Hiring during the economic crisis, keeping the business stable in unstable times, going heavy on content, customer service, redesigning the blog, organizing Makers’ Meetups, hosting our first-ever company retreat, and continually evolving the product — Freemius has been through a lot!
This year has been a wild ride 🎢 for almost everyone! The tech world saw a lot of drama and we were no exception.
However, while many tech businesses downsized, Freemius grew stronger! We not only found a way to survive but also to thrive. 💪
Looking back, I believe we did a lot of good things this past year that are worth sharing.
Like any other year, we also made some mistakes and did things that were either inefficient or straight-up wasteful. And while I’d like to think we learned a great deal from these experiences, I also realize that we’ll continue to make mistakes in the future.
But, when I sum it all up, look at where we were last year, and reflect on the goals we set for 2023, I do feel that this was a great year for us.
So, in the spirit of keeping the ‘year in review’ tradition alive and adding more transparency to the business, I’m going to summarize Freemius’ key business events of 2023 and share how they contributed to (or impeded) our growth.
- Team Growth and Switching Our Hiring Strategy
- Increasing Partner Base with Fewer — Yet More Intricate — Support Tickets
- Committing to a Regular Content Publishing Cadence & Doubling Down on Educational Content
- Growing Our Social Media Footprint
- Organizing Community Events: 3 Meetups in 3 Continents 🌏
- Freemius Slack Community is Growing Strong 💪
- We Launched a Podcast – plugin.fm 🎙
- First Team Retreat in Bangkok + WordCamp Asia
- Slugging in Video Output and How We Plan to Get Better
- Noticeable Product Updates
- Tightening Security
- What’s Coming in 2024? Let’s Take a Peek Behind the Curtain!
- Farewell 2023, Onward to a Brighter 2024 🥂
Team Growth and Switching Our Hiring Strategy
We started the year with 12 team members and added 4 more without any churn 💪
- Ymreb joined to lead our SEO efforts.
- Laurence is helping us with our WordPress sites.
- Aleksander joined engineering as a full-stack developer.
- Goran joined as CMO to lead our marketing efforts (I’ve been looking to pass over this hat 🧢 for several years).
Growing a Leadership Team
In late 2020, I realized we’d been stuck at 8-10 team members for several years. I was hiring new team members and letting most of them go after a year or two for various reasons. While the quality of the team improved (only the strong survived 😅), it became increasingly challenging to keep up with customer growth because of the stagnation in the team’s size.
I was bogged down in leading nearly every aspect of the company. While we needed more people, I felt that hiring was getting in the way of my productivity. So I compromised and didn’t listen enough to my intuition, ignoring the red flags that came up during interviews. I was stuck in the indie-hacker mentality of ‘I can manage everything myself’, which simply wasn’t conducive to scaling.
Long story short, I acknowledged that if I wanted to grow Freemius to where I envisioned it, I needed to recruit people who were better and more experienced than me in specific fields. I made a strategic decision to shift my focus and energy from customers, revenue, and growth to building a leadership team. There was no other way for us to scale.
- Zee joined Freemius to lead our video content efforts in 2020.
- Scott joined in 2021 to manage the blog and lead all written content initiatives.
- Swas and Dror joined in 2022 to lead Engineering.
- In Q4 of 2023, I brought Goran in to lead the marketing team.
I have more hiring plans for 2024, but I don’t want to jinx what lies ahead. It was a long journey to get these amazing leaders to join Freemius. And while I write these words, I realize recruiting more talented leaders will remain one of my main responsibilities for the foreseeable future.
If you’re a founder of a small operation and have plans to grow, I urge you to start forging relationships with people that you’d love to work with.
Why am I sharing all of this? 🙂
This year, I personally only hired one person!
I’m still involved in the hiring process, but I’m no longer the one making all the decisions. I mostly provide feedback, coach, support, and do the final-fit interview.
We’re still experiencing the most difficulty with scaling our engineering team. Finding full-time senior and quality software developers is hard! As you’ll read below, we shipped quite a lot this year, but we want to build so much more, and we need developers ASAP to accelerate.
