Joe Anderson Talks About Developing Plugins And Maintaining A Single-Man Company

Joe Anderson Talks About Developing Plugins And Maintaining A Single-Man Company

A new interview with another WordPress plugin developer is ready for you guys! This time, we’re talking with Joe Anderson, the man behind Metaphor Creations, a company offering – you guessed it – WordPress plugins and themes.

With a background in graphic design Joe started his company all the way back in 2008 and, since then, has been running it by himself. In regards to WordPress everything started 7-8 years ago after he decided that Flash no longer had a future.

Let’s find out his story together and see why he prefers to use WordPress and what his future plans are with this amazing CMS!

Tell us a bit about yourself and the business/plugin(s) that you’re running

I own and operate Metaphor Creations, LLC, from my house. In a nutshell, I build and sell WordPress plugins and themes in addition to taking on (mainly WordPress-related) freelance jobs.

I currently have quite a few plugins available, with the most popular being Ditty News Ticker, along with its paid extensions. Another popular plugin is the Post Duplicator, which is also available for free on the WordPress repository.

How many people are working in your team/company? How big is your team?

It’s just me. Metaphor Creations is a one-person show. I wear many hats.

How did you start with WordPress? Why WordPress?

I started using WordPress about 8 years ago after I was convinced that Flash was no longer going to be a viable product and income source. I am a self-taught programmer, who started with ActionScript and animations. As Flash died out I had to learn something new in order to keep my business running. So, I started learning HTML, CSS and Javascript.

After building a few static sites for my clients, I had many requests to implement CMS systems which forced me to learn PHP as well. Before sticking to WordPress, I tried a few other CMS systems like Expression Engine and Concrete 5. I rotated between them until WordPress finally included custom post types into the core. Once that happened, I have stuck with WordPress for 95% of my work.

Initially, one of the reasons I started using WordPress is the amount of resources that were available. When you’re trying to learn how to program on your own, the ability to track down solutions to problems can be a pretty important factor. And, I still prefer to work in WordPress due to the continual improvements, the community, security, and ease of use.

Can you please describe your user/customer base? Who is using your plugin(s)