There were some big changes in 2019 for me. Such reviews really help me follow my own progress in life and mostly in my career as a developer.
If you’re interested in my previous review, you can check it out here. Again, I am not trying to keep everything in a chronological order but more in a categorized way. I’ll write about what happened or is still the same with:
- Jobs & Freelancing – basically, how I earned my money in 2019,
- Plugin Business – how were my plugins doing in 2019
- Site Growth and Teaching
- Investments – what did I spend my money in 2019 to grow as a developer and business
- Personal life
- 2020 Projects
Jobs & Freelancing
In 2019, I am still working as a Web developer and designer at stayntouch.com. This has not changed and I am happy working with them since there is also some freedom when I am working on their website which is done in WordPress.
I have some plans for their site such as creating their pricing table completely manageable through the admin area and I want to create it with React to learn more how to use React in small apps.
The salary part has changed. Since I live in Croatia, I can’t work directly as an employee for them. So the boss and I, worked for them as contractors through an LTD. My boss decided to move elsewhere and he became a direct employee.
So what happened in the summer of 2019; I became the director of this LTD. This does not change too much, but I do get to decide how I will wok, when and also how much. If I work more now, I could even earn more.
I do plan to lower my salary a bit to save on taxes, but that’s still under calculation to see how can we live with a lower income (initially).
Another important thing that this allows me; is to hire another developer. Since StayNTouch does not need another one, I can’t (yet) make such a big move. This would involve me to search for additional jobs, so for now, that’s on pause. But if my plugin business does take off in 2020, I might hire one to work on those full time.
Alongside my daily job, I am still working as a freelancer (contractor). I have stayed on Codeable because the community on it is really great. I do plan to utilize Codeable when I organize myself even more and expand my business with them.
2019 was a slow year with Codeable and I’ve earned only ~$1000 with 2 projects. The main reason is because I was really focused on my plugin business and working for Grow Development and another contract job.
We have created a lot of solutions for various WooCommerce-based business which are also mostly focused on subscriptions. When I was not working for a client of Grow Development, I was working on the ShopPlugins.com.
Here are some of the plugins on which I have worked for Shop Plugins:
Some of the plugins are still awaiting to get their latest updates pushed and some are there waiting to be published for the first time! Stay tuned on that if you are using WooCommerce.
Chateau de Pommard
This is a new job I took. My friend Goran asked me if I could work on a project with him for a new client. I’ve started working on a headless WordPress app where I was building the REST services for the app, while he was doing all the front end work in React.
We managed to build a WooCommerce based headless app that accepted payments and also bookings. Everything was starting to look really good, but then they decided to rewrite the whole backend with .Net core.
Since I had only experience with the older ASP.Net technologies, I could not continue to work on that. But soon after I was invited to work on their website where we’ve built a custom eCommerce solution that integrated with SalesForce.
Without Freemius, I am not sure if I could run a plugin business. They really help manage all the things related to payments, so my focus is still just on the code. This year was really a good one for my plugin business, but I am also a bit scared for one of my plugins (read below).
Simple Giveaways is the best one I have and it keeps going. At the beginning of 2019 it grew up to 1000+ active installs but it stayed there for the whole year.
Since this statistic is from wp.org, 1000+ active installs could also mean 1999 installs, so I can’t be sure how much it grew as a free plugin. Another issue I did not take into account, is that the free one is deactivated when the premium is installed. So if I have the premium one installed on hundreds of sites, those would not count on wp.org.
As far as Freemius statistics are considered, there are 1,710 active sites. There were around ~1,500 deactivations and most reasons are:
- No longer needed,
- Expected something else
- Found a better alternative
- Did not understand how it works.
So I have to think hard to tackle some of those and if I would focus on the documentation I might provide a better way of retaining some of the users who do not understand it or looked for an alternative.
I wanted to take it up to 2000+ by the end of 2019, but that failed.
In 2018, the gross revenue of Simple Giveaways was $4,100. I was really happy and impressed by such revenue. The last version in 2018 was 2.16.x.
In 2019, (drumroll), the gross revenue of Simple Giveaways ended with $9,242. That’s a ~122.99% increase in revenue from 2018 (more than double). If the statistics from Croatia are to be trusted, the average yearly salary in Croatia is around $10,000-$12,000. So I was really close to hit those numbers (of course, taxes and fees do lower it a bit, but it is still close).
If I could have a similar year, I could actually hire another developer to work on it full time which could make it even better.
The last version in 2019 was 2.27.x so I did manage to work on 11 major updates and several minor. The 3.x might happen in 2020 and it could include some breaking changes (which I hope to solve with simple DB updates).
Another great thing is that Vova helped me change the payout so I get the profit right on my bank account so I can use that money for anything. Before, it would go to PayPal which can’t be used for much (although, several shops even in Croatia accept PayPal).
The Freemius team has also done an audit on the site for Simple Giveaways and I plan to implement those suggestions in 2020.
