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Buying, Selling and Building WooCommerce Plugins with Matt Geri from Sftwr

Buying, Selling and Building WooCommerce Plugins with Matt Geri from Sftwr
WooCommerce

 
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Matt has been in the WordPress space since 2005 and has run the gamut in his experiences in working on the web. And his history with eCommerce goes back just as far. Add his involvement in developing and buying plugins, several of which are for WooCommerce, and Matt brings some interesting perspectives to the table.

A Chat with Matt

In episode 67, Jonathan and I chat with Matt about:

  • How he does the Woo and how it figures in the mix of his varied experiences on the web.
  • His thoughts on whether we are just scratching the surface in plugin development.
  • If a potential plugin buyer should have experience with plugin development.
  • Defining the kind of plugin you want to buy and what you should consider.
  • How a developer can make their plugin attractive for acquisition.
  • What he looks for when purchasing a freemium plugin.
  • Whether the average time of turnover from free to premium purchase matters in the buying decision.
  • How to determine the valuation of a plugin.
  • Opportunities for new plugins in the WooCommerce ecosystem.
  • Making the decision on what plugin to build.
  • Finding the answer to why they are selling their plugin.
  • What Matt thinks is the “gotcha” when it comes to buying a plugin.
  • The downsides of buying and selling plugins.
  • The cost significance and management of support.
  • The importance of due diligence when buying a plugin.

Connect with Matt

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The Conversation

Yes, this is the transcript. But not in the traditional sense, transcribed word for word. We do not speak as we write. Often the flow of transcribed content is hard to follow. So I have taken it a few steps further by seriously editing, at times, the conversation and even using my editorial freedom to clarify some points. So enjoy.

Jonathan: Welcome to Do the Woo episode 67. How are you, Bob?

Bob: Hey, I'm doing good. How are you, Jonathan?

Jonathan: I'm well. We've had a nice bout of sunshine over here in Washington state, which I've quite enjoyed. I'm doing quite well. How's the weather been for you?

Bob: You know, it's been nice. It stays right around in the sixties which is good for me. It's foggy sometimes in the morning and then clears up nice and sunny. What's the temperatures like there?

Jonathan: We had 100 plus for a while there, Fahrenheit, a couple weeks back, but I think now we're in seventies and eighties, but it's pretty cool. The nice thing, though, it's dry. Even when it gets hotter like that, it's not terrible and once the sun goes down then it cools off nicely.

Bob: Yeah.. No humidity. That's good.

Jonathan: No humidity.

Got a great guest today. I'm excited about that but, first, I think we want to talk about our sponsors.

Bob: Yeah. Don't want to forget our great sponsors. We have Recapture.io. It's a abandoned cart and email marketing solution. They've been a sponsor for a while. They have some awesome stuff. You got to listen for the link later in the show because you'll get a 60 day free trial if you use the right Do the Woo code. You want to watch for that.

And Sezzle, which is also offering a 30 day free trial. Buy now, pay later. If you want your customers to have a sleek way to be able to stretch it out a little bit, have no interest, it's really cool ... Before they became a sponsor, I wasn't even aware of them.

Jonathan: Yeah. We had Killian a couple episodes back. If you guys didn't hear that, that's a great episode. I really like what they're doing as an organization.

Bob: Yeah.

Jonathan: It was great to see the opportunity there.

Bob: Yes. Good stuff. Sezzle.com.

Then, of course, we have WooCommerce.com

Jonathan: Woo.

Bob: Where everything is Woo. I f your a builder out there and you're thinking about your customers or you know people that really need to get more into those other solutions as far as what you're going to do and how you can make their store grow, just not the technical part, their blog is shooting out some pretty good posts. Go over there and subscribe to their blog. There's all sorts of stuff, and Jonathan, he's leading away on a lot of that stuff for the merchants. I know there's good stuff down the road.

Jonathan: I'm biased but I think it's pretty great. There's a lot of good stuff coming out on the blog, a lot of good stuff happening in the community spaces.

Bob: Cool. Why don't you go ahead and introduce our guest? Because I'm excited. I've never met Matt before but from what I hear he's a pretty cool guy. He has a great accent and looking forward to it.

Jonathan: There's quite a few Matts in this space apparently so Matt Geri to the podcast. We're going to talk a little bit about your background and history in just a moment but the first question, the big question is how do you do the Woo?

