Gone are the days, when buying a lifetime license for a plugin was all set and done job. Recently (or I should say, in last few years) the business model for WordPress plugins has changed.
The old business model
When saying, “Old” I don’t mean to turn down anyone’s business approach. It’s just about the trend. The most common practice is/was to offer a single/personal and developer license package or a lifetime package. Let’s take an example of Gravity Forms. Which offers the same kind of packages. But, what sets them apart is the recurring fee. In order to receive updates and support, users must renew their license annually. This is very reasonable and practical for ongoing maintenance and further development of the plugin.
Carl Hancock (Gravity Forms Dev.) always delivers sound business advice and I like reading his comments, here are some:
- A Hypercritical Analysis of $35 WordPress Themes
- WordPress Plugin Prices Are Too Low
- Major Pricing Changes At WooThemes
- ThemeForest new submission guidelines
I have noticed a similar business model followed by Thomas Griffin for his popular Soliloquy and Envira Gallery plugins. In fact, Thomas has tried several pricing plans with Soliloquy but ended up following Gravity Forms. I read about his final choice about the pricing structure in an e-mail newsletter and it was truly worth the read.
The new business model
Free plugin. Paid addons. Yes, that’s the latest trends. Look around and you can find a number of plugins following this new approach. Be it Ninja Forms, WooCoommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, AffiliateWP or the new kid around the block, Better Optin.
In all theses cases the base plugin is free, 100% functional and no less than a premium plugin. The addons have been built smartly to cater requirements for different users.
What you should chose?
If you are a plugin developer and building a plugin that’s limited to certain functionality it will be good to go with the standard business model of lifetime/developer/single user license packages with a renewal fee. A renewal fee is good to build a sustainable business.
If you see an opportunity of extending your plugin with features that might not be required for every user. Then building and selling individual addons is a good plan.
I have been a long time user of Gravity Forms. And that’s the reason why I have used Gravity Forms and Ninja Forms as an example for two different business models. Personally, I like the add on approach. I pay for the addon I like.
But, then sometimes it becomes a pain to pay renewal fee for each addon. Pain not in monetary terms, but in terms of managing individual licensing and renewals. I remember receiving the renewal notification for an EDD addon few days back and I forgot to renew it.