The ClassicPress plugin developer's dilemma

This is a “thinking out loud” reflection on the threads:

The problem with relying on WP Software while running CP
SEOPress no longer compatible with ClassicPress

It is a thought process I have been going through with regard to my ZP SEO plugin (though it applies more broadly), and I wonder if it strikes a chord with other CP plugin developers.

I’m not a FOSS idealist or advocate. I need to make a living from my work, and at the risk of blowing my own trumpet I know that an advanced version of my SEO plugin would be a capable piece of software, able to match or beat popular plugins like SEOPress and SEO Framework in terms of functionality and ease of use.

I know from years of experience that nobody donates to plugins. So there would have to be a commercial version or add-on with all that entails (EDD installation, payment gateway, payment processor, support ticket management, etc). That’s a big development and maintenance investment.

WordPress 5.8 codebase is a disaster, React is an abomination and I will not work with Gutenberg or Gutenwidgets or whatever they’re calling the latest changes. And understandably no WordPress user will install a plugin that refuses to guarantee compatibility beyond 5.7.

So, I’m left with the ClassicPress userbase, which is currently tiny though may (or may not) grow in future.

But it means income potential is minimal in the short and medium term.

Is it really worth developing and releasing a pro add-on with all the extra functionality (particularly schema / rich snippets, which is complex), and all the work entailed in taking payments and providing support, for maybe 10 sales in a year? The answer is regrettably but clearly no.

What would I gain from developing the advanced functionality anyway and adding it to the free version? Maybe a warm feeling and a few likes, and you can’t pay your bills with either.

The free plugins I’ve already published cover functionality that I needed for my own projects, and are all fairly small and simple. Releasing them for free was a simple way to increase awareness of my services. But ZP SEO Pro would be on a whole different level.

So where do these musings leave us? Well, now that WP 5.8 has been released, I think the chances of an advanced or Pro version of ZP SEO being released are slim to none. I’ll probably continue to maintain the basic free version, because as I said in one of the other threads, I do actually use it myself. But I can’t see a financially viable route from that to a Pro version in the forseeable future.

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I hear you and agree.

The only reason I can invest time (and a considerable amount of) into CP is that I do actually make money using WP.
I take it from there and put it in here.

This is the only way I can do it.
Making money with CP is probably for at least the next couple years not viable. Not to speak of a plugin that would sell.

On the other hand, if there will be users thinking about moving, they will buy. They bought in WP, so they will buy in CP.
But of course, the less reviews and feedbacks you have, the less they buy, and that is biting itself - because without sales no reviews

All begin is hard but surely in CP this kind of start is much harder.

Clearly I would not suggest investing hundreds of hours of work into a PRO plugin for CP if you must make a living off that. Only if you can somehow do the robin thing, means you get a few wealthy projects (which probably will be WP) and diverge that resource into CP.

This is literally the only way I see a chance for anything in CP to grow. We have to - until CP is a market like WP Is - get the money elsewhere.

I am in a fortunate situation since I manage to make the money with WP (even without blocketty thingytti) and myself I don’t need much, so I can (also for learning purposes) build on other stuff that I plan to release on CP platforms.

But that wont be market oriented. Unfortunately I do not see how that could be done, even if we all would start forcing CP on every client we have, the subscriptions from said clients wouldn’t be enough to maintain a high quality support and coding work.
I’ve worked for 6 years in pro support and know what finances it takes to maintain a plugin professionally. Volunteer and FOSS aint going to work with that. It needs hundreds of thousands :dollar: a year, actually, because with more sales, more users, more users more questions, and suddenly you are employing people. Even if you are a one man show like ACF and WPGB are/where, it needs tons of time and you need at least 100 sales a month, recurring yearly, not LTS. In WP you can manage to get 10 times that per day, if you do it right, assuming a plugin costing something around 40 US per license.

As said, I make my money elsewhere. Project based, and my philosophy is to take what I build there and make it a publicly available thing. So basically you could say my partners are investors (I don’t like the word clients. Partners is better).

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It’s a good and necessary conversation to have as we try to build out ClassicPress ecosystem. I believe this is why CodePotent stopped developing plugins for CP. So you’re not alone thinking of this.

I’ll share some ideas and hopefully, something will stand out and help you (and other developers reading this) choose a path forward.