Matt: I do the Woo in multiple different ways. In that, I have a bunch of different WooCommerce installs that I run with my wife. I also sell premium plugins in the WooCommerce space. That's how I Do the Woo.

Jonathan: Nice. You've been in the world of WordPress for a long time and, spoiler for anyone who doesn't know, you and I have known each other for a long time. We've been causing WordPress trouble since the early days. Your background is development. You've been building with WordPress since way back, when, before you were doing custom PHP stuff, et cetera.

A History in eCommerce

You've also been in the world of eCommerce for a long time. You were in a payment startup where you guys did all sorts of things. Can you just touch on that briefly? What did you do? What's been your history in the world of eCommerce?

Matt: Yeah. Sure. Like you say, I've been in the WordPress world, I think it goes back to 2005, which is a good 15 years and we've known each other since 2004. In terms of the payment space and the work that I did, it wasn't really a startup. It was quite an established company.

Jonathan: That's true. Yeah.

Matt: They were both an issuer and an acquirer of transactions so they issued cards, actual physical kind of prepaid and credit cards, and then we also processed the transactions on the backend. My experience with that specifically relates to building out a transactional processing system where a transaction would come through the wires from eCommerce all the way to the backend and we would, obviously, process it and keep track of funds on the cards and deduct funds as transactions came in and load funds onto those cards.

Plugin Development

Jonathan: You've also had quite a bit of experience in the plugin development space. If I'm remembering it correctly, you've been building plugins for a long time but you had a particularly big hit back in the day that was focused on the mobile space, right? Can you tell us a bit about that?

Matt: Yeah. Back in 2010, we created, myself and a partner, a plugin called Mobile Press, which this was kind of pre-responsive websites and essentially what it did was when you visited a WordPress website from a mobile phone, it would render a dumbed down version of that website, specifically optimized for mobile. Now that we have responsive design it's no longer really necessary unless you optimize in for slower connections. You might want to still do that.

That plugin reached I think 200,000 users. On the backend of that, we built a startup around a mobile advertising platform. It was definitely very successful and an interesting time of my life. Learned a lot. Yeah, happy for that experience in terms of building a plugin that got that big. You learn a lot in terms of maintaining plugins and doing support and all that good stuff that comes with building and releasing plugins.

Agency Work

Jonathan: To round out the experience so far, you've been in WordPress consistently, to various degrees. That's just one of the plugins. You've worked on quite a few others. You've also had a fair amount of experience in the service business. You've been working at an agency for the past couple of years. Just touch briefly on the scope of what your experience has been there.

Matt: Yeah. Two different things in the early days, I think around 2007, 2008, I ran my own small agency called WPGeeks. What we were doing back then was WordPress integrations for our clients. WordPress in the early days was seen more just a blogging platform and not a CMS, but a whole fully fledged CMS.

A lot of people back then were building static HTML CSS type websites but they wanted to integrate those with WordPress so they wanted the look and feel of the website and the blog to be exactly the same. I was taking a static website and converting those static pages into a WordPress theme, specifically just for the blog portion so it felt like a seamless website, both the website and the blog. I ran that agency for a while and WPGeeks is something different now. It's where I sell a bunch of WooCommerce premium plugins.

Jonathan: Yup. It started out as a service.

Matt: It started out as a service. Yeah. Then my other thing that I'm very much involved in these days is I'm a WordPress architect for XWP, which is an enterprise grade WordPress agency where we do large WordPress and WooCommerce projects. Generally, for big clients, media clients, media companies, and other big tech companies as well.

Scratching the Surface of Plugin Development

Jonathan: Yeah. That's awesome. One of the things I'm interested in is the experience that you've had with plugin development I think there's a lot of opportunity and I feel like we're still just scratching the surface.

Matt: Absolutely.

Jonathan: For new plugins in WordPress, WooCommerce specifically, for integrations, et cetera. I think one of the things that's interesting to just talk about is the opportunity there and to draw into your experience a little bit and then some of the lessons learned. I think what I'm curious to hear first is when you look at WooCommerce as a whole and take your background in building plugins and your experience in different industries, touching eCommerce, what's your sense of the opportunity? Do you see a little bit? Is there a lot? How do you think about the size of the opportunity?

Matt: For me, specifically, I think it's huge. A lot of people look at the WordPress plugin marketplace as a whole and they say, "Wow. It's crowded. There's so many different players."

