A new way to support plugin development

16th July 2015    

Easy Image Display, my first released free WordPress plugin, has at the time of writing over 10,000 downloads from the WP.org repository. That’s not a huge number compared to some popular plugins, but it’s a lot more than I ever thought likely for such a simple plugin. Along with the downloads came the feature requests, the support emails, the weirdly irrelevant personal insults, all of the things that anyone who has ever released a free product on the internet has probably experienced. It also gave me the burning desire to create more plugins, and help more people, and this is what I’ve been working on for the past few months.

Now, obviously creating plugins takes time, expertise and a lot of effort. This is why so many people are perfectly happy to pay for a premium WP plugin; they know the product is worth paying for. For a long time, my medium-term plan has been to release a few more free plugins and then get started on a “premium” version of the most popular. This would mean existing users weren’t affected, but they could pay to upgrade to a more feature-rich version of their plugin if required. This model works well for a lot of businesses including WordPress plugin development, but something about it just makes me feel . . . squiffy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way to keep putting out plugins for free? If people who really needed certain functionality but didn’t have any cash at this stage of their venture could still get it and maybe give back to me at a later date? If people could show their support for the very act of writing code? Well, here comes my new experiment.Patreon.

If you’ve never heard of Patreon, basically it’s a way to fund people who create things. YouTubers can be funded per video, bloggers per blog post, webcomic creators per new issue, or people like me per plugin release. Here’s an example:

You visit my Patreon page and decide to pledge $2 per plugin release (thank you!). You’re worried about me suddenly putting out tons of new plugins, so you cap your monthly pledge at a maximum of $4.

Month 1

  • I release a new plugin.
  • On the 1st of the following month, you’re charged $2.

Month 2

  • I release a new plugin.
  • Later that month, I push a major update to an existing plugin with a big new feature.
  • Later that same month, I release a new plugin.
  • On the 1st of the following month, you’re charged your maximum monthly pledge of $4 despite three paid releases.

So what’s in it for patrons?

That’s a reasonable question to be asking. If you’ve used or plan to use one of my plugins and have found some benefit from it, then it’s of further benefit to you that I’m able to spend the time required on improving that plugin, adding your feature requests, responding to your support threads, and of course creating new plugins which you might also have a use for.

As well as the direct plugin creation, Patreon supporters are also helping me to spend more of my time working on contributions to WP Core, handling WP support, hopefully contributing to the WP documentation. All of this makes WordPress a better place, for all of us.

There are some small rewards tied to pledge amounts too (see the bottom of the Patreon page) and I’ve set goals to allow me to work on ever more useful stuff, but unless you really quite desperately want me to knit you a hat then the rewards are mostly those mentioned above.

What if this doesn’t work?

The Patreon campaign is, after all, just an experiment. People may not see enough value in what I’m doing to pledge their hard-earned money, and that’s fair enough. If this is the case, I’ll fall back on the old freemium plan and get to work on some premium plugin versions. In this case, existing Patreon patrons (at any level of donation) will receive the premium plugins absolutely free as a thank you for supporting me.

Ok, I’m in.

Thank you, very much! You can find my Patreon page here, and on each plugin page you’ll see this graphic link encouraging users to support.

Categories: Announcements

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