Our Approach to Preventing Layoffs
Freemius is a very resilient business. Our model is built on low churn rates as we partner with loyal clients who value our offerings. We emphasize a subscriptions-first approach and diversify our partner portfolio to avoid overreliance on any single partner. This diversification extends across various verticals, providing stability even in fluctuating markets, as seen during COVID, where certain sectors like travel contracted while others like eCommerce thrived.
During COVID, many digital companies — including Freemius — experienced a surge in customers and revenue. While this growth prompted some companies to rapidly expand their teams, we adopted a more cautious approach to hiring. Our recruitment process is meticulously designed to ensure a strong fit between the candidate and our company’s future. This involves an initial screening to align professional aspirations with our company’s trajectory, and a comprehensive interview process, including technical assessments, to ensure we onboard individuals who complement our team and contribute to our long-term stability. This careful hiring strategy is key to our resilience and our commitment to avoiding layoffs.
We Are Hiring!
We are actively looking to hire two senior full-stack developers, a senior WordPress developer, a business development manager, and a migrations & integrations specialist (a combo of customer success management, project management, and development).
Regardless: We are always looking for smart and talented people to join the team. If you bought into our mission of helping software creators thrive while doing what they love, please don’t hesitate to reach out via careers AT freemius DOT com and pitch where you feel you can contribute. We’ve built roles for people before, and we have a model that will ensure you have a lasting position with us.
Increasing Partner Base with Fewer — Yet More Intricate — Support Tickets
As we experience faster growth, we’re encountering fewer support tickets! 💪
Our team resolved 2,487 technical tickets, a reduction of nearly 22%! This decrease highlights the increasing stability of our platform and our ongoing efforts to address issues both programmatically and through contextual documentation.
Out of 177 ratings, we maintained a 93% ‘Great Support’ rate. Notably, only two interactions received a ‘Not Good’ rating.
While the number of tickets has decreased, the complexity of the tickets is rising, increasing our handling times. Our Time to First Response has increased from 5 to 6 hours, and the Average Time to Resolution has also risen by 10 hours.
We have some ideas on reducing handling times that we’ll experiment with in 2024.
The support efforts have been led almost exclusively by our Technical Support Lead, Leo Fajardo, who is doing an outstanding job. Well done Leo! 👏
Committing to a Regular Content Publishing Cadence & Doubling Down on Educational Content
In 2023, we published 27 articles, and 23 of them were in-depth educational pieces. Here are the top 10 performers from this year:
- Developer’s Guide on How to Sell Elementor Templates and Kits
- How to Handle Nulled WordPress Plugins and Themes (and Their Users)
- Best Gumroad Alternatives for Creators and Sellers
- How To Get Hired as a Remote WordPress Developer in 2023
- Converting Your WordPress Plugin to SaaS
- WordPress Plugins vs. SaaS: What’s the Difference & Which to Choose?
- 13 Essential Coding Skills, Practices, and Capabilities for Plugin Developers in 2023
- Should You Sell WordPress Plugin Bundles?
- How to Optimize Your Checkout’s UX While Protecting Against Credit Card Testing Fraud
- Freemius SDK Vulnerability Disclosure: WordPress SDK 2.5.9
We increased our content output by focusing on narrower topics and shorter articles. This improved the morale of our content team and allowed us to see our work in production faster. The review process is now more efficient with a greater emphasis on outline reviewing.
We briefly had a healthy content buffer, but we weren’t able to maintain it throughout the year. Many articles were completed just before publishing and the production pace has slowed down again. We need to address this ASAP to reduce production costs. We are currently exploring getting external support from freelancers and content agencies.
This was the first year we had an in-house SEO Specialist who helped us prioritize topics that were not only aligned with our audience and the company’s direction but can also attract significant search traffic.
