The Business Of WP

A bit of free software is providing a lot of people with a lot of business opportunities.

In this post I want to talk about the business of WP, and where money is being made supporting and developing WordPress for the million of sites built upon open source software.

There is A Huge User Base

It was estimated that 13% of the internet was powered by WordPress sites, a huge statistic which I have no way of verifying,  I did some digging and found this page http://en.wordpress.com/stats/ which suggests there are 69 million plus WordPress sites.

This number is growing by the day, there is a huge user base for you to work with.  The business of WP is an evergrowing business. at least for the next few years as far as I can see.

There is a huge user base for developers designers, consultants and trainers to help people build their websites.

The business of WP is a growing business.

80/20 Rule Applies

WordPress is great, about 80% of the knowledge needed to build a WordPress site is not very technical, that is one of the beauties of the system, if you can use a wordprocesor you can publish on the web.

The final 20% is where the money is, the difficult development, the graphical design, the hosting, the hack recovery, the premium themes and plugins.  This is where the everyday site owner begins to struggle and the professionals are called in.

Show Me The Money

The rest of this post is all about where there are business opportunities in the WordPress world can be found.

The Biggie WordPress.com

Probably at the top of the heap is the hosted version of WordPress at wordpress.com.

This is still free for most of functionality of a WordPress site, they use the freemium model, you can have an excellent basic service for nothing, but if you want the bells ans whistles you need to buy the add-ons.  Things like premium themes, your own domain hosting and more space are all addons.

This is where the money is made in free software.


The business of hosting WordPress sites is a huge business.  Lets toss together an estimate, if there are 30 million self hosted sites (the other 30 million live at wordpress.com) they all need hosting services. lets say an average hosting fee is $100 per year, there are cheaper and more expensive options, so I think $100 is about average, that conservatively gives us a market of $3,000,000,000.

That’s not small beer that is a huge industry, my work brings me into contact with about a dozen big players, one of those players runs Super Bowl ads, normally the domain of huge brands.

Theme Design

The design of custom themes is another area where people can make real money.

Again I think the 80/20 rule comes into play here, I think 80% of people will be happy with free or premium themes.  If they use a framework theme like Headway of Thesis many people can bring together a custom look.

The final 20% without the technical or design skills turn to a designer to bring them a custom look and feel.

Custom theme development is not cheap, expect to pay $2-5K for your bespoke look and feel.  This is still great value, compare that with a static HTML ground up build of a website.

WordPress has turned the web development scene on it’s head, and made development quick and costs less for the end user.

Web Development

This is the market I live in, technical support of WordPress sites, fixing problems and coding up solutions to peoples problems.

This is a very lucrative market sector, this is definitely not an area the normal site owners wants to dabble in.

If you have the technical skill to fix php errors, remove malware from hacked sites, performance tune a site there is a big opportunity.

Premium Themes

We are moving from services to products now, and the premium theme is a great example of a product

Write once and sell many times.  Setup a great customer service experience and you have a brilliant product line you can sell.

This is a very scalable business model.

Premium Plugins

For some reason plugins never caught up with their premium theme cousins for some time.

The ones that have come out of this are great.  Things like backup buddy, WishList Member, Scribe SEO are amongst some of the great premium plugins I have worked with.

If you can code up and support a great plugin that fixes a real problem you can make money, but expect grumbling, the plugin scene has traditionally been open source and free.

The Licensing Issue

The sticky problem anyone building premium offerings be it themes or plugin is the GPL license WordPress works under.  Anyone can take your premium work and fork it to a new project.

I don’t want to get into the argument, but Thesis’s  head butt with Automattic and the Jigoshop/WooComerce fork are two examples of the GPL license causing problems with the development of premium plugins and themes.

This is probably an area I will cover in-depth later, but be aware of the license if you are building a business around WordPress.


The provision of training to the end user WordPress community is another big business opportunity

This can take the form of traditional print books, the respected WordPress for Dummies for example.  It can be info products like e-books or online membership communities.

Coaches and consultants selling their time to educate and solve problems comes under this heading too.

There is also the old classroom based training that still lives, but is a dying model in my opinion (feel free to discuss this in the comments I’m open to debate on this subject).

Misc. Services

There are other great services out there to help manage your site too, I’m thinking of things like VaultPress.com the backup and security service, Akismet etc etc.

This additional service sector is one I see booming, I’m thinking performance management for critical systems, security monitoring, backup and recovery, analytics, e-commerce, I’m sure many are already in development.

Wrap Up

The business of WP is huge, there are opportunities for many people.

I’m facinated by the business of WP, I work in it everydat and I would love to help people build their WordPress related businesses, please leave a comment if you would like to see more posts about building business around open sources tools.

Image by littledebbie11

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