I’m making a Pro version of my WordPress plugin Print My Blog, and wanted to share my plans for how to do that. I have three reasons for being transparent about this:
- Inform potential users
- Get feedback
- Share ideas to fellow WordPress plugin developers
My previous posts Why Should I “Print My Blog?” and Why Am I Making a Pro Version of Print My Blog? go into more details about my vision for what Print My Blog Pro will do, this post focuses just on my current plan to bring it to market. I’ll update this post as I go.
My situation is a bit different from Vito’s though:
- I have a free version of the plugin already (Vito’s plugin is premium-only)
- the free version already has 1,000+ installs and been around for over a year (Vito had an “internal tool” used by some of his clients)
- I don’t have a team to back me up (Vito already led a web design agency)
As such, I’m liberally making some adjustments.
I intend this to still be a “side hustle,” preferably not needing to hire anybody else. But I’d also like to earn the market average income for a senior software developer for the hours I spend on this.
Specifically, I’d like to net $1,000 per month on this. As my transparency reports show, that’s pretty close to what I’d be paying for it if I were hiring employees to work on it.
Asides from income, the plugin will enable users to write documents and books in WordPress, no more copy-and-pasting between programs. More on that in Why Should I “Print My Blog?”
I’m dividing my release plan into 3 stages: Founding, Releasing, and Iterating.
This is where I’ll be developing the product, and getting feedback on it from my “Founding Members”.
Founding Members are initial users who:
- signed up before the official release
- give feedback during that initial development
- in exchange for a major discount or, if they meet some criteria, a free lifetime license
- so they’ll want the plugin to be successful (it’s partially their creation, and if it ceases to exist, their free lifetime license won’t be of much use) so they’ll hopefully spread the word
The first 50 Founding Members will be eligible for a free lifetime licenses; the rest will get a major discount before the official release.
I’ll share an invitation to signup wherever I can, including:
- A notification in the plugin’s admin pages (not all admin pages, which seems effective but annoys people)
- an item in the WordPress News and Events dashboard widget on sites using Print My Blog (I’m already injecting my latest blog post there, and yes it’s permanently dismissible)
- Share a link to it on Twitter, specifically mentioning folks I know who might be interested (I know JJJ and Justin Tadlock are making another WordPress book, Ronald Huerca has a book WPandAjax, and I know of a few plugin users on Twitter) and using hashtags like #blogging, #authors, etc.
- Share a link to it on my WordPress Bloggers Facebook Group
- Share a link to it on the following SubReddits: WordPress Plugins, Authors, Blog2Author, Indie_Authors (the blogger and WordPress ones would be obvious candidates too, but they don’t allow self-promotion)
- Share with Freemius “Upvoters Mafia”
- Use Quora to ask and answer questions like “How can I write a Book and a Blog at the same time?”
- Invite printmy.blog visitors to signup… speaking of which…
I’ll be in touch with Founding Members through email, surveys, and social media. I also want them to be able to communicate with each other, and foster an actual community.
I’ll invite them to a private Facebook group so we can discuss how to make Print My Blog Pro the perfect tool for them, and so they can learn from other authors using WordPress.
In addition to giving feedback on what they need the plugin to do, I hope they will serve as brand advocates because:
- I’ll try to foster a relationship with each one individually
- Build a plugin they’ll find really useful
- I’ll ask them nicely 😄
I’ll ask if I can put a quote on the website from founding members who seem especially fond.
Lastly, I’ll confer with the first 50 of them on what would be a reasonable price to charge (remember, they themselves won’t be paying anything!)
In this way I hope to build a plugin and core community that will serve as a foundation for future success.
I’m using MailChimp mostly because I’m already familiar with it from my years working on Event Espresso and the free tier should do all I need until I get some income.
I’m using MC4WP: Mailchimp for WordPress to add the signup form to WordPress.
For surveys, I plan to use the HTML Forms plugin to also update the MailChimp contact (I think that will require a bit of custom coding). I like that it’s free, minimalist, doesn’t require sharing data with yet another service, and looks easy to integrate with.
