My Thoughts on Premium Plugins

February 4th, 2010
WordPress Plugins

Most of you have heard by now of the departure of Lester Chan from WordPress plugin development. While he will continue to update his plugins as needed, all support will be terminated.

As a plugin author myself, I’m not surprised by this news. With the world economy still in the pits, more plugin authors are feeling the crunch. While they would like to release free plugins for all, at the end of the day, there are bills to pay and mouths to feed.

Within this article (rant?), I will go over the types of plugins I would pay for, an argument for paying for plugins, and go over several business models I see popping up.

Plugins I Would Pay For

Here are several categories that make a plugin something I would pay for (yours will undoubtedly be different).

An Argument for Paying for Plugins

In 2009, we saw the premium theme market jump into the stratosphere.

Jeff predicts the same for plugins in 2010.

One thing that has always confused me is that a lot of the “free plugins forever” advocates have a different opinion towards paying for themes. Why is that so?

Unless you purchase the theme’s developer license, you only get to use the theme on one site. And if you’re like me, you probably go through three (sometimes four) themes a year (I’m never satisfied!).

A plugin, however, is there before, during, and after the theme switch. I can use it on more than one site (if the license permits), and upgrading it is much less of a hassle than themes.

On my personal site, I’ve pretty much had the same plugins for 3-4 years running. If I were to pay for those plugins, that’s a good return on investment in terms of mileage.

For those who would never consider purchasing a plugin, remember, as the economy gets worse, your favorite plugin may be the next to get abandoned by its author for financial reasons. It’s not at all uncommon, and I would argue that this is the rule, not the exception.

Plugin Business Models

Over the past year, I’ve observed several plugin business models crop up. I will go over these briefly and weigh in on each.

Donation Model Only

Some plugin authors still choose to rely on donations for plugins. For a minority of plugin authors, the amount of donations is sufficient.

However, I haven’t experienced success with the donation model, even after pushing it heavily. My most popular plugin received 1-3 donations every six months.

Free Plugin – Charge for Support

While some plugin authors have been successful in charging for support, for the most part, users download the plugin and move on.

An example is providing a download link for the plugin, and charging the user a subscription fee for support forums.

One thing I don’t like about this model is that it reinforces the fact that the time to take coding/updating the plugin is trivial. Sure, support takes up time, but maintaining the plugin takes up a lot of time also.

Free Plugin – Charge for Add-ons

Another model I’ve seen is a plugin being provided for free, but add-ons for the plugin are an extra fee.

If the plugin proves popular enough, and the add-on is a must-have, you’ll likely find great success with this model.

The time you spent coding the “base” plugin will be offset by the income you receive from the add-ons.

One-time Fee for Plugin – Extra for Support

Another model I’ve witnessed is the user being charged a set fee for the plugin. If the user wants support, the user must subscribe to a forum of some sort.

I personally disagree with this model as the user often pays more for support than what the actual plugin is worth.

It’s also my opinion that if you charge for a plugin, support must be included.

One-time Fee for Plugin – Support Included

A model I’m fond of is just outright charging a fee for the plugin with support included.

The downside of this model is that the user should expect a higher price. Since the user is paying only one time, the higher price compensates for all the support the user is expected to have over the lifetime of the plugin.

Typically the price goes higher for additional site licenses, as support is expected to increase.

Subscription Based Model

A subscription-based model allows you to spread costs across all of the subscribers. The goal here is to gain as many subscribers as possible by charging a low price.

As a result, support and upgrade costs will be spread amongst all subscribers, where each subscriber gets the overall benefit. And since some subscribers will stick around for the next billing period, there is constant revenue.

One thing to include is to have a “Buy Out” option, which will allow users a lifetime subscription for a set fee. This is the One-time Fee option, so the price will be dramatically higher than a subscription cost.

I personally chose this model for my first premium plugin and it has been fairly successful so far.


Within this post, I went over the types of plugins I would buy, my reasons for purchasing a plugin, and the various models I’ve seen crop up.

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these topics.




  1. Ryan (55 comments.) says:

    I’m currently providing all my plugins for free and providing a high level free support, but also providing expensive, but extremely extensive and time consuming support as an extra for those who can afford it. I even build custom plugins as part of my paid support service. I’m not entirely sure this is a good model though as it is sucking up too much of my time so am looking to change this to a different model in the future. I’m mainly looking at monetizing automated services related to my plugins while still keeping the plugins free. I may also add small paid modules, but I’m a little uneasy about this as it would be nice for those who have the skill to be able to just download the modules and use them as is. Lots to think about on this topic, and I’m not sure there is a right or wrong answer …

  2. W-Shadow (3 comments.) says:

    Personally, I think the subscription-based model has the most potential. Unfortunately, it probably wouldn’t work for the majority of existing plugins – asking users to pay a subscription fee is only credible if you plugin is actually a *service* (e.g. Akismet, After The Deadline and other plugins that provide integration with third-party APIs).

    There’s also one business model that wasn’t mentioned in this post – the “bundle this script with your plugin and we’ll pay you money” approach of Viralogy (I posted about it just today).

    • Ronald Huereca (32 comments.) says:

      Wow, that’s a little scary.

      I think subscription-based models work if you bundle support and upgrades. For my support forums, a subscription ensures you get unlimited support and automatic upgrades (in the WP Admin Panel).

      So far, we’ve had a good response since launching in January.

  3. Otto (215 comments.) says:

    If I could make a living writing plugins, I would.

