143-gordan-orlic

In this powerful interview, Gordan Orlic discusses the good, the bad, and the awful parts of being a elite CodeCanyon plugin author. You not going to want to miss this interview. Gordan uses some passionate language, so be aware, this episode is not child-friendly!

 

In our interview with Gordan, he talks about how he first got into web development, how he found WordPress, and how he became a plugin author. From there, he talks about the pros and cons of selling plugins on a large marketplace like Envato.

Gordan talks candidly about why he’s leaving the Envato marketplace after finding so much success there, and what his plans are for the future. Gordan also shares the one thing that confuses customers about purchasing Envato items.

Gordan’s interview isn’t all about bashing Envato. He actually puts them over quite strong, and mentions many advantages of starting on a marketplace like CodeCanyon or ThemeForest. He also points out some things you should know before starting a development shop on a code marketplace, and what he would do differently today.

The interview kept rolling after the record button for the podcast stopped. The bonus content was just as informative.

This was one of our most memorable WordPress interviews to date, and one you won’t want to miss.

Follow Gordan Orlic

You can find Gordan Orlic at WebFactoryLtd.com and follow him on Twitter at @webfactoryltd.

Be sure to check out his new plugin, Security Ninja on the WordPress plugin repo. Also check out his premium plugin, Google Maps Widget PRO.

Full Transcript of Episode 143

Episode 143 Transcript: Gordan Orlic

John:
Welcome to WP-Tonic episode 143, and today our guest is Gordan Orlic and he’s going to talk to us about running a successful plugin development shop. Gordan, would you like to introduce yourself and tell us all about you?

Gordan:
Hi, thank you for having me. First of all, 143, congratulations. I wasn’t aware, that’s a big number. I run a small development shop called Web Factory Ltd, we specialize in WordPress. If it’s not WordPress we don’t touch it. That’s something I learned the hard way. We mostly do White Label plugins. Sometimes we do themes, and very, very, very little custom client work. This is something that I can say today, it wasn’t so like a year ago or two years ago. As time progresses we change our focus, but WordPress, it’s always the key word for us.

John:
Definitely. I also want to introduce my co-host, Jonathan Denwood. Jonathan, tell us who you are.

Jonathan:
Yeah, thanks John. Basically I’m the founder of WP-Tonic, folks. We are a maintenance support company for WordPress. We also do custom plugins, themes for consultants, designers, or anybody that wants a quality partner. I’m ill today, aren’t I John?

John:
It sounds like you’ve got a bit of a cold, yes.

Jonathan:
I’ve got a bit of cold and I’ve had technical problems because I’m from my office, aren’t I. I’m a mess today, aren’t I John?

John:
Everybody has a day like that.

Jonathan:
Yeah, thank God for the support with John Locke.

John:
You’re too kind. Speaking of which, I am John Locke. I am the other co-host of the podcast and my business is Lockedown Design, which is also a WordPress company. I am the opposite of you, Gordan, I do mostly client work. Specifically help people with a little bit of their SEO and setting up WooCommerce.

The first thing I want to ask you, one thing that’s always intriguing to me is people’s origin story. How did you get into web development? How did you get to where you are today?

Gordan:
I started doing PHP in college. So C, C#, PHP, you touch everything. And I really liked PHP because it wasn’t such a stickler for variable types. Although now I can say that’s a bad thing, but when you’re young … so one day somebody asked me to look at something on WordPress. I’d actually never heard of WordPress until that day. I looked at it, I liked it, and for the first couple of years, I did some projects on WordPress while I was still developing some custom CMS as in PHP, because every good developer has a custom CMS.

I don’t know. As years passed, I started thinking to myself that it’s stupid to code things that others have coded, others like, 100 people took 10,000 hours to do something, why should I do it again? I mean, I’m not that smart. I’ve started using other people’s code, or WordPress, to be more precise.

John:
Excellent. You know, one thing that a lot of people don’t know is that when you first started, you were doing a lot of client work, but gradually you made the transition to doing plug-ins and selling products. How did that transition come about?

Gordan:
Well, I wouldn’t call it a finished process. It goes on in waves. For one reason, because your income goes up and down depending on how plug-ins … everything has its low and high points. When your plug-ins are not selling, you have a client, you think yourself oh, let me do this for him, it’s only going to take a few days, then it takes a few months. Again, you’re then thinking to yourself, I’m not touching any clients in the next five years, so you do plug-ins.

It’s a chicken-egg situation, because on one hand, you need time to develop plugins, which time equals money, obviously, and when you’re done developing, then shit begins. Then you actually have to sell it, which can go very wrong and it can also go very right. It’s a hit-and-miss. There’s no science to it. When you miss, well, you can stick to it, push on, or you can just throw it in the garbage and go back to client work. Now, I have been very fortunate, and have never ran the company into the ground, so we do okay, but there’s definitely months when you’re looking at the bills and thinking, if we don’t make X thousand dollars selling plug-ins, we really need to get some clients. I have never, ever advertised my client work. People always came to us, which is a good thing because you can mostly filter out the idiots. No offense to anybody.