Growing Our Social Media Footprint
Our Social Media Manager, Johan Schroeder, has done an amazing job breathing life into our social channels. While we haven’t fully mastered social media growth yet, we’ve made significant progress in 2023. Here are the highlights from X/Twitter:
- Monthly impressions increased by 229%
- Monthly mentions increased by 154.5%
- Monthly tweets increased by 347.3%
Our best-performing tweets were about:
- Freemius Makers’ Meetup at WordCamp US (National Harbor)
- Freemius Team Dinner at WordCamp Asia (Bangkok)
Organizing Community Events: 3 Meetups in 3 Continents 🌏
In 2023, we organized three Makers Meetup events across all the regional WordCamps:
- 🇺🇸 Freemius Makers’ Meetup at WordCamp US 2023 (National Harbor, Maryland)
- 🇬🇷 Freemius Makers’ Meetup at WordCamp Europe 2023 (Athens, Greece)
- 🇹🇭 Freemius Makers’ Meetup at WordCamp Asia 2023 (Bangkok, Thailand)
These events are a big hit! And an amazing opportunity to meet up with WordPress creators and indie-devs from all over the world.
Everyone got a chance to kick back, meet people from the industry, and talk shop over food and drinks 🍻
We hope to continue this tradition. Currently, there are 3 more events planned in 2024, starting with Taipei, Taiwan 🇹🇼. Let’s keep it going!
Freemius Slack Community is Growing Strong 💪
In November, we crossed the 1,400-member mark on our Slack community!
The same month we hit this milestone, we had internal discussions about opening our Slack to a wider WordPress business community.
Our plan was to include people who make money out of WordPress — like agencies, hosting companies, publishers, and freelancers — to expand the network.
As you can see from the screenshot, we received significant pushback from the community. Valid points were raised against the move so we decided to put this on hold for now.
We Launched a Podcast – plugin.fm 🎙
This year, we finally launched our podcast 🚀
plugin.fm is a show for software product founders looking to enhance their business, marketing, and entrepreneurial skills.
In season 1, we covered various topics with incredible guests, such as:
- Growing a YouTube Audience (with Jamie Marsland)
- Branding (with Hadas Golzaker)
- Partnering with Marketers (with Devin Walker and Matt Cromwell)
- Leveraging Podcasting (with Matt Medeiros)
- The Power of Partnerships (with Miriam Schwab)
- Strategies for Successful Product Launch (with Vito Peleg)
- Product Diversification (with Patrick Posner)
- Platform Dependency (with Beka Rice)
- Culture Building in Remote Organizations (with James Laws)
- Growth Hacking on a Budget (with Rob Hope)
- Impact of Mastermind Groups (with Katie Keith)
You can watch the entire season on our YouTube channel.
Although the launch didn’t generate the expected buzz, we continue to strive for better results in the next season.
Speaking of season 2, we’ve almost finished recording it. We had the opportunity to interview amazing guests like Rand Fishkin and Matt Mullenweg, so make sure you stick around for the second season — it’s going to be great!
First Team Retreat in Bangkok + WordCamp Asia
The Freemius team has finally met in real life! For the first time!
Hailing from various corners of the globe, we got together for the first time at WordCamp Asia 2023 in Bangkok, marking a significant milestone in the company’s journey.
This gathering was such a unique experience. After years of virtual interactions, we finally got a chance to see how tall (or not) everyone actually is in real life 😛.
For instance, I’ve been working with Leo since 2014, and this was the first time we met in 3D 🤯
We explored Bangkok’s landmarks, played laser tag, attended social events, danced, sang karaoke, played Jenga, and did a bunch of other fun stuff I can’t even remember.
This memorable gathering not only strengthened our bonds as a team but also showcased the diverse and global nature of Freemius.
Aside from WCA being a total BLAST, we also seized the opportunity to shoot a team video! It was directed by our one and only filmmaker, Zee 🎬, and edited by Emiliano ✂️
This video aimed to strengthen our employer brand and share what our vibe is like as a workplace. It’s in the final editing stages, but here’s a sneak peek:
Lagging in Video Output and How We Plan to Get Better
After several years of investing 100% of our video team’s energy in educational content, we shifted our focus this year to producing strategic videos that would take our company to the next level. We also had our first opportunity (since the COVID outbreak) to create in-person video content ‘on the ground’ at WordCamps. These shifts in focus and condition inspired us to experiment with new video formats and styles, which have added a whole new dimension to our educational content.