I have also hired Maddy Osman to write some of the article for Simple Giveaways to improve the SEO and also to help the users of Simple Giveaways on ideas and helpful tips for running Giveaways.
Here are some of the articles:
- Grow Your Business with Contests: Rocking Giveaway Prize Ideas
- How to Design a Successful Business Giveaway Promotion Plan
- Giveaway Promotion Ideas: Using Partnerships to Expand Your Reach
IndieHackers also invited me for an interview to discuss this product. You can read it here: https://www.indiehackers.com/interview/converting-my-wordpress-solution-into-a-500-month-side-project-ed3bc95c07.
But, something happened in July. Syed and the Awesome Motive team have launched RafflePress. Knowing how good they are at marketing, having an audience in millions and followers, I knew I will have a hard time.
From February to around August, an average of monthly revenue was about $1000. But after their launch, I saw a decrease. It does not have to mean that RafflePress is to “blame” for that, but their active installs and mine can’t even be compared. They are at about +7000 active installs (in less than 6-7 months), while I am still at +1000 (after 3 years).
I know they can market it much easier than I can, so I guess that’s one of the main reason behind such numbers.
I am a bit down because of that but I can’t stop developing and improving this plugin just because of those statistics. Let’s see what will happen in 2020 🙂
Another plan where Ben from Rafflewp.com has beat me to it was to run giveaways on my site. Ben is doing a great job there and I am happy to see that such idea is a good one.
I plan to use Simple Giveaway site to run giveaways when I can invest some money into products. The lastest one (in the time of writing this) is to win a Yearly Lite plan of Active Campaign. You can see it here.
Live Scores for SportsPress
This extension for SportsPress, is still running. It has risen up to 600+ active installs which is quite nice. I am slowly updating it since it works out of the box and there are not too much things to work on.
But with the help of a SportsPress project on Codeable, I was able to see how I could improve this one as well.
In 2019, there were only 3 major updates: 1.6.0, 1.7.0 and 1.8.0. The revenue in 2019 is $987 which is an increase of 31.25% from the last year. It is a slow increase because the premium feature is the Commentary part which not many of sites need it.
My Other Plugins
EDD Tab Manager – a complete failure in terms of active installs. Not even 10. I guess, the biggest issue here is that people using EDD are not used to have tabs.
Pets – in 2018 it was around 40-50. Now it has 100+ active installs and it people actually purchased the premium version which does not give any features, but it helps me donate more money to an animal shelter near Rijeka, Croatia. It generated $113, so this means I will buy food and resources for the shelter for $99.
Change Prices with Time for WooCommerce surprised me with the growth for another year! People are really using it and it grew up to +200 active installs. The gross revenue of this plugin is $444 which is a nice passive income.
Simple Sponsorships – this plugin has grown up to 60+ active installs which does show there is a need for such management. But it still early to say if it could grow as Simple Giveaways. In case it does grow up to 1000+ installs, I guess with Simple Giveaways, I could hire a developer to work on both of those.
Simple Cart – this is a new plugin. I thought about this plugin after working on some WooCommerce projects where the cart was done in the menu and it was hard to work with it. This cart integrates with WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads. I have some plans for simple add-ons on it. This is a plugin that anyone could benefit from so I am happy to see how it goes in 2020.
You can check my other plugins here.
The income in 2019 from my contract work and plugin business has increased by a lot from 2018 and it did go up to ~2.3x than my daily job. I am still holding my decision of keeping my daily job because it still does give me stability. Another reason is that I am now the director of my own company so the daily job will also give me some profits by the end of the financial year.
Site Growth and Teaching
2019 was a slow year for tutorials. I was focused on WooCommerce, Headless WordPress and Gutenberg.
I’ve tried to write at least 2 articles per month, so with that number, I should’ve hit around 24 articles. I have written 21 articles and that’s fine. For most tutorials, I had to first write a lot of code to test it out (and I had many failures) so more time took to write one.
Webinars are still on hold. My MacBook Pro started to heat up too much so I’ll have to test it out again if it could do some live streams in 2020.
The site traffic is slowly but steadily growing. There are some nice increases although some of them are not even noticeable.
So, there was an increase by ~40% in sessions, users and also pageviews. In my opinion, pageviews are the most important as that means people are actually opening my articles and reading them.
Unfortunately, it seems that most of the users are not too long on the articles. Since my tutorials are very specific and with code, I guess people often see the tutorial and immediately know if it’s something useful for them or not (also bounce rate is high).
Chrome and Mozilla browsers are mostly used to view my site, where Chrome is at ~60%, while Mozilla is at ~30%. US is still the country I get most visits from, following it is India. After those countries, Europe is big (UK, France, Italy, Germany and Netherlands).
Organic search is still the best as it was last year. It even has increased by ~49%. Direct visits to my site have also increased by ~29%. The traffic for social media decreased and I did expect that since I was not really using Pinterest and Facebook. Also Google+ has shut down which did bring some of the traffic to the site.
It will be interesting to see how this will change in 2020 when I have started sharing my tutorials again.