My strategy, specifically, is to niche down and taking WooCommerce as an example of niche-ing down, there's so much opportunity there because there's a lot of people, especially, these days going online or wanting to sell products online and the market is only getting bigger and there's not as many people developing plugins in the WooCommerce space as there is the full WordPress space as a whole. It's part of a strategy of niche-ing down. WooCommerce is probably one of the better areas to get into.

Jonathan: I'm just going to add, and, Bob, I know you've seen this too, I think the other part of it is that there's this inherent value alignment, like people doing things in Woo are also making money. There's a general appetite to spend, right?

Because there's a clearer association with value, which whereas with WordPress the range of interests can be a lot broader, certainly a lot of businesses, also a lot of individuals. When you get inside of Woo, there's usually a pretty clear correlation to we're trying to make money in which case we're happy to also spend money to help us do that better.

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And now, back to our conversation.

How Much Experience is Needed in Development When Buying a Plugin

Bob: One of the things I wanted to ask is you've created plugins yourself as a developer. You've also bought plugins. I know during just the last several months, I've had several people come to me and say, "Bob, if you see a WooCommerce plugin for sale out there, can you let me know?" A lot of people are in the market, one of them being an established plugin developer already, another being an agency that hasn't done any plugins.

With that said, what benefits or advice would you give somebody when they start pursuing the market of buying a plugin? Are they better placed as far as their skills and everything else if they've done plugin development themselves or is it a natural for an agency that's never done a plugin to buy one first?

Jonathan: That's a good question.

Matt: Yeah. That's a great question. From my specific point of view, I believe that it comes down to this argument, which is kind of related to your point, do you want to build the plugin or do you want to buy a plugin?

I think they both have merit. To answer your question directly, I would say that you would need to have development experience or you would need to, at least if you're an agency, have a good team of developers onboard because you don't want to build a plugin and release a plugin or buy a plugin and have to maintain it and not know what you're doing or run into bugs or have to fix bugs, have customer support questions come in and not know how to fix them.

This is definitely not an industry where you can buy a plugin, sit on it, and maybe flip it in a few months time or a year or two, to make a profit. You need to actively be involved with the development. As WordPress changes, as WooCommerce changes, there's new versions of the plugins with WordPress 5.5 Coming out and of the WooCommerce plugin coming out. You need to be able to support those changes and add futures to your plugins. You definitely either want to know how to develop plugins yourself or at least have a good team who is able to do that.

Jonathan: I think you're absolutely right. When I look at it from the business perspective, though, I think the opportunity for someone looking to invest in this space, right? I personally want to see more investment in the space broadly, if you're clear on who the audience is. Let's just take merchants for a moment but within that, there are a lot of sub-audiences as well, small, medium, large, industries, et cetera. You're clear on what their problem to solve is.

Jonathan: A lot of times, and I'm sure you've seen this Matt and, I don't know if you've seen this, Bob, people will build it and hope they'll come, which sometimes works because of just how much things are growing but if you focus on the audience and the problem there is WordPress and WooCommerce development talent available, right? You could find people to help with that side of things.

Agreeing with everything you've said, you need to have that capability, whether to build or to buy, but from my point of view where a lot of the opportunity tends to be missed and thus where there is opportunity for new people coming in is just that simple audience problem solution focus versus just building the plugin and it works. They were just in the right place at the right time. It wasn't because they had a good or intentional market fit and that, to me, suggests there's a lot of opportunity for folks who want to invest in this space to say let's choose an audience, find a problem, and build something for that or acquire something that's close but hasn't really done a good job of marketing to it yet.

What Kind of Plugin Are You Looking to Buy?

Matt: Yeah. No, absolutely. In another way, it also comes down to what kind of plugin you're looking to buy. I mean, if you're looking as an individual to buy a plugin that earns you an extra $500,000 a month. You're going to be in the market for a different type of plugin as an agency that's potentially looking for something bigger to buy that has hundreds of thousands of users and that wants to be able to have the plugin support for their team of development.

Jonathan: Right. Sometimes, for an agency, they might see it as a lead opportunity, right? Where they make their money on development so getting the model right also makes sense where you might not want to have it premium. You might want to support it and then set it up to lead the custom work as well.

Matt: Yeah. Absolutely.