2023 started with the in-house production of a fully animated video explaining our license activation process, with privacy in focus. This video addresses our users’ most frequently asked questions regarding data collection and storage and is embedded within a designated landing page that includes more in-depth info. The video was initiated following concerns raised by the community in 2022 about our privacy protection practices (more on that later).
It was released alongside an update that addressed privacy concerns as a way of assuring users that their private information is protected.
The experience of filming the team video ‘on the ground’ had another (unexpected) side effect – we craved more of it.
We had so much fun making this video that we decided to have Zee join us for the world’s next two biggest WordCamps: WCEU 2023 and WCUS 2023. During these events, we gathered fellow founders to share an often neglected aspect of their experience – learning from failure. At WCEU, participants were asked to share their most insightful failures:
And at WCUS we asked them to share the stories of products they built and loved but eventually had to bury.
The turnout was AMAZING – 70% of people invited via email showed up for the interviews! Seeing a group of inspiring creators (who typically hide their good looks behind a monitor and desk) open up to expose their vulnerabilities was both entertaining and endearing.
We also created testimonial videos with some of our awesome partners, and educational videos sharing actionable processes that helped creators to scale. We’re still working on some of these videos and plan to publish them in 2024.
Alongside these gains, we’ve also experienced some challenges, the biggest of which was our output capacity. Our shifting focus away from educational content came at the price of a dip in engagement with our educational video content. Fewer videos produced meant fewer hours of viewer engagement and fewer subscribers to our channels. We published only 2 long format educational videos and 8 short format ones in 2023.
Another challenge we’re tackling as we speak is reaching more viewers within our relevant audience, which is the primary goal of 2024.
One exception was our social media video output.
For the first time, we’ve put a big emphasis on publishing videos to socials, which reaped surprising results.
Thanks to this approach, we discovered that we can get up to 3x the attention we typically get on YT when publishing there alone.
We published 48 videos to our socials this year, with our “OneMinuteQ&A” animated series of educational shorts as a high performer. We’re planning to carry this practice over to 2024.
Our main resolution to tackle deficiencies in publishing consistency this year — in pursuit of high-quality and high-quantity content — was the recruitment of new team members.
Having said this, quality and quantity are not all it will take. Which brings me to one of the biggest lessons we learned this year…
When one of our most invested-in videos was published, it performed poorly. Very poorly!
Zee spent hours, across several days, brainstorming and tweaking the thumbnail and title of the video until finally, we saw a sudden surge in views. The click-through rate had suddenly increased! This was an experience we’re probably going to follow up on obsessively this year 😀
Noticeable Product Updates
Before I get to the updates, I’d like to give a glimpse of some of the challenges we face as a maturing, 9-year-old company.
Two to three years ago, we were shipping features at the speed of light⚡️, primarily focusing on revenue-affecting features.
As the company matured, we had fewer ‘shiny’ features to work on and dedicated more resources to operations.
Just like any startup, we’ve accumulated a good amount of technical debt that is critical to ‘pay’ if we want to scale to the next level. Therefore, 20-30% of our engineering resources this year were spent on less sexy infrastructural features like security, regression testing, performance, and so forth.
We also accumulated hefty visual debt.
Design trends change so rapidly that interfaces from two years ago are already considered outdated. Our partners were vocal about Freemius needing a UI overhaul. Also, I know we lost potential partners who were keen to use Freemius because of our visual appearance.
While I’m personally not a fan of the endless chase for the latest design trends, I totally get it after thinking it through. Software creators are innovators. As such, they seek fresh, innovative tools. Outdated UI suggests a stagnating company. ‘Stagnant’ is not who we are, and it’s not how we want to be seen by anyone.
It doesn’t matter if we have the best-performing product in the market or whether a modern/sleeker UI will make a difference in conversion rates — we have to keep up to stay relevant. Consequently, we’re allocating substantial resources to modernize our looks. It’s not just a CSS update: we’re using the opportunity to improve our UX, give partners more control, and optimize CRO where possible.
