When it comes to pricing WordPress plugins, this isn’t exactly new territory. In fact, I’d say when it comes to pricing any online service or product, there are already tried and true ways that prove to be useful given certain scenarios.

It’s basic economics, I suppose.

So this post isn’t so much about various ways to go about pricing WordPress plugins, but what opportunities we have as developers, designers, companies, and so on as the WordPress landscape continues to change.

Pricing WordPress Plugins

There are just a handful of ways that you see WordPress plugins typically priced.

For example:

  • Freemium. Get the plugin for free, pay for the full product, to unlock features, or to gain access to support (if you consider that a feature).
  • Transactional. One time purchase.
  • Subscription. Pay to use the plugin and/or to have access to support at certain intervals be it monthly, bi-annually, or annually.

Sure, there are a few other options, but these are the most popular. And, really, the pricing can vary anywhere between a few bucks up to the hundreds of dollars with each developer or company pricing things as they see fit (which is their prerogative, of course).

But with all of the various pricing models that are possible, with the continued increase in WordPress’ usage both as a CMS and as a foundation for application development, I can’t help but wonder if we won’t see the same thing happen with plugins (and themes, for that matter) that we’ve seen happen in the “app store” landscape of so many other platforms such as Android, iOS, OS X, Steam, and more.

Charging Next To Nothing

As much as I love the “app store” idea that the aforementioned platforms have implemented, I dislike the pricing that has come as a result primarily because of the amount of work that goes into building a product really costs.

There is…

  • Design
  • Development
  • Tetsting
  • Marketing
  • Support
  • Maintenance
  • …and more.

And then we’ve created this system where we turn around and sell a product, generally using a transactional model, for a couple of dollars hoping to make a living.

15 years ago, software of the same quality – or less, or more, to be fair, I guess – costs ten to twenty times as much (if not more), and it was common to spend the cash on the product. This allows companies to thrive and allows other to make a living continuing to develop and maintain the product, or go on to develop new products.

But now, we’ve got $2.99 applications that are worth far more than that for sale.

I know – competition is what drives the prices down. If there’s a substitute for a given product that costs less than said product, a consumer will likely purchase the substitute. This game then continues until we have software for sale at $0.99.

And perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s ridiculous. That’s not to say that I don’t take advantage of it – we all do – but I’d be just as happy paying $29 for some of my $2.99 applications. This is why when free software that I use includes a ‘donate’ button, I don’t hesitate to click it and pay the developer for his/her time.

They didn’t have to release it for free, and it’s saving me time. But I digress on that, for now.

And Then There’s The WordPress Economy

As I mentioned, as WordPress continues to move forward and more and more developers begin to take advantage of the economy around it, we’re likely to see the same thing happen.

Of course, there are a number of companies who have fantastic plugins that are available and it costs, say, $199 for a license. Some balk at the price; others drop the cash and know that the money is going to support the software they enjoy using.

The thing I’d hate to see happen is the WordPress economy end up going the route of the app stores where all of the products around the core of the application are priced so low that they drastically undermine the time people spent building the product to solve someone else’s problem.

So what’s the solution? This is where I shrug, because I don’t know. Maybe you do.

One way of looking at it is like this:

Imagine you’re a user or a developer and you need a tool or a library to help you get your work done. You typically charge $100. Using said product will save you two hours of time in delivering your project to your client (or to yourself). Therefore, is it worth the $200 of your time?

Technically, yes. But how many people are willing to drop that $200 rather than spend two hours Googling around to try to find a way to do it so not to spend the money?

Or what if you end up using it in multiple projects? That’s two hours multiplied by the number of projects in which you’re using it. Let’s say you use the product in five projects. This translates into 10 hours, or $1000, that you’ve saved because you purchased a $200 product.

Not bad, right?

But something has gotten so warped in our minds – and I do think the app store model is partially, if not mostly, to blame – that we’re willing to cheat our time, our skills, or team members, and, to some degree, our users, in order to sell product at a price so low it’s not really enough off of which to make a living.

How is that rationally justifiable?

Don’t Let The App Store Syndrome Happen To WordPress

Not too long ago, Brad Tousenard – a WordPress developer whom I greatly respect – created a product known as the WP App Store. It wasn’t successful, so he pivoted.

But I’m not talking about this. What I’m saying is that I’d hate to see us follow the same models as other app stores where our products require so much time to maintain and support that the price tag we’ve attached to the software doesn’t justify the living (if that’s what you want to call it) that we’re trying to make.

I don’t want to see this happen to WordPress.

The WordPress community is a unique place where it’s not at all uncommon to see competitors hanging out at conferences and exchanging ideas all the while fighting for their share of the market.

So as WordPress continues to grow and the economy around it does as well, let’s do what we can not to drive down the prices of the work we’re doing. It’s good stuff! I don’t care if you’re a competitor or not – build quality software, charge accordingly, and let’s not undermine ourselves or our users.

We’re the ones that have the ability to set those prices. Why would we let ourselves charge so much less?