The Challenges of Pricing and Selling with WordPress – Part 1

Anyone who has every sold a product or service around WordPress probably has a few frustrating stories to tell about their experience. I know I've had my fair share of frustrations (which inspired this post) and would love to see some changes take place. For the sake of this post, here's a general list of things I'm referring to (and I'm sure I'm missing a few things here, so it's certainly not an all-inclusive list).

WordPress Products and Services:

  • Themes
  • Plugins
  • Support
  • Maintenance
  • Documentation
  • Training
  • Ebooks
  • Coaching
  • Membership / Continuity

I recently did a post and video about the ‘Entitlement of the Internet‘ (o.k., it's a bit of a rant) after having hosted a webinar and getting a snarky comment from someone who was complaining about the FREE webinar. The word free deserves the ‘all caps' because it's a point that is often overlooked online.

Before I go too much further though I want to clarify a few things:

First, I'm writing this with the assumption that we're all here to provide value and build solid relationships with our audience. My doubt is anyone out there interested in the quick buck wouldn't be reading this post.

I'm also going to assume that you're in this for the long haul. In other words, you get that a building an online business takes hard work, commitment and risk – just like an ‘offline' business would. You have to show up and do the work.

Lastly, you want to earn income with what you do.

And not just enough to pay the bills.

Enough to live your life the way YOU want to live it. No judgment here. Wanting nice things doesn't mean you have any less integrity than the person who wants to live simply. Want what you want with no apologies.

That being said, let's move on to the challenges of pricing and selling with WordPress.

WordPress is Open Source

Yep. I totally get it, think it's awesome and am super grateful to all the amazing people who contribute to WordPress. Automatic however is a ‘for-profit' company. #justsayin

I'm not even going to begin to try to speak for the people who contribute their time, energy and resources to making WordPress what it is because I can't. I'm not a coder. But I would also bet that most of them have other gigs that pay the bills. Unless they're independently wealthy they need something that brings in income to keep the lights and wi-fi on, right?

So why is it that because the software is free the expectation is that anything and everything to do with WordPress should be free? (or cheap) *and yes, I'm exaggerating a little by using “anything and everything”*

It's probably easier to understand some of this by looking at an example. I love to use ‘offline' examples to drive home some of the crazy perceptions that go along with doing business online (and certainly aren't specific to WordPress alone).

I spent 20+ years in retail management, most of them, pretty good (there was only one nightmare company in there). Regardless of the type of store it was the goal always the same…

Sell products.

Make a profit.

We did this through displaying the products a certain way, making sure the store was always clean, looked good and the employees were representing the mission of the company.

Here's what we DIDN'T do:

  • Offer every customer who walked into the store something for FREE so they would then buy something (maybe a few months later)
  • Pre-frame the shopping experience
  • Have other customers standing by to give testimonials of how great the products were
  • Provide demonstrations for all the products in the store before someone bought
  • Create videos showing people how they could use the products they were considering purchasing
  • AND… drumroll, please…
  • No one was offended when they walked into the store and saw products for sale! They were coming to a place of business and expected to see things for sale.
  • And then when they checkout and see additional products near the cash register I never once heard someone say they were angry that we had more products for sale.  (I'm always grateful for the gum upsell in the grocery store).

But online…

Well, that's a different story.

And I get it. This is a little like comparing apples to oranges, right?

Let me give you another example of doing something online that might make more sense.

I'm in a mastermind with people from all different niches. The only thing we have in common is that we're all online businesses (although many people have offline clients as well). I'm the only person in the group who has a business related to WordPress. First, let me also state that I pay a good chunk of change to be in this mastermind. I do this because I believe in investing in my business,  especially when I see a return on my investment (and not just monetarily).

I have seen people in this group sell things that to some may seem a little ‘intangible', like manifesting. One person was able to do $70k on a webinar on Christmas day in this niche.  (And I'm going to ask you to keep whatever judgments you have about the topic and just let that sink in).

Why do you think he did so well? Testimonials? Experience? Proof? Ability to sell?

I'm not sure exactly. But he didn't have a pre-conceived idea as to what it should cost. He approached it the way a business owner should approach pricing:

By the return the customer is going to get based on the value provided.

Let me ask you a question.

Would you invest $10k on training if you knew you could double your investment? How long would you give that training to pay off? Meaning, you pay for the training once, implement what you learned and the first time around you make $5k. Are you going to decide it doesn't work or will you take what you learned, measure the results and tweak the process and do it again?

Let's say the second time around you implement what you learned and you make $7k. You're now up $2k. Not bad, right?

Is it a million dollar launch?


Was the investment worth it?


Now you continue tweaking and implementing until you get the return you want (of course from here on out your profit is MUCH higher, right?).

Now let's go back to the examples I gave at the very beginning of this post:

  • Themes
  • Plugins
  • Support
  • Maintenance
  • Documentation
  • Training
  • Ebooks
  • Courses
  • Coaching
  • Membership / Continuity

Let's start with themes and plugins.

Without the theme, your business looks like crap and no one wants to buy from you. Nuff said (she states while dropping the mic).
Yes, a little more exaggeration but what do you do when you land on someones site and you can tell they didn't spend any money on it? You bounce, right? Do you take them seriously, as a business owner?

How about the plugin that allows you to create your client sites faster (thus increasing your profits)? Or build your list? Or share your content?

What is that worth to you?

What would you be willing to pay someone who taught you how to use a tool in your business that could double or triple your income? (provided you did the work and implemented what you learned?)

Like I stated earlier, I'm not a coder. I have however had some plugins developed and the amount of time that goes into getting a plugin to work right, then test it, then market it… there is a LOT of work involved. And I didn't even bring up supporting it.

Why do you think WP Curve (acquired by GoDaddy) is growing by an exponential rate? (besides being a brilliant business model and great people behind it)
It's not just because they solved a problem (which they did).

If there weren't a bazillion WordPress users there wouldn't be a need for a site like WP Curve (did you like my statistic of a bazillion? You get my point). Does the pricing model make WP Curve affordable? Absolutely. They also have a large pool to offer their services to.

Where does this leave us?


I'm not sure.

Do you think this is a WordPress specific issue? Are there other spaces online where you see pricing as a problem?

And as I typed that last question I realized I didn't really get into the ‘selling' side of things. Looks like there's going to be a part 2 to this post.

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Kim Doyal

Kim Doyal

Kim Doyal is a leading expert on using WordPress to market businesses online. She teaches, blogs, podcasts and creates with WordPress. A published author, movie producer and artist, her motto is "WordPress Happiness Made Easy." Kim develops custom solutions to meet the needs for a variety of entrepreneurs and business models. With her extensive marketing skills, she had helped her clients transform their lives and their businesses, and achieve the income, success and freedom they truly desire.

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