At certain points, nobody calls you. It’s Christmas or Easter or summer or whatever. Nobody’s calling, nobody’s, you know, asking, can you do this or that? So you panic. I think that’s the problem for most people. They panic. That’s a realistic situation, you know, because you have to put food on the table, so at the end of the month, if you don’t have X dollars, you can’t put food on the table, so you have to do something. That’s the point when you make bad decisions. Rash decisions. To anybody who’s trying to transition, I would just say stick with it. Take some risks, and out of five plug-ins you made, three will probably suck, but those two, they will get you some real money. Then you can ditch a few clients. When I say ditch, just don’t burn all the bridges, and I know I do have a will to do that sometimes, because people annoy me. Just don’t burn every freaking bridge. Leave some standing, because in the end, you’re going to need those clients again. Let’s say it’s not polite to tell everybody to …

Jonathan:
Funny enough, I know a really reliable third-party WordPress maintenance company that you can send them to.

John:
Yeah, most definitely. [Look at] the title of the podcast. You know, and that’s something you mentioned, too. It’s tough when you’re trying to make that transition from clients to products. Revenue is an issue, but one thing that a lot of people have told me is when you focus your attention on one sub-set of customers, when you niche down, that seems to help both when you’re doing client work and developing products. What is your experience with that?

Gordan:
Absolutely. It’s the only way to go. Again, a very, very scary situation because you’re thinking to yourself, oh my god, my niche is only 50,000 people or 100. It doesn’t really matter. You’re thinking to yourself, well, maybe if I broaden out just a bit to a million, I’ll do better. No, you won’t. You want the smallest subset of customers that you can actually get, but I do understand that when your income is zero and you have zero customers, it’s very scary to think about this little group. You want to go as wide as possible.

That is not good. You should stick to one thing. Give it some time, and by time, I don’t mean five days. It can be three or six months or a year. You really should stick to it. When you stick to it, people from the niche will start to see you as the expert or authority, call it whatever you want. You’re going to get better jobs. You can price your plug-ins higher, but you have to stick to it. If you do everything, then you basically don’t do nothing. I have to point out that saying I do WordPress, you’re not specializing in anything.

I mean, it powers a quarter of the whole web, so how is that a niche? It’s really not. It may have been five years ago, but today, saying that you’re specialized would be something like, I only do WooCommerce, although that is also quite a huge market. I only do Easy Digital Downloads, or – I don’t know – I only fix buttons on a website. That’s called being specialized, and again, it’s scary, but the only way to go.

John:
Yeah, it’s very counter-intuitive. When you focus tighter, it seems to bring you more business instead of less. One thing, now that you’re developing plug-ins and you’re quite successful with that, how do you position plug-ins to where customers are going to know that they’re going to get ROI on what they’re spending? What’s the whole science behind that?

Gordan:
Well, when it comes to white labeled plug-ins, so plug-ins that others are going to sell, obviously if not only, one of the only goals that they have is to make money or to sell those plug-ins. The reason why people go the white label route instead of building something from scratch is they want to do it today, so from the point when you order a white-labeled plug-in to when you are ready to sell it, it’s maybe two weeks. The moment you order it, you can actually have a look at it and see how it works, while if you do something custom, it may take months for you just to verify the concept and see if the developer is capable of delivering what you want, if you’re on the same page.

Just having something that’s already done and functions is light-years ahead of having an idea, because having an idea … just fuck your idea. Ideas are a dime a dozen. You can really have a hundred of those and not do anything, but that one idea, you execute it, maybe it’s shitty but you execute it, you’re going to do something. When it comes to white-label plug-ins, people see it, they see that it works, and they make usually some small adjustments either to the way they market it or just really, really small adjustments in total in order to accustom to their customers. To adjust to their customers. It doesn’t necessarily meant that the plug-in is a perfect fit, or a perfect embodiment of the idea that they had, but they realize that it’s better to have this semi-thing that works than to have nothing that needs six months or a year to develop.

It basically comes down to marketing, something that I don’t like and usually don’t do. That’s why I make less money than I could. People that we sell to, they are very, very good at marketing, so they are able to take something that’s perhaps not positioned perfectly initially and turn it into something that’s really good, although technically in the core, it’s absolutely the same thing. Really, I have to stress out one more time, having something that works today is much better than having 55 perfect ideas that will work later down the road, if ever.

John:
Absolutely. You know, here’s another thing. As a plug-in developer, you started on the Envato marketplace, but now you’re moving away and starting to launch plug-ins on your own, away from that. Google Maps Widget Pro, I think, is the first of that if I’m not mistaken. What is the Envato market like? What are the pros and cons of being on CodeCanyon versus trying to launch your own site?

Gordan:
Okay, that’s an episode of its own. We can talk five days about that. Now, before I start shitting on Envato, I’m going to point out that I wrote an article on Envato’s official blog about five years ago. It was titled something like “Why is it good to give Envato 30 percent.” I stand behind that article today as I did five years ago, one hundred percent. Giving them 30 percent for the job they are mostly doing is cheap. Especially five years ago when they were doing a lot more than they are today, giving 30 percent was cheap.

