As digital service providers we are often asked to do things for our clients for free. This doesn’t help our relationships with them and of course can damage our business.

We often see posts on social media, blogs about the clients from hell and quotes like – “Can you just do this for me, I don’t have a budget for it but if you can manage to update my site, I’ll tell all my friends about you!”

But, as developers – we also ask our providers to do that exact thing – sometimes though, it is the providers fault as they offer unlimited install on this, lifetime membership on this and all sorts of other “incentives” to get us on board.

I recently met with Troy Dean of Agency Mavericks at  the Agency Live Event here in the UK – we discussed his courses and the continuing profitability of the WordPress community. His many courses are aimed at individuals and businesses building a SUSTAINABLE business model. I could not agree more and as I have met loads of people that have done and are, doing his courses – with great success – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that he is right.

Why then, do developers of themes, layouts, plugins and digital services still offer free stuff in abundance – Just look at the WordPress repository for themes and plugins and you, as a web developer can build a sustainable business for zero investment. You can add security, functionality, layouts and now blocks for Gutenberg WordPress’ own pagebuilder.

At the time of writing there are over 7,000 – yes! SEVEN THOUSAND themes available for free download on the WordPress repository.

Over 50,000 Plugins to enhance your sites, add functionality and make your sites perform better, faster and with ease!

Why then, with all these resources at our finger tips for FREE! Do we need Marketplaces like Envato, and Elegant Marketplace, Theme Developers adding layouts to their themes and page builders doing the same?

Because we are greedy

We simply cannot get enough, we cannot accept that enough is enough and that we can build a sustainable business for free. We simply want more and more and, we want our commercial solutions to offer us a lifetime membership with unlimited downloads and installations, we want to be able to resell that and we never, ever want our commercial suppliers to put up their prices or change their deal to us, their faithful following and advocates. It’s OK if they change the policy moving forward  but they MUST grandfather us in as we have supported them for years by buying a lifetime membership to their services or an unlimited install deal to their annual plan.

Oh, hang on – we supported the lifetime deal – once, yup, just the once, we expect and demand lifetime support for what? 250 bucks, we want enhancements, we want other plugins that cost extra to be built in to the lifetime deal, we want everything (including the kitchen sink)  the latest pop ups, header enhancements and even a CRM, Multiple forms, image editing, sliders, roll overs, layouts – child theme exporters, cloud services ecommerce page building facilities and, the list goes on and on  BUILT into that theme we bought 1/2/3/4 years ago under a lifetime deal and we want it all now! Having read that little list again – we kind of expect a bit much right?

Where am I getting this information – All you have to do is read the comments on the latest blog posts or sneak peeks of any of our solution’s providers – A new plugin is promoted on the blog of say, ET, the commenters say – Man, this should be built into the theme – what are you doing ET – I bought a lifetime deal 4 years ago and I need this in the core! SMH!

So, ET go – OK, we will put in Commerce page builders, we will do a themer, we will add more pop up facilities, we will also write umpteen blog posts on how you can do stuff without a lot of code and we will do it all for you our loyal followers who paid us a once off payment of 250 bucks and we will do it willingly as our competitors are doing it so we have to – never mind the hundreds of businesses that have built their businesses around ET – you as our consumers want this – so we are going to put it in core to be able to get new customers – as we are not getting anymore out of you – Mr/Mrs/Ms lifetime member.

We want all this and more for a one time, lifetime fee for ever – and we want premium, skilled, helpful and PROMPT (by that we mean INSTANT!) support as well –! 

We also want third party vendors to give us lifetime updates, unlimited use and unlimited support up to and including telling us what CSS, HTML, JS code I can put in the plugin or theme to do this – whatever this is.

Is it any wonder Developers of themes and plugins Walk Back on original offers? is it because, these offers are unsustainable – Damn right it is!

For Elegant Themes – the support burden is HUGE – for Elementor with over 2 million downloads from the repository the support burden even if 5% of those users convert to Pro – is beyond comprehension. I am not defending these or other providers as they made their bed and will have to lie in it or remake it with a more sustainable model or at least a memory foam pillow right?  – as some are already doing.

As a marketplace we have a potential support burden of over 70,000 customers – thankfully, we are coping well, as our vendors now offer individual support on each product. We still get a few hundred support tickets a week though and its hard to keep up sometimes being a bootstrapped business with competitors, customers wanting more and of course negotiating with vendors on special deals etc.

We have also changed the model on some items to be subscription based for support and updates, why? Well, I care about support and without regular funding even our vendors struggle to give lifetime support on an item that was bought 4 years ago for 10 bucks – its simple math.

So, who is to blame for this sorry situation of expecting the world but  not wanting to pay for it?

First and Foremost – Mat Mullenweg – WordPress is a monster, it has created hundreds of thousands of little monsters in clients, suppliers, vendors, developers all under the banner of IT’S FREE AND OPEN SOURCE!

WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time

And there lies the issue. We expect everything around WordPress to be exactly as described above. But, as we can see by the formation of Automattic and the purchase of Woo commerce and others by the very same company – Matt needs to get money in and the only way to do that is to charge the end user to use Jetpack, Woocommerce plugins, Akismet and a whole lot of other stuff. Mark my words here – Matt is in it for the long game and is in it for money – just like you and I because we need to support ourselves and our families – no matter how he presents it in his relaxing, soft tones,  WordPress is a money maker for all of us – and most of all, him and his investors. It needs to be, otherwise it is unsustainable and other players will come to the fore, it may take a while – but, it will happen because, nothing lasts forever.

We as users are also to blame. We forget that behind each and every innovation in this space are human beings, we forget when we leave a bad review that lives are being affected. What doesn’t work for you, may well work for thousands of others – but because YOU can’t make it work, you leave a bad review and this goes for every single product out there – when you leave a bad review, you may be affecting how someone feeds their child or pays their bills – so give it a second before you have that online rant – ok?

We love that Google is free, Facebook is free and we can use hundreds of APPs to help us get our message out to our audience.

All this is great – but where on earth is it going to end? We know that The Social Mediums make a tonne of money from our data, but, in the end, what if people decide the new Facebook is not what they want it to be and stop advertising – what happens if Google is restricted by various governments from being the monopoly it is?

We expect too much of our Digital Solutions providers. If you are making a profit from using any or all of these services – start sharing that with your providers – start giving a shit about them and not just you – after all, you need them as much as they need you.

For those of you reading this that have been kind enough to purchase something from this marketplace, I and my vendors thank  you – hopefully, we have added value to your offering and will continue to do so – but, we cannot do it without you so, carry on buying from your favorite marketplace enhancing your offering with real solutions rather than sneak peeks and we will remain sustainable, offer only the very best to make you shine and be here when you need us most.

The bottom line here is: If you want a sustainable business in web development – make sure you give as much as you take – in cold hard cash.

Hopefully, you have read my other post on Walking Back on Deals – if not click here to read it.

Comments are, as always – encouraged.

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Andrew Palmer
Andrew is the founder of Elegant Marketplace.