When someone uses the phrase “selling WordPress plugins” they usually mean the typical business model of developing a product, marketing it to potential customers and then selling licenses and downloads of the plugin for fun and profit.
WordPress developer Brant Calder thinks the same way but then he takes things in a different direction. Brant builds his WordPress plugins and then, after doing some early marketing and sales groundwork, sells the entire business on the popular web site marketplace Flippa.
Brant has repeated this process successfully four times in the last year and a half. He was willing to answer some of my questions about his work, the ups and downs of development and how he feels after making a big sale but having to leave his work behind.
Let’s start from the beginning. How did you come up with this plan of building WordPress plugins like Sliced Invoices and then selling them early in their sales life?
The ‘plan’ was never really the plan! I’d been building WordPress websites for about 7 or 8 years and was getting a little bored with building clients sites and thought there might be a better way to earn a few dollars.
I was looking more at earning a semi-passive income by building the plugin and then selling the extensions for the plugin on an ongoing basis. There was never the intention to sell it.
Sales steadily increased over the 6 months that I had it, but time commitments, family and life in general kind of dictated that I wouldn’t be able to properly support the plugin and continue with it’s development. So I was basically pushed into selling, but it was the right choice in the end.
How do you decide on what to build next? Have there been any plugins you started but gave up on before finishing?
Sliced Invoices was something that came from a need that I had. I was doing freelance work and needed to invoice clients. I’d tried specialized SaaS applications and other WordPress plugins but nothing really fit my needs. I’d never built a plugin before so thought I would give it a crack myself.
Project management was another thing that I often used and needed, so that is where UpStream came from.
There was no real rhyme or reason behind Listings WP and Auto Listings, they were built because I thought they might do well and there might be a market for them.
Can you briefly walk through the development ups and downs of your four plugins: Sliced Invoices, Listings WP, Auto Listings and UpStream.
Sliced Invoices had the most ups and downs as I had never built a plugin and was still learning. Looking back there would be lots of things I would change, but at the time I didn’t really know better.
Each plugin seemed to get a bit easier to build, as would be expected, but there were no real major hurdles from memory. Finding the time to build them was probably the hardest part. With a full time job and a family, there were a lot of late nights!
Sliced Invoices is your largest success story so far. What was the auction and sales experience of that plugin like? Did the transition to the new owner present any interesting challenges?
It was bloody scary! Bidding was pretty slow to start with and I had the reserve set at $24k, which wasn’t disclosed at this stage.
I had some offers of $20k and $30k and almost sold it for that. There were many discussions with my wife about what to do, but eventually decided to let the auction run it’s course, which was all pretty exciting towards the end of it.
The eventual winner actually pulled out as he couldn’t get the funds together, so I offered it to the next highest bidder for his final bid amount and that is what it sold for.
Everything went really smoothly after that, the buyer was a nice guy and we still occasionally have a chat to see how things are going.
I’ve noticed you’ll do some marketing and sales work for each plugin before listing it for sale. Do you think that’s a requirement to get any interest from buyers or do you do that to see if the plugin is maybe worth keeping for yourself?
It’s a bit of both. It is to see how the plugin goes but also to sell as a package type deal with everything ready to go, which I think helps.
Do you ever suffer from seller’s remorse immediately after one of these auctions completes? How about further down the line after the sale has gone through and it’s running under new ownership?
Yeah, Sliced Invoices is really the only one I get seller’s remorse for. That was the one I spent the most time on and put the most effort into. I’m pretty proud of all the glowing reviews for it, but at the same time I was also pretty happy to take the money and run at the time!
What’s coming up next for you? More plugins to sell or something else?
I’m giving the plugins a rest for a while as I’ve recently launched a new invoicing platform in Australia called Simple Invoices. It’s built on WordPress though so I haven’t given that away entirely.
But most of my spare time and focus will be spent on the development and marketing of Simple Invoices.
Big thanks to Brant for answering my questions about his plugins and their sales. You can follow Brant’s Flippa profile to see if he ever gets back in the game in the future with more plugins to sell.
Here are direct links to all of his past auctions. I think there’s a lot to be learned from just browsing through these listings: