Becoming a WordPress Plugin Developer Q & A
Want some advice on becoming a WordPress plugin developer? Here are a few things to consider from both a technical and business approach. These answers are provided by Slavi Marinov, dedicated WordPress plugin developer - whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet with recently and has kindly taken the time to answer some big questions I’ve had.
1. What would you say is the best strategy to eventually gain converted clients using plugin development?
It’s very important where you get your ideas for plugin or theme development. You can keep an eye on freelance sites as there are people who ask for specific features. You can check reddit.com/r/WordPress or https://www.reddit.com/r/WordPressPlugins for ideas. Keep in mind the law of the average applies. You’ll have plugins that won’t have lots of downloads but you should keep going.
In most of the cases I prefer to submit a plugin at org (real basic MVP) and while I am waiting for it to get to approved I keep on polishing it. When the approval comes I add the files in SVN and submit a release
I had to create a release manager because it takes time to manage lots of plugins and I open sources it here: https://github.com/orbisius/release-manager
So a good strategy is to publish a free plugin and then subscribe to the RSS support feeds of it. Actually, most support request are valuable because they can shape your future decisions so keep on answering questions. At some point you have to draw a line and say this feature is do-able however this falls into custom job realm so for $X I will be happy to do it for you.
About a pro add-on I’d say learn (if you’re not using) WordPress hooks into your own plugins. That’s the better approach to build a pro version. It should build on top of the free add-on as opposed to having 2 versions that share 90% of code base.
You have to invest heavily into (content) marketing. I am still doing this mistake and for my plugins there’s still more room for growth. For more ideas you can download this plugin of mine for some good ideas. For example there’s a sidebar in the right hand side in the settings that if people want to get something custom done can contact me. Video tutorials are great.
is it hard to manage fixes and support for free plugins you've released?
I used to get lots of email support requests and that doesn’t scale so I moved to my own hosted forum and made that clear within the plugin’s readme file that they should seek support on my forum. I can control the content and could potentially put in some promos.
Track your time with toggl because it’s important in case you want to sell the plugin one day and you will know if the price is fair for your time investment.
how long does it take to become established in creating income from plugin development?
Everything takes time and it depends how good you are with marketing. Having a nice portfolio of plugins helps you develop your programming skills and also for when you bid on client projects. They take you more seriously when you have a good number of them under your belt.
WordPress groups on linkedin are a great way to get plugin ideas and potentially attract customers. I’d suggest you take the approach of being helpful and resourceful and the right people will contact you. There’s enough spammers already. I’ve heard that when a post is flagged as spam or promotion on LinkedIn the system can potentially block your posts or hold them for moderation in all the groups you’re in.
How do you find your success rate in terms of spending more time on a big plugin or releasing many small ones?
It really boils down to what problem you’re trying to solve. If your clients are actively searching for that kind of solution. Great. Products are great semi-passive income, however, it takes time to get product-market fit (I’d say 3-6mo @ 1-4h / day). I am thinking of reworking my plugins so there’s a page users will land on after an installation or upgrade just like WordPress and WooCommerce do.
What best advice or tricks would you have for someone starting up as a plugin developer?
Can I direct you in a different direction? You can invest the time and become a great plugin developer and that’s cool. If, however, you want to be (or are) an entrepreneur and I’d say you have to wear the business and marketing hats most of the time. I’d try to focus on the problem and be flexible with the solution. I’d say implement the plugin or product using the lean startup ideas. The solution (looking from a developer’s point of view) may not be perfect … but done is so much better than perfect.
Some friends suggested of having a plugin also in github which would simply receiving fixes from other devs.
Listen to: applyfilters , Matt Report, EOFire, James Altucher
Bonus: At some point I realized that just some customers are more willing to pay higher prices for a plugin. These groups are marketers and store owners. I am sure there are more.
I am thinking of exploring more actively the WooCommerce Extensions.