Building Your Plugin to Make it More Attractive for an Eventual Acquisition

Jonathan: One of the things that I'm just generally curious about and I think it would be great to hear your thoughts on is this. My position is that it's useful to think about building something to sell even if you never sell it because the work that you do to make something attractive is often also work that's good for the business.

Given your experience both building and selling plugins and buying them, are there any clear lessons that stand out to you? For those out there who have their own plugins or are building them, what are some of the things that you can do to make your plugin attractive for an eventual acquisition? Whether you do it or not. What are some of the things that authors should be thinking about?

Matt: Yeah. I think that's always a good thing to keep in mind when you're building a plugin. I think in terms of actual real world advice, it's things like when you build the plugin and it's got its own domain, have a separate Gmail account for the plugin. Have systems in place for handling support. Have separate accounts for the software that you use for that plugin because you never know if you are going to sell it.

I can give you a concrete example of something that happened with the most recent plugin that I purchased. A lot of plugins that you would look to purchase if you're in the market for buying a plugin monetize themselves using early subscriptions. Plugins would usually use either PayPal or Stripe to be able to collect money.

With PayPal, specifically, it's actually impossible to be able to transfer that subscription from one account to another so when you go and you buy the plugin from the person who is selling it, there's no way that you're going to be able to transfer that recurring revenue from the seller to yourself.

Jonathan: Wow.

Matt: Yeah. A good idea is that if you're building a plugin and you're building it to sell, even though you may not sell it, is to setup a separate PayPal account just for the business and the same goes for Stripe. Stripe is a lot more accommodating than PayPal in terms of transferring subscriptions but they don't, for instance, allow cross-border subscription transfers where if you've got a US Stripe account and somebody else, maybe the seller was processing transactions using an Australian account, they won't let you transfer the subscriptions from the Australian account to the US account.

You definitely want to setup separate accounts. You don't want to process multiple different plugins through a single Stripe account. Create multiple different Stripe accounts for each of your plugins. That would be my advice.

Bob: Essentially, you can transfer that business PayPal account?

Matt: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jonathan: Making sure that accounts that you setup are nice and clean and dedicated to the business versus the temptation sometimes just mix all the streams together.

Matt: Yeah. It's easy when you're building plugins to take the quick path and just to have everything through a single Gmail account or to not have two separate processing accounts but those are the kinds of things that come and bite you in the butt later down the line.

Jonathan: Let's say someone like yourself or others, who are looking to acquire potential plugins, what are some of the things that you look for that makes it attractive? You just mentioned one, which is that it has separate accounts. What are other things that you suggest are attractive attributes of a plugin?

A View of Purchasing a Freemium Plugin

Matt: I mean, from a WooCommerce and let's also say WordPress perspective, specifically, what I am looking for when I go and I look to buy a plugin is I'm looking for plugins that have a free version in the WordPress.org repository and there is a paid upgrade to them.

I'm looking at the number of active users so I'm generally looking for 1000 or more active users but then when I start digging into the premium plugin, I like to see plugins where the active free users to premium users ratio is quite small. I want very few premium subscribers and lots of free subscribers because that means they're doing a bad job of converting the free users to a premium account and there's an opportunity there to be able to convert those free users into premium users.

Jonathan: There's an interesting tension there because if someone does a better job getting that monetization then that makes the company more valuable, potentially less attractive to someone like yourself because the value goes up but it also means they're just creating a better experience overall.

Matt: Sure but, for me, specifically, I really am looking for plugins that are under-optimized. I'm looking for plugins with a terrible website, with no email marketing, with a bad pricing strategy. They're charging way too little for the plugin but I'm also on the flip side of that looking for consistent revenue and this is kind year on year revenue.

I'm not looking at month on month because month on month has ups and downs and especially during holiday seasons, sales are always down. I'm looking for revenue that if I compare this year to last year, there's growth. It doesn't have to be huge growth but I know that the plugin is continuing to grow. It's not in a downward spiral.

Jonathan: There's an interesting idea there then too. You wouldn't argue to make yourself attractive to sale what you should do is have a terrible website and these things, right?

Matt: Absolutely.

Jonathan: But if you do those things then you're probably going to be happier with the whole deal, whether you sell it or not, right? If you create a better website, if you create a better upgrade experience.

Matt: Yeah. I'm a specific type of buyer. I'm looking to turn things around but there very much are buyers that are not looking for that. They're looking for something that's well rounded, polished, and something that they can just integrate nicely into their own business.

