Figured it’s about time to give this a proper update for anybody who’s interested in following along.
The short story is that it is hard to break into this industry, and there’s a lot of effort that I either didn’t really foresee, or had only a naive understanding of. Here’s a bit about my experience:
I released my plugin, Temper, in the beginning of July, 2017 through a web service called Sellfy. It’s a small distortion plugin that I made available for $10. In the first few weeks I was actively promoting it around KVR, Reddit and social media. I ran about $30 in paid ads on Reddit. In these first few (two, I think) weeks I made 14 sales, which netted me about $130 after Sellfy’s fees.
In the following weeks, I began to run out of new ideas for how to promote my announcement and my product, meanwhile my day job stress started picking up, and the engineer/hobbyist in me decided it would be both fun and a savvy business move to start working on my next plugin. So I slowly started taking off my marketing hat and putting on my hobbyist hat again, and in the five months after my announcement only 5 new sales have trickled in. Luckily, my second plugin is almost ready to launch, and looking back at how this went with my first plugin I have a lot of lessons learned that I’ll be applying to this round.
Here’s my major takeaways, and the advice that I wish I could go back in time to deliver to myself a year ago:
There is no “if you build it, they will come.” Even if your product is amazing, if you are new to the scene you have a ton of work to do to make yourself visible to potential customers.
It takes money to make money. By the end of those first few weeks promoting, I was a couple hundred bucks (domain name, hosting, ads, etc) into this project. I hadn’t really considered my budget up front, so at that point I was thinking “I can ease up on my spending, wait for some revenue to roll in, then use that money to cover my costs.” What I should have done was seriously budget a decent amount of money for marketing, advertising, and content, because if you’re not willing to spend a little bit of money there then the alternative is to very slowly build an audience organically via social media, blogs, etc. And if you’re trying to build plugins, and make some money from them, building an audience organically over several years isn’t ideal.
Get your price right. Releasing for $10 was a mistake; I went into that announcement thinking “Man there is no way I can compete with the likes of these other companies,” and figured drastically undercutting was a smart move. Initially I got some pretty excited reactions, but what ended up happening was that a $10 price point became ineffective for me to continue investing sales efforts. I get N customers to my site and M% of them buy the plugin, but from that I’m making tens of dollars… it doesn’t make sense financially to invest a lot of time in that funnel. On top of that, it’s hard to raise your price once customers have seen it. It’s a lot easier to run a sale every month because you came in too high initially. (This realization actually drove a decision to make my plugin available for free in an effort to build my audience)
Be careful of the “grass is greener” feeling. Once the rush of the release had slowed down, it became really easy to tell myself that the next best thing I can do is develop another plugin, or make my website better, or make my logo better. And I spent time on that stuff. But what I should have done was take all of that time and focus it back to building an audience and making sales. Which, again, was compounded by the previous bullet.
Moving forward, I have a bunch of new ideas and somewhat less naivety, so this story will continue over the next few months. If you guys are interested, I’ll be happy to give another update around summer time. When I wrote this question initially, I couldn’t really find any information or stories like this from indie plugin devs, so I hope this is helpful to some of you!