“Okay first of all, Sean, who the hell are you to talk about building a WordPress business? You have websites, guy… not a business.”
I know. Shut up.
Anyway, what kind of businesses thrive in the WordPress space is something that has been on my mind lately. It’s pretty clear to me what works long-term, what’s constantly part of the “hot or not” game, and what no one cares about at all.
Themes for the Sake of Themes
No one cares. You have nice WordPress themes? Cool. People will buy them. You know what else they’ll buy? The next theme you come out with. Oh and guess what… they’ll buy the next theme I come out with too. So you better keep making themes. I’ll do the same. It’s a race to the next transaction.
No. That shit is for the birds.
WordPress themes are the perfect product for getting trapped in the idea that you’re building a business when really, you’re just building themes. They’re a gateway to something bigger if you do it right, though. Let’s talk about that.
WordPress Resource Business
A WordPress resource can be anything. It could be a blog where you just talk about all things WP or it could be a spot like Build WP Yourself where this one dude makes themes, writes articles, creates courses, builds plugins, and all kinds of crap.
What makes a resource special is that people tend to come back to it. It may be a source of information or maybe even support. But the people come back. They build a relationship. Habits of interacting with the resource are formed.
In my personal opinion, this is only way for a WordPress themes-only business to thrive. Customers have to be able to spend money on more than just the latest theme.
This is why I like license key systems that only give theme users access to support and updates if they have an active license key, which has a limited lifetime and must be renewed (for money) for continued access to the resource.
I’ve had my own struggles with accepting that [what I believe to be] reality enough to adjust my own business model but I’ve always agreed with the logic.
Hell, even a theme business that supports extended functionality through plugins, additional code, or tutorials is a solid resource over just having themes alone.
Bottom line, I believe being a resource in the WordPress space is way more lucrative than having a basic theme business that makes money solely from theme sales.
And of course, there are plenty of types of WordPress resources. They don’t have to be centered on themes. The underlying concept remains, though. People need to come back often and they should be spending money. Selling them one thing one time doesn’t guarantee that.
Plugins Over Everything
Those little suckers make bank. How do I know? Because I can’t stop buying them.
You always see the words “Themes” and “Plugins” side by side like they’re part of the same conversation. Hell no, man. They’re not.
WordPress themes are like that shirt that makes you look sexier than you really are. Plugins are like looking good naked and being able to do a backflip (with clothes on, though).
The line between the two can easily be blurred if you’re a developer and all you’re thinking about is the code. Plugin-style code can be tossed into a theme. It’s all the same from that point of view. But when you start talking about business, themes and plugins need to be two totally separate conversations.
Plugins represent functionality and that’s not something you take off at the end of each day and toss in the laundry basket to be faded with the next load and eventually worn out. Plugins have a longer shelf-life for users. Very rarely will you see a WordPress website look exactly the same for 5 years straight. I bet the back-end functionality is the same, though. If not, it’s because it has been enhanced by more plugins!
I believe that right out of the gate, plugins provide a better foundation for building a WordPress business that people with think about longer than just a few weeks while they’re getting Twitter comments on how awesome the recent site changes are.
Plugins provide memorable experiences (no seriously, they do). Plugins are oftentimes the bridge between broke and paid. In fact, even the themes-only business won’t see a dime without some type of plugin support for handling transactions and accounts.
Anyway, I’m rambling.
Themes for the sake of themes is quick road to “oooh wow look at that” land. That’s a lame ass place. Don’t go there no matter how good it feels.