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As much as we like to think Open Source is all about giving and not getting, it isn’t a sustainable model. Peace, Love, and WordPress are great, but we still need to eat.

So how are plugins really funded? In this episode, Jason and Bridget will be joined by Chris Badgett who will tell us how he used agency work to fund his plugin’s development: LifterLMS.

Take a listen. Let us know your thoughts.

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Nonprofit ShoutOut: WP&UP

Chris wore the Matt Report hat that also supports WPandUP, a nonprofit helping individuals with mental health in the WordPress space. They can use your help.

A Bit of Background On Chris Badgett and LifterLMS

He started as a dog musher in Alaska. When he decided to do freelance work, he charged $300 for his first WordPress website. He’s experienced every part of the WordPress journey — from pricing to roles. 

Eventually, he merged his company with codeBox and his passion for learning with Thomas Patrick Levy’s coding skills lead to the intentional creation of their own LMS product, which didn’t exist in WordPress’ plugin directory at the time.

He tells his story in-depth in the Work From the Inside Out podcast.

They used their high-end projects to fund the development of LifterLMS which took two years to break even and three years before no longer “having difficult conversations with their wives,” as Chris put it. 

Product Launch

The MVP version of the free LifterLMS was built in 90 days. codeBox always intended to move away from agency work but specialized in high-end clients and course creators. It was a natural, yet intentional shift. Five years later, codeBox no longer provides agency work.

“It’s a process; not an event. I see a product launch as the starting point not the finish line.” Chris Badgett

How Long Does It Take to Become Solvent?

It realistically takes two to three years. This is on part for most businesses. Be ready to make hard choices. 

Focus on customer financing with early adopter discounts. LifterLMS had no other source of funding, private or venture capital, other than customer financing and agency work. They were quite literally bootstrapped. 

Chris, as an avid survivalist and minimalist, made hard choices to live far below his means. That was a decision he and his wife made to help the business. It’s also a lifestyle they still believe in.

Balancing Client Work and Product Development

Pricing correctly matters. There are only so many billable hours in the day. If a client site has an issue, that is a priority over development time. Most bootstrapped businesses in Open Source don’t have the funds in order to sustain a separate development team.

“Client work always cannibalizes the product.” Chris Badgett

Be realistic in your goals and time allotment. Don’t get discouraged.

Why Not Copy An Existing Product?

Sure, you can fork another project. GiveWP was forked from EDD as founder Devin Walker talks about often. Chris’ philosophy, however, comes from his background of understanding people. (He majored in anthropology.)

“We believe the best products are built out of the voice of the customer.” Chris Badgett

Together Is Better

It’s good to partner with other companies to integrate your plugin solutions. Having a powerful REST API helps ensure your product can be extended — even as a mobile app. 

“Don’t do it alone.” Chris Badgett

“If you actively support other plugin shops, you build and deliver more value than you would by yourself.” Chris Badgett

Advice for Year One

  • “You gotta get uncomfortable. It’s extremely uncomfortable.” Chris Badgett
  • “Do it with real people.” Chris Badgett
  • “Prepare for the long haul.” Chris Badgett

Tool or Tip of the Week

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Chris recommends Vito Peleg’s WPFeeback and the community he is building there.

Jason recommends DoubleTake by FiLMiC Pro.

Bridget recommends the Kindle App. Did you know Amazon Prime members have access to books even audible ones?

Do you have any tools or tips we should know about?

We’d love to hear from you. What are your experiences with this subject?

Tell us in the comments below.

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