People think that they can process a payment for 0 percent. That’s just, that’s not true. That’s simply not true. Okay. When we started on Envato, I put a little PHP script on there, I think it was the CSS switcher or something like that. Basically enables you to click a link and it switches to CSS in the whole site. It was five bucks or something like that. We sold a couple of hundred in the first month, so I really didn’t think we were going to sell five, let alone a hundred. I saw huge potential in that. The potential comes from traffic, something that Envato had and still has.

You can argue the quality of the traffic, people coming from states you don’t want them to come, blah blah. It’s millions of people, and in this case, quantity counts, because that one percent that converts, it matters if it’s one percent from ten million or one percent from a hundred. The traffic is goal here. It’s the main thing on CodeCanyon and ThemeForest. Obviously, ThemeForest has a lot more traffic, but CodeCanyon still has a lot. Envato offers a lot. It offers, first of all, something that people don’t appreciate. They offer to review your plug-in. What people usually perceive is some idiot telling them that the plug-in sucks. That’s not true. The idiot that’s reviewing your plug-in for free, and it’s really for free, zero dollars, is somebody who looked at thousand plug-ins, and if he says that it sucks, that really means it sucks.

Being hard-rejected on CodeCanyon, that’s a favor for you. You didn’t have to pay 500 bucks for somebody to review your plug-in. I’m not just talking about the code. They’ll also look at the concept and tell you, we already have 17 plug-ins that do the same thing. We’re not going to sell that. So he really saved you some time and money, and you’re getting the service for free. It’s the same service for people who started yesterday, it’s the same service for me, and I’m an elite author, so they know me. The same people do the reviews. So there’s your first zero dollars and you’re getting something. I would say about 500 bucks’ worth of services.

Now, the moment you put your plug-in up … it goes on the marketplace and people see it. Now, you may be thinking, well, how many people can see it? It doesn’t really make a difference. A lot more than if you posted it on your shitty Facebook page. A lot more. Now, besides the people that are actually on CodeCanyon and searching for something, they will eventually find your plug-in. There’s also a whole plethora of sites, I would say too many sites, that aggregate the CodeCanyon’s RSS Feed. They mark the links as an affiliate one. They earn their commission, but they are pushing your product. Again, you may be thinking, well, I’m going to get my affiliate. Your friends are not going to be able to push the plug-in in the same way these people are.

Unless, you know, you really have Bill Gates as your friend, but even then, that’s not going to happen. We are already saving a lot of money, because we’re not paying Envato a dime in advance. They’re only taking percentage, so if we are losing money or earning zero, they are earning zero, regardless of the percentage here, whether it’s 50 percent or 30 percent down the road. If you’re making zero, they’re making zero. Okay. Then there’s payments. That’s very complicated. You may be thinking, what, I take five bucks, I give them the license and we’re done. No, we’re not done. There’s their [consolations], refunds, chargebacks, banks calling, credit card companies calling, everybody’s calling. You’re spending three days a month just dealing with things that you really don’t understand, and that can cost you a lot of money because chargebacks can range from 20 to 50 dollars.

In your case, Envato is taking care of most of those things. Worst case scenario, you will lose a sale that you’ve already made, but you’re not going to be bothered with some people e-mailing you, was this a fraudulent transaction? Who are you? Do you live in a state where you can or can’t do this? Is the person from a country that has an embargo of trading with your country? I don’t know. I don’t know who that person is. Envato does. They deal with that. Again, something that happens behind the scenes, they do it, and that’s why they get a certain percentage. The whole user interface that enables you to upload files and screenshots and the description, and you have your little last update date, and everything, again, you’re getting a service for free. If you’re not making money, they’re not making money.

You may be thinking that you can get a site up and running that has everything that I just described for zero dollars. You cannot, do not kid yourself. If you go down the WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads way, you’re going to need a couple of add-ons. Those add-ons are not free. After a few add-ons, you’ll already be spending a few hundred dollars per year for licenses. Maybe you’re selling zero, so now you’re not making any money, you’re actually using because you paid for licenses. So Envato as a marketplace is a service that definitely has a place. It’s good in many ways, but from the get-go they made some mistakes-

Jonathan:

That’s great, but before we go into the mistakes, let’s have our commercial break, shall we, John? And then come back and find out about the terrible mistakes. What do you say?

John:
Yeah, let’s do it. I mean, this interview’s on fire, but we’ll be back after the break. … We’re coming back from our break, and we’re talking with Gordan Orlich of Web Factory Limited, and he’s a successful plug-in developer. He’s making the transition from Envato, and moving some of those onto his own site. We’re talking about Envato, just picking up where you were at.

