2015 WordPress Business Revenue Statistics

2015 WordPress Revenue Statistics

A lot of people in the WordPress community have published transparency reports in the last year, and I wanted to gather them all in one place.

It’s mostly for statistical data for presentations, and to analyze what business models people are using. I also have some knowledge that isn’t public information (from my own businesses, and people I know) that gives me a little extra insight.

Personal note to all my fellow business owners: don’t compare yourself and feel bad because you aren’t making what some of these businesses are. There is a lot of back story to these that you don’t know about, none of these people were overnight successes. If that’s you, read this post by Matt Medeiros.

There are lots of people I left out, if you want to be included in this list or update your numbers please leave a comment or shoot me a tweet.

Update: some of these numbers are different than the source links, or don’t have sources. That’s because people have shared numbers with me personally but have not published anything about revenue publicly.

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How to get customer feedback with surveys and polls

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One of the most important things you can do to grow your business is get feedback from your customers.

If you don’t know what your customers are looking for and why, no amount of tweaks to your site will have much of an effect. To find out the right headlines, media, content, and even product features your customers want, all you need to do is ask. Armed with that data, you can a/b test your site copy, onboarding processes, and marketing materials to increase conversions.

There are several ways to get feedback, including live user testing with friends and family, talking to customers on the phone or in person, and online surveys and polls. We’ll be focusing on surveys and polls, since they are the easiest to implement.

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How to create a conversion funnel in Google Analytics

Google Analytics Conversion Funnel

Setting up a conversion funnel is a great way to see how well you are converting on your website, and where you can improve.

A funnel is a visualization of the steps you want people to take on your website. For example, the top of the funnel would be visiting your homepage, and the bottom would be hitting the purchase confirmation page.

You can add steps in between as well, like visiting your pricing page, reading a blog post, or subscribing to your email list. A conversion funnel doesn’t have to be monetary, it could also show how well you are doing with email opt-ins, downloads, social sharing, and more.

If you read my previous post on basic growth hacking, setting up a conversion funnel in Google Analytics is a great first step. Let’s set one up.

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Basic Growth Hacking

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I recently decided to start focusing on growth for my company. After doing some research I stumbled on lots of articles about growth hacking, which is a term coined by Sean Ellis.

It refers to data driven marketing strategies like analytics, conversion rate optimization, and customer retention. Any company can use these strategies, and they can be very effective. Before diving into these strategies head first, it’s important to have a general idea of what they are, and how they work together.

In this article I’ll go over the general buckets of growth hacking, and how you can get started.

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Building a business, or making a living?

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In 2010 I started my first company, an online shop selling WordPress themes.

Before that I was doing freelance web design, and before that I had a full time job as a graphic/web designer. I recently started a new company that helps people build their own mobile apps in 2014.

Every job I took, or business I’ve started was something I thought would be exciting, and would make money. I need to pay my bills just like everyone else, so financially all I ever considered was making enough to have a comfortable living.

At first I thought it would be great if I could make a product and someone would buy it. When I got my first few sales online it was an exhilarating feeling, someone thought what I made was worth paying for! If I could build the business enough to make six figures, that would be the life.

The only thing that mattered was making a living doing something interesting. The freedom of setting your own schedule, being your own boss, and actually making money doing it is really exciting.

For many people, that’s the end game, as I thought it was for me. There’s nothing wrong with making a living and stopping there. As I’ve written before, success in business is not about making millions.

It’s not about the money, I just have to keep pushing. I can’t help myself.

Building a Business

I want to build multi-million dollar business, not just make a living.

Building a business means that my income goals are no longer top priority. Putting money back into the business to make it grow is paramount.

It requires long term thinking, and short term sacrifices. Instead of padding your retirement account, you are investing in your company.

Going Big

I’ve been thinking a lot about how my company can grow 10X. My previous goals have been how to make a little more the next month or year, but I really like the 10X approach. It requires making fundamental changes that I never would have made with my old approach.

You need to make changes to your company infrastructure to make this growth possible. It may mean widening your market, hiring more people, or completely pivoting. These are things that never occur to you if you are just trying to get a few more sales, or a few more clients.

Cutting your own salary

It seems like a no-brainer, put money back into your company to help it grow. Think bigger. Duh.

It becomes difficult when you actually have to cut your own salary significantly to hire someone, add a marketing budget, etc. The idea of growing the company is alluring, but cutting my own salary sucks.

It would be great if I had a different source of income, and all the money could go back into the company. If you are in a position to be able to do that, I highly recommend it.

I’m risk-averse, and very frugal. The last thing I want to do is put all my money into a company that could fail, instead of a bank account that can grow slowly. It goes against my financial principles, but I’m going to do it anyways.

I don’t know why, but I just really want to take a shot at building a bigger company. It just seems like the next logical step in my career, and if I don’t do it now, I might not ever.

Who knows, it may even work.

Build a mobile app with Ionic + WordPress

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The Ionic Framework is a modern hybrid mobile app framework built on AngularJS.

It has changed the way people look at hybrid application development, bringing native performance to the hybrid world. We use the Ionic Framework as the base for all apps built with Reactor. It integrates lots of awesome WordPress functionality like posts, pages, WooCommerce products, Gravity Forms, push notifications, member login, and lots more.

I created a separate project on Github that is a simple integration of WordPress with Ionic, in a standalone project.

View on Github

This project is mostly for fun, and so other developers can get excited about Ionic. The app includes a posts page with pull to refresh and infinite scroll, a login with custom authentication (requires a plugin), static pages, side menu, a settings page, and app intro. I will be adding more to this project in the coming weeks.

You can use this project as a starting point to create a mobile app of your own.

Click here to see a demo of the project.

Let’s look at how to use and customize this project.

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Success in Business

Running your own business means you’re stressed out a lot.

You’re always trying to launch that next product, or get that next big client. You’re often engrossed in the day to day problems of your company, and very rarely do you sit back and enjoy what you’ve accomplished.

Every time you open Twitter, you see someone talking about how you’re not working hard enough. You need to move to San Francisco, subsist on Top Ramen, and work 20 hours a day for at least 2 years before you can even get started.

Travis Kalanick sold his first company for 19 million, and started a new one that’s worth billions. He’s only a few years older than me.

Someone else writes an article about how their company is growing so fast they can’t keep up. I read articles by successful people to try to learn from the best, and make myself and my company better. Sometimes I just get overwhelmed and it has the opposite effect.

I recently saw this tweet:

It made me think about what success really means for me. I often get so caught up in how I compare to others, that I forget how good things are.

Even though I always stress about money, I’ve never been even remotely close to not being able to pay my bills. I enjoy the freedom to work wherever I want, and take time off whenever I need it. I get to choose what I work on, and I love what I do. Those are the things that really make me happy.

Will running a multi-million dollar company, or getting a 7 figure exit drastically improve my circumstances? I’m not sure if it would.

If someone else’s company is growing faster than mine, what does that have to do with me?

I still want to grow my company to 7 figures and beyond, and continue to be ambitious. The important thing is to realize that I’m already successful, and I don’t need more to be whole.

I provide for my family and enjoy my life, and that is why I’m successful.

Should we be selling support instead of products?

When you sell products, you do a lot of customer support.

It takes up a lot of time, and some would say product companies are really selling support, not the product. Is support for sale, or is it the product?

If support is really what we are selling, should we tell the customer that?

There is an important distinction to be made here. What we think we are selling, and what the customer actually wants to buy.

What you’re selling vs. what they are buying

Even if you are selling support, the customer doesn’t want to buy support. The customer wants to buy a shiny new product that makes them look and feel like a rockstar, and they assume they will get any help they need after purchasing.

This is important because if you want a successful business you have to sell what people want to buy. You can’t sell them what they don’t know they need, or else you won’t be in business for long.

In the case of products, you sell them a shiny new product and you give them awesome support along with it. If you give them the product free and then ask them to pay you a premium for support, your sales will suffer.

Free Premium Products

Recently a developer name Tom McFarlin announced that he will be moving towards selling support. He has started by open-sourcing his premium theme Mayer, which previously cost $79.

Here’s a quote from his post.

Personally, I think that if you’re in the business of WordPress products (versus services), you’re in the support business whether you intend to be or not. Everything that you release – regardless of where the transaction actually happens – is going to yield support from some of the customers, so in order to gain access to said support, the transaction just moves back one step from after accessing the source code rather than before accessing the source code.

Is this a good move?

I’m a fan of Tom’s and I support his reasoning for this decision. I actually think he may be successful doing this, but I don’t think anyone should follow his lead.

I agree we are largely in the support business, but it doesn’t matter. That doesn’t mean we should start making people buy support instead of products. Like I said before, nobody wants to buy support.

This isn’t the first time someone has sold support and given away free products, Justin Tadlock has been doing this for years with Theme Hybrid. His themes are free, and he charges $25/year for access to his theme club, which is essentially a support forum. Justin is an incredible developer, and his products are worth way more than $25/year.

He was around when people like StudioPress and WooThemes were just getting started, and they have built multi-million dollar empires, while he has not. They sold shiny products, not support.

Please note I am not criticizing Justin, or saying he needs to make millions, I don’t think he wants to do that. I am saying that between selling support vs. selling products, there is a clear monetary winner.

A comment left on the recent article at WP Tavern about this same issue reveals the same conclusion:

I tried a similar model long ago with a theme site I had before, and found it works to a certain point but not as well as I had hoped. Long story short, I went out of business. If one tries this, I would recommend they have a good savings account at the bank….or at least have a well known name such as Justin Tadlock or even Tom McFarlin.

Well known developers may be able to make this work, but I don’t think anyone else will.

What about WordPress support businesses?

Yes, businesses like WP Site Care and Maintainn are selling support, which seems to be a contradiction. They are both doing very well, and all they sell is support.

This is different because they aren’t writing and maintaining code. Product businesses have code debt, that takes time to build and maintain, while support businesses don’t.

What’s best for business isn’t always right

In Justin’s case, and I think in Tom’s case as well, they probably don’t care that selling support is not the best for their bottom line. They both strike me as very passionate about open-source, and they are more interested in helping people than making money.

Tom left a short reply to me in his blog comments explaining his position further:

There are a number of things happening with the WordPress theme economy that I’m not particularly thrilled with (which I digress for now :), and so taking the time to explore a couple of different models is something I’m interested in doing if for no other reason than to say “Yes, this works,” or even “Nope, that was a bad move.”

I applaud Tom for taking a leap with this model, and I actually hope he proves me wrong by succeeding with it.

Post launch update

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It’s 1 month since we launched Reactor, and it’s been eye-opening to say the least.

The launch didn’t go like I wanted it to, and I am not very excited about sharing our numbers. I almost didn’t publish this post, until I read these two posts. The truth is that launches don’t always go the way you planned.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s happened so far:

We had over 100 signups, and only about 35 of those have translated into paying customers.

I’m pretty happy with the amount of signups, but we have a big problem with cancellations. Too many people have cancelled, and it’s driving me nuts.

I’ve read that a normal SaaS business has about a 3% churn. Our launch month was over 50%. Ugh.

It’s hard for me to even share this with you. I’d rather be writing a post about how the launch was a great success and we are rolling in dough, but that’s not the case.

Does this mean we failed, or that our product sucks?

Absolutely not. Here’s why.

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