In order to get Founding Members to test the software, I think I’ll just use the public GitHub repo and give them a link to download the zip, then tell them they can use Easy Zip Update to update it manually. I’m not too worried about someone “stealing” my code at this point, and I don’t yet need to make a paywall.
While this website currently gets a few dozen visits a day, I’ve been using dirt cheap hosting from Dreamhost. And that will probably continue to suffice during initial development, but I expect Print My Blog Pro to be Software as a Service, meaning it will be essential for using the plugin. So once there are a few users, I’ll likely need to look for other hosting options.
Once I’ve got 50 Founding Members who have answered my first survey, I’ll take a month to develop an alpha version for them to play with.
At that point, I’ll ask for feedback and take another month to develop a beta version, and ask those same first 50 founding members to try it again.
Then, I’ll take one month to prepare it for monetization and final touch ups. I’ll be getting it ready for sale to the remaining Founding Members. (So, sale to all Founding Members should happen 3 months after recruiting the founding members.)
After a few months of “Founding”, I’ll get ready for an initial release to all Founding Members, followed up by an official release for absolutely everybody.
The first release will be emailed out the remaining Founding Members, and I’ll encourage them to give out links for the deal to their friends. They’ll all get a major discount which will help:
- Incentivize them to be the first paying customers
- help smooth out any issues in case there are still kinks being worked out (with tens of thousands of plugins and themes to integrate with, many issues can only reasonably be discovered when a plugin is put to use)
- encourage them to tell their friends
Later on, I plan to only offer monthly or yearly licenses, but for the founding members, there will be a one-time offer of lifetime licenses.
Lifetime licenses seem good for an early payout which will help recover earlier investments of time, hosting, and other initial expenses. They also foster long-term brand commitment, as a lifetime license feels a bit like a long-term investment, and they’re incentivized to not move to something different. But, lifetime licenses don’t seem to be good long-term for generating the steady income needed to fund the business’ steady expenses. So I think they’ll only be available early on.
In order for a Founding Member to get the free lifetime license, they’ll need to be among the first 50 signed up for fill out the first survey, and then provide more feedback before release to the remaining Founding Members.
While I’ll encourage the first 50 Founding Members to participate in the discussion around features and share it with their friends, the only thing they’ll need to do to get the free lifetime license is answering a monthly survey.
A month after the release to all Founding Members, there will be the official release. This time I will be announcing it publicly over social media etc.
By this time, hopefully, we have a useful tool that the Founding Members love, which will help make it an easy sell.
There may still be a discount during the initial release, but I’m not sure. If there is, it will be very temporary.
I plan to use Freemius to create a paywall, accept payments, and handle updates. I usually like to not depend on any other services, where possible, but Freemius feels more like a partner than a vendor.
Freemius has supported coupon codes for a while.
At this point I will hopefully have dozens of users, and so will need more hosting resources. I may just upgrade to Dreamhost’s VPS as that will be nice and flexible.
I plan to have a full month between early release and official release. This will give me time to address any issues that are discovered by early access users, and set everything up for the official release.
After a wildly successful official launch and having TONs of users… I’ll probably see a lot of areas for improvement. At that point, I can continue to implement all the little feature requests that come in (what I’ve previously called “lazy”, or “user-led” software development.)
While I will of course continue to develop Print My Blog Pro, I’ll be careful to not forget about the free version. That will continue to serve people with a tight budget and a blog full of content they want to preserve. What’s more, some of them will convert into Pro users, and others will help promote it, so maintaining and improving the free version will also benefit sales of the Pro version.
Lastly, I will continue documenting Print My Blog on printmy.blog, and hope to eventually turn all that documentation into a book (printed and digital copies) using Print My Blog. I suspect that as I “eat my own dog food” I’ll see lots of further opportunities for improvement, and users will appreciate the ample and exhaustive documentation.
I’ll probably publish my book on Amazon.com, not because I expect huge sales, but because it will show it can be done. And I’ll, of course, use Print My Blog Pro. I might use lulu.com to print and send copies to certain tiers of users, too.
Please let me know if you see any holes or pitfalls in the plan, or areas for improvement. Like I said earlier, this plan isn’t set in stone, and I anticipate I’ll update this post accordingly.