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WordPress Developers – How Do You Make A Living [Poll + Discussion]?


Posted by Artem Russakovskii on January 18th, 2010 in Wordpress

Updated: May 3rd, 2010

The Question

I'd like to pose this question to all WordPress developers – plugin, theme, as well as core ones:

How do you make your living?

And, for clarification, by this I mean: "what are your primary sources of income?"

Open Source

Open source is a beautiful concept but it often comes with a price tag or, rather, the inverse price tag: most of the time you are not being paid for your time (of course, there are exceptions, such as companies hiring dedicated open source developers and keeping them on their direct payroll).

Everyone has to make a living, however, and everyone has their ways.

Developers can benefit from such income sources as:

  • advertising on their sites, fueled by boosted Alexa and Google PR ratings
  • freelancing and consulting work directly related to their open source project
  • presenting at developer conferences
  • creating products based on the open source projects they're involved with, as the technologies should be very familiar to them

WordPress

Since I've always been interested in WordPress development, I feel connected to the WordPress community and would like to get some insight into the lives of WordPress developers.

Therefore, in addition to the main question, I have some follow-up questions:

  • does Automattic pay WordPress core developers salary?
  • are there many WordPress core developers working for Automattic full time, besides Matt?
  • how about you, plugin and theme developers – are any of you successful enough that you can make a living off your plugins or themes?
  • what are your secrets?

So in your responses, please state whether you're a core or plugin/theme developer, and answer the questions above that you can.

Of course, it goes without saying that any extra bits of advice would be welcomed as well.

What is your primary source of income?

View Results

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Update: this post is now sponsored by Wirefly Learn, where you can find a ton of cell phone tutorials, comparisons, and videos.

● ● ●

Artem Russakovskii is a San Francisco programmer, blogger, and future millionaire (that last part is in the works). Follow Artem on Twitter (@ArtemR) or subscribe to the RSS feed.

In the meantime, if you found this article useful, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee below.



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  • http://www.webmaster-source.com redwall_hp

    I'm currently finishing high school, so I don't have a full time job yet. I make most of my money from advertising, and the occasional donation from my plugins. (The donations have pretty much stopped since the "economic downturn" began though…)

    I hope to eventually turn my plugins into a full-time job in the future, though. I'm currently working on a new, more fully-featured, version of WP125 that I intend to "go premium" with, and eventually expand from there.

  • http://scribu.net/ scribu

    Automattic has quite a few employees working on WP.org, 3 of which are core commiters.

    I started doing freelance work related to WordPress a year ago, and am hoping to achieve financial independence from my parents before I finish college.

  • Beachbum

    1. Live on a sailboat.
    2. Steal wifi
    3. Eat ramen

    • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

      Hey, are you that guy from Cougar Town who lives on a parked boat?

  • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

    Thanks for the answers so far, guys.

    Myself, I am a full time developer at a company unrelated to WordPress. My dream is to start multiple projects and go independent. I love blogging, so hopefully blogging will be heavily involved.

  • http://www.viper007bond.com/ Viper007Bond

    Yes, Automattic has hired on many of the big contributors to WordPress, but many many others work for other WordPress firms and such.

    Most people work for or run their own WordPress consulting/development business. Except for a few exceptions, it's not really possible to live off of plugins. People just aren't willing to pay for them as much as they are for themes.

    Plugins are however a good way to show your skills and get people to hire you, either as an employee or for a project.

    I personally have a traditional WordPress-related job (that I got due to my core contributions and all my plugins) and write plugins in my spare time.

    • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

      Thanks for the input, Alex.

      Do you know which core contributors work full time for Automattic?

      Also, where do you work, if it's public information? How is the company related to WordPress?

      P.S. Top Gear rocks! :-]

      • http://www.viper007bond.com/ Viper007Bond

        http://wordpress.org/about/
        http://automattic.com/about/

        Ryan, Matt (obviously), and Andrew all work for Automattic. Mark runs his own consulting business and I have no idea what Peter does.

        As for me, I'm currently contracting for Automattic.

        P.S. Yes, it so totally does! :)

  • http://brimosoft.nl Marcel

    I never thought I ever would be a WordPress plugin developer. But when the original developer stopped Lazyest Gallery, I taught myself PHP, took over and became addicted to WordPress development. Now it absorbs a lot of my free time.

    • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

      And I'm very glad you did – I love lazyest gallery!

      So what do you do for living, for everyone's information?

      Any tips for us?

      • http://brimosoft.nl Marcel

        I am account manager and alliance manager for a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.
        Won Microsoft Partner of the Year Award twice.
        You bet it's hard to explain why I am involved in an Open Source project ;-)

  • http://wpseek.com/ Oliver Schlöbe

    Actually I am a TYPO3 and web dev, but that isn't too different to creating plugins for WordPress.

    Currently I cannot make a living of my plugins (and don't need to) but donations and such are enough to pay for a nice dinner with my girlfriend. :)

  • http://planetozh.com Ozh

    I have a boring full time job that's unrelated to WordPress (heck, it's not even related to computers mostly)

    I'm doing a bit of freelancing related to WP (and to YOURLS lately) but I've never advertised it and I'm *really* picky about projects and clients so it barely qualifies as an "income source", it's really pocket money :)

    • http://www.webmaster-source.com redwall_hp

      I'm picky about freelance projects too. I've done a couple, but I find it hard to work on projects that I am not excited about. So I turn down most of the offers I get.

  • http://www.binarymoon.co.uk Ben

    By day I'm the Director of Web development at Miniclip.com (no WordPress :( ) – by night I blog at Binary Moon and run Pro Theme Design with Darren Hoyt.

    • http://www.webmaster-source.com redwall_hp

      You work at Miniclip? I didn't know that! I used to go there regularly, back when I played Flash games regularly.

      I've been a Binary Moon subscriber for awhile though.

  • http://omninoggin.com Thaya Kareeson

    I'm in the same boat as Ozh except my day job is computer related.

    Hopefully I can start my own venture soon though ;) *hint* *hint*

  • http://andreasnurbo.com Andreas Nurbo

    I have made some money making custom plugins for people.
    My income comes from different sources. Some from my own projects, websites. Some from other peoples projects, launch type stuff. Analysis, tracking, writing emails, etc.
    I also do development consulting, programming websites/services.
    Just sold off one of my projects to a client and will probably be hired to improve upon that project by the client.

    I'm planning on making a substantial part of my income from WordPress related services. Its already moving in that direction.