    I do not believe that it is currently possible.

    • George Burley says:

      Not currently possible? I’d say products like Gravity Forms, WishList Member, and the WPMU.ORG service prove otherwise.

      I’m sure people said the same thing about themes… yet there are now multiple people making 7 figures a year selling themes. Yes, I said 7 figures.

      • Frank Lucas says:

        Who is that?

        • George Burley says:

          WooThemes. Thesis. StudioPress. Those 3 are guaranteed to be doing so… and many others are also printing money with commercial themes. I don’t think many people realize the money some of these commercial theme developers are making.

          Good for them! They are making a living doing something they love to do and monetizing something some people still do not think can be monetized… and I still don’t understand why people don’t think you can make a living selling themes or plugins. Wake up people. You can, and you could, but you better have a good product and do a good job marketing it and supporting it.

  4. Nimit Kashyap (7 comments.) says:

    Good post and since then all in one SEO goes paid stopped using it.

  5. Andrea_R (29 comments.) says:

    So… have you donated to the plugin authors of the ones you’d pay for? :D

    • Ronald Huereca (32 comments.) says:

      Nice red herring :)

      • Frank Lucas says:

        Why is that a “red herring”?

        • Ronald huereca (32 comments.) says:

          Look it up. It’s an attempt to redirect the argument.

          • Frank Lucas says:

            How is Andrea redirecting your argument?

          • Andrea_R (29 comments.) says:

            If you were actually posing an argument, it might be a red herring. :)

            The discussions was about the value of plugins. If you feel there are some worth paying for, well – why not? There’s countless posts & comments here & elsewhere saying over and over again that donations are very low.

            Why not a call to action for more people to donate? Especially if they feel the plugins are worth real cash money. That’s why many plugins die off. You’re suggesting for some they switch to a paid model. I’m suggesting if more people voluntarily paid, it’s the same result.

  6. Ian Stewart (28 comments.) says:

    With the world economy still in the pits, more plugin authors are feeling the crunch. While they would like to release free plugins for all, at the end of the day, there are bills to pay and mouths to feed.

    … remember, as the economy gets worse, your favorite plugin may be the next to get abandoned by its author for financial reasons. It’s not at all uncommon, and I would argue that this is the rule, not the exception.

    Before the world economy went “in the pits” were most plugin authors living off of investments? Or working at jobs—now lost because of the “economy”—that afforded them free time, at work, to work on their plugins?

    It looks to me like Lester, to use the example that inspired this post, was working on plugins in his free time. Now he has less free time (out of school with a full time job) to work on those plugins. Where does “the economy” come into this?

    If the stock markets were hitting new heights every day there’d still be people wanting to make “premium” plugins.

    • Ronald Huereca (32 comments.) says:

      I’m speaking from personal experience.

      If it comes down to something that will pay the bills vs creating something for free, paying the bills wins everytime.

      I personally didn’t entertain the idea of premium plugins until I resigned from my job. Unemployed plugin devs like myself would be hard-pressed to release something free nowadays.

      As far as Lester’s free time, I bet if he were compensated properly for his work, he wouldn’t need his day job.

      • Lester Chan (32 comments.) says:

        Yeap, income is pretty unstable. I do provide custom plugins modifications and provide paid support if user wanted me to go the extra mile. Because if your charge freelance by the hour, and you have consistant projects to make 8 hours a day and 5 days a week and 4 weeks a month. It is definitely more than a fulltime job (at least for me). The down side is that you got no leave, no medical leave, no medical benefits (may not need as you got paid more)

        I work on this plugins during my freetime as a hobby and it seems weird charging for a hobby. I run NO ads on my site only 1 small icon plugging my backup hosting provider. My current site is running on dedicated server paying by mom’s office as she is using the server as well.

        I think offering plugins for free and charging for paid support is one way to go because they can be quite a lot of questions. I got an average of like 5 to 10 support questions per day on my forums.

        I agree with Ronald that charging for plugin and support is ridiculous. It is like double charging. Normally software you bought would have 1 year free support and after that you pay like a few hundreds per year to renew the support subscription.

      • Frank Lucas says:

        So? The economy caused you to resign from your job?

      • Will (3 comments.) says:

        I have to agree. Even if he only charged like a $1 a year, given the size of the wordpress community, he’d probably do pretty well.

  7. joe (1 comments.) says:

    I can understand charging for support. I think that as people start charging for their work though, it will become more and more difficult for others “like myself” to eventually join, participate, and contribute their own stuff.

    I think that the “open source” community is strengthened by the need to create new plug-ins or “fill in the blank”. The community would be better served as a whole if plug-in authors simple abandoned their work or more pointedly… handed it off to someone else.

  8. Kenneth Younger (1 comments.) says:

    “A plugin, however, is there before, during, and after the theme switch. I can use it on more than one site (if the license permits), and upgrading it is much less of a hassle than themes.”

    Plugins are required to inherit the GPL, therefore you cannot restrict someone from using a plugin on multiple sites. You could do what Gravity Forms does and restrict support and automatic updates to a single site.

  9. Farokh Monajem (1 comments.) says:

    I am a user. I keep a blog related to my chronic cancer condition. I am not making money from my site. Maybe one of these days, though it is not a priority.

    Would I pay from pluggins? Yes. Support, not sure. My philosophy for plugins is that they better work once installed. I have requested support on a couple of occasions, and have removed a plugin when the developer told me I was on my own.