Here are some of the most visited articles on my site:
- How to Create a WordPress Custom Menu with Walker Nav Menu Class
- How to Customize WooCommerce Checkout Pages like a Hero
- How to manage Order Item Meta in WooCommerce
- WordPress File Upload with AJAX – 4 years old almost. I should probably update it with better code 🙂
- How to enable Inner Blocks in your Gutenberg Block
Memberships are still at the low $3/month because all articles are still free. The only premium part is the code examples that people can download so they don’t have to write them themselves.
Some code examples also have additional parts and with the low price point, I think it does not “hurt” the wallet of my members too much. The memberships really help me focus on more quality content and I hope I provide enough value or them to keep supporting me.
The revenue from memberships is in 2019 was $705. This is a huge increase in revenue than from 2018. In 2018 was around $200. I have decided to use such revenue to run giveaways in 2020. Since I focus on WordPress development and my audience as well, I’ll probably run giveaways for courses, book and such.
Courses are, for now, a failure for me. I do not market them enough, so I guess that’s the reason behind it. Or I don’t create courses on topics that are interesting to people who want to learn WordPress development.
I heard from others who are well-known in the WordPress community, that their courses also do not generate as much revenue as they would want. So I am not the only one facing such problems.
Digital books is something that I really like doing. Teaching people while they’re reading it, even offline, is something I love.
WooCommerce for Developers is still my main eBook that gives royalties and it earned ~$425. I plan to update it with a new chapter on Product variations.
The total revenue on Leanpub from all the books, including WooCommerce for Developers, is ~$589.
I still plan to write a Gutenberg book for developers. It will probably consist of existing tutorials with code examples and some more material.
I’ve purchased another year of Restrict content Pro which is $99/year. I’ve also renewed my subscription on poststatus.com. That’s another $99/year.
The Post Status club is really a special place to be hanging out when you have some free time. It gets me updated on several news and you can be part of some serious and interesting discussion.
I have also renewed my Fontawesome yearly subscription which is about $60/year.
As I’ve said before, I have hired Maddy Osman to write a few blog posts for Simple Giveaways. She has written several great articles and I paid $350 for each.
My Simple Sponsorships plugin is used by Pressing Matters podcast and I have sponsored an episode of theirs.
I tried to move more traffic and sales to Simple Giveaways with https://wpappstore.com/ which costs ~$300. Unfortunately, it seems that the audience of the site does not need such product.
I have acquired Sponsors for $500. Since it has 5000+ active installs, I thought this could be a nice channel to promote Simple Sponsorships as well. It does integrate really nicely if you have both installed.
Another thing I did is to buy a WP Rocket license for this site.
Another addition is the Audible. I really enjoy listening to audio books while driving or even doing some other chores where I can focus on the audio. This is costing me each month but I don’t mind it at all. I can’t recommend enough the books from https://mikemichalowicz.com/.
Other than Audible, here are also some other books I’ve purchased:
- Sell Like Crazy – how to better understand the customers and sell your products easily,
- Make – everything about launching and building a product,
- Inclusive Components – how to make accessible elements.
Still happily married ;D
Our house is still on hold so another year has passed without any progress 🙁
I have also gained weight again, but slowly started to workout and eat healthier. We even bought an exercise bike to help lose some additional weight/water. I am using it even when in front of the TV, playing some games on PS4 😀
A big thing we did this year is to travel to Spain. We rented a car and have driven to Spain for ~1300km. First day, we stayed in France and then first thing in the morning went back to driving.
We visited Pineda de Mar, a tourist town which is really great. It reminded me of the days when I was a kid where you could walk around the place 1-2 or more in the morning and feel safe.
My wife likes to listed to David Bisbal, he had a concert there so that decided the place for us. But we would like to visit Pineda de Mar again even without the concert 🙂
This trip did cost us around $2,500 (if we used our own car, it would cost us less than $2,000). But it was all worth it. Would love to get back there again.
We were also skiing from January up to late April in 2019. The last month of skiing was great because we skied in t-shirts (under the ski jacket) and after skiing went for a walk in nearby cities since the days were long.
The skiing started in December of 2019 again and we already went skiing on multiple days. So happy that we have in our budget to do that.
I have a few projects in my mind for 2020.
The previously mentioned project is Simple Cart where I intend to have add-ons and also a way to add any products to such cart even if you don’t have WooCommerce or EDD installed on your site.
In 2019, I had too many projects on my mind and it was hard to focus on all. In 2020, I plan to slow that down. I want to grow Simple Giveaways and Simple Sponsorships even more.
Another thing I would like to accomplish is to maybe have premium-only articles and create a simple course on headless WooCommerce (based on what I learned from the Headless app I worked on).
There were some failures in 2019, but nothing too big. The projects, revenue and things I learned have made me an even better developer and that is what counts.
The failures are only related to my own projects, so even if those do “hurt” a bit, they did not define the 2019 and those did not hurt my personal life and my career in any way. Failures are here to teach me and I might be starting to learn those lessons such as; test the idea first, build later 🙂Become a Sponsor