This morning I caught a new development on Twitter about a new change to the pricing and licensing structure at WooThemes, one of the best WordPress theme providers on the planet. Already the post has exploded with a flurry of comments – some encouraging and many others seething with anger or disappointment. While I haven’t read through all of the comments, I can see some good viewpoints and others I think people really need to take a step back on and think through. Because I love and use WooThemes for my own projects and have been in the same situation they are, I want to share some thoughts from my perspective.
Profitable and Sustainable
I’ve said for ten years that if you can’t build a business that is BOTH profitable and sustainable, then you shouldn’t be in business. Period! When I worked with the team at iThemes, we constantly had to evaluate what we were doing and how we did it. Sometimes our pricing or membership models had to change in order to ensure the survival of the business. To be honest, I think most of the commercial theme or plugin development pricing models have been broken since 2008. I always thought that selling themes which took hundreds or thousands of man hours to create, build, launch, support, and keep up to date for pennies on the dollar was a stupid strategy. Offering a $79 dollar theme with lifetime support and upgrades will never be profitable and sustainable.
WordPress companies have to continue to change and evolve or you will not have the products you’ve come to love so much. So I applaud WooThemes for their desire to be around another ten years – especially when I religiously use their products.
It’s Not Fair
One might see their strategy as unfair. Really? Do you know how much goes into the development and support of just one product? I feel bad for the guys and gals in WordPress who work tirelessly to offer products that make web design and blogging easier for all of us. Technical support for a theme or plugin is just merciless sometimes. People can be complete jackasses to you and take up all of your time – not because of product failure – but because they did something wrong on their side! Sure, there are product failures and glitches, but those are usually fixed with expediency from the trusted companies who produce them.
Let me say it this way.
It takes a lot to invest in a product. It’s not a simple create, launch, and go to auto-pilot business that rakes in money while we all sleep. That is a fallacy. Commercial theme and plugin companies have to find ways to better support their clients and to stay around for the long haul. What would be unfair is if you purchased a theme for a client job and then had to stop using it three months later because the theme company went bankrupt.
My Own Business Can’t Afford It
I know that there are web designers, web developers, WordPress consultants, and designers who are using these types of products to make a living. They offer services to clients that require the purchase of a theme or plugin. I also understand that with any business, money can be tight – especially when you are just launching out on your own. But your business is not WooThemes business. I believe that Woo wants all of their customers to prosper, but they cannot put that need above their own.
If you aren’t making the money you need to make as a freelancer or agency, YOUR model is broken.
People complaining about pricing or licensing changes and how it affects their bottom line aren’t running a profitable and sustainable business. I challenge those people who are complaining about not making any money, to sit down and reevaluate their own business or fee structure. Your client projects should cover all the expenses including themes, plugins, apps, software, etc. If you are only using commercial themes or plugins for pet projects, then you have more of an argument, but still … consider how much time you would lose by not using these great products! Currently I run three personal blogs on Canvas and it has saved me tons of time — time that I use to make money elsewhere or that frees me up to do something more important like hang out with family.
I think that the Canvas pricing example that Warren presented in the post was great. Maybe it sounded a little arrogant, but I don’t believe that was the intent. It was meant to show you how a little investment in a great product allows you to make an even better Return on Investment.
I agree that some of the pricing tiers and terms are confusing. It will take some time to sort it out and understand. There is also no doubt that the Woo team has made mistakes and that they will continue to make them in the future. They are human, as we are. However, WooThemes is doing their best to ensure they can continue to provide the tools and resources that have benefited so many people, people like you and me, and that should make us happy.
Go Woo, Go!