    I have found that most plugins work as advertised. You install them, and they work, a credit to the developers.

    Would I pay for a plugin without being to test it first? Doubt it. I would like to see a lite version, not a demo before purchasing the whole thing.

    Donations are a bit of a pain. I have to transfer money to my PayPal account, for which the bank charges me a fair amount. Log in and so on. Not convenient which is too bad.

    The other question is how much for a plugin to make it reasonable for both sides? The iTunes model of $.99? Or does that devalue the plugin? I have about 20 plugins on my site. Not sure what the correct amount is.

    Spending a set amount for each per year is an option as long as the plugin is updated or there is some additional value in it. Paying for the same product on a yearly basis for no additional features is a bit tough to take.

    Open Source is going to run into similar issues. At some point, we have to start paying for what we are getting.

  10. John Zemler (1 comments.) says:

    Devs Deserve Payment, Clients Deserve Confidence

    In my perfect world I would like to see a “Developers’ Plug-in Co-Op.” This is because I lack the techno wizard skills to find and evaluate all of the plug-ins in terms of application, security, and support requirements.

    Developers would place their plug-ins on the co-op site with their descriptions, level of support commitment, and a single step installation as found on the WP plug-in page. There would also be a PayPal link with the amount the plug-in costs.

    Before placement on the co-op, the admin people would be responsible to test/validate the plug-in to ensure it does what is claimed and that it is secure.

    The client’s PayPal receipt would generate an identifying alpha-numeric so that the developer/co-op would be able to validate the legitimacy of any future support claim. Single site plug-ins could be, say $5, and multi-site license say $9, or whatever the developer decides. Or, it could sell as Tier 1 (lower price without support) or Tier 2 (with support for a higher price).

    A percentage of the purchase price would go to fund the co-op website, mangers, and forum, etc., as needed. If after 6 months, the rate could be adjusted so as not to create a huge surplus account, but one that would employ a few people to make this part of their day.

    A developer would have to somehow qualify to have their app placed on the site and commit to a support arrangement. The coo-op itself would be a non-profit and perhaps expand into offering tutorials on how to make a safe plug-in and have a sandbox for trying things out. It could perhaps be part of Word Press Foundation or its own entity.

    Customers would have a one stop shop to learn about and buy plug-ins. They would have an assurance that they work as described and are secure. They would not have to monkey with FTP (unless desired) and could have a single step download as found at

    Developers, of course, would be allowed to sell their exact same wares in other places and for other prices. Clients would know that those non-co-op purchase locations would not include third-party validation for security and (possibly) not be as fully assured on support.

    Pros: A. Developers get paid for plug-ins and can enhance reputation and skills by using co-op features. B. Clients get a validated, secure plug-in with support from a place they can have confidence in (because the plug-in had to qualify to be on the co-op offering list).

    Cons: A. Developers lose a portion of their proceeds to maintain the co-op market, validation team, forums, etc. B. In the web world there will be those who are averse to putting their work up to scrutiny and risk not being validated. C. There will be emotions as someone is not accepted as a top notch developer or they will think the co-op test team does not know its job, etc. D. It could become a developers’ community primarily and a reliable market place for low tech skill clients second.

    As far “B” and “C” go, there will always be someone who does not want to have someone else in charge. So it goes. There will always be alternate sources for Word Press plug-ins and that is fine.

    The model allows developers to get paid for their work.
    Clients know they’ll buy a product which works, is secure, and is supported.

    I am not a developer and I have very low tech skills – so I don’t want to run the co-op.

    But I believe that developers should be paid for their efforts, just as we pay engineers and professors in the brick and mortar world for their tangible and intangible knowledge. Clients need better confidence in the plug-ins (and themes) that are available so they can get to the business of writing good content without distraction.

    Have I ever donated for plug-ins I use? Yes. More than once? Yes? Every time? No.
    Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  11. Misao (6 comments.) says:

    WordPress is popular because it has the largest free plugins and themes base for users vs other CMS and blog platform.

    I don’t think i can spend hundreds $ for premium plugins.

    • Ronald Huereca (32 comments.) says:

      I may get chastised for this comment, but oh well.

      I think it’s a false assumption to assume WordPress is the most popular because it has the most free plugins or themes. When making a statement such as this, you’re forgetting how popular is, where users can’t install plugins and have limited theme options.

      Perhaps WordPress is the most popular because it is easy to code for? Perhaps WordPress is the easiest to use and set up compared to others?

      When I first started out with WordPress, the amount of plugins and themes didn’t weigh with my decision. My tipping point was that WordPress used PHP and Movable Type required Perl (ick).

      • Frank Lucas says:

        How did the difference between Perl and PHP cause your choice? Since most of us are not coders, how would your reason influence us?

        • Ronald huereca (32 comments.) says:

          I’m just curious how many people chose WordPress specifically for a certain plugin or theme.

          If believe a huge factor in WPs adoption is its excellent documentation.

          • Frank Lucas says:

            I want to reply to this but as I did so I decided a reply gets off the focus. Let’s say there’s a lot of documentation, and it is excellent but it’s dense and unwieldy. I hear the WordPress project has someone for human factors or usability but so far ….

    • George Burley says:

      You may not be willing to spend money on premium plugins, but people seem to forget that bloggers aren’t the only ones that use WordPress. Businesses (small, medium and large) all use and rely on WordPress. To them it is WORTH the money to buy a premium plugin.