Gordan:
So the mistakes. Things are really moving forward at a huge pace. What’s today is not tomorrow. I mean, you have a new version of WordPress every three months, so you have to re-check your plug-ins, adjust. You can’t be standing in the same place. You may be thinking that if you have a huge company, you have 100 employees, you’re paying them, well, sit down and code some stuff, make those changes. But the problem is, the bigger you are, the bigger elephant you are, and the inertia has you, and you’re moving forward on a certain track. It’s very difficult to go left or right. I believe personally that that’s what hit Envato.

The decisions they made five years ago look very, very bad today. Although five years ago, they were good decisions, so obviously, let’s change those. You can’t, or you can, but it will take a lot of time and a lot of money. The flagship mistake that was made years, years, years ago was to charge plug-ins and teams the same thing for a one-time fee that mostly implies that you are getting a lifetime of support and lifetime of updates. I know that today that sounds really ridiculous, and who would be stupid enough to even say something like that unless you’re dumping prices of your products. But five years ago, the marketplace for plug-ins was barely getting started. The plug-ins costed like five dollars, nine dollars. You didn’t have plug-ins that cost $199 like today.

The market evolved. So no, Envato had to do the same, but it didn’t. What we have at the moment is, they managed to push out the change that says when you purchase a plug-in, you get a lifetime of updates, but support is paid yearly, so you have to renew. That was a huge step for them, but for most people like myself, it wasn’t enough because it doesn’t really matter how much you charge the plug-in for initially unless it’s a few thousand dollars. You can’t provide somebody updates for the rest of their life because that’s just not feasible. You can’t put food on the table based on that. You need recurring, continuous income in order to invest that time and money into those plug-ins just to keep them on the same level.

I’m not talking about building new things. I’m talking about checking if they work with the latest version of WordPress, if everything’s compatible. If they work with the latest version of Chrome or whatever. That takes time. If you want to add new features, that obviously takes even more time. Somebody has to pay for that. At the beginning, you have a lot of new customers, those who, let’s say, pay one-time fee. You’re thinking to yourself, well, all of this money is coming in, there’s not going to be a problem. There is going to be a problem, because in a year, the very feature that you’re selling is going to be a part of purpose core, let’s say, and all of the sudden, your plug-in is obsolete and nobody’s buying your plug-in anymore, while you still need to update it because you told people, give me five bucks and I’m going to keep it alive for 50 years.

It just doesn’t work like that. I’m not blaming Envato. Five years ago, it wasn’t so evident as it is now. Now, could they be implementing changes on a … let’s say, faster? Just fucking do it faster. They could. In my opinion, they’re just investing resources into things that don’t benefit authors. For instance, they moved their company to the States. Now, I really don’t care where their company is incorporated. United Kingdom, States, Australia. I really don’t care. However, I do care now because of the taxes in the States that are, politely said, complicated, and even more complicated if you don’t live in the States. All of the sudden, I have a new problem on my hands, and Envato says, oh, we invested, I don’t know, 10,000 man hours into this switch. I don’t care.

First of all, it’s dull as hell. Second, I don’t give a flying fuck. And third, you obviously did it to pocket some more money, or because you’re planning some things ahead. Again, I really don’t care. The same reason why they didn’t do some other change is because they lack resources to do everything. Nobody has resources to do everything. You need to prioritize. You can’t have 76 open projects at the same time, that’s just not realistic. They focus on certain things. Until, I would say, a year and a half ago, they didn’t have a responsive version of the front page. I really can’t comment on that. How difficult can it be to add 50 or 100 lines of CSS? But when you have a huge system like they do, it’s obviously not a five-minute job.

But again, I feel you’re not prioritizing properly, because you invested all of this time to move to the States, and you didn’t have, I don’t know, 50 or 100 hours to do 100 lines of CSS. We don’t really see eye-to-eye. I mean, that’s okay. Another big issue from the get-go was support. Even today, it’s not uncommon to wait ten days to get a response. Doesn’t really matter how complicated your ticket is. If you wait a week, that’s normal. Anything below a week, bravo, I say. The thing is, they have a huge support team, but just by hiring somebody to do support, you didn’t really do much. You have to hire the right people at the right time who have the right knowledge and the right training in order to be able to streamline the process so that I get the same response as you would if we asked the same question.

Five years have passed, and they just didn’t fix that problem. Whatever they did, they’ve changed the support ticketing system back end like, five times. Technology aside, I really don’t think that your back end is to be blamed because I had to wait a week to get a response. From the get-go, support, really not great. I can assume they get a truckload of tickets every day, because they have a lot of customers. I have never sent a ticket as a customer. I always have something as an author. I do feel that people send tickets for things like, “oh my god, my computer is on fire.” “Oh my god, I can’t turn on Photoshop.” I do believe they get those questions, so the volume is really high, but I don’t know, deal with it. That’s why you’re taking the thirty percent.

