have it.  I am considering developing a premium WordPress Plugin.  What do you think?  If you vote this to be the project I focus on, I will be blogging step by step how I come up with an idea, how I hire a programmer, how I manage the project, and how I sell the product, and everything else involved.  So, go ahead and leave your comments below in regards to this idea so I can get a sense of interest.

25 Comments for this Post

  1. Chuck


    It seems a risky realm if you are not a programmer. You have to get someone else to program it and there have been too many cases where the programmer has ripped off someone else and leaves you with the mess. Then no matter how good it is, your buyers will have a million suggestions on how to make it better. Then you will get into making it better and of course, there’s WP itself constantly updating its product. causing fits

    • Spencer


      Hey Chuck, you make a valid point. A plugin or any other software certainly does require constant updates and attention. This is an additional expense that anyone creating a tool has to consider. Having said that, I don’t think you have to be a programmer to create a successful tool – in fact I think you would be surprised how many plugins/software tools are created by “non-programmers”. And there are certainly ways to protect yourself from getting “ripped off” and left with a mess. As mentioned, I learned the hard way on this one, so I wouldn’t be considering it, if I didn’t feel confident that I could find a great programmer that is also honest.

  2. Ross Corbett

    Ross Corbett

    I certainly think it is a good idea Spencer. I think, like you said, it may well take time and certainly a large amount of money but if you get it right, the return could be huge. Congrats on working at home doing what you love, I’m loving your site and look forward to hearing how this idea progresses. Have you ever thought about designing a WP theme or is that market to competitive?

    • Spencer


      Hey Ross, thanks for the feedback! Yes, this could certainly be an expensive project – but the rewards could also be pretty healthy too.

      As far as WP themes, I’m not sure. It certainly is VERY competitive, especially with so many free themes. However, if you were able to find a unique angle (perhaps the theme actually does something that others don’t?) to market the theme then you could perhaps break into the market. I know there are a ton of design companies that create lots of really awesome looking themes, so unless you know an exceptional designer – the best thing to do is create a “different” approach to enter the market…

  3. Quentin


    Don’t forget customer support Spencer. It is a really big issue. Your developer will need to understand about PHP deployment and versions on different hardware/OS. Also, they need pretty constant updating. There is no write once/run forever solution in software – especially software written for a platform that itself evolves. On the plus side, it is probably THE best ROI you could ever imagine. This is partly because not many are capable of doing it, and also because, as you have rightly discovered, your market potential is massive. BTW, I used to program (C++ and Java) but I now employ a team of 5 all in-house, so I can control all the above aspects. My advice would be to make contact with some of the many one-man/woman band WP plugin authors and ask them for their opinions. You could pitch it as though you were looking for them to develop something and ask for the pitfalls (you might even find your developer that way too!).

    • Spencer


      Quentin – agreed. Support is a big issue. I would never expect a program once and run forever type of software. However, as you point out – even with all the ongoing development, bug fixes, support costs – the ROI potential is still huge.

      I think anyone looking to develop software/plugins would be wise to follow the advice you have offered here – especially since you have experienced most of this with your own product. I particularly like the suggestion you make of contacting some other successful plugin authors. Thanks!

  4. Joe


    Personally, I dislike most of those all-in-one WP themes. The whole purpose of WP is the ability to customize it the way you like with the plugins. But having said that, I think there is a market for that type of theme. Look at Thesis theme, which is probably one of the top selling premium themes.

    • Spencer


      Hey Joe – Some people would certainly not be interested, but as you point out there is still a healthy market for unique WordPress themes. I personally don’t want to get involved in WP theme development right now, but I think the market is there if others can find the right angle.

  5. school safety

    school safety

    Hi Spencer – Yes, I think this is a great idea assuming you can get the plugin created for the right price.

    – How do you protect yourself from losing money like you already did ? Most programmers want there money up front so how do you ensure you will get a working product ?

    – The other concern is updates. As new versions of WP come out will the plugin continue to work correctly ?

