Driving Revenue Growth in the WordPress Ecosystem

My Version of the Story Starts in 2016

I left Crowd Favorite at the start of 2016. We'd just had a major health scare where my wife was bleeding internally and we had to rush to an ER (where things were so severe that we were rushed to the front of the line).

My wife had emergency surgery, then came out ok. But while she was under, I struggled to see the future without her. If you know me, I can see 25 different permutations of the future at any given time. But not at that moment. I couldn't handle what might be next.

Suffice to say, it shifted my perspective on life and work. I took a year off work. I spent more time with her and the kids. And I started to think about what I wanted to do next.

At the time Freemius was in closed beta. Almost no one knew who they were or what they did.

What does the WordPress ecosystem need?

I sat in a restaurant that summer with some folks from a hosting company and shared one of the ideas I was mulling over. Here's how I talked about the problem in the WordPress ecosystem.

Business Needs

Assume that plugin developers continue to exist and still struggle with the business and marketing side of things. (By this time I had run business tracks at WordCamps for three years and seen this problem up close.)

Recurring Revenue

Assume that plugin developers write great plugin code by still don't have a tight grasp on integrating with solutions like Recurly for recurring billing. (By this time I had helped several companies integrate with Recurly and it wasn't hard, but it was work.)

Analytics, Segmentation & Messaging

Assume that plugin developers need help with the cadence of their outgoing messaging and their internal analytics. (I had already run a massive survey on what people knew about how their plugins were used and had led tons of seminars on content strategy, given that I had blogged daily for 3 years.)

What if we built a platform to solve these problems?

I went a different way

A month or two later, I met with a different hosting company, and our conversation turned to WooCommerce hosting – a dedicated approach to running a different kind of hosting for online stores.

By December 1 of 2016, just before my year off ended, I joined Liquid Web. And we embarked on creating WordPress and WooCommerce hosting.

But….while we were at WCUS, I met with Cory Miller, Matt Danner, Joe Oesterling and AJ Morris. And after I painted a picture of a new approach to WordPress and WooCommerce hosting, I mentioned the idea above.

Freemius was now on my horizon, but this was still 2016. They weren't dominating my thinking.

The WordPress ecosystem grows in all directions

If you asked me which company has done the most to help people generate revenue in the WordPress community, I'm going to struggle.

One the one hand, without these theme guys, no one even really thinks about making money:

But then you look at the folks who created early (and successful) premium products:

I can make the case that either of these lists contain the folks that drove an industry. But you might debate me because I haven't mentioned the big hosting players that helped create the space:

Theme clubs, premium products, and dedicated hosting solutions all grew the economy. But I want to make the case that there's one company that came after all of them, and didn't start something, but wrote a completely new chapter.

Freemius – Driving Revenue Growth for the WordPress Ecosystem

I pinged Vova, who I've now known for several years, the other day. I had a question for this article. His answer blew my mind!

I asked him, roughly, how many plugins they're helping – because the Freemius platform helps plugins generate and grow their revenue. And I wanted to know what the growth had been over the last 4 years.

More than 1,000 plugins. And roughly 9600% growth.

I've coached and helped tons of companies grow their revenue, but not even half the number that Freemius has impacted.

You want to know who is currently helping the WordPress ecosystem grow their revenue? Freemius certainly needs to be in the discussion for the most impactful player around.

From the early days of analytics, they added the shopping cart. And from there, they never stopped.

  • If you need license keys for your plugin, they have a solution for you.
  • Recurring payments / Subscriptions? Not a problem. They have it covered.
  • Want to introduce free trials? It's easy with Freemius.
  • Are you selling internationally & need to support different currencies? No issue.
  • What if you want to collect info about why there was a deactivation? They got you.
  • Bundles? Pro-rating? Reporting? Freemius does it all.

And now they're introducing Staged Rollouts.

If you offer even a slightly popular plugin, staged rollouts helps you catch issues early – before they become PR nightmares.

The list of ways Freemius helps plugin and theme providers is insane. I can't think of a single entity their size that is having the kind of impact they're having in the entire WordPress ecosystem. And while they're making money, the clear motivation is to help move the whole community forward.

If you're a plugin and theme provider, I have a question for you.

And no, it's not, “Are you using Freemius?” It's “Why aren't you using Freemius?”

Let me end with this…If I were going to create a commercial product in the WordPress ecosystem today (and I'm thinking about one), my first purchase after a domain name would be Freemius.