All in all, getting back to my first sentence, read my article on the official blog. I truly stand behind those words that it’s not a lot to give them thirty percent, especially now that you can set your custom prices, that you can set your custom license, I mean, the normal license and the extended license. Another thing I really do have to touch on … for five years, we’ve asked them, please, add some kind of a discount for people who are buying more than one license, because people buy my plug-ins, one license for each client’s site they make, and I thank them, that’s great. But I feel that if you bought fifty licenses, you should get some kind of a volume discount. I continuously get e-mails from agencies asking me, is the extended license an unlimited sites license? Then I have to say no, it is not, it has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re asking. Why is it then called extended? I don’t know. I didn’t name it.

The extended license is used to incorporate a smaller Envato item into larger Envato items that you’re going to sell on the marketplace. It’s not an end-user license. It’s license for authors on Envato. Now, I understand that to a certain degree, but my clients don’t, and I really don’t expect them to. They just want to buy ten licenses and get, I don’t know, 20 percent off. I can’t give them that. I don’t have any discount coupons. I can’t change the price just for them. I could now change the price for like, five minutes, and tell them, please, please, please hurry, buy now, it’s cheaper, then I’m going to send the price up again. That’s just not realistic. For years, there has been absolutely no positive movement on this. For many authors, what has happened, I’m not encouraging this, but it’s life, people buy one license and use it on 55 sites.

Now, you could enforce one license key per site usage, and then block people off or send them e-mails telling them please buy another license, blah blah blah. You didn’t solve the problem. The problem was that the licensing structure is too rigid, and apart from being rigid, it’s just … others have those licenses, so people are accustomed to buying five licenses for the price of one or two or whatever. Every other marketplace has that. Why don’t you? It’s like simple math. You multiply the number by something and there’s your new price, it’s priced for five sites. I don’t know if they’re ever going to do that. They obviously have some explanations of how complicated that is or why they can’t do it, blah blah blah, their lawyer says that they can’t. I don’t care. I’m paying my 30 percent, and I want my multi-site licenses. Yeah. Rant over.

Jonathan:
That was well-put, actually. We interviewed Pippin Williamson a while ago, we’re going to have to have him back, he’s a friend of the show . He started on Code Canyon, and then for all of the reasons you just said, I think it’s a great place to start because they review the plug-in, their marketing. But at some stage Pippin said that he decided that he wanted to build a brand –

Gordan:
He was the first to leave, yeah. He was one of the first people to leave, yeah.

Jonathan:

Which is understandable. I would say if you just want to be a small plug-in development shop, I would stay with a marketplace, but if your long-term goal is to build an actual business that has branding value, at some stage you could grow or you could sell, in the end, you’ve got to bite the bullet, but branding a business online is a very difficult proposition. Which is still very difficult, building a commercial plug-in. It’s a total different animal. You’re starting now to build actual brands. What led you? Was it just for the reasons you mentioned, you got fed up with CodeCanyon and their marketplace, or was it also you thought it was time now that you actually try to build a branded business? Was it a bit of both?

Gordan:
No, it’s simple. It’s trivial. Income started to fall. It’s always about money, you know? The amount of resources we were investing X years ago can’t be compared to the amount of resources we should be investing now to get the same amount of money. It was no longer feasible, and … bye-bye. No hard feelings, but it is what it is. I feel that we had a good start, we boarded that train while it was still on the platform. Boarding the Envato train now means that you’re jumping on it while it’s moving 200 miles per hour. You can’t just go on Envato now and put on a great team or plug-in and expect it to do great, because there are people there that are not a one-man shop. They have ten employees, and they sell on Envato. It might seem like it’s one guy in mom’s basement, but it’s really, really not, and when you come as that one guy, which you could have done five years ago, today you’re just going to be crushed.

Now, I’m not saying that 1 in 1,000 plug-ins can do really great, but for most, you’re going to have, like, a hundred sales a year or something like that. It’s not sustainable income. The thing is, I’ve seen numbers for a lot of authors. I know what kind of dollar income we’re talking about. Unless you really have an established account and you know what you’re doing on Envato, it will be really difficult to board that train at this moment. Another fact to go behind that whole premise of mine. We’re now at a point where you can buy Envato profiles on Flippa. It has come to that. You can buy an Envato profile that earns, I don’t know, 5,000 a month for 50,000. A few years ago, nobody has done that, because the marketplace has to evolve to a certain point where you have this whole ecosystem that does things like that.

Now, you can go on Flippa and you can buy yourself a whole profile, I don’t know, 5 teams, 10 teams, 5 plug-ins, and if you think that you can manage it better than the previous owner, great. It’s the same as buying a bakery. If you can manage it, if you can put plug-ins out there, you’re going to make some money. For anybody who’s starting out, I would say go down that route so you’re not starting from scratch.

Jonathan:
Or would you advise, which I’ve seen also, would you advise maybe to look at a popular plug-in that has micro plug-in marketplace itself, like WooCommerce, because we’ve had some guests who’ve been highly successful who have built what I call micro plug-ins that work with Gravity Forms, or they work with WooCommerce, and they sell through a marketplace that’s run by a larger plug-in offer.

