In late August, while randomly browsing around Flippa for interesting listings, I came across someone selling an established WordPress plugin called WP Terms Popup.
WP Terms Popup lets site owners create terms of service, conditional policies or other pieces of content and then prompt visitors to agree or decline to those terms before they are allowed access to the site.
There was an additional Pro version of the plugin, sold for $4.99, that offered very basic customization options to change colors and text settings for the popups without having to write any code. It’s ideal for people who don’t want ot get their hands messy in CSS, theme modifying or paying a developer to make simple style changes.
There were no bids on the listing when I came across it, only one comment, and the “Buy It Now” price was set to $800. I added the listing to my watch list and went on my way.
Making the Purchase
After a few days I was still thinking about the opportunity to add another plugin to my portfolio for such a cheap price. There were still no bids and zero comment activity so I sat down to look a little harder at the listing’s details and make a decision on what to do.
The plugin had 1,000 active installs and very little in the way of Pro sales although there had been a slight bump during the height of GDPR madness during the summer. There were also two developers listed on the plugin at WordPress.org which was confusing (and would later prove to be a problem).
I reached out to the seller with a few questions. He sent me a copy of the Pro version to review and we haggled a bit over the price. He clarified that while he was the owner of WP Terms Popup all of the development had been done by a freelancer who was the second party listed at WordPress.org.
Eventually I agreed to purchase WP Terms Popup for $750. We used Flippa’s escrow service so after the seller did his part by transferring the domain and website to me it was time to get the freelance developer involved. They had to add me as a Committer to the repository on WordPress.org before we could complete the sale.
Dealing with the Freelancer
Getting the freelancer who had actually developed WP Terms Popup to cooperate with the sale ended up being a bit of an issue. They were very adamant that they be listed as a Contributor on the WordPress.org listing of the plugin even after the sale was completed. This was basically non-negotiable and they effectively held the sale hostage until I gave in to their demands.
The seller had no idea this was going to be an issue, or so they claimed, and getting everything settled and finally in my hands took several days. In the end, it’s not a huge deal to me that the original developer is still associated with the plugin. They wanted public credit for their work, which I can appreciate, but it was a hurdle that could have been handled with better communication from all sides.
Once I was able to actually commit changes to the plugin I released the funds on Flippa and WP Terms Popup was mine.
My first act was to redesign the plugin’s branding and website. I had a new logo and illustrations made immediately and then I rebuilt the website’s theme using those materials and colors. There is still a lot of content on the site that remains from the original design but I hope to change all of that with the next major release and the launch of a new add-on I’m developing.
The next release of WP Terms Popup, which should be out very soon, comes with a total refactoring of the code base and a rebuilt interface that will make things easier for users. The new add-on, tentatively called Designer, will replace the existing Pro offering and provide much more in the way of customization options.
Sales are still very small but I’m hopefully that the new release of the plugin, and the Designer launch (with a higher price point) will see those parts of the plugin improve. I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity to add another WordPress plugin to pair with my existing product, WP Word Count, at such a low price.
This whole experience was a pretty good one from my perspective. Here are a few lessons I learned:
- Use Escrow. Even though the sale price was low it still wasn’t worth the risk especially considering there were two parties involved from the seller side.
- Be patient. This sale took weeks to conclude between the seller taking a vacation in the middle of the listing, the freelancer pushing back on the transfer and general delays because of our different time zones.
- Get ready to work. The amount of effort it took to get WP Terms Popup’s code and marketing materials up to my standards was more than I anticipated. I could have just let things go as they were when I purchased the plugin but I wanted to feel like it was my property entirely and that meant moving quickly after the sale was completed to change things to the way I prefer them.
If the topic of purchasing or selling an existing WordPress plugin sounds interesting there are articles here at The Plugin Economy you might want to check out:
- Developer Brant Calder did an interview here where he discussed selling four different plugins he had developed to new owners.
- One of Brant’s plugins, UpStream, was purchased by Steve Burge who talked to me about what the purchase process and aftermath was like.
- Nathan Singh, owner of Envira Gallery, discussed buying the plugin from its previous owners.
- Nigel Bahadur bought his plugin, Awesome Support, from Flippa as well and told me about how it went.
- In one of the earliest interviews here, Ivan Jurisic from Web Factory talked about how they purchased the Under Construction Page plugin.
- I’ve compiled a list of sites and marketplaces you can visit to buy and sell WordPress plugin businesses.
- If buying a plugin isn’t in your budget you should consider adopting a WordPress plugin instead.