Now that we are into the new year, I think that it is always important to review our past year to see how the business performed, if we met our goals, and prepare our goals for this year. I thought that I may be able to help people in similar businesses if I share my progress and thoughts with everyone to see and compare. In this post, I am going to share with you all of my analytics on sessions, page views, referrals, and more. I am also going to share with you all of the revenue and expenses for the Quiz And Survey Master plugin. I hope that you will find this beneficial for your own business and that you will leave your thoughts in the comments.
Looking Back On 2015
So, where should I begin in reviewing an entire year? First, let me go over the raw plugin details with you to see how the year went with plugin updates and users. At the end of 2014, the plugin had only been downloaded around 40,000 times. At the end of 2015, the plugin had just passed 110,000 downloads. So, the plugins downloads were almost 300% compared to 2014. While that sounds like a lot, many of those were users installing updates. At the end of 2014, the plugin had around 3,000 active users. At the end of 2015, it had just passed 9,000 active installs which would also be 300% compared to the previous year.
Next, I also released many updates over the course of the year:
- 1 major version release
- 5 minor version releases
- 19 patch/security updates
I also moved the plugin and its addons over to GitHub for managing the code. In 2015, the GitHub repo had 730 commits from 3 contributors. The repo had 219 issues (bugs, feature requests, and ideas) created in 2015 and 41% of those have been closed.
In 2015, I also answered over 2,500 support tickets. Up until October, I was still trying to manage all the support through basic email which does not scale as the needs have scaled. So, I moved over all support to HelpScout which has helped immensely to keep track and tag support issues as they come in. If you are still trying to manage all your support through your email account, I highly encourage you to move into a help desk like HelpScout who even has a free tier.
Many of the users who have been with this plugin for quite some time has had several conversations with me. However, there was a few months around the summer that you may have heard from a man named Eric. Eric is a good friend of mine who was also a groomsmen at my wedding recently. He is an newer WordPress developer so I wanted to give him a way to jump into the industry. However, right after I hired him part time, my sales dropped by so much that I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay myself let alone my new employee. Thus, I had to let go one of my best friends only a couple months after bringing him onboard. The hard lesson I learned was that you should never hire before you are sure that you are ready to. Even though I could not have predicated the sales pattern that I will go over in just a moment, I should have look harder at the numbers before bringing anyone else on.
In February, I moved the main My Local Webstop site from HostGator to Flywheel because I was starting to face performance issues at HostGator and had issues with their lack of support and WordPress knowledge. In March, I then branched Quiz And Survey Master (or Quiz Master Next at the time) onto its own site.
As you can see, the new site started off with around 200 users per week visiting the site. Towards the end of 2015, the site was averaging around 600 users per week which is 300% compared to the beginning of the new site. Based on the analytics, the top visiting countries were:
- United States – 4,908 visitors
- India – 1,892 visitors
- United Kingdom – 970 visitors
- Canada – 602 visitors
Of those visitors, the breakdown for acquisition looks like this:
- about 65% come from either the WordPress.org page or from within the plugin.
- 14% comes from referrals
- 9% come direct (mostly due to me not accurately using Campaign names earlier in the year)
- 9% comes from organic search
- The remainder comes from social
There is one major flaw in this which I alluded to in the “direct” portion is that I didn’t have my analytics set up properly to track my email newsletters and broadcasts during the year. I have fixed it at the beginning of 2016 and so far it seems to be using up most of the 9% from the “direct” portion but I’ll have to wait some more time for that data to become conclusive and statistically significant.
The Email List
So, like most business owners, I never had an email list in 2014. Knowing it was important, I created a list in MailChimp in early 2015 but didn’t really do anything with. I then switched to Aweber for the easier autoresponders and started pushing that email newsletter more. I got up to around 200 subscribers when I realized Aweber wasn’t right for my business and needs. That’s when I switched to ConvertKit, an email service designed for professional bloggers, in November. I then started trying to give more value to my subscribers and have just recently gotten the list over 400 subscribers. So, a small win since I didn’t have any email list the year before but it is no where near where I want it to be.
The revenue aspect of the business is one of the most important parts and is integral to successfully running a business. While the business has grown a bit since 2014, it still feels very volatile and not quite yet stable. This is apparent once we look at the monthly sales. To start, Quiz And Survey Master made $13,455.70 from sales of support and addons in all of 2015. Compare that to what the plugin made in 2014 which was $2,667 which makes 2015’s revenue over 500% compared to 2014. In addition to the sales, there were also several clients who needed customizations and styling which brought in another $5,000 bringing the total 2015 revenue for Quiz And Survey Master to $18,455.70.
Now, I mentioned earlier about some sales worries in the middle of the year. Here is the breakdown for the year:
- January – $1,003
- February – $833
- March – $1,235.70
- April – $1,181.70
- May – $1,372.50
- June – $870
- July – $710.20
- August – $573.50
- September – $1,049
- October – $1,067
- November – $1,757.60
- December – $1,802.50
As you can see, August was down almost 300% compared to May. I was starting to panic. I only had 20 sales all month in August and I considered closing the plugin down. So, you may be asking about what I started doing differently. Well, I went back to basics and put a renewed effort into marketing and user experience. I started content marketing. I started working on my email list. I also started networking more. I spoke at 3 different WordCamps as well as almost a dozen meetups about business and WordPress. One of the bigger factors was changing the name and marketing from a “quiz” plugin to a “quiz and survey” plugin. Almost half of the users were already using the plugin for surveys but new users were not finding the plugin for its survey features.
As for the best selling items:
- Personal Addon Pack – $2,858.90
- Export Results – $2,581.75
- Developer Addon Pack – $2,277.70
- Business Addon Pack – $1,977.20
- Reporting And Analysis – $589.75
- MailChimp Integration – $545.50
I was surprised to see Reporting And Analysis in the top 6 of the year even though it was only released in the last quarter. I expect that one to be the best selling addon this year.
So, was Quiz And Survey Master profitable? Yes, barely. Between costs of hosting, email service, plugins, themes, HelpScout, GitHub, and miscellaneous costs, my expenses were around $1,500 for the year. So, Quiz And Survey Master is a profitable plugin but it’s not quite paying anywhere near what I would make working at a company. But, I love what I do, the users I work with, the freedom I have, and my community. So, to me, 2015 was a good year. A tight budget and empty wallet kind of year, but a good one nonetheless.
Look Ahead Into 2016
While I look ahead to the end of 2016, there are a few things that I would like to say that I accomplished this year:
- Grow the monthly revenue to at least $3,000 per month. This would help me get closer to industry average for developers and I could even hire on some help to assist with the support tickets that I am flooded with.
- Grow the active installs to 30,000. I was able to 3X the active installs from 2014, so I want to strive to grow the user base by 300% again.
- Hire some help. I would love to be able to hire a couple of people to help with support and development. This will help grow the plugin and keep the plugin’s users taken care of.
So, that’s it for my year in review. At nearly 1,500 words, it was a bit more than I was anticipating. I hope that you took the time to read all of it! I would love to hear your feedback and about your year in the comments!