With this lengthy intro, here are some of the more noticeable product updates from 2023:
Doing a Better Job at Serving Users
We pioneered analytics and in-dashboard checkout for WordPress plugins and themes. While clearly beneficial for developers, these capabilities were also groundbreaking for WordPress – something users weren’t accustomed to seeing before.
As our SDK’s footprint extended to many millions of websites, we started to notice individuals who were vocal about their dislike of Freemius on social media, spreading negativity and invalid claims as facts. Some even pushed creators to stop using Freemius as a prerequisite to buying their software. I know of several partners who got cold feet and decided to switch (many of them are back on the platform 💙).
It became a real concern. We were clearly missing something, yet unable to get constructive feedback we could act on. And because it also put our selling partners in an awkward position where they had to justify using Freemius instead of focusing on their priorities.
So this year (and the year before), we got to the bottom of this trust issue that affected our brand’s reputation and impacted our partners. We embarked on a journey to ‘fix Freemius for users’:
- Freemius Is Open for Feedback — We’re Listening to Users and Making Big Changes
- Another Major SDK Change Following User Feedback – You Asked, We Delivered
- New Garbage Collector System (resolved long waiting issue from 2020)
First, we mapped out all user concerns we could find online. Then, we worked with our amazing partners and several FB communities to decipher the feedback and convert it into product and copy changes 🙂. In addition to developing and applying the required functionality, we also updated the messaging across all user-facing touchpoints, thereby clarifying the user benefits.
Looking back, we now understand that as a dev-centric platform we didn’t have a proper feedback loop with users. We kept developing the platform for what we believed was the ‘average user’. But when you get exposed to millions of users, a fraction is no longer that small; catering to micro-personas becomes essential.
Our ongoing efforts to improve Freemius’s image among users have shown promising results. We’ve actively been monitoring social discussions about Freemius and noticed a significant decrease in negative sentiment. Posts and replies expressing concerns have roughly halved, and some skeptics even view Freemius more positively in 2023. Additionally, our selling partners haven’t reached out for advice on addressing user concerns about Freemius for over 6 months, indicating a notable shift in public perception.
Kudos to Zee for leading the communication efforts 💪
Introducing Checkout Translations
After adding multi-currency support in 2019, we’ve finally added translations this year and can mark the completion of Freemius checkout localization from a technical perspective. Based on Shopify, localized eCommerce experiences (including checkout processes) have dramatically increased conversions by up to 40%. Customers prefer to pay in a currency familiar to them, and localizing the checkout experience reduces friction caused by currency conversion fees and transaction complexities.
The implementation of localization in Freemius Checkout is a significant step towards providing a more inclusive and efficient service for our diverse global customer base, aligning with best practices in international eCommerce strategies.
The checkout translations are currently in beta mode as they are based on ChatGPT and contributions from our community. As such, the translation feature is not active by default, so we still don’t have enough usage data to say anything deterministic about the uptick in conversion rates. Once we complete the 2nd phase of the checkout in 2024 (more on that below), we plan to invest in professional translators and turn them on by default.
We are in the midst of a massive upgrade to our checkout system. Just a few weeks ago, we released phase 1 of the checkout overhaul project 🥳️ , where we modernized the design, and did some subtle UX tightening.
We are getting fresh 😎 https://t.co/iZDIGq681J
— Vova Feldman (@vovafeldman) December 20, 2023
In phase 2, we are going to introduce a new horizontal layout with fullscreen support, order bumps, and lots of goodies, in an effort to not only offer the best-looking checkout but also to increase conversion rates and maximize average sales price.
With the support of Swas and Vitalii, I’m leading the checkout project (my precious 🤗) as it’s such a critical component of our platform. But we wouldn’t have gotten this far without the input of our vibrant creator community, who were engaged and active in providing feedback and sharing ideas. Thank you, guys 🙏 You rock!