      If you rely on software to do business, are you going to rely on software that doesn’t have some sort of support or reliable developer? Sometimes for a business… free ends up costing more money than the premium solution in the long run.

      For the average blogger the free solutions will probably suffice. But that isn’t who the premium plugins are targeted at.

  12. Michael Torbert (8 comments.) says:

    “I personally disagree with this model as the user often pays more for support than what the actual plugin is worth.”

    Not all plugins are the same. Plenty of plugins have users wanting tremendous amounts of support. Don’t you feel the developer should be compensated for the support, even if the support requirements are greater than the cost of the plugin itself?

    • Ronald Huereca (32 comments.) says:

      I feel a certain amount of support should be granted out of the box. Yes, this will mean higher prices, but it’ll give users a blanket to fall back on.

      Perhaps instead of completely charging separately for support, have various purchase options where the user can select the level of support needed.

      1. Plugin with x hours (or x sites) of support
      2. Plugin with forum support only
      3. Plugin with unlimited forum and e-mail support

      My stance? Bundle support with the plugin purchase.

  13. Clement (8 comments.) says:

    Next someone will say we have to pay for using WordPress.

    • Ronald Huereca (32 comments.) says:

      Nice slippery slope argument.

      • Frank Lucas says:

        Why do you say this is a “slippery slope argument”? What is is a “slippery slope argument”? If your argument for paid plugins, Ronald, is based on the economy and jobs, then what would exempt WordPress from becoming a commercial product?

        • Ronald huereca (32 comments.) says:

          A slippery slope is making a false assumption that because x happened, y will inevitably occur.

          The fact that some themes and plugins are moving towards a paid model does not have anything to do with charging for WordPress.

          • Frank Lucas says:

            It’s the economy and jobs you made the basis of your argument for a movement toward paid plugins, not some authors’ decision.

  14. Joshua says:

    For many plugin developers, I think this is just another classic decision of self-employment vs. working for someone else.

    Sure there are those who have managed to make good money selling themes/plugins, but I dare guess that most people are more comfortable choosing a job with someone else or some company than starting their own endeavor.

  15. Miguel says:

    Ronald why are spreading this kind of articles? you do realize millions of wordpress dashboards are showin it? Why do you start spreading that the only way to have plugins is to pay for them? out of order what you’re doing.

    Why dont you use ads on your site, if i encounter someone that provides a plugin and has ads i click them EVERY SO OFTEN, kind of of a “donation” thing.

    im runing ads on my site and has nowhere as much visitors as yours and i pay the montly hosting costs with the ads.

    • Lester Chan (32 comments.) says:

      Personally I don’t like ads because it is my blog as well as portfolio site, so I would not want to ruin the design or increase the loading time with ads. I do advertorial blog posts.

    • Ronald huereca (32 comments.) says:

      Why are you commenting on my article? People might see it! OMG.

      You should re-read my article. I am not at all implying all plugins should be premium.

      Keep in mind also that I still have several free versions of my plugins widely available.

  16. Frank Lucas says:

    Lastly, the comment author photos and their remarks (out of school now and got a job so I don’t have time Lester Chan) unequivocally show that coders are younger, as opposed to older. (Younger is under thirty-five if not under thirty.) It’s the Younger who are working, much as you think you’re not. (The next time you walk through the corporate halls or graphic artist stalls or retail store, review ages. The business owner or corporate upper management might be (and probably are) older but the people who work there are not.

    I suspect, Ronald, that you’d simply like to earn your living selling plugins. Good luck with that.

    • Ronald huereca (32 comments.) says:

      I’ll take whatever I can get. I like being a freelancer, but I’m a loooong way away from earning what I did at my last job.

    • Lester Chan (32 comments.) says:

      I am 26 this year =)

    • Lester Chan (32 comments.) says:

      To add on, I work from 8.30am to 7pm from mon to fri. By the time I have my dinner and reached home, is is almost 10pm and time for me to prepare for the next day. For weekends I would like to spend time with my family and friends.

  17. Peter Toft (1 comments.) says:

    I found this discussion and thought it very interesting.

    Just coming with my 5 cents worth…

    We created a booking system plugin (a plugin that makes it easier for wordpress users to install our booking component on their WP websites), and added it to WP(.org) in December last year.

    The model we have used is to provide a free account that supports the most relevant processes. This has let a lot of small businesses such as bed and breakfasts use the system free of charge.
    Users can then either use the free system, or upgrade to a paid account if they require the extra features and support.
    I clearly understand the issues with taking a charge for support or not.
    I get daily support questions, and though I am still able to answer all the questions, clearly I am focused on the paying clients.

    My guess is that this is the most common and acceptable form of plugin payment that people understand.
    Clearly this is an easier option for us as we are providing a comprehensive back-office management system and host it all, so they have a reason to pay the yearly subscriptions.
    But how do you do it when you have just released a plugin that then is installed as software in the WP site and don’t provide services/hosting hereafter?
    In this model, I think you need to look at charging for support, and I think most people understand that you are asking for support. There are also some models of this I have seen where you can download the “paid version” which has more features and support. That model also seems to work.

    These models allow the user to install the plugin and try it (even use it free if they dont need all the features), and then it becomes their choice if they want to upgrade to a paying account or not.

    I am quite sure that users understand that there is a developer(s) out there who has made the system, and that they too would like to get some return on their time – and I must say, fantastic plugins.

