If you've spent a lot of time on my site, you know I like to write about new product development and WordPress. I also write about pricing. So you might easily come to the conclusion that I would be completely behind the business dynamic of always selling premium WordPress plugins.
Guess what? You'd be wrong.
Premium WordPress plugins
When I write “premium WordPress plugins” I'm simply talking about a plugin you charge for. And when I say you'd be wrong, I'm saying that I don't always believe monetizing the plugin itself is the right course of action.
Now I'm not saying they're bad or that I'm against any of the ones out there. After all, I've bought many and there are some that I think are significantly under-priced.
What I'm really saying is that there are different business models to consider, and even beyond that, different things you might value that would dictate whether you should commercialize your plugin.
So with all that, here are five reasons you shouldn't release a premium WordPress plugin, and instead give it to the community for free.
Reason one: You don't love support
Ok, in other communities this might not be a big deal. But in this community, if you release a commercial/premium plugin, people are expecting that they're really paying for support. So you really have to love support.
If you don't – if you don't have time or the inclination to support your plugin much – selling it is a bad call (unless you sell it to someone who wants to support it).
Reason two: You charge for support
Hey, if you're already planning to charge for support, then you may want to look at what Jason Coleman's been doing with Paid Memberships Pro – where the plugin is not only 100% GPL but also completely free. You simply pay if you want additional / personal support and/or installation help.
If done right, this gives you the best of both worlds. You get the joy of giving back to the community while also applying direct costs where costs occur (support).
Reason three: One word – extensions
My friends over at WooThemes, as well as Pippin Williamson, have gotten this nailed. Again, their core plugins (WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads) are free. People like free – even though these plugins have massive amounts of code and took developers a serious amount of time to develop them. So they're worth more than free. But people like free.
Additionally, rather than turn the baseline products into huge messes, they've apportioned small features into extensions that people can individually buy. This is helpful (in terms of the business model) in so many ways that it's worth it's own post. But the upside is that revenue is still created – but by people who need specific features, and only for the features they need.
Reason four: No future plans
Now this reason may not make a lot of sense to you. But it was the main reason I didn't release a commercial plugin. So if it's applied to me, maybe it will apply to you.
At one point I started creating a crowdfunding extension for WooCommerce. Then I found out I'd have to support multiple payment gateways (like Paypal) and not just Stripe, like I had intended. I got it. It made sense. But it wasn't something I wanted to do (I don't like Paypal).
I decided that I had no intention of doing that. And since that would be a pre-req for getting it into the WooCommerce store, and because I didn't want to sell it outside of that, I realized that I had no future plans for this plugin.
So I pushed it to GitHub and left it there for anyone to play with.
Reason five: It's how you roll
Now admit it, life is good. You have everything you could ever want and your job pays well. You don't need $19 every time someone buys that little bit of code that only took you a few minutes. So why nickel and dime people – just get it out there. Bless the community.
In all seriousness, the WordPress community is fantastic and generous. So this last reason is why a lot of people create amazing plugins and then simply make them available for free. Others sell them, but at ridiculously low prices.
So here's my take. Know yourself. Know what you like and don't like. And if you plan to support a plugin, then make sure your business model can sustain you. If you have all that, you'll be in a good spot. If you don't, get some help.
The last thing you want to do is release a premium plugin with a bad business model and then have to kill that business and your plugin.