Releasing a New Developer Dashboard
In February, we finally launched the new version of the Developer Dashboard 🥳️
📣 A new look just in time for #WCAsia 🖌️🎨
A long-standing promise to our partners has been pushed from the pipeline & into reality 💥 We are excited to share that we’ve deployed our reskinned Developer Dashboard. Feedback is welcome (make sure to read the whole 🧵 first 😉) pic.twitter.com/c6zxecbfuB
— Freemius (@freemius) February 13, 2023
We replaced good old Google’s Material design and Awesome Font icons, which served us gracefully for 7 years 😅, with new custom, dark and light mode designs by our one and only Vitalii, and implementation by our UX/UI guru and VP of Engineering, Swas 🙌
Morphing the Blog into a Content Hub
Finally, our new blog layout is live 🥳️! And yes, you are looking at it right now. We consider the blog as part of our product and how we help our partners become more successful.
We’ve gone dark mode 🌒 (light mode coming in phase 2), improved typography, spacing, content hierarchy, and much more… all to offer an optimized reading experience.
After 9 years of creating content, I’m proud to say that we’ve produced close to 300 articles! Many of these are evergreen cornerstone pieces, but they were hard to find due to the previous structure. We receive inquiries from developers asking for guidance on various business & marketing topics weekly, and instead of just sending them a link, we have to send a curated list of recommendations.
THESE DAYS ARE BEHIND US NOW! We are going to organize the content according to ’skill-based tracks’ to help software developers learn best practices and acquire new skills more methodically.
Here’s what the blog looked like just a few days ago:
Even though there are still many glitches that we are actively fixing, I’m super-duper excited about the outcome! 🤩
Major props to Vitalii, Laurence, and Swas for making it happen! 👏
As a payment solution provider, Freemius is inevitably a target for fraudsters seeking to exploit our platform for illicit activities such as card testing, selling fake products, etc. Recognizing the critical importance of security, this year, our CTO, Dror, led several initiatives to enhance our security measures to safeguard against these threats. Dror ensured the protection of both our partners and their customers from fraudulent activities.
We’ve introduced 2FA in the Developer Dashboard. We had a PR pending code review from 2020 🙂 but we never managed to prioritize it (there were too many ‘shiny’ features to build). As our code base has changed a lot since then, we rebuilt the feature from scratch.
In addition to protecting our partners from unauthorized account access, the extra layer protects from unauthorized payout method changes (you can guess why yourself).
2FA was rolled out as optional for now, but there’s a good chance we’ll make it a requirement in the future.
Fraud Prevention 2.0
Credit card testing is a fraudulent practice where thieves use online checkouts to validate stolen credit card details. This criminal activity not only poses security risks but can also lead to financial losses and reputational damage for businesses.
This year we completely rebuilt our security architecture, creating a more robust, extendable, intelligent, and rapid response system for detecting and countering attacks.
Our multi-layered approach now includes an automated escalation process for threats.
Drawing on eight years of attack data and expertise, this revamped system is significantly more accurate, reducing the occurrence of false positives and enhancing overall security for our selling partners.
Fixing XSS Security Vulnerability
This year, we faced an XSS security vulnerability in our WordPress SDK.
Dealing with security issues sucks (obviously). And it’s even more challenging in our case because our WordPress SDK and all products that utilize this SDK are open-source. This makes the process of planning and implementing patches more complex compared to software in closed ecosystems.
Following lessons learned from previous years, we took the time to carefully plan the fix distribution, limited the exposure to relevant people, and coordinated the execution with our partners to ensure we minimized risks for everyone.
The team has handled it exceptionally well! And thanks to the collaboration of Patchstack and our partners community, it was executed precisely as planned.
Bonus: we now have a ‘playbook’ to tackle the next vulnerability whenever it knocks on our door (please don’t! 🤚).
Our VP of Engineering, Swas, has led the fix orchestration in a flawless manner 👏
Secure Bank Account Details Collection
We’ve finally implemented a self-served ability to add or update bank account details for payouts, in the Developer Dashboard.
The sensitive bank information is encrypted and stored securely. We use asymmetric encryption where the decryption key is stored in a separate offline vault, so even if our servers or DB are hacked, it won’t be possible to decrypt the data.
You may ask yourself, how’s that related to security?