    As to the question of why people use WordPress – I see two types of main users:
    1. Developers who love the simplicity and ability to add nearly anything they desire via php coding and plugins
    2. DIY (Do It Yourself) people who have a good understanding of the internet. WP is great for this, as the interface to get things working is just so very user friendly.

    I simply love WP, and have done so since I saw it the first time.

    Personally, I think the plugins are maybe not what grabs you at the start, but once you have downloaded and installed the first couple of plugins, you are usually hooked, it is just so very smart:-)
    Want a picture gallery – search, install, try – keep or remove it
    Want SEO optimisation – search, install, try – keep or remove it
    Come on – you just gotta love WP !


  18. Lazy (9 comments.) says:

    i`ve paid for wpseo ( and i’m happy and glad i did it but i do not know a lot of premium plugins i would pay for also..

    • Alex (1 comments.) says:

      Hey Lazy,

      thanks a lot for the kind words. Glad you are happy with wpSEO. Our plugin comes with lifetime support and updates. Simple as it is.

  19. Gobala Krishnan (1 comments.) says:

    I totally agree. People are willing to pay for themes but not for plugins. Most type of plugins anyways.

    And yet the user can be quite merciless in their emails if the plugin doesn’t work for them.

    • Lester Chan (32 comments.) says:

      You hit the right spot. Get nasty comments as well and that pisses you off. And most users refuse to read the readme!

  20. jacobian (1 comments.) says:

    paying for something such as plugin is not worth it. it’s better to pay for something else that matters most.

    • George Burley says:

      Are you serious? After design and good content, what matters more than solid functionality?

      If you want to use WordPress for anything more than a simple blog, you want functionality.

      Real Estate agents use WordPress to sell real estate. What could matter more to them than a good plugin to display listings and a good plugin to manage leads from potential buyers (and sellers)?

      Businesses use WordPress to sell products. What could matter more to them than a good plugin to provide high quality shopping cart functionality?

      I think people lose sight of the fact that WordPress ISN’T JUST FOR BLOGS. Businesses use WordPress to make money. Stores use it to sell products. Real Estate agents use it to sell houses, Businesses use it to market and sell their services.

      If you are using WordPress to make money, what matters more than plugins you can count on to be reliable and come with support you can turn to if you have a question or need help?

      Most people opposed to paying for a plugin are not people that use WordPress in a business capacity. There is nothing wrong with that. If you are happy with free plugins, keep using free plugins.

      But if you rely on WordPress as part of your business… things like reliability, updates, and support are critical and that is why commercial plugins make sense… you don’t get that with free because the developer is under no obligation whatsoever to help you or to even continue developing the plugin.

  21. Hikari (79 comments.) says:

    As I’ve said, it’s damn hard to find somebody able to survive from his blog, and those few able to don’t survive from their blog!

    I agree with charging to distribute a plugin, but selling software is always hard. Fight piracy is not funny, As a plugin dev I’d not want this headache in return for a charing business model, and as a plugin user I’d also not want to pay monthly to use it.

    For paying, first I also wanna test it, see how it works. So a simple free version and a Pro version is a good idea. If a plugin is well coded, does something good, and paying once I’m guaranteed it’ll be maintained and I’ll have support for at least a few years, and if I can pay for it, in a simple interface and using PayPal, I believe I’d pay.

    But I also ask, how to charge for the plugin? Is there any software that manages it all, the charging, the plugin distribution, and the forum registration?

    It’d be nice if my plugins would at least pay my hosting and a forum. Then I’d be able to host my sites for free and also have a community.

  22. Hikari (79 comments.) says:

    Regarding plugin x theme, it’s the same as Web devs x webdesigners.

    Themes already come in advance since each site that uses it has a footer link to its and its author’s site.

    Site owners want themes to be unique, they don’t want a bunch of sites with the same look as theirs. A few weeks ago, after I had already changing my old theme to my own new theme, I’ve find a site with the same subject as mine using the same theme I used.

    I’m upset, I’m sure he saw my site, liked it, saw the link to the theme and got it too. Ok, the plugin is free and anybody can use it, but I was still upset. Even I having customized a lot the old theme and my new theme being WAY better, while he was using the original theme without any customization :P

    Plugins, on the other hand, are normally hidden. They are under the hood and nobody sees them, no links are provided, and even when they have a frontend feature we don’t know which plugin does that (I’m sure a lot of ppl had already added a comment on sites asking how a feature was being done!).

    So, plugins can be used in unlimited sites without problem, they are hidden and as long as they work well nobody wanna pay. It’s sad and discouraging.

  23. Colleen says:

    I think it is laughable, all around, for people to think that another persons efforts and development should be free.
    You have a free base/foundation, your cms. If you choose to get accessories for this, you buy them. The cms will work alone, it may not serve all purposes, however, it will function the same, if not better then if you constructed your own html site. If someone gifts you a charm bracelet, it was free, you wear it, you like it, if you want to enhance it, you purchase more charms for it.. it’s your choice. While that may be a lame comparison, the fact is, WP is a gift to anyone who chooses to use it, if you want to make it better so that you can profit off of your site, you should expect to do so at your own expense.

    I used to run a freebie site, until I started to understand the plight of many small businesses out there who were trying to make a living off of their products they sold online. When they had a free sample of their product for serious potential customers coming into their site, I would post it, to gain more repeat customers, I would send hundreds of people to their site, who were most likely ONLY interested in the freebie they could gain, and never actually purchasing anything in the future from this business…. I’m sure I was a part of unknowingly hurting other small business owners, even though I was sending more people their way, initially.