  1. Maintain free version and wait on CP to grow
    This is probably the easiest option. Maintain the free plugin and wait to see what happens with CP. Many popular premium plugins started out as free plugins without any “pro” versions. Yoast SEO, WooCommerce (when it was forked from Jigoshop), iThemes Security (when it was called Better WP Security), etc. These plugins were free for years without any monetization strategy, waiting for WP to grow and gaining a user base. Once they were ready to monetize it, they had the user base to generate revenue quickly.

  2. Pro version doesn’t have to be "big"
    A lot of people assume “Pro” version has to be “big” with hundreds of features. It doesn’t. Especially in the beginning. You can maintain free version of the plugin, which covers the basics. Then simply add a “Pro” plugin that adds one important functionality and charge less for it. In your example, your Pro version would add rich snippets to the free plugin. That’s it. Rich snippets only. As CP grows and you want to add more features, do it and increase the price. Nothing wrong with increasing prices if the product becomes better over time.

  3. Build addon-ons instead of Pro version
    You mentioned EDD, that’s a perfect example. Instead of building a Pro version, use the free plugin as the foundation and extend it with paid add-ons. You could start basically like point #2, with one add-on that would add rich snippets. And if time goes on and CP grows, you can introduce additional add-ons. Other examples include Ninja Forms and WooCommerce.

  4. You don’t need expensive infrastructure to start
    Stick to minimum viable product (MVP) idea. You don’t need to set up EDD and licensing to sell plugins, be it a Pro version or add-ons. Set up a simple checkout using one of the free plugins or Gravity Forms (if you got it) to take payments and deliver zip files. Don’t worry about licensing and EDD, and all that stuff. Once CP grows and you want to do more then you add all that fancy stuff.

  5. Build a plugin that can support WP and not touch Gutenberg
    The list is short, but it is possible to build a plugin that doesn’t touch Gutenberg. You just need to figure out what kind of plugin and if people need it. This way you can have a stream of income and support CP. A few examples:

    • Link redirection/affiliate plugin - when I switched one of my sites to CP, I lost PrettyLinks because it requires WP 5+. The 2 main features I used: create and manage redirections, and be able to enter keywords for redirections that automatically were hyperlinked in the post/page content. And it was nice being able to see statistics. The plugin would have its own UI, so no need to touch Gutenberg.
    • Form builder plugin - similar to Gravity Forms or Ninja Forms. It would have its own UI to create forms. Forms could be embedded with shortcodes.
  6. Support official CP plugin and build add-ons
    I already know your answer to this from the other thread, but I’m mentioning this here for completeness in case other developers read this. Instead of building your own free plugin, you could support official plugins like Classic SEO or Classic Commerce. Contribute to the plugin and then build premium add-ons for those plugins. In Classic Commerce example, a plugin for CC could still work for WooCommerce in WP 5+. For example, shipping plugins that would work with CC/Woo wouldn’t need to touch Gutenberg.

These are just some ideas to help you think about this. You know what resources you have available and what you’re willing to do. I hope this can help you make a decision. Whatever it is, CP community is here to help any way we can.

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I think No.1 above is probably my only option at the moment. Keep the free version out there and then come back to the issue in 6 or 12 months to see if anything’s changed.

The lack of any meaningful usage statistics for CP doesn’t help matters.

Unfortunately No.4 isn’t an option for me. Forms plugins generally support Stripe and PayPal, that’s it. Stripe isn’t available in my country and PayPal has let me down seriously (financial loss) in the past. So when I need to accept credit cards, it will probably be Braintree, which means full blown e-commerce.

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As a developer, could you not write the Braintree integration yourself (and thereby minimize cost and management issues)? This makes it look pretty straightforward: https://github.com/braintree/braintree_php

I used to use a couple of plugins (one of which was EDD) to sell memberships and stamped PDF files, but they were never quite right. So in the end, I wrote my own integrations (with Stripe in my case) and it turned out to be much easier than I expected (as well as doing exactly what I want error-free).

This we should address. Even if it’s just a downloads number, something simple to start with.

I used to use Braintree. They were acquired by PayPal. One time when I had an issue with Braintree account, they suspended my PayPal account with the same email address as Braintree account. They were never connected in any other way. That’s when I switched to Stripe.

I would look around for other non-PayPal options, if possible. Maybe WePay.

(I wish in not so distant future CP directory allowed developers to sell plugins/themes, and keep small % admin fee to help support the project, but that’s a different conversation).

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I could - and I’ve created custom WC payment gateways before - but it’s more work than people think. A lot of testing.

Wow. I didn’t know that. I’ll look into WePay, thanks.

EDIT: WePay not available in my country.

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4 posts were split to a new topic: Payment provider for the directory discussion