Starting a plugin business these days is hard. The market feels saturated and it looks like that everything you think of is already there. In such a saturated market, how will people find your plugin? I have thought of the same thing. I’ve decided that I want to focus on developing (and a little marketing) but I don’t want to lose my energy on maintaining a licensing solution. In this article, I’ll try to make it easier for you to start a plugin business with Freemius.
There are of course a lot of options you could choose to sell your WordPress plugins with. One of the most popular ones is using Easy Digital Downloads and their Software Licensing. Another one is using WooCommerce and their Software Add-on.
There are a bunch of other options which I’ve described in my other article on making money with WordPress products.
I’ve chosen Freemius because they have a platform that just works with a 5-minute integration SDK. They also work on extending their platform with new features and improve existing ones. One of the great things is that you don’t have to worry about payment gateways, VAT and similar stuff that involves transactions.
Everything is done through their platform. Another great feature and also my favorite is that you can sell your plugin right within the user’s WordPress admin dashboard if you’re offering a freemium version. One of the customers even mentioned that they loved this process because they did not have to go to another site to purchase it.
Basically, I wanted to focus only on coding and improving my plugins rather than managing user profiles, payment gateways, receipts and such. Since this platform also provides me with analytics on active installs and users, I also can check the sites that use it and think of unique features that may help them.
Here are some of the plugins I’ve integrated with Freemius:
You can listen to the podcast episode on MasterMind.fm about Freemius.
Of course, you will need a plugin idea. You can’t write a plugin out of nothing 🙂
When you have a plugin idea, you can test it in a few ways. First, check if there is a similar plugin. If it is, that’s actually great. You can immediately find out if this idea would be profitable.
Is it a popular one? I created Simple Giveaways based on the idea of hosting a giveaway and I could not afford using KingSumo Giveaways. So, I just went into building one. I knew KingSumo Giveaways is a popular plugin and recommended among marketers.
Is it a similar one? I created EDD Tab Manager based on the insight that WooCommerce Tab Manager is used quite a lot. This is just a free plugin that is yet to blossom. The bad thing about this is that EDD does not have tabs out of the box and the users of it probably don’t even think about tabs.
Is it an extension? I’ve created several extensions. For example, Live Scores for SportsPress is just an extension of SportsPress. Since SportsPress has a lot of active installs on their free version, I figured it out that this extension could be used by them. And it really does, it’s already at 300+ active installs.
Does it even exist? This is a tricky one. You don’t have an idea if people would use it. You will need to have a survey maybe or even write an article on it and see if people are commenting on it.
The last option is great with Freemius. You can build a freemium model, create a minimum viable product and offer a few extra premium features (that don’t require a lot of time). Then you can just wait and see if it gets picked up.
You may think that your plugin would not be used since there are already similar ones that are also freemium and being really popular. You can read about the similar case of Freemius Blog in the article “How Benjamin Denis Took His WordPress Plugin From An Idea to 10K+ Active Installs in 1 Year On His Spare Time!“. A new SEO plugin to compete against Yoast SEO and alike? He did it! 🙂
The integration with Freemius is rather easy. You download their SDK from Github, include it in your plugin folder and include the main file. Then you just copy the code that Freemius gives you in their dashboard and you’re good to go.
You do need to opt-in as a test so that Freemius gets the first data and knows that you have successfully integrated. Here is a video also from the Freemius YouTube Channel.
Make sure your user in WordPress does have a different email than your Freemius one. Some email service providers won’t be able to send the activation email to the same email. That was an issue I had. Their support made me realize that really fast 🙂
Freemius also provides you with the ability to sell add-ons as separate plugins which is a great way to monetize your freemium product. When creating an Add-on, the process is really simple and the integration is the same. You can read the Freemius documentation on it.
And the best part, you don’t have to worry about where to host your add-ons. Freemius does that for you also.
With my plugins, I went for a free and premium version of the plugin without add-ons. But with the Freemius API, you can easily integrate a sales funnel in it. I’ve created integrations within my plugin which you can activate only on the Premium version.
You can read about that in the articles:
That’s the interesting part, right? You want to know how to price your plugins.
Another good thing about Freemius is that when you have set a yearly price, Freemius will automatically calculate the lifetime prices and monthly prices (if you want to use them).
Be sure to go for a yearly offer. I have sold my Simple Giveaways plugin for a lifetime one but after a few thoughts, months of sales and a chat with Vova (CEO of Freemius), I decided to go with a yearly price. I also offer a lifetime license but for a much higher price so it can support my work for more than 1-2 years.
Freemius Blog has a few articles on that also. Some of them are:
Plugin Business Book
Folks at Freemius have created a book (PDF version of several articles) that is really well designed and can help you with chapters on several parts of running a Plugin business.
Be sure to get their book: https://freemius.com/wordpress-plugin-business-book/
As you might already know, I really like selling my plugins through Freemius because of all their work. The community is also great behind Freeimus as all the sellers can have a chat in the private Slack they’ve opened.
The support is also great and they respond within 12 hours. If not, you can always ping them on Slack and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can 🙂