Software Licensing for WordPress Plugins

Need license keys for your WordPress plugin or theme?

If you've ever wanted to monetize the code you've written, especially (but not uniquely) in the WordPress ecosystem, you've likely thought about how you'd go about protecting it. After all, giving away a version of your code may make sense from a marketing perspective, but eventually you'll need some way to add license keys so that you can charge for updates.

The problem isn't just software licensing for WordPress plugins. It's all the rest that comes with it.

  • You'll need to generate unique keys
  • You'll need to handle recurring payments
  • You'll need to be able to deliver updates
  • You'll likely need to deal with compliance, tax and other complexities

But the time we finish the list, you might even think about giving the code away for free and walking away from the entire dynamic. Selling code can get complex quickly.

For the longest time, there were two options for software licensing

In the early years when people wanted engines that would provide software licensing for WordPress plugins, they'd either use WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads.

Both had carts, checkout, coupons, options for subscription billing, and the ability to generate license keys.

The good news is that they still have all of that.

Between the two, I think EDD is better at this than WooCommerce. But the real issue is that, in the end, they do too much and too little. At the same time.

You see, each is an eCommerce platform. And that means you can do just about anything you want. You can add invoice generation and send them to customers (for VAT compliance). You can support different payment gateways for different countries. You can integrate with tax platforms to do calculations and take care of things for you. And, of course, you can generate license keys for your plugin.

But the key word in all of those options is “you.” You can do that. By adding one add-on or extension after another. And it will be you configuring how they all work together.

Yes, you can do all sorts of things, but most of the software folks I know don't want to learn enough about tax jurisdictions and nexus to be able to configure their own tax calculations. They want it taken care of for them.

That's where today's new options come in.

Today you have multiple options

If you're selling your code to customers, and you want software licensing for WordPress plugins then the good news is that there are now platforms that can help you.


For the longest time Paddle wasn't on this list because while they could do anything (and almost everything) you could imagine with billing, taxes, calculations and even answering support questions about a bill, they couldn't really do software license keys. But that changed recently. They now support it. And so they're on the list. You pay a percentage of your deal, but it's based on your volume, so like most of the vendors, you have to connect with them directly to get your custom quote.

Paddle is all about your revenue.


Gumroad hasn't always been the platform for plugins, but over the years it's gone from selling, protecting, and delivering anything (like PDFs) to directly supporting creators (of all sorts). This includes those who are writing software and need to generate license keys. They do a lot for you – including allowing you to sell different versions of your plugin (silver, gold, platinum versions). They support multiple currencies and make checkout easy (so that you don't have to implement an entire cart system on your site).

Gumroad is all about making things easy. 


When you first start looking at FastSpring, you might think it's just like Paddle. But that's not the case. It has focused on being a more comprehensive solution than either Paddle or Gumroad. The platform offers several integrations to support your license key generator if you've already been using something. That's particularly useful if this isn't your first rodeo and you've already been using solutions like LicenseSpot, Keygen, LicenseSpring, LimeLM, QLM, or any of the other integrations they support. They also support license key generation by picking from a pre-defined list, using a call-back script (remote server request), or a script to generate/calculate one. The list of platforms they support and integrate with is impressive.

FastSpring is all about integrations.

Is there a better solution for software licensing for WordPress Plugins?

Those three systems are great. The platforms do what they need to do and I'm sure you would like them. But this isn't about software licensing systems for just software. It's about software licensing for WordPress plugins. And that means it would be great if the platform understood and embraced WordPress.

And when it comes to understanding WordPress, there's really one player that stands out ahead of all of those other platforms.


If you've spent time on this site at all, you know I am not much of a fan of the freemium business model. I told you about the 30% of prospects who never intend to pay you a single dollar the other night.

But regardless of my opinion about the business model, there's no question that Freemius has made it a very real way for plugin developers to offer and sell their products. And Freemius isn't just solving the problem of software license keys. They take care of checkout, taxes, software updates, license keys, and even support an affiliate program.

So when it comes to generating revenue from your WordPress plugin, you should check them out.

Freemius is all about WordPress (and everything else you need).