Jonathan: That's a good point. That makes sense. It's like in real estate, people who are doing a flipping project where they're going in and working on something versus just buying it and holding it and incorporating it in.

Matt: Yeah. Absolutely.

Does the Timeframe from Free to Premium Play Into the Purchasing Decision

Bob: One of the things that I was just going to ask in that same line is, and this is more of a personal curiosity for me, what is the standard or is there an average time length when somebody uses a free plugin and upgrades to the premium? Does that depend on the plugin? Does that play into when you're looking at it? Does that even matter as long as the number says it's eventually going to happen?

Matt: Yeah. I don't look at that specifically, and maybe others do, but from my perspective, I just want to know that free users are converting to premium accounts. Revenue is the most important thing that you use to value the plugin. I want to see that there's decent revenue and steady revenue.

You know, in terms of digging down to stats like that, how long does it take? That, for me, is all part of the optimization process. Obviously, that period of time between a free user and a premium user, should be as short as possible. I would look at that as part of the actual optimization and the kind of turnaround strategy of the plugin but it wouldn't affect my valuation of the plugin or whether I would want to buy the plugin or not.

Determining the Valuation of a Plugin

Jonathan: Let's talk about that for a moment. How do you think about valuation? I think that's a generally interesting thing to talk about in the WooCommerce, WordPress space. How do you decide what the value is of something?

Matt: There's a lot of different ways and different people do different methods of valuation. You know, in general, you're looking at one to four times annual net profit of the business. Personally, I look to have a two times annual net profit valuation. I'll take the net profit of the last two years of business and roughly figure out the price that I'm willing to pay based on that figure. That generally means that after two years of me running the plugin, if I just left things as is, the plugin would pay itself back. Again, my strategy is to go in and immediately optimize things so that pay back period actually becomes a lot less than two years.

Then valuations can be fluid. In a lot of cases, I base them on potential. If I see a plugin owner is charging too little for the premium version, I know that I can go in and I can double that price immediately and the sellers being kind of steadfast in his negotiations and he's not willing to go below a certain price, I would offer him more because I know that I can turn things around but I can also immediately charge more and that pay back period will become less based on the sales that come through at the higher price.

The Opportunity of New Plugins in the Woo Space

Jonathan: I'm curious. From your sense of things, how much opportunity do you see in that existing space? Do you feel like there's a lot of plugins? You made a good point about the different types, right? There are some plugins that are just poorly optimized. Others are maybe well optimized but could be good consolidation plays. How much opportunity do you feel like there still is in the WooCommerce space or is it feeling crowded?

Matt: I think in the WooCommerce space, specifically, it's just starting. Opportunities are very fresh and new. In the WordPress space, things are a lot more mature. I've struggled to find WooCommerce plugins for sale right now because there's not that many whereas WordPress there's hundreds of thousands.

Specifically, for the WooCommerce that may be a situation where you look to build a plugin instead of buy a plugin, which is what I've done through WPGeeks. I've built a whole bunch of plugins because there's not much out there to buy.

There’s a lot of opportunity if you go into some of the WooCommerce community groups and Slack groups and Facebook groups, you'll see there's a lot of users crying out for certain features and through that you can come up with an idea and actually build the plugin out instead of buying it. If you do get lucky and you do find a WooCommerce plugin to buy, I would definitely jump on that opportunity because it really, to me, feels like it's early days still.

What Plugin Should You Build?

Jonathan: That's a good point when you look at the timing difference within WordPress, right? There's a lot more plugins for WordPress than there are for Woo but we see that growing. When you're building plugins, how do you decide what to build? There's so many things that could be done presumably, right?

Matt: Two ways. One thing that I did about two years ago, I wrote a whole bunch of WooCommerce how-to articles. In general, a lot of them were snippets of code whereas you could just paste it into your functions on PHP and it added functionality to WooCommerce. They were eventually optimized and started ranking well in Google and I started getting a lot of traffic. I found those ideas just by doing a stack overflow search.

As I started getting visitors to these posts, I used the ones that became the most popular, that had the most hits from Google and I built out a plugin using that specific snippet. I built a plugin and I created a premium version of it and I think the first one that I released was less than a week and I made my first sale. That was a nice way to kind of validate the idea before you actually go and build it.

Then more recently, I've been using the Facebook WooCommerce community to throw out an idea and to gauge the interest to see are people interested in this idea? Is this something that they would use on their own WooCommerce store? I've got extremely valuable feedback in doing that.

