Iconic

James Kemp's collection of WooCommerce plugins earn $4100/mo. Learn how he's finding customers via content marketing and store-based distribution channels.

Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?

Hello! I'm James Kemp, 29, from the UK. I've worked in web design since 2009 officially, moving between agencies and also running my own. From the beginning, I've been a keen WordPress user.

I run Iconic as a side business. It offers a number of free and premium extensions to WooCommerce (an eCommerce platform for WordPress), which are currently available on WordPress.org and CodeCanyon.net. Our customers range from store owners looking to add functionality to their own websites, to developers looking to add functionality for their clients' websites.

Iconic's plugins add important features to your WooCommerce store, such as improving your product imagery with WooThumbs and offering your customers highly flexible delivery slots.

I'm currently averaging $4,100 per month, a figure which has almost doubled year-over-year.

What turned you onto making plugins? And how'd you start selling them?

I started making plugins in around 2010 when I was working with Magento. I made a plugin called Magento WordPress Integration. It was free, and gained a huge following. So I decided to try building some premium add-ons to sell on my own website. To my excitement, the orders rolled in.

Eventually though, the UK brought in some VATMOSS laws (Value-Added Taxes for Mini One-Stop Shops), which made it cost prohibitive for me to sell on my own website. So I moved over to CodeCanyon, which handles all that for you.

What did it take to build the initial product?

As I mentioned, Iconic's key focus is WooCommerce plugins. The first WooCommerce plugin I built was WooThumbs. Back then it was known as "Multiple Images per Variation" — a bit of a tongue twister!

I'd started using WooCommerce in my day job, and I needed to create a WooCommerce plugin for a project I was working on. The plugin enabled the store owner to add multiple images for the product variations in their store. I felt this would be useful to other people too, so I released it on CodeCanyon in 2012. It started gaining traction alongside my Magento plugins, and it's currently my most popular plugin.

Over time, I expanded my collection of WooCommerce plugins. They were mainly based on the needs of my clients at the time, which allowed me to validate the idea immediately — if my clients needed it, someone else would too. If the plugin was large, I'd release it as a premium extension. This formula allowed me to put more energy into extensions that made me money. It also raised brand awareness and directed customers to the premium extensions.

At the time, all my plugins were released under my own name. In January 2015, I decided I needed a brand behind me, and fell in love with the name Iconic.

As my skills as a developer have improved, so has the quality of my plugins. I'm constantly adding new features, and always looking to refactor and improve the code they're built with.

What strategies have you used to grow your customer base?

I haven't done too much marketing.

My personal website used to rank highly for "WordPress Developer". It received a good amount of traffic, and led people to some of my plugins. On top of this, selling on CodeCanyon instantly gave me an audience; people could find my plugins on a platform they know and trust.

When I rebranded as Iconic, I set up a blog. I try to post as often as possible with useful code-based tutorials. I have also recently started video blogging. All of this allows me to give back to the community, raise brand awareness, and drive people to my website.

Listening to other people in your industry and following their work is always a good decision to make.
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Over time, as my user base grew, the traffic, sales, and awareness also grew year-on-year. As people begin to know and trust your brand, they will recommend you to others. This, I think, is a great form of marketing.

I've also paid to have my plugins reviewed on a couple of popular WordPress-based websites, but to be honest, I don't feel this was massively effective. The audience wasn't the best in terms of niche. However, I do think they were good at getting my brand out there.

If you're looking to get started in the plugin market, there are two paths I recommend: the freemium model, and selling via a marketplace. Freemium means you release the base plugin for free on the main WordPress repo. You can then sell a pro version or add-ons. The Marketplace model means you put your product in front of a huge audience immediately. If it is a good product, it'll soon gain traction. Both of these models give you an instant, targeted audience.

The Iconic website now averages ~100 unique visitors a day. These are people visiting the blog or plugin landing pages via a Google search.

How does your business model work? What's the story behind your revenue?

Iconic's main source of income is from plugin sales, and CodeCanyon allows me to upsell extended support. I also utilise the Envato affiliate system, but it's becoming rare that a user viewing one of my plugins has never been on Envato before. Since 2011, I've had 25,453 clickthroughs. 218 of those subscribed to Envato, and 181 made a deposit, earning a whopping total of $1,727.01. Still, it's better than nothing! I'm also now experimenting with YouTube advertising. I'll have to check back in regarding that!

The growth Iconic has seen since 2011 is very exciting:

Month Item Sales Earnings ($)
2011 108.00 7
2012 2647.21 300
2013 7463.93 828
2014 18500.30 1637
2015 32990.17 1494
2016 39637.32 3018
2017 10104.67 538

I chalk this up to happy customers, useful plugins, regular updates, and regular feature additions. If there's one thing I'd advise, it's to make something useful. The best way I've found to do this is to productize a need that one of your clients have.

If you don't love what you're doing, it either won't be a success, or you'll hate it.
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In terms of expenses for Iconic, I pay for the following:

  • Hosting for the website: ~$15/month
  • Customer support (currently using Influx): ~$300/month
  • Some graphic design work: as and when required
  • Ticksy for support: ~$10/month
  • Chatlio for live chat: linked into Slack; very useful sales tool too: ~$30/month

Customer support is vital to getting customer recommendations. It's something I feel Iconic still hasn't cracked 100%, but we have a rating of 4.5/5 from 458 ratings on CodeCanyon, which isn't bad!

What are your goals for the future, and how do you plan to accomplish them?

I want to keep upping sales year-on-year. To do this, I need to improve customer support times, and keep adding new features — especially those requested by existing customers — to the plugins.

I don't think I'll be adding any plugins to the collection, but rather focusing on improving the current ones and making them better and better.

I also want to keep driving traffic to the website with useful blog posts and video tutorials. Eventually, I want to be able to focus on this full time.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced?

The biggest challenge I have faced is customer support. And also delegating that task.

I'm very precious over my plugins, so putting them in the hands of someone else is a daunting task. However, it's vital for me not to be bogged down in support requests when I should be adding new features and releasing updates.

I've probably spent too much money on failed marketing attempts, and also hiring people to do the marketing for me. Perhaps I haven't found the right person.

What were your biggest advantages? Was anything particularly helpful?

One advantage for me, is that I love coding for WordPress and WooCommerce. If you don't love what you're doing, it either won't be a success, or you'll hate it, and eventually, so will your customers.

Currently, listening to podcasts about people's side hustles has been really inspiring. The new Indie Hackers podcast, of course, but also The Side Hustle School by Chris Guillebeau. Listening to other people in your industry and following their work is always a good decision to make.

Pippin Williamson has been a big inspiration for me, as he began on a similar path as me, and is now a huge success (and very humble).

What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?

I guess my advice would be to focus. Find something that works, something that gains even the slightest traction. Focus on it. Refine it. Build an audience. Never give up on yourself, or feel that you have failed. Just keep trying and putting your ideas out there until you succeed.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can keep up to date with our latest developments at Iconic, follow us on Twitter at @iconicwp, or like us on Facebook at facebook.com/iconicwp

I want to hear from you! Ask me any questions you might have in the comments below.

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