    I have a different outlook on these things after messing around on the internet for so long now. If I don’t have the money to buy a plugin, I save for it, I don’t gripe about it.. and I applaud the people who have the talents to construct them.

    (btw… I’m not promoting anyone here.. I use joomla.. not wp…lol… I just found this to be a very interesting debate. I really do find it funny to see so many with this feeling of entitlement when it comes to free stuff that they didn’t have any part in contributing to!)

    The End.

  24. Colleen says:

    Hikari… I will say that I do agree with your statement. I think that it would be nice to be able to try before you buy. I have bought an extension before that I misunderstood as to a couple of things it would do for my site, and ended up with something I paid for but did not end up in my final project.

    Even if it doesn’t have all features enabled, or if it has the developers name plastered all over it before you actually pay for it.. it would be nice to make sure you are buying something that will work for what you need it to.

    My thoughts all around on this discussion, aside from my 2 cents above, if a developer is going to charge for a plugin, they should charge for it, and your payment should allow you access into the forums for support, with an ACTIVE moderator that is actually attempting to help solve problems. Too many people are trying to swerve around this concept of actually having people pay for the product, so they think it makes it look better.. but it doesn’t matter how it is worded, if someone can’t download the plugin for free, and then go back and pay for support if they need help later, then they are simply charging for their product.

    It’s almost like someone on ebay selling an item for $.01, then charging $99.00 for shipping… cracks me up… call it what it is, and take a little pride in your creation devs!!

  25. Jim (1 comments.) says:

    This is a good discussion and I’m still not certain what my opinion should be after reading some well-thought posts.

    I certainly believe people should do more to donate to plugin authors (myself included).

    Would I pay for plugins? It depends but I know it would be for very few as some seem great in the description and even in the reviews but just aren’t what I want/need. I have added many and immediately deleted them. That being my personal way with plugins I would be very cautious about paying for anything.

    Also, I would likely wait a while being paying for ANY plugin as I would want to see the trend of where free versus pay plugins are heading. I would do this because I wouldn’t want to invest money in a system I may soon decide isn’t any longer what I want. If starting/maintaining a WP site starts getting into real money then I am far more likely to look for other alternatives. Honestly, WP still isn’t quite what I want as I want more of a CMS rather than a blog. WP has been making strides in that direction and since it’s been free to maintain I haven’t bothered to consider alternatives and wish to wait and give WP the additional time.

    Someone here posted “Most people opposed to paying for a plugin are not people that use WordPress in a business capacity.” I would agree this is most likely true which means that a big move to charging for plugins could potentially shift the community to mainly business users, whether that’s desirable or not. Also, if that were to happen then it could spawn another CMS upstart to use WP’s original model with minor changes, thus giving WP additional competition.

    My thoughts are all over the place on this concern but my heart is with the developers and will understand whichever path is chosen. This certainly isn’t simple and I hope for a desirable outcome for as many as possible.

    That said, I suggest additional thinking to help curb/solve the plugin development costs. *warning – I’m about to throw out a way-out idea so be kind – just trying to spurn alternative thinking* Perhaps WP could set up something on its plugin site where WP site authors, like myself, can log in and download and install plugins AND also have the ability to donate there through WP’s site. WP could disperse the funds to the plugin developer. Since these donations could be tracked into a database run by WP then stats could be accumulated on donations. A plugin could then be created to post on the author’s site a number of things. i.e., a WP-sanctioned “I support WordPress Plugin Developers” logo, the amount of donations in total, the certain plugins donations were made to – all configurable by the author but only based on what’s in the official WP database. The same could then be done for theme developers, if desired.

  26. Kjetil (4 comments.) says:

    Of course I’d like to get everything for free, – but to show my appreciation AND support the developers, I’ve donated quite a lot through the years. I believe its important, and on a couple of occations I’ve even got new wishes/functions built in – great!
    I’ve also bought both plugins and themes, but have asked few questions here – because they have mostly just worked. (Like Lester’s, by the way.) “Premium” themes and plugins normally have been of such a quality that there’s little support needed.
    That’s to my first point: When you pick a plugin you don’t know the quality: I would be happy to pay for support to get something important to work.
    But, if I eg join a developer’s club: How do I know which support I will get? I won’t know “till its too late”.

    A good solution:
    Paid support is a good thing, but only if the support forum is open to everyone – so one can see what the support is like. Now, if only members get their questions answered by (or gets priority from) the developer, fine!
    (This is how things are done by the people behind the brilliant Atahualpa theme. Seems to work fine. I have also clashed into the wall around a closed, paid forum – no happy experience.)
    Also paid plugins have their place, but in my opinion it works best if there’s a light or labeled “trial” version available on the side.
    To all devs: Keep up your good work!
    To all users: Don’t forget that even $5 makes a difference.

  27. bubazoo (213 comments.) says:

    There is also one point you forgot to mention….
    While plugin authors are feeling the pinch of the failed economy,
    so are the users!

    would I pay for the plugins I use? absolutely! If I had the money to do so. You have to remember, that not all of us blog owners have a 6 figure salary, and don’t make money on our blogs. I’ve never had any success trying to make money off my blog, so I don’t even try it.

    besides, I’m unemployed, living off Social Security Disability, that I have payed into since I was 17 years old. I’ve been employed since I was 17, but now got laid off of my job, and have been out of work for the last 2 years now. It wasn’t my fault, the company went out of business.

