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Last week I had something incredibly rare: a donation to one of my plugins!

The amount is irrelevant, but was very generously received and it put a smile on my face. So a huge thank you to Alyssa who saw fit to donate to the Inline Tweet Sharer project. Thanks again.

WordPress Monetisation – The Past

I couldn’t really remember the last time I received a donation to help fund one of my plugins, but certainly I cannot remember receiving anything this year, and probably not within the last 12 months. Whilst I don’t expect anything, it is something that does help development, as donations means that maybe the developer doesn’t have to take on a client and can focus on the plugin instead.

I wondered if I was a one off, or indeed donations are poorly received. In short – I wasn’t alone: I asked on WP Chat roughly how many donations were received, and the results were similar:-

  • Most had around 2 or 3 donations received, and no more than 8.
  • Most donations were in small quantities (totalled less than $100).
  • The plugins associated with these donations had tens of thousands of downloads.
  • Most donations came after a period of support.

Whilst again not asked (most of us get a kick of seeing a plugin being ran on a large site), it was a bit disappointing.

Then again, it can be expected. After all, I cannot remember ever donating for a plugin – and the open source movement has emerged where people expect to get things for free. But I certainly pay for a few.

WordPress Monetisation – Now

As, of course in the real world, two markets have come up – Premium software & Premium support. Both of which actually see real returns on investment and people have formed businesses around them.

Premium software is software that you pay for. Now premium software is still covered by the GPL, but you pay for extra features, as well as future updates and support for those features. Often premium software can be found elsewhere – but is unsupported. This model does seem to work & work well, after a few years of refinement. An example of this would be WP Taxi Me Premium, which introduces some new features (and said features are often the more trickier to support).

Premium support is an interesting one, but slightly less developed. In short, you give the software away for free, but you give support should it be paid for. This can work, but it’s something I’ve played with. Unfortunately asking people for paid support for free software seems to create a negative reaction, and given the choice between paying for (discounted) premium support, or asking for free help, they go free every time. Even refusing to support some software for free ends up with negative reviews, as it’s something I’ve experienced before. An example of this would be Easy Digital Downloads – Taxamo Integration.

There have been other methods, but I’d love to see more developers rewarded for their hard work. One of the better responses I got was from Vova Feldman, the brains behind Freemius & Ratings Widget (emphasis mine):-

Even though the WordPress community is amazingly supportive, money is money. No one likes to give it away if they don’t have to. To prove it, everyone reading this should ask themselves how many donations they’ve made to the authors of the free software we are using on our computers.

In the current software ecosystem, we are all used to the fact that there are free stuff. It’s not part of our mindset to donate money to appreciate software.

You can also look at the recent WordPress crowdfunding campaigns. If I’m not mistaken, none of the projects managed to hit its target funding goal.

After I added pro plans to RatingWidget, in 14 months we grew from ONE person to FIVE. The plugin is now way better, we have a dedicated technical support team, the business is constantly growing and everyone happy.

WordPress Monetisation – The Future?

I’m not sure where the premium market for WordPress will go next, beyond users monetising their software in the way they are currently being monetised, but thankfully the days of premium plugins and themes being demonised are over. It is now accepted that developers need to get a return from their work, otherwise the community suffers as a whole.

But what happens next? As Vova mentioned above: Crowdfunding for WordPress software doesn’t appear to be working, but something will. The WordPress community are a entrepreneurial bunch, and I believe whatever happens the community will benefit as a whole.




  • Gregory

    HI Rhys!
    Interesting thoughts. What do you think about strategy called “Name Your Price” or “Pay What You Want Software”? I started to think about giving some donation to the plugins authors when I started to develop some free plugins. I realized how much time it takes and how small donations are.

    January 13, 2016 at 2:32 pm

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