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How to Start Building A WordPress Plugin

I’ve wanted to build and launch my own WordPress Plugin for years.

But no idea has ever gripped me enough to go all in and start figuring it out.

Until recently.

So, what’s my idea?

Fix Your Problems

“Mirror what’s working” Is a great phrase.

Don’t copy but look at what successful people are doing and mirror their success.

A lot of the content creators I follow. The “solopreneurs”. They all promote some form of newsletter.

And that is the main focus of my site now, this website. To see if I can grow my email list and send out a newsletter once a week.

That was my “ah-ha” moment.

Can I build a popup that prompts people to sign up for my newsletter? That appears on all parts of my WordPress site.

Not only that.

But it gave me an idea for a WordPress plugin I could build and sell. I’ve built my blog using WordPress so I could be the “first” customer for it too.

The Biggest Headache With a WordPress Plugin

This isn’t my first attempt at building a WordPress plugin.

Many years ago. I didn’t come up with an idea but stole one. The difference was that it would run inside WordPress and not be a stand-alone website.

This was to “embed” a “quote generator” inside the WordPress dashboard.

With this idea. I tried to attack it as a “business owner”. So I got a quote from a company that built WordPress plugins. And it wasn’t cheap. I can’t remember the exact amount but it was around the $2K mark.

The biggest issue that I’ve found with a WordPress Plugin is hosting the plugin itself. Then, handling updates. Both to publish a plugin. And letting users know there’s an update inside their WordPress dashboard.

This headache is expensive.

It’s expensive to get it built. Then a monthly expense to host the plugin and provide updates and fixes.

Trying To Remove The Blocker

Now, with my new idea. I wondered if there’s a way to host a WordPress plugin as cheaply as possible.

Things have moved on a lot since that last idea.

Has someone solved the biggest blocker for me already? That is cost-effective when you have little to no monthly money to invest in a solution.

Enter AI

Yep, I did.

I used “AI” to help me.

I use a product called TypingMind which is a wrapper for OpenAI and their GPT models. As well as being able to use Google Gemini and Anthropic Claude AI too.

The great thing about this product is it has these inbuilt “characters”. So you can tell the AI what sort of output you are after without having to spend an age crafting a prompt to start with.

I used TypingMind’s “Product Manager” character and asked it the following question.

“I have an idea for a WordPress plugin. And I need to spec out how to host the plugin for download. And to alert a user inside WordPress that the user can update it if needed. Also, the plugin is behind a tiered paywall with different tiers so need to spec out how to put in place those as well. You can ask as many questions as needed to help you spec out the implementation”.

The response was interesting.

It gave me two high-level ways to solve the issue. With the pros and cons of each. And asked me to answer a few follow-up questions.

Talking Back

The response from GPT-4 using TypingMind

Here are my answers:

“1. The hosting using a third party service sounds like the best option, But how much will it costs?

2. I would prefer using an existing solution

3. It won’t be a subscription it’s a one off lifetime payment. The basic level is for site only use and one website. Then other two level have 3rd party integrations and can be used on multiple sites for a single purchase.

4. No”

The amazing thing about AI is it does all the research for you.

It gave me two options to “self-host” my WordPress Plugin. But using third-party providers.

And a breakdown of each provider.

Blocker Removed In Less Than 30 Minutes

The first option it gave me was to use a service called Freemius

This solution had the most appeal as there was no upfront cost. The way they make money is to take a cut of each sale you make from your WordPress Plugin.

Result.

No upfront costs. And no month-to-month expense. Amazing if you aren’t making any money yet.

A word of warning though. It is a big chunk of money in the early days. Something like 27% on the first $1K of sales. 16%, or something like that between $1K and $5K. Then a 7% fee plus payment providers fees after that.

I’ll be honest, I’m not happy with those figures. They seem very expensive to me. More so on the first $5k.

That said, it means my only upfront and monthly costs will be my time. Time building and maintaining it. Time marketing and promoting the plugin.

Not having to worry about forking out any cash appealed to me more than the fees.

I decided to register for Freemuis as there is no upfront cost and have a play. After 20-30 minutes I had everything set up. Including the payment plans for my WordPress Plugin.

AMAZING!

I SMASHED the biggest blocker in getting up and running to pieces.

The easy part for me is the coding of the plugin. Now, that’s the focus.

BONUS: Write Code In Seconds

I wanted to end this post. By giving you an idea of what my development environment to build a WordPress plugin looks like.

Run WordPress On Your Computer

You’ll need a basic, cut-down version of WordPress to test your plugin with. I recommend using Local by WP Engine. It’s a simple app you can install, which allows you to set up and run WordPress sites on your local computer.

Again, it’s free. Wahoo!

Coding The Plugin

I’ve always been a big Visual Studio fan.

But it can be a bit of a beast to use. Lots of bells and whistles.

If I’m coding using C# then it’s my go-to.

But, for everything else, I use Visual Studio code. It’s AWESOME.

With it. I’ve built mobile apps with Flutter/Dart. A forum using React. And WordPress plugins for one of my SaaS products and clients in my freelance work.

It’s the best IDE out there.

Writing Code

I’ve used ChatGPT and Gemini to write code in the past.

The results were OK, but I wasn’t blown away. And you have to do a lot of copying, pasting and tweaking.

I’ve seen a lot of IndieHackers talk about GitHub Copilot and how awesome it was. So I decided to give it a try.

HOLY….FUCKING….SHIT….!

It’s good, very good.

The biggest thing for me is it runs inside Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code. It isn’t difficult to install and set up. And there are only a few ways to get it to write code.

It blew my mind.

Even more so I saw a video in which they installed a voice command extension. Which allows you to talk to Copilot and then get it to write code.

Hands-free coding.

What’s even more amazing? Is that it can look at your code across the solution. And tairlos its output to write code that it thinks works with the rest of the solution.

It gets the code right about 60% of the time too. Higher if you are writing a database retrieval service for example.

What does that mean though?

Well, it took me 30 minutes using GitHub Copilot to get the popup working as I had envisioned.

Insane!

Conclusion: Start Building A WordPress Plugin

Often when we have an idea for a SaaS product. It’s not the building out of the idea that’s the issue.

It can be other things. One-off jobs that need sorting. That can have a recurring cost to it.

A WordPress Plugin is no different.

Now with AI. And the fact that WordPress itself is such a mature and massive product. Someone will have done a lot of the leg work for you.

And that’s the key.

How can you solve the majority of the issues you will face building an MVP? By using third-party providers?

So you can focus on the big headache, which the MVP will cure.

Yes, there will be other costs that may not be obvious. You’ll need to decide if they are worth paying.

But the goal is to move as fast as possible and get your product out to the world.

Oh, I nearly forgot.

If you want to check out my plugin. I’ve called it SuperSub. You can visit the website here!

Wait, want more tips & tricks? Yes, please!

Who Is Phil Hughes

I am a coder, content creator & software consultant for start-ups and FTSE 100 companies. I am obsessed with productivity, self-improvement, and building a lifestyle business.
You can work with me to transform your business! Setup a recurring revenue model designed for growth.

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