Gordan:
Okay. This is the same problem slash not-problem. When you’re hitching a ride in somebody’s car, it’s free, and it’s great, you can take a nap, but it’s that person’s car, and if he says, we’re making a pit stop for five hours, we’re making a pit stop for five fucking hours because you’re not paying anything, it’s my car. So it’s great to hedge behind WordPress, Gravity Forms, Easy Digital Downloads, or WooCommerce. They give you that push, that instant push that you can’t really pay for if you’re doing something on your own. But please be aware, it’s their car and their ride, so if they say, your plug-in sucks, we’re just kind of cutting it off, or we are including your plug-in’s features in the next release, tough luck. As anything in life, you know, you’ve got to throw the dice and try it out.

Jonathan:
I think that was very succinctly-put, actually. I think we’ve got to go finish the actual podcast, what do you say, John, and we’ll talk up, we’re going to the bonus content and we’re going to talk about Gordan’s security plug-in, what the features are, what he’s up to with that particular plug-in. What do you say, John?

John:
Yeah, definitely, let’s do that. You’ll be able to find that bonus content, you can find the bonus content for all of our episodes on the WP-Tonic website. Be sure to find the corresponding episode, number 143. One thing I want to remind people, too, is if you’re getting value from this podcast, be sure to go to iTunes, give it a review, give it a detailed review of what you’re enjoying about the show, because that helps surface this podcast so other people can find it, and with that –

Jonathan:
Oh, wait, before we go, John, I’d just like to thank the listeners. Thank you for your support. As I was looking at the numbers, our growth has been quite spectacular recently, hasn’t it, John?

John:
Been pretty good, yeah.

Jonathan:
We seem to be on a roll, don’t we, John? I was looking that up this morning, I was a bit gobsmacked about the amount of people that are listening to this show recently.

John:
Yeah, yeah, we got a little bit of momentum, so thank you to all of our listeners. We really do appreciate it. We thank all of you. Definitely. Gordan, how did we find you? Website details?

Gordan:
Well, you can visit WebFactoryLtd.com. There’s going to be some links in the box below?

Jonathan:
Oh, yes, we’re going to put the link –

John:
Oh, yeah –

Jonathan:
We’re just asking you if people want to find out more about you, Gordan –

Gordan:
About me? Oh, I’m not that –

Jonathan:
Oh, you’re very interesting, Gordan, so what’s the best way if somebody wants to contact you? By e-mail or Twitter?

Gordan:
Twitter would be best because I get too many e-mails, and unfortunately there have been incidents where I overlooked them. Twitter would be best.

Jonathan:
So what’s your Twitter handle, Gordan?

Gordan:
@Web Factory L-T-D.

Jonathan:
That’s the best way to get a hold of him. And the best way to get a hold of me, folks, is I do check my e-mail. I do have a problem similar to Gordan, but I will try to catch all the ones with relevant questions or outreach. I actually met Gordan because he did some outreach, so if you e-mail me at [email protected], I will get back to you in probably a couple of days, or a quicker way is my Twitter handle, which is at @JonathanDenwood. I normally check that every day, and I normally respond if it’s a direct message or a public message, too. How can people get a hold of you, John?

John:
Well, you can find me at my website, which is LockedownDesign.com, you can follow me on Twitter, it’s @Lockedown_. You can get on my Facebook page, which is just Facebook.com/LockedownDesign.

Jonathan:
For people who really want to join us for the Saturday show that’s coming, isn’t it, John, because we’re going to be talking about that always popular subject, WordPress hosting, aren’t we, John? I think we’ve got some great guests, and I think it’s going to be a little bit different [show] about WordPress hosting, isn’t it, John?

John:
Definitely. We’re going to look at high-end WordPress hosting this Saturday, and that’s going to be in episode 144. We’re going to have Bryan Lee Jackson from Kinsta.com, and then we’re going to have AJ Morris from Liquid Web, so be sure to check that out.

Jonathan:
That’s great. We’ll see you next time on WP-Tonic, what do you say, John?

John:
Get your dose.

Jonathan:
Get your dose. See you later, boys.

John:
Bye. All right, bonus content time.

Jonathan:
Bonus content time. Gordan, tell us about your security plug-in, what your plans are for, and you’re up against some stiff competition with iThemes and a couple of other well-established plug-ins, so why, what do you think you offer, and what are your plans for the security plug-in?

Gordan:
Okay, so we offer more by offering less. Our plug-in does not have 76 buttons and a 5 megabyte PDF manual. It also doesn’t do anything on your site, so –

Jonathan:
How disappointing, Gordan. No 5 megabyte PDF manual? I’m disappointed, Gordan.

Gordan:
It started as a report-only tool. You have one button, you click the button and it performs about forty-something tests on your site. Each test is color-coded. It tells you what you did good, what you did wrong. It gives you a simple way of fixing that, but I do stress out, it does not touch your site in any way, shape, or form. Now, for those of you thinking about why the hell would I give money for something that doesn’t fix a problem, I personally don’t like plug-ins that mess up my site. No. They have those fix-it-all buttons, you hit one button, they do it all.