    Personally, when I look at designing plugins, I can’t imagine anyone designing plugins as a source of income anyway. I think “most” developers write plugins as a hobby, or side job. If your having trouble feeding your family developing plugins, then you should be out looking for a real job, and just develop plugins as a hobby. If I knew anything about wordpress plugin development, thats what i would do. Despite the fact that I’m unemployed, without a source of income at all besides disability (which isn’t much believe you me) I wouldn’t expect users to send me money. Plugin development is supposed to be a hobby, not something you do to feed your family, and for those of us who are unemployed, we should be out there looking for work, just like I have been. I haven’t found anything yet, but I keep my fingers crossed. Point is, because I have failing finances doesn’t mean I should pass those failing finances on to my users, for we have to remember that ALL of us are feeling the crunch, not just plugin authors…. the plugin users aren’t rich either ya know. Sure I would pay for a plugin if I had the money, but if you got 14 plugins, and each one costs $10 a piece, who can afford $140 for blog plugins? even if I could generate revenue from my blog, it wouldn’t be near 140 bucks, maybe a couple bucks a month at the most, so you have to remember too, its not just a $10 plugin we’re talking about, its 14 $10 plugins, or 20 $10 plugins we’re talking about….

    • bubazoo (213 comments.) says:

      and another thing too, every dollar you make from your blog, rather it be plugin income, website income, etc etc, has to be submitted to the IRS on our taxes, so we end up having to pay taxes on every dollar we make, since after all it is income, otherwise you’ll be audited if you don’t.. and the taxes you pay for just a simple $5 or $10 plugin, could mean the difference between getting $900 back on your taxes, or paying the IRS $300…so think about that too….

      • SteveBank says:

        I didn’t know we were all American, awesome, when did that happen?

  28. Abi (1 comments.) says:

    I would pay plugins like All In One SEO Pack, WP-Super Cache, DB Optimized, Site Map and Sitemp.xml, they are must installed plugins, but sometime I wonder why people name “Premium” for paid Wp themes and plugins, as if they are on higher level than free ones, while sometimes the free Wp themes are coded and perform much better than the premium ones

  29. Ricky Buchanan (6 comments.) says:

    My thoughts in terms of paying for the plugin itself and paying for support are diametrically opposed to yours – I would dearly like them clearly separated so that I can purchase ongoing access to the plugin+upgrades (including any “Pro” features) without paying for support I don’t want or need. Then, if/when I need support, I can purchase support at that time.

    The biggest problem I have personally with access to upgrades and access to support being bundled is that it means if I can’t afford to pay for the whole bundle (which may be expensive, especially with a plugin like AllInOneSEO with high support costs) then I lose access to upgrades which quickly means the plugin becomes unusable as WP itself is upgraded.

    I’m not going to rehash my whole reasoning, it’s laid out in a comment thread on Jeff’s article.

    Full disclosure:
    – I use a free theme with subscription-style paid support for which I have paid for the entire time it’s been available.
    – I use several paid-only plugins, and I use many free plugins. I’ve also made small (up to about US$25) donations to more than 10 plugin authors in the past 18 months or so.
    – I have no ideological opposition to paying for anything, and I think that the creator of anything is entitled to charge whatever they like for whatever aspects of it. I also think I’m entitled to politely express my opinions about those charges and their appropriateness, however :)

    I think that about covers it!


  30. Russell Jamieson (1 comments.) says:

    Ronald, Thanks for this really useful article laying down the various plugin funding options.

    I am half way through writing my first plugin. The model I will adopt is the free ‘lite’ version, with a free membership site for tutorials on best practices for using the plugin.

    I will only consider a premium edition assuming I get a good take up and after some market research. I plan to conduct surveys of those using the plugin to find out what features they would want in a premium edition and what would they be willing to pay for it.

  31. Colleen says:

    I think that if the developers were REALLY smart, they would recognize that people are having hard economic times, and if you went with the approach of a pay what you can, and actually required payment for your product, but gave an option, specific options from like $5, $10, $15 – $50, in a drop down box maybe, before the plugin could even be downloaded, that you would find more people buying and if the quality is good… more people coming back to contribute more later.

    I would totally purchase a plugin if I had the option of getting it for $5, then say I was happy with it, going back in a month or 2 when I have the extra cash and donating another 5 or $10 out of appreciation.

    If you offer feedback to comments and support in your boards, actual support… not making people wait 5 days to 2 wks without a response to a problem.. you would have more questions answered for people to refer to, and less people asking the same questions over and over in your ticket system…. and a higher quality product in my opinion.
    The problem is… more questions go unanswered in forums and people get so disgusted with that.
    Offer quality support on your free boards, require a payment for your plugin, but start at a low amount and let people contribute what they feel they can based on the amount choices you give them… I think you would be a HIT!

    Think about it.. if you were getting 50-100 downloads a day for your plugin and people were only paying $5 – $10 a pop for these downloads… as opposed to maybe 2/ $49 sales a wk… which would you prefer?

    I like it when people think outside the box… and when I see someone who really understands that people have money pains, and can try to offer other options… to me, there is quality alone behind that… and someone who cares enough to let everyone have the opportunity to experience their creation.

    That to me would also fall more in line with open source thinking to me… give it a try someone!!

    • George Burley says:

      The problem is support.

      50-100 downloads a day at $5 a pop? That sounds like a support nightmare to me.

      I’d much rather sell LESS at a higher price than be overburden with an additional 50-100 customers per day all expecting you to help them when all they paid was $5.

