For a long time, premium WordPress plugins and themes were sold as a one-time payment. So for example, if you wanted to buy a new WordPress theme, you would make a single purchase and own the theme indefinitely, with no future payments due. Then somewhere along the way, a recurring pricing model became popular. These days, it is very common for themes and plugins to be sold via recurring payment scheme. So for example, if you want to use some awesome pro plugin or theme, you pay an annual or in some cases monthly fee.
Different Pricing Models
For WordPress products, like plugins and themes, there are myriad pricing models available:
- Free — no purchase required, use product indefinitely
- Freemium — free for basic features, pay to unlock more
- Trial-Based — free to use for limited time, then time to pay
- One-time Payment — pay once and own/use the product indefinitely
- Recurring Payment — pay every year, month, or other interval
You can find examples of each of these pricing models by simply shopping around for plugins and themes. The same thing is true for software and digital products outside of the WordPress marketplace. For example, a few years ago Adobe switched from one-time payment to a subscription-based plan, where you pay a monthly or yearly fee to use Photoshop, Illustrator, et al.
There also is a more subtle, sort of middle-of-the-road pricing model: one-time payments for a specific version of the software. For example, if you purchase apps like MAMP Pro, 1Password, Carbon Copy Cloner (a few examples that come readily to mind), the initial purchase is one-time, non-recurring. But you only get updates for one or two major versions. So if you purchased MAMP Pro version 4.0, you get free updates for all version-4 releases, like 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, etc. But then you have to pay again for version 5.0 and beyond.
Regardless of which pricing model you're talking about, ultimately it comes down to either paying only once or paying multiple times.
So my question for you: what is the BEST pricing model for WordPress plugins and themes?
As some of you may know, I strongly prefer to own the plugins that are used on my sites. I do not like the idea of having to pay more every year. It's probably because I am such an "old school" developer who is accustomed to one-time, flat-fee payments for scripts, plugins, and themes. In fact, I sell my own premium WordPress plugins using the one-time (non-recurring) pricing model.
Most if not all of my direct competitors sell their plugins using the recurring payments model. So users will have to pay more every year just to continue receiving updates and so forth. In my mind, this benefits the seller more than the customer. Whereas one-time purchases tend to benefit the customer more than the seller. But this is my own biased opinion, so I want to ask..
What do YOU think?
I think the most popular/no-brainer answer is that "there is no "best" pricing model" that applies to all products. Rather it depends on the nature of the product, scope of functionality, and other variables. Everything has to be factored in: development, support, marketing, the whole nine yards.
What do YOU think? Do you like paying more every year or month for plugins and scripts? Should plugins be considered more of a SaaS type deal? Is there a happy middle ground? Share your thoughts in the comments below!