We’ve been supporting bank wire as a payout method for years.
When a developer wanted to set their payout method to a Bank Wire (or update wire details), they had to email us the details.
While we did have measures in place to validate authenticity, this was still prone to phishing attacks and potential exposure of bank details if the email server/client was bridged for security.
Subscribe and grab a free copy to start Mastering SEO on the WordPress.org Repository
Make the WordPress.org search algorithm work for you with actionable tips to rank your plugin higher.
What’s Coming in 2024? Let’s Take a Peek Behind the Curtain!
As a bootstrapped company, we’ve systematically followed the Stair Step Method.
When I started Freemius in 2015, we focused on supporting freemium WordPress plugins.
In 2016, we extended to support selling premium plugins.
A year later, we extended the offering to sell WordPress themes.
And in 2022, we expanded to selling static software like templates, kits, and widgets.
In 2024, we are stepping into supporting SaaS 🙂!
Freemius for SaaS
It’s a natural progression for Freemius, and we couldn’t be more excited about it!
Practically, Freemius is agnostic and offers a set of capabilities that can be used for selling any software. In fact, we already have SaaS sellers on the platform. That said, the DX (Developer Experience), packaging, and positioning are not there yet.
In 2023, I had dozens of discovery calls with SaaS founders who monetize with Stripe, Paddle, FastSpring, Gumroad, and Lemon Squeezy to understand what a perfect SaaS monetization solution should look like.
My goal here was simple — to understand if we at Freemius can build a superior solution with a meaningful edge compared to the available solutions in the market.
The answer is ABSOLUTELY, YES!
While every platform has its strengths and weaknesses, all of the current platforms are lacking __________… 🙊 sorry, there’s a limit to transparency. You’ll need to wait until we launch it 😅!
Freemius evolving into a leading SaaS monetization platform brings significant benefits to our WordPress partners and the WordPress product creators community, too. We will adequately document our API and introduce new billing models that are less common in WordPress but are becoming needed more than ever before.
As the surge in AI technology is reshaping the WordPress landscape, it presents unique opportunities for plugin & theme developers to SaaS-ify their software with usage-based add-ons (aka ‘Metered Pricing’).
So, not only will we offer a state-of-the-art SaaS solution, but WordPress product creators will enjoy those SaaS capabilities in a dedicated WordPress experience.
Plus, progressing from selling a WordPress plugin to selling the product as SaaS will be baked into the platform without the need to sweat. It enables our partners to grow with us!
And we’re not forgetting about our WordPress duties… 🙂
Lite WordPress SDK
We couldn’t get to work on a Lite WordPress SDK this year — not only because we were busy with a gazillion things but also because we aimed too high with this project. The original plan was to create a modular SDK design with a pre-compilation process where developers could pick & choose the features they wanted and get a package only with the code of the relevant features.
Sounds incredible, right?
The truth is that designing such an SDK is time-consuming and requires attention from senior WordPress experts with strong architecture experience. It’s not easy to find them these days 😅
Giving it more thought when planning for 2024, I realized we need to switch perspectives and deliver a lean, sufficient licensing and software updates SDK without all the compilation complexity. If we design the code correctly, we can still build upon it in the future.
Sometimes, a simple change in mindset is all that you need 💡
If you watched the State of the Word 2023 presentation, Matt talked about how hard it is to move from other systems to WordPress or even from one WordPress site to another.
One of the concerns of using an all-in-one sales solution is platform lock-in.
At Freemius, EVERYTHING is accessible via the API, as that’s how the platform was built by design.
If developers decide to move out, we are happy to support them with the process as we want to work with sellers who appreciate our value proposition and want to work with us (we see it as a partnership).
Over the years, we learned that some creators are less tech-savvy than others. And while integrating the WordPress SDK is something they managed to easily achieve by following our 5-minute integration guide, working with the API can be beyond their technical abilities.
We want to liberate our partners, so we plan to introduce no-code data export capabilities. This will reduce platform lock-in for less tech-savvy devs and enable creators to easily export data for various analyses that are potentially not yet supported as insights in the Developer Dashboard.