Jonathan: Yeah. Just a note on that, that's something that I've really appreciated seeing. I've seen more plugin authors do that, which I encourage because I think it's a great way to learn what's needed. I think the more merchants get their problems solved and, again, because there's a general appetite and willingness to pay for solutions, because there's a clearer correlation to revenue, the better it is for the community as a whole. I have seen more of that happening in our community spaces and I think it's great.

One idea that maybe you've come across, maybe you haven't, I'm sure you probably have, we also have the WooCommerce ideas board, which is an interesting. There's quite a few things that come up there where it's basically a long list of things that many of us and those on the WooCommerce core team are like, "Yeah. We would like to get to that eventually but who knows when?" There can be a bit of a gold mine there too.

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Now let’s head on back to the show.

Why Are They Selling Their Plugin?

Bob: I have a question I just have to ask about buying a plugin because that part of it fascinates me. Is one of the first questions you ask, or is this something that is expressed before you even approach a person is ... Why in the heck are you selling this plugin?

Matt: Yeah. If you look at the various marketplaces where you can go to buy plugins, because that's another way to find plugins to buy is to go to marketplaces, generally, that's the top first line of the description where the plugin business will explain why they are selling it.

I always ask it and a lot of the time you'll find it's because the person who built the plugin is burnt out or they're just sick of supporting plugins, they've got other opportunities. A lot of times, plugin developers go into full-time jobs and they no longer want to run a side hustle alongside their full-time job so they want to get rid of it.

That's definitely something that's asked and it forms a big part of the due diligence process to make sure that you validate that what they're saying is correct.

Bob: Yeah. I was going to say sometimes there might be a point where you are looking at what is being said in the marketplace and thinking, "Hmm, I wonder if that really is a reason." You get the feel of the person and hope you're catching any nuances.

Matt: Yeah. I've found a big part of me being able to trust sellers is kind of built upon the communication that we have and you very quickly get a hunch if something doesn't feel right, especially if you look at a lot of deals, and I look at quite a few, you know if something is off, especially on the marketplaces. A lot of sellers go into these marketplaces like Flipper.com and they just fake the figures. They flat out give incorrect revenue numbers.

As part of your due diligence, you want to make sure that you're checking revenue, you're getting a user account for the Woo dashboard or if they use Easy Digital Downloads, you've got access to that, maybe they'll give you a Stripe walkthrough over a Zoom call. You want to make sure that you validate everything as part of the deal that it checks out.

What’ Gotcha’s Are Then When Considering Buying

Jonathan: In that realm of discussion, are there any other gotchas that stand out to you? If you're looking at a business and you're wanting to buy any of the lessons that you've learned, any advice that you give to others looking at buying that you should be keeping in mind?

Matt: Yeah. Specifically, the biggest gotcha that I mentioned is around the subscription revenue. You're valuing this business based on the yearly subscription and if you're not going to be able to get those subscriptions transferred to you, you're not going to get that revenue in a year from now. You need to make sure that you've got a strategy in place to be able to transfer that revenue.

What I've done on my most recent deal was I said to the seller that I'd like him to be able to continue the subscriptions for six months so he's going to take payment for the next six months and he'll send that money to me every month, obviously, because I've bought the plugin and I'm supporting it and maintaining it and within those six months, it gives me a six month buffer to be able to ask people to move to his accounts to my account. That's the way that I've gone about it but that's been the biggest thing, specifically for a plugin business. Watch out for yearly subscription revenue and figuring out a strategy to be able to transfer that.

Downside of Buying and Selling Plugins

Jonathan: Given your experience buying and selling in the space and the general optimism that you're expressing for the opportunities, are there any reasons why someone wouldn't want to buy a plugin business? What are the downsides? There's got to be downsides.

Matt: Yeah. Absolutely. There is the odd downside. It's not just one rosy picture of you buy a plugin and get passive income. There's a lot of work involved. Specifically, you need to be able to support your plugin and you're going to get questions from users and you're going to need to answer those questions and answer them in a timely fashion and the support burden, and depending on the plugin, the amount of users can be quite big.

It's something that you need to be prepared for but then, of course, there's the whole thing on burnout. I've struggled a lot with burnout in the past and you've got to be very careful that you don't take on too much and if you're working a full-time job and you're trying to run a hustle and I've got a young family with three kids and a wife, obviously, all that in itself keeps me very busy.