      So no, unless that low price is just for the download… and no support… I don’t see how it works.

      • Colleen says:

        You have got to be kidding me? Are you serious?!

      • Colleen says:

        I think you could be the anomaly there George. You can get that kind of badgering on the support end from a small handful of people regardless of the price you charge. I’m thankful you don’t contribute free plugins… with a response like that, I would fear you offering any kind of support at all!

        • SteveBank says:

          Hi Colleen,

          I know we all have different experiences in this world, but my experiences definitely allow me to see George’s way of thinking here.

          Small amounts of money with the promise of support is a nightmare scenario. I’ve seen this with one of my theme’s. People believed that because they had support agreement that they could (and would) ask anything. Even writing politely that it was out of scope took up some time.

          The idea of people being happy/ok with paying small amounts of money for something is somewhat of a fallacy as well. If it was true, we’d all be getting donations more. My last plugin in has just reached over 30k downloads. That’s not huge at all, but out of those 30k downloads in the last 12 months i have had 1 donation of 2 dollars.

          I’m not looking to make money from WordPress, I doubt many of us plugin developers are, but the sheer amount of time involved on each plugin now in comparison to say 3 years ago has grown at a crazy rate.

          To that end, I think at least one of my more CMS orientated plugins will end up going ‘premium’ and be relatively expensive. Yes, it will deter the average user, and that’s a shame, but it will also allow me to give a better value to my support.

          It’s not the model for everyone, but that’s the point of it :)

  32. Steve Media (6 comments.) says:

    I would never trust a plugin developer to offer included support, and pay for the plugin that is essential to my site – there is too much possibility for a new WP code to be released and have the old plugin no longer functioning. This has killed other web applications (as I just wrote about over at http://weblogtoolscollection.c.....nt-1325805 )

    I can see paying a plugin developer for enhancements, and I would LOVE to see a group funding / donation system somewhere. I desperately want a post rating plugin that would work on a mobile phone (windows mobile) – I wrote one author and they offered to upgrade for that functionality for $500 – a reasonable price, but no way I can afford that any time soon. If we could post for people to pledge an amount and keep money in an escrow for say 30 days to raise the capitol to have it done – that would be awesome.

    I suggest free plugins, charge for addons, charge for support ($1 for a question – and answer stays open to public) and make a page for paid upgrades that could be in development if enough people pledged money for them – that would be cool.

    Maybe it won’t happen the way I envision, but whatever anyone does, I certainly can not afford to donate for a license for each WP install I have, ever.

    I donate 1% back to community as Andy Peatling has suggested, unfortunately the only way I can do that right now is to help answer questions in forum. When I ask a question I go through and try to answer a fee questions that others have posted.

    my 2 cents

  33. Hedley says:

    Naturally, I prefer free plugins, one of the reasons being that I don’t make money (or make very little) on my sites. However, I am not opposed to paying a small fee for a plugin. I have, indeed, already paid for a couple in the past. I have also sent a few bucks to plugin authors here and there who provided a plugin that I particularly admired.

    What I am not fond of is paying for a plugin before I know whether it will work and do what I need it to do. Here I refer to several scenarios. Will it work with the current version of WP? Will it work with subsequent versions or will there be prompt updates for new versions? Will it work with or conflict other plugins I am using? Will it work with the particular configuration of my chosen web host? Most importantly, is it capable of solving the particular problem or need for which I seek it? If I’m gong to pay for a plugin, it had better have damn good documentation and full demo sites, so that I can figure out in advance whether it fits the bill.

    I am willing to pay a reasonable fee for a plugin, but I expect the maker to have a business model based on sales volume, meaning more modest pricing. I am not going to be willing to pay $99 for something that will only work until the next WordPress release.

    I have already made several “donations” to plugin makers only to find out that I can’t use it, mainly because they don’t provide thorough docs that explain the product in detail. I built one site in Joomla after buying a WordPress plugin that just sucked, because the Joomla one was free.

  34. SteveBank says:

    Something I noticed cropping up here quite a bit, the old “i’ve donated” comment. If you are someone who has donated to a plugin developer then thank you, you are awesome, but you are in the vast vast vast minority.

    I’ve had 3 donations in total in my years of plugins. Currently that at $1 for every 10,000 downloads, 50+updates and at least 1,000 support questions/emails answered.

    I doubt many plugin developers are looking to create a second source of income, or to quit their day job and answer support forums from a beach in Malibu; it’s simply down to the cost of managing our time.

  35. Clark Kent (2 comments.) says:

    Sure people don’t have a lot of money to be wasting these days, but people still pay for greatness. If they can get something for nothing – they will take it. If they can leave a donation at the end, they might. It all depends on what the plugin actually does for the end user. There is a lot of “crap” being sold online, I think more people are realizing it as more “crap” gets produced.

  36. Melinda (1 comments.) says:

    As long as the plugin useful, I don’t think twice to pay for it. :)

  37. Nurul Azis (16 comments.) says:

    90% of plugins I use are the free one, coz they work great already. I always find many reviews and think about my future investment when I decide to buy a premium Plugin.


  1. […] read an interesting article on Weblog Tools Collection today, and I thought I’d throw you my thoughts on the […]

  2. […] Weblogtoolcollection bin ich gerade über einen Post von Ronald Huereca gestossen – “My Thoughts on Premium Plugins”. Mir ma eben so die Gedanken drum […]

  3. […] What other models can you think of? Ronald has a few suggestions. […]

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