Converting My WordPress Solution into a $500/Month Side Project

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

Hi! My name is Igor Benić. My background is in maritime electronic and information technologies. I began learning to code while studying in college. I started with web design, HTML and CSS, and then moved on to PHP and MySQL. Once I discovered WordPress I immediately fell in love with it.

During my last year of college, I found a job working with Microsoft technologies such as ASP.NET and C#. I started my first two websites during this time. One was focused on teaching web development in Croatian and is no longer live. My other site, https://ibenic.com, is still up and running today. I teach skills that I myself learn while working on various projects.

Simple Giveaways is my first "serious" endeavor. It's a pretty simple product that collects email addresses and then uses an algorithm to select a winner for the giveaway, all while building up a solid subscriber list. It is used by many different industries.

Simple Giveaways homepage

Simple Giveaways is still a side business and slowly growing so the income fluctuates, but the progress is noticeable. Below are revenue growth numbers (based on analytics from the payment and licensing service I use):

Year Revenue
'16 0
'17 1840
'18 4145
'19 3401

What motivated you to get started with Simple Giveaways?

I started my blog to educate others on WordPress and web development, and I read a lot of articles on how to increase traffic, grow an audience, and the idea of giveaways. Some articles suggested products such as KingSumo Giveaways but I could not afford to purchase a $99 product at that point.

Since I was already working as a developer I thought, "Why don't I build one? It can't be that hard". That's how everything started, I guess, thanks to my financial situation back then. :)

I never imagined that this plugin could be monetized, mostly because I was building it for myself. Originally I had wanted to start a business creating and selling WordPress themes (I called it ThemeASAP) and while working on that idea, I began building plugins that would enhance these themes. Back then I named Simple Giveaways GiveASAP.

What went into building the initial product?

The initial product was quite simple. It only had a few features — a form that recorded emails and shared the giveaway. It only contained one template.

I don't remember how much time I spent building it, but because of my full-time job it was at least a month or so. I remember working on it when it was quiet at work. I mainly used HTML, PHP, and CSS, as well as the jQuery datepicker.

Once it was ready and only after I tested it myself, I was curious to see if I could make any money off of it. I created four more templates and an option to automate the giveaways so winners could be chosen automatically.

I published a premium version four months after the initial release on Codester.com.

How have you attracted users and grown Simple Giveaways?

I decided to add my plugin to the official WordPress plugin repository which is where the bulk of my traffic comes from. When a person searches for a giveaway solution, my plugin is one of the first to appear.

There are many ways to attract new users but they typically require a budget and since I didn't have one, I opted for free and low-cost options:

Facebook Ads were okay, cost-wise, because I was able to set a fixed budget even for just a day or two. I ran $5 campaigns that resulted in poor conversion rates and received only 18 clicks, but impressions were a lot higher; so (although it wasn't measurable) people learned about the product even if they didn't click through.

Warrior Forum also did not return great results but I did at least get back what I invested. I wrote a post about how and why to use the plugin and offered a 50% discount which did get me a few more sales.

Most of my traffic eventually came from word of mouth, Twitter, and the WordPress plugin repository. I've yet to create a solid marketing strategy since it has grown on its own without too much marketing.

I implemented Google Analytics recently to start tracking exactly where people are coming from. I also purchased content writing services from The Blogsmith, which will help grow traffic through SEO.

My advice is to write an article each month to improve your website’s SEO and position yourself (and your product) as an expert in your area.

Simple Giveaways Integrations

What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

I started earning money when I began using the e-commerce platform Freemius to sell my plugin. It provides data about my customers and installations. Before Freemius I tried Codester.com without any luck.

I started charging $49 for lifetime use per license. I felt like I didn't stand much of a chance back then with Kingsumo Giveaways; they were always recommended as the go-to WordPress giveaway plugin by marketers. Since their license was $99 for a lifetime, I thought charging less would give me a competitive advantage.

Today I look back and think that was a complete failure (but I had to learn that, I guess). At the end of 2017 I revised my business model. I increased the lifetime price to $89 and introduced a yearly license for $49. Somewhere near mid-2018 I increased the lifetime price again.

I was afraid to charge for yearly licenses and raise the price for lifetime access, so I ended up waiting until I improved several features and added new integrations. I created an integration page where I listed the premium and free integrations.

Premium integrations have an "upgrade" button built in which takes the customer to a pricing table. Since customers are still within their own website's admin area, they don't need to create an account or browse through the plugin website in order to upgrade.

My business model is now focused on yearly subscriptions in various tiers:

  • One website: $49 for yearly and $149 for lifetime
  • Two websites: $59 for yearly and $179 for lifetime
  • Unlimited websites - $99 for yearly and $189 for lifetime

The Freemius service allows payments to be processed through PayPal or Stripe so I don't have to think about deployment, payments (and VAT), or user management.