I'm lucky in that I've got a flexible work arrangement so that I can balance my agency commitments versus being able to run this business on the side and I'm actually currently on a three month sabbatical from agency work where I'm just focusing on my plugin business.

You need to be cognizant of burnout and make sure that you're not taking on too much and that you can handle it. If you've got a young family, you need to give them the care and attention that they deserve.

Jonathan: I'm curious about the support side of things. Just thinking about the open source plugin businesses and how that works. Support seems like it's probably the biggest expense. Is that true in your experience?

Matt: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.

Managing Support

Jonathan: How do you think about managing support? There's an interesting tension there. If you're going to build for the long-term you've got to take good care of your customers. At the same time, that's also your biggest expense. How have you thought about approaching support to prevent burnout to make sure it's profitable but yet also to take care of customers?

Matt: Yeah. The thing about premium plugins is the minute somebody hands over money for your plugin, they expect the world from you. It is a heavy burden to bear. For me, specifically, I'm still dealing with plugins that are quite small so between one and 10,000 users. The support burden on that is not huge. The best thing that you can do to lessen the support burden is to have a good product that doesn't have so many bugs.

Matt: That would be my first suggestion is to make sure that your plugin is solid, right? Do the tests and do all the work.

Jonathan: You heard it here.

Matt: Yeah. All the work that's not always nice to do while you're developing, running tests and make sure you're following code standards, make sure your plugins are secure. Do that upfront and, specifically, when you're buying a plugin, make sure you check for that. Make sure that the code is good and you're not going to run into issues with it and there's not going to be security issues. Run it through PHPCS or WPCS. Make sure the code standard is up to scratch, there's no security holes.

You know, longer term, I'd like to get to the point where I've got enough plugins and enough income to be able to hire a dedicated support team but I'm definitely not there yet.

Buying a Plugin, Do Your Due Diligence

Jonathan: Cool. I find this all really interesting and, again, from my perspective what I'm hoping to see is more plugin authors creating plugins in the space, more investment in the space. WooCommerce is growing, the community, the ecosystem is growing, and there's a lot of opportunity to help merchants just have better experiences. Any last pieces of advice or guidance for I guess plugin authors generally in this space, acquisition or not, aside.

Matt: I would say that if you're interested in buying a plugin, do your due diligence. Make sure that you check out the code of the plugin, specifically, like I mentioned previously. Make sure you are fully committed to it when you do buy it. Don't buy a plugin and then give up on it after a month of owning it. You've really got to go into this for the long-term and make sure it's a commitment that you're willing to take on.

Jonathan: For the customers, in particular, too because you have people who are using that. It's sad. We see this on WordPress, just abandoned plugins where people are relying on it and there's just no one there.

Matt: Or there's a new release on WordPress and it's broken something and there's nobody to go in and fix that. Yeah. This is a long-term thing. There's people relying on your plugins. You're adding value to their businesses and you should take that responsibility seriously.

Bob: Well, Jonathan, I have to thank you for inviting Matt. A lot of great insights and valuable information he brought to the show and I'm sure I'll be having him back. Where can people connect with you, Matt? Where can they pick your brain? I guess I shouldn't say pick your brain but I'm sure they'll have questions around how to buy a plugin or how to develop a plugin. Where's the best place to connect with you?

Where to Find Matt

Matt: Yeah. Absolutely. And I'm more than willing to have them pick my brain. They can find me at Matt Geri on Twitter or MattGeri.com is my website where I'm actually sharing my journey of building this WooCommerce and WordPress plugin business. Your listeners are more than welcome to reach out to me if they've got any questions about buying a business. I'd be more than willing to give them some advice.

Bob: Excellent. Very generous of you.

Well, as we wrap it up, I'd like to thank our sponsors once again, Recapture.io, an abandonment cart, and email solution. You want to make sure and keep track of those abandoned carts and what your customers are leaving there.

Sezzle.com, a great way to allow shoppers to split their purchases into interest-free installments and, of course, that's going to add extra conversions to your sales.

Of course, WooCommerce.com. If anybody does Woo, it's WooCommerce.com. That really pretty much nails it. You can subscribe to the podcast, keep an eye out for all the stuff happening with the friends that do the woo and the news. There's lots of good stuff on the horizon.

Again, Matt, thank you so much for coming to the show.

Matt: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

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