I don’t know what they did. I don’t trust you, so I made it all for myself that obviously other people like as well. We report what we think is wrong, you can review it, you can even think we’re stupid, not a problem. You can fix those things that you feel should be fixed. Now, that’s the core of Security Ninja

Jonathan:
I love it, Gordan, because I’ve tried it, I’ve been a bit ill and I’ve been a bit rushed, but what I love about it is they can hire any quality WordPress service company to sort out the problems, aren’t they, Gordan?

Gordan:
Yeah, and to implement those changes by people who know what they’re doing.

Jonathan:
Yes, that would be useful, wouldn’t it? Don’t want to take down your website there, do you?

Gordan:
The core of Security Ninja is free, and it’s available on the WordPress repository, just Google “Security Ninja”. Now, the add-ons that you have to pay for provide some additional features. For instance, the core scanner. Again, one button. You click the button, and we compare all of your core files with the master repository from WordPress. If even one file is changed by one byte, we tell you this file has been changed. Maybe you changed it. Maybe somebody else did, I don’t know, but we tell you that this file has been modified, and it’s up to you to look at it, restore it, delete it, or do whatever you want.

The next module is the events logger. Again, something I did for myself, because clients often call me and say, “It died. I didn’t touch it.” For years, I would say, “I know, it’s technology”, but now I say, [flips off camera], “you did touch it, because the event logger says you were in there and you clicked 7 times on the delete button”, so then people shut up and –

Jonathan:
They sound like clients, they actually log into their own websites –

Gordan:
And delete things, and then expect me to undo it.

Jonathan:
It’s shocking, isn’t it, Gordan? I think it’s terrible myself, but I rely on their mistakes. I’m sorry.

Gordan:
If you have people that deny clicking the delete button, you need the events logger, because you’re going to see what they did and when they did it, and then you can bill them for an hour it took you to un-delete that. Then we have the monitor scanner. It goes through all of your themes and plugins and searches for certain code patterns. Now, as the plugin says, there are a lot of false positive by doing those scans. Just because we highlight a certain part of a file, it does not mean that it’s malicious or bad or that you should delete it. It’s just something that you should look into, and that concept follows the concept of the whole Security Ninja thing, is that you should use your brain or hire somebody else who has a brain, and not just click on buttons that do things and then you get a white screen.

Last module is the schedule scanner. It performs everything on its own every few days and sends you an e-mail if things go south. For many people, this is not for them. For many people, you don’t use Security Ninja if you just started with WordPress unless you are a bit curious. You should use some other plugin or hire people to fix your site. But for those who want to understand how things work, and you don’t want to look under the skin, and want to learn something and perhaps even break the site and then restore it again, look into Security Ninja, have a look at the forty tests we have. I don’t know. Have a look at all of the bad passwords you have been using, because we do have a brute force simulator in there.

We check for about 500 most frequently used passwords, and you wouldn’t believe how many people have “12345” or such low-quality passwords. We scan all of your profiles, all of your accounts, and if you have other people on that WordPress installation, you can tell them, you know, change your bloody password, you’re going to get us hacked. It’s not for everybody, but it is for some people.

Jonathan:
Gordan was really kind enough to give me a discount code, I haven’t taken it up yet, but I hope to try it out on a couple of my own sites. It does really sound fantastic, actually, and hopefully I’m going to find the time to do the write-up on it, but I’ve got to try it out first. Which I do plan to do. You explained it really well, Gordan, and I now understand it’s really got its own niche, really, hasn’t it?

Gordan:
Yeah. It does, and again, I did this for myself. Now, for people thinking, why didn’t you ever do a button that says, fix everything, and you click it and it fixes everything? Because there is no such button. It will fix things on certain sites, and it will completely break other sites. I just didn’t want to do that. I wanted a button that really works, and not something that works sometimes. I feel that other security plug-ins that are not my competition, they are so bloated that even people like me, I do understand a few things. When I go into their admin panels, I need that PDF. There’s a reason it exists, because there’s so many options, and so many things to click and so many people to ban and there’s a lot of things going on. I feel that people who just started out don’t necessarily have the background to distinguish what an IP address is or what a DNS record is, or what’s a whitelist approach or a blacklist approach.

They don’t know all of those technical terms, and it’s implied that they should if they want to use those complicated plug-ins. And in the end, you know, they mess a few things up, that’s a learning curve, they have to undo it. I wanted to do something different and I did, and I think that people are enjoying it. The plug-in was actually a premium one on Code Canyon, then we took it off and put it as a free one on the repository. You can also do that for people who are thinking, you know, what can I do with my plug-ins from Code Canyon? You know, how can I get more customers? Well, put it on the repository.

If you have good keywords, if people are searching for those kind of plug-ins, you’ll get new customers, really not a problem. Again, you are driving in your friend’s car, and when the friend says we’re making a pit stop, or in this case, the friend says, your plug-in is not good for the repo, bye-bye. There’s nothing you can do.

