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? We continue this series on funding open source with Russell Aaron. He has built and maintained several plugins on his own while an employee with a company. Russ says he supports his plugins “on his own dime,” so you’ll want to watch this episode for sure.
Funding Open Source: The Series
- Watch Chris Badgett tell his story of how LifterLMS was funded on this episode.
- Jason Coleman gives insight into how Paid Memberships Pro was built and how it used the Open Source philosophy to grow in this episode
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About Russell Aaron
Born and raised in Nevada, Russ is no stranger to hard work and the hustle. He started coding in MySpace “pimping out tables” for the “About Me” section. He then started learning some CSS and going to WordPress Meetups.
He worked at a mortgage company and built plugins to work with the API to display rates on the website. He ended up selling that plugin to local real estate professionals and other loan shops. He knew these people personally.
Back in the day, he was asked to help organize WordCamp Las Vegas so he put his Gravity Styles plugin on hold to work on it. Serendipity rewarded him. Ben Fox urged him to build the plugin. He said, “if you don’t build it, I will.” Pippin Williamson sat down at Russ’ laptop and a few minutes later, he had the plugin ready.
Why Build Gravity Styles?
When you’re creating a product it is important to solve an actual problem. He hated styling forms. So, he saw Suzette Franck made all of her forms pink. So he asked her if he could use her CSS. “Sure” she said. And Russ was off building Gravity Styles.
“I hate styling Gravity Forms.” Russell Aaron
How Long Before Gravity Styles Was Solvent?
It was always solvent. Russ believes that you should only work on side projects after you feed your family and have a roof on your head.
“Please keep a roof over your head.” Russell Aaron
Do the Work
Don’t be afraid to walk up and shake someone’s hand. Build relationships. Those are the most valuable tool anyone has. Also, don’t be afraid of guerrilla marketing.
“Stop talking and start sweating.” Russell Aaron
For example, he used DesktopServer, built a local version of a website that was fully operational and had content. He would go to that business (someone he knew) and say something like, “Hey. I built this for you. Would you like to have a website setup in an hour for your business?” Then he’d help them with hosting or whatever, got the cash, and moved on.
“If you don’t have the passion to do this it doesn’t matter if you’re Bruce Wayne; you’re not going to get anywhere.” Russell Aaron
Advice for Plugin Developers
“They gave me hosting and I did something with it.” Russell Aaron
- Be curious.
- Be passionate.
- Have a mentor then be a mentor.
- Solve a problem with your plugin.
- Hire or ask a professional to code it.
- Be accountable.
- Do the work.
- Build relationships.
- Don’t be a taker; be a giver.
- Use the tools you have.
- Go to Meetups and Conferences.
- Make friends.
- Do all of this after you’ve paid for your food and rent.
Tool or Tip of the Week
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Jason recommends Small.Chat. Even the free account allows you to integrate a chat bot on your website to your Slack channel. Respond in real time in a way that works with your team.