Re/Branding to “Selling Software”
As you explore our website and blog, you’ll notice the prominent presence of “WordPress”. Our homepage header proudly states: “Your WordPress business headache? Gone. 😎” However, with our expansion into the SaaS realm, we’re poised to reposition our brand. Our goal is to extend our appeal beyond WordPress, embracing the broader software creators’ ecosystem. WordPress and SaaS are set to become two distinct categories that we support.
This year marked the beginning of our transition, with a stronger focus on SaaS-related content. We’ve explored topics like converting WordPress plugins to SaaS and the advantages of building in public. Furthermore, our new podcast, plugin.fm, is tailored for software product founders.
This transition also presents a unique opportunity to formally develop our brand identity, a task we hadn’t officially undertaken before 🙈. Our brand has evolved organically over the years, and we’ve yet to establish formal brand guidelines.
In a fortuitous turn of events, and without specific planning on our part, the stars have aligned ✨. We’re thrilled to have hired an exceptionally talented senior brand manager who will spearhead our branding efforts in 2024.
We will proceed with Phases 2 and 3 of the checkout project. In parallel, we will also measure the changes’ impact on conversion rate and average sale price, which we want to push up.
The goal is to offer a ’checkout builder’ experience for our partners, with WYSIWYG customization, to empower creators to easily match the checkout’s style to their design without the need to write custom CSS. Stay tuned!
During Goran’s first month at Freemius, he audited our marketing efforts and observed that our organic traffic has stagnated even though we are pushing quite a lot of net new content. As part of the proposed marketing strategy for 2024, Goran found tangible SEO opportunities to improve existing content by refreshing it and filling in the content gaps.
We never refreshed content before (except for minor things), so I’m excited to see the team building that muscle.
As we don’t want the refresh to impact our ongoing content output frequency, we will need to figure out how to do it parallel with existing resources, or hire more content people, or work with external editors/agencies.
Affiliate Marketers – We Gotcha!
Last but not least, in 2023, we plan to invest heavily in the Affiliate Experience.
The Freemius ecosystem involves software product creators, users/customers/buyers, and affiliate marketers. While we offer a fully featured affiliate platform, there’s so much more we can do to take it to the next level and offer affiliates a delightful experience.
First, we’ll introduce performance charts and a visually appealing dashboard to offer a beautiful bird’s-eye view of the granular data.
Second, we will facilitate an Affiliate Network to create more opportunities for creators and affiliates to work together.
Finally — and I really hope we get to it in 2024 🤞 — we’ll handle affiliate payouts automatically, which takes the payouts hassle away from developers and will give peace of mind to affiliates as they’ll know they’ll get their money, guaranteed!
Farewell 2023, Onward to a Brighter 2024 🥂
2023 was a year of profound achievements for Freemius and a transformative year in my personal life.
I welcomed the joys and challenges of fatherhood with the birth of my son 🥰️, a journey that enriched my life with love and laughter (I thought that running a startup was hard; juggling it with parenthood is an entirely different ball game 😅).
This year also brought its share of trials. Our team faced unprecedented stress, particularly due to geopolitical conflicts.
Our Armenian colleague, Alex, was called for military service amidst the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In Israel, we faced distressing times with the most atrocious terrorist attack and an ongoing war in Gaza. This period was marked by anxiety and impacted our morale deeply. Our daily lives were disrupted, adapting to constant sirens and the harrowing reality of a conflict zone.
As a father, these experiences resonated differently. Ensuring the safety of a young family amidst such turmoil is daunting.
Despite the challenges, we remain committed to our work, finding solace and purpose in our professional contributions. #WeDeliverNoMatterWhat 💪
Happy New Year
As we bid farewell to 2023, we embrace 2024 with hope and resilience. We look forward to growth, joy, and fulfillment in all life’s aspects. Let’s continue to find strength in adversity and appreciate life’s precious moments.
Always keep in mind, Your Success Is Our Success. Here’s to a prosperous and healthy 2024 🥂
Looking forward to meeting you at the next WordCamp Asia in Taiwan! 🇹🇼 🏯🍜