Jonathan:
But Gordan, I’m English, so we’re very polite, and we would never stop for five hours without asking the permission of our free-paying hitchhiker. We’d probably go out of our way to fit into their needs. But, you know, we are English. I don’t know if Americans would do that. What do you reckon, John?

John:
No, Americans are rude. We just do whatever we want.

Jonathan:
We’re stopping for five hours. So, to finish off, you said … all of it’s been fantastically interesting, but I thought there was one key thing you said near the end, that it was just about money, that Code Canyon, you felt, were going in the wrong direction, that the financial figures were showing you that. What are some of the key things … was it all the things that you listed in the second half of our recorded podcast for iTunes, was it the things that they’re doing, or is it just the level of competition on the marketplace that’s making it more and more expensive for you to get the same return?

Gordan:
Well, it’s a snowball effect. They make one little change and you say, nah, doesn’t matter. Then they make another small little change, nah, doesn’t matter. But after a fifth small little change, it’s no longer one little small change. It’s a problem. Things accumulated over time. Basically, the revenue went down and the amount of time that they expected us to invest was going up. I just really didn’t see a way to get back on track as we were a few years ago. For instance … if somebody did a fraudulent transaction on Envato and bought our plug-in with a stolen credit card, till a few years ago, Envato ate those costs.

We would still get the money and they would refund the bank. All of a sudden, they decided they can’t handle those costs anymore, and that the authors should pay for the refunded purchase. Now, I don’t think that’s unfair, but it’s a change that takes money out of my pocket, because it’s a refund that I can’t control. Another thing, they were handling all of the legitimate refunds until about six months ago. Now we have to handle that. For everybody thinking, why are you being such a stickler, it’s like you click refund, don’t refund, cancel, deny, abort, whatever, well, yeah. But if you’re making a couple, tens of sales per day, it’s no longer one button. It’s one e-mail per day. You have to reply, you have to be polite, you have to see what the customer wants. You maybe want to persuade them not to take a refund. Fifteen minutes a day at the end of the month, who’s paying for that? Me, obviously. All of those little things were adding up.

Plus the amount of items on the marketplace is getting unruly. I really don’t care what the actual number is. It’s just when you search for something, you get hundreds and hundreds of plugins. Now, if your plugin has a track record that’s good and people have rated it and bought it and it’s good, you are “on-top-ish,” you know, but still, you can’t always guarantee to be on top, so you get lost in that huge number. When you launch something new, then your plugin is as shitty as everything else. Zero sales, zero reviews, so when somebody searches for it, you’re on the fifth page basically, like you don’t exist. They said a few times that they will be removing items that haven’t been updated in x years, months, whatever, but they never actually did that.

On one hand, okay, because some items just don’t need to be updated as frequently as others, but on the other hand, there’s really a ton of shitty items out there that should be removed because it’s just fluff. It just serves the purpose of you being able to say, we have seven million plugins on the marketplace. Yeah, but of those seven million, five million suck. They should really clean up a bit and remove … I’m not getting into percentages. I’m not saying they should remove fifty percent or five percent or whatever. They should just do some house cleaning and housekeeping, and then their plug-ins would be able to surface in search again, and you would be able to sell more.

Another thing that happened as the marketplace evolved. In the beginning, I thought, and many others, that the 30 percent we were paying was enough of a marketing fee or investment for our plug-ins. These days, people invest thousands of dollars outside of Envato in order to promote things on Envato. You know, you have to follow the game, make the switch, invest some money. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to promote my friend’s car. One of the main reasons is that, and I’m going to put this in a five-word sentence, but people still will not be able to understand it. When a person purchases an item on Envato, they are not your customers. They are Envato’s customers.

The implication of that, there are many implications, but the number one implication of that is that you do not have the right nor the technical means to contact the customers. Specifically for me, that means that I do not have a mailing list of 30,000 people that purchased something at some point and would probably want to purchase more. I do not have that list. No. I fucked myself with help from Envato, that’s on me. It’s important to understand that investing in marketing is basically investing in Envato. Not in your items. It’s the same thing as people who earn money from referrals on Envato. They only give you money on the first purchase. When you get them a new customer and he buys a five-dollar plug-in, you get thirty percent of that, a dollar and a half, but if tomorrow, he purchases a theme that’s worth $199, you get zero.

Jonathan:
Oh, dear.

Gordan:
Their referral program hasn’t moved from that terrible concept from the get-go. Why?

Jonathan:
It’s not too terrible for them, isn’t it, Gordan?

Gordan:
They’re doing great. Why would they …

Jonathan:
Why would they change? I think, Gordan, we’re going to come to the end of our bonus content, but in the new year, we’re going to have to have you back, because it’s been a fascinating discussion, folks, and I think we’re going to have Gordan back in the new year sometime. What do you say, John?

John:
Definitely. I think this has been one of the best episodes I think we’ve had.

Jonathan:
We’re going to finish our bonus content, so join us for the Saturday show and for the bonus content. We’ll see you next week. What do you say, John?

John:
I say, peace out.

Gordan:
Have a good one, guys. Bye.

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