I was interviewed recently on MattReport.com and spoke about how the business model we use to sell support and services around Paid Memberships Pro could be useful for other WordPress plugin developers. So to be clear, here is a list explaining how we make money with Paid Memberships Pro.


Below is the setup we’ve been working off of for the past 6 years or so. If you have questions about why we chose this path or would like more details about any point, let me know in the comments.

  1. Use the GPLv2 license. 100%.
  2. Have just 1 version of your plugin. No free vs pro. No paid modules or extensions. However,..
  3. Use the 80/20 rule to separate certain features which are only useful for 20% of users, but confusing for the other 80%. Put the 20% features into “sister plugins” or free extensions.
  4. Put all of your plugin code up on GitHub.com. Encourage other developers to get involved.
  5. Put all of your plugin code in the WordPress repository.
  6. Add documentation to your website. Start small and build it out as support requests are handled.
  7. Add a bbPress forum to your website for paid support.
  8. Use PMPro to require a free membership account for access to documentation.
  9. Use PMPro to require a one time fee (we charge $97 $297 now) for one year of access to the bbPress forums. (How to lock down bbPress with PMPro) (Stripe is the best gateway to use if you are US or Canada-based.)
  10. Use PMPro to setup a “do it for me” plan (we charge $497 $697) where you would install the plugin for users and offer up to 5 hours of customization or consulting. (We no longer have this plan, but it was crucial in the early days, allowing us to work closely with customers. We gain valuable insight that helped us to improve the core plugin and addons.)
  11. Have the download link on your website require a free membership, and then redirect users to the zip file in the WordPress repository.
  12. Address all bugs and pre-sales questions on the WordPress.org forums. Direct other support to the paid membership on your site.
  13. Integrate with MailChimp (pmpro-mailchimp) or another email marketing service to automatically create a mailing list of your free and paid members.
  14. Focus your consulting business on doing more projects related to your plugin.

At 14 steps, this isn’t completely easy. It’s work. Here are the pros and cons as I see it:

Pros

  • You will save time by avoiding multiple versions of your plugin.
  • Using the WordPress repository for distribution saves you a headache.
  • Having all of your code open source and available for free will encourage use of your plugin to spread and will encourage other developers to get involved.
  • You are no longer supporting your plugin for free or for tiny donations. Set support prices so they make sense for your hourly rate, etc.
  • You are generating a potentially valuable mailing list from your otherwise idle plugin code.
  • Focusing your consulting business will allow you to raise your rates or increase your margins.

Cons

  • Your plugin will be labeled as the “free” option. People associate “free” with “worse” even if it’s not true.
  • People with no ability or intention to pay you (i.e. not customers) will use your plugin and demand support. You need to learn how to deal with them gently without wasting your time.

Yes! Finally a business model I can respect! Coming back to WP from Drupal, PMP is the 3rd membership plugin I’ve installed and examined. Maybe I’ve worked with free/libre software for too long, but this is the first that doesn’t feel like a scam. (And the code looks good, so far!)

Not sure I can justify the expense of bbPress forum, but will probably do it anyway. (View of topics, or one day trial, might encourage conversions?) In any case, I’m hoping that my current project will make enough for at least one $497 plan.

Well done, and thanks.

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