Simple Giveaways pricing table

Here is a breakdown of subscriptions for 2019:

  • January: 92% Annual, 8% Lifetime
  • February: 78% Annual, 22% Lifetime
  • March: 100% Annual
  • April: 83% Annual, 17% Lifetime
  • May: 72% Annual, 28% Lifetime

I think it's important to have a plan to focus on monthly and yearly revenue before launching a product. If you choose to offer lifetime plans, just remember you will always have to find new customers. Be prepared for refunds as they will happen. Establish a refund policy and a clear process for purchasing.

I've learned that you really have to be patient when starting a business. People will not know about your product or understand it unless you present it to them.

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What are your goals for the future?

I have many goals for Simple Giveaways, both business- and feature-wise.

I would like to implement a feature that allows for extra entries to be earned per subscriber. Some of those extra entries could be earned by logging in with Facebook or Twitter, commenting on a blog post, reading an article, etc.

I also want to see Simple Giveaways used on more websites. Right now the free version is at 1,000+ active installations. Since there is no way to know the exact number, I want to push it up to at least 2,000.

Freemius stats show that the premium version of the plugin is used on more than 4,000 sites, but I would like to see it at 6,000.

To get those numbers up I plan to write more SEO content for my website explaining how features can be used. I've hired a writer and I'm hoping this will increase traffic and conversions (be it free or premium).

In terms of revenue, I would like to start bringing in at least $1K per month. Once I hit $1K per month the next milestone will be $1,500 - $2K. Reaching that number would allow me to spend less time on client work and focus more on Simple Giveaways and eventually make it a full-time job.

The biggest challenge is figuring out how to handle customer support while maintaining a steady stream of new features to be released each month, all while working a full-time job to cover my bills.

I see other folks creating their own giveaway plugins for WordPress which could slow down the progress of my goals. This could also be a positive thing as the niche market is growing.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

One of the biggest challenges was gaining traction. It was really hard to hit the first 100+ active installs, but ever since I hit that number growth has been slow but steady.

It took a long time to reach the first 100 users because I did not have a dedicated site for the plugin. If I had to start over, I would definitely build the website immediately and write more content.

Another mistake was the low-cost lifetime license. If I had originally offered the yearly license at the higher price I would have a higher MRR today.

I've learned that you really have to be patient when starting a business or building a product. People will not know about your product or understand it unless you present it to them. It takes some time to build traction but once it does, it is important to continue improving regularly so that growth is maintained.

And be sure to put some thought into the name of your product. Simple Giveaways was named GiveASAP at first, which was not descriptive enough for potential users. It's possible that if my product was named Simple Giveaways from the start, I would have reached those first 100 active users much sooner.

Choose a good product name. Think catchy and descriptive. Be sure you're happy with it and don't rush it.

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Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I've always found podcast interviews with people building a product or products to be beneficial. They help me remain ambitious and remind me that I am not alone in the business-growing struggle.

Some podcasts that I find helpful are How I Built It, Matt Report, Build your SaaS, The WPMRR WordPress Podcast, and Indie Hackers.

I also like to read articles, so Indie Hackers interviews are gold. :) Freemius, the service I use to run my plugin business, has a blog with great business-related articles. They're focused on WordPress businesses, the plugin market, and plugin marketing best practices.

Freemius has also helped me with branding; they designed my logo and the cover image for Simply Giveaways.

Recently I started using Audible and am now listening to some marketing/business books. I recommend reading (or listening to) This is Marketing and Company of One. The latter is especially helpful if you are the only person working on launching a product or business.

Speaking with others in similar industries helped me immensely. I am working as a contractor for another plugin businesses and can always ask for advice, particularly around marketing and sales. The WordPress community is also really great to hear from others about their progress.

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

If you're just starting out, don't quit. That's the most important thing. Your business might take a year or even more to be something that can sustain you enough to make it a full-time gig. My product is now almost three years old and it's still a side business.

Start marketing from the start. Create a website dedicated to your product/business and targeted to your niche market. Create videos and write articles to attract the right audience.

Build your minimum viable product so you have something that customers can begin using and that can be improved with consistent feedback.

Start brainstorming business goals; write down your milestones and focus on accomplishing them.

And again, choose a good product name! Think catchy and descriptive. Be sure you're happy with it and don't rush it.

Where can we go to learn more?

Visit the Simple Giveaways website and follow us on Twitter @wpgiveaways. I just started implementing my new marketing strategy so you can follow the progress from the start. :)

If you're interested in learning more about my other projects and what I do (or teach), you can check out my blog ibenic.com and follow me on Twitter @igorbenic.

If you have any questions about Simple Giveaways or have any experience you want to share from running giveaways, let me know in the comments below! :)

Igor Benić , Founder of Simple Giveaways

Want to build your own business like Simple Giveaways?

You should join the Indie Hackers community! 🤗

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Not ready to get started on your product yet? No problem. The community is a great place to meet people, learn, and get your feet wet. Feel free to just browse!

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