How Can BuddyPress Developers Earn a Living?
By Jeff Sayre
In the WordPress ecosystem, when it comes to getting paid for time spent, it seems that theme designers are far ahead of plugin developers. GPLed–premium themes are not only an accepted part of this ecosystem, but seem to thrive. Plugin developers, on the other hand, have been shunned in the past for offering premium plugins. I won’t go into the reasons for this, but there is a sordid history, to say the least. I also do not want to reopen the war wounds from previous debates on this topic.
UPDATE: January 19, 2011 A year after this post and here are the results. See my current thoughts on this issue in this article, BP Privacy: History and Lessons Learned from Developing a Major BuddyPress Component.
I think it is not only fair and appropriate, but also necessary for plugin developers to have the opportunity to make a living, or at least part of their living, writing great code that extends the base functionality of the BuddyPress platform.
To be clear, I am not an employee of Automattic. Like the vast majority of BuddyPress developers, I do not get paid a single cent for my contributions. In fact, as a salaried employee of Automattic, Andy Peatling, the lead developer of BuddyPress, is the only one who gets paid for his time working on this Open Source project (as far as I know).
Again, I am not looking to fan the embers of previous debates. I do not have any issue with how Automattic runs the WP plugin repository or care if they never list commercial plugins. That is not my point.
All I’m asking is how can plugin developers exist on an equal footing with theme designers when it comes to the issue of earning a living? Currently, the only three options that developers have, it seems, are to advertise a donate button for each plugin, accept consulting gigs, or accept advertising on their website. But donate buttons rarely provide much support and providing consulting services to clients is not for everyone. Furthermore, for me, I do not care to turn my personal website into a billboard.
The argument that plugin developers benefit by offering their work for free is flawed. It assumes that all developers are looking for consulting work, and two that all developers who offer their work for free will receive consulting work. Whereas it is certainly the case that some plugin developers have built a nice consulting business as a result of their donated work in the WordPress community, that does not mean that this route is for everyone.
What if a developer just wishes to code great-quality plugins like a theme designer designs high-quality themes? What if he or she does not want to provide any other service? How should this developer be compensated for their time?
But, since you asked, I do have a donate-like button for my BuddyPress Privacy Component. You can read more about my version of “donate” here.
I would like to hear some ideas on this topic as I have contributed much time to the BuddyPress community but have not earned a single penny. I am not looking to provide programming services or start a consulting company. I have a significant project that I’m working on so I don’t have time for much else.
Since I am not yet making an money on my project, I need a vehicle to earn some semblance of a respectable cash flow. Just as some theme designers earn a decent income from their premium themes, I would like to think that my income vehicle could be BuddyPress component development.
So, ideas and civil discussion, please!