    • Spencer


      You can use a number of escrow services on several freelance websites to protect against monetary loss. This is pretty standard, you only release the funds once you have received a functioning product. However, the real issue is getting a product that works well with as little bugs as possible (no product is perfect). Like I said I have worked on a number of other projects (including software projects) and several services make it pretty standard to protect against losses.

      However, you bring up some very valid points about getting a quality product and also being aware that updates will be required (more expenses) as WordPress and other things evolve. But that’s the whole point, business owners take risks where other are unwilling to do so – and hence the potential for creating wealth.

      • Quentin


        But that’s the whole point, business owners take risks where other are unwilling to do so – and hence the potential for creating wealth.
        So true. Go for it Spencer 🙂

  6. Andy Eaton

    Andy Eaton

    Your plugin that failed you should look to improve it. There is a plugin similar that submits articles through wordpress to the top 15-20 article sites. If you could post to more sites and make it easy you would have agreat plugin. I think the other was called autosubmit or something similar.

    • Spencer


      Hey Andy, if I decide to pursue a plugin project; I will certainly consider the pros and cons of reviving my old project.

  7. Boris C.

    Boris C.

    Spencer but what if market depletes? That means you will still have to update plugin, provide support. That is the problem with plugin without recurring income. With recurring income it would be fair to update and provide customer support, but everyone hates recurring income.

    • Spencer


      Boris – Sure bad things can happen. Again if there were no negative “what ifs” – then everyone would be developing plugins/software. Lots of potentially successful businesses were never tried because of the “what if” game. However, to suggest that a plugin or software can’t be successful if it doesn’t have a membership or recurring payment model is simply not the case. You make a good point that ongoing costs has to be considered, but again that is where appropriate market researching and correct pricing comes into play.

  8. Ben


    Another great idea Spencer. I think the key to this niche is of coarse the actual plugin itself. I would think that anything that will save people time, frustration, and/or money should do well.

    • Spencer


      Hey Ben – glad you like my ideas! I totally agree that the real critical point is whether or not there is demand for the actual plugin to be developed. I think the market for plugins overall is healthy; however, the key is finding the right product/idea to enter the market. I really like the fact that you focus of saving time, frustration, or money – because focusing on solving other people’s problems is really the key to success, I believe.

  9. James


    Spencer, cool new site you’ve got here. Big fan.

    I think the plugin is a great project IF you think you’ve got an idea that will be in demand. You seem to have a solid handle on this based upon your previous reply – money/time/frustration, just like you mention – solve one of these and you’re in good shape (assuming your costs, including your own opportunity cost of time involved, are reasonable).

    • Spencer


      James – I’m glad you like the new site! Its positive comments such as your that keep me motivated to keep putting the effort into this…thanks!

      I agree 100% with you about the plugin. The market is there if one can solve the right problem. I have a few ideas, but would get serious about brainstorming for more should this be the “winning” idea.

  10. Chris Guthrie

    Chris Guthrie

    Hey Spencer,

    I’ve partnered with coders in the past for a share of the revenue like on my project and it was a mixed bag, so in case you were thinking about that I’d suggest just fronting the bill for all the development instead of doing an arrangement like I did. That said, I think that the plugin was still worth trying and I am planning on doing another one in the future. I’ll be hiring someone from Seattle, WA this time so awe can meet up locally sometime if need be.

    Sidenote: I can’t readywhat I’m tpying at the end of this comment box because it’s not showing everything. Firefox error perhaps? I can only see the first 6 lines of my comment…

    That said

    • Spencer


      Hey Chris, I can definitely see how partnering with a coder could have its advantages, thanks for sharing how you have done it in the past! However, my initial thinking is as you suggest – I will just pay for it upfront and own the product 100%. I think working with someone locally is the way to go if you can find someone…anyone in Richland, WA interested???

      Also, yeah I am aware of the comment sizing issue – its a theme styling issue. You can actually resize the comment box by dragging the bottom right corner. However, I agree that it would be easier if the overflow just scrolled as normal.

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  13. Eugenia


    Exactly why is this post showing up in my feed? good anyway

  14. mayur


    Developing a wordpress plugin required much knowledge about coding and programing.

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