Why I still decided to start a WooCommerce business in 2017

Today (August 14, 2017) marks the launch of my WooCommerce business. It’s not overly big at this point: I just set up the website which collects 3 plugins. It’s a start, and I’m happy.

I’ve shown the website to a few friends and they¬†were curious if launching a WordPress theme or plugin business is worthwhile. I used to wonder the same thing, so here’s my take on things and why it can still be a good idea to start a WordPress or WooCommerce business.

But first, the WordPress market

There are plenty of articles out there discussing WordPress by numbers so we’ll skip that part, but it is important data so here’s the gist of it:

  • There are about 24 million active WordPress sites on the web
  • The wordpress.org plugin repository counts 110 million active installs. Research has shown this number isn’t accurate so it’s most likely higher.
  • There are 10,300 WordPress themes for sale on ThemeForest (the biggest marketplace for HTML templates). That’s a little over 1/3rd of their template database.
  • There are 5,800 plugins for sale on CodeCanyon (the biggest marketplace for scripts & plugins). That’s about 40% of their total offering.

Based on the statistics above which are publicly available, we can conclude that WordPress is a multi million market. This presents a big opportunity but also shows there are already a lot of WordPress businesses out there taking advantage of this market. So the question remains: do we really need another WordPress theme or plugin business? Can it be profitable with so many businesses out there? 

Yes! Here’s why:

Everything is profit (if you don’t use Envato)

Assuming you start out as a one-man band, there aren’t many costs when running your plugin or theme business so most of your income will also be your profit. Here is a rundown of your recurring costs:

  • Payment provider costs: whether or not you’re using PayPal or credit card processors like Stripe, they usually charge about 3% of every sale. This cost can easily be factored in your plugin price: if you want to earn $10, price your plugin at $10.5.
  • Support: you may want to invest in a good support platform, especially when you’re selling many plugins. A good support platform such as Help Scout sets you back about $15 per month.
  • Your time: while this isn’t really a cost, you should take your own time into account too. If you’re spending 2 hours per day with support tickets, you can’t be working on your next product. At that point, think about how you can grow: whether it’s hiring a virtual assistant or investing in support solutions.
  • Selling via Envato or similar markets? Bummer! The cut they take from your profits will be your biggest cost. Envato takes between 12% – 37% of your earnings.

You already have an audience

Selling a product online is tough. You need to advertise and have a marketing strategy just to get people to your website. Developing your software suddenly becomes the easy part.

With WordPress, you already have an audience because attracting traffic is already done for you:

  • If you’re using Envato, you get a huge number of potential visitors that are already targetted for you. You don’t need to worry about email lists, marketing, or advertising.
  • If you’re selling WordPress products via your own website you can use the WordPress plugin repo to offer a free sample of your plugin or theme. This acts as a funnel into your premium products. Similarly to Envato, you get a lot of targetted traffic. Now it’s up to you to convince them with your website.

This can start as a side-gig

In fact, for most people it probably is. Many plugin or theme sellers have day jobs, while doing what they love in their free time. I’m one of them.

This doesn’t mean we don’t take our business seriously. Instead, it gives us time to create quality products while not having to worry about an income when starting out.

Of course, you need to invest proper time into answering support tickets, but otherwise, the footprint of a WordPress plugin or theme business is rather small as mentioned earlier in this article.

In conclusion

If you’d like to create and sell software online, WordPress is definitely still a great choice because it’s a big market with lots of pre-targeted users. However, there are a few side notes:

  • WordPress is evolving, and so should plugins or themes. It will be more profitable to build ‘specialized’ plugins (for example: running webinars on WordPress, maybe as a SaaS venture), as opposed to standard plugins that are extending small functionality. The same goes for themes: it may be more profitable to focus on ‘next-gen’ themes that are built to support single page applications.
  • Only a few are truly getting rich. If that’s your end game, you may want to focus on something else. Plugins and themes are usually priced below $100. You’ll need to make a lot of sales before getting over $10,000 per month. Even though the market is big, it’s still not an easy task to accomplish this.
  • Prepare yourself for the fact that this may remain a side-hustle. There are so many themes and plugins already out there that it’s not easy coming up with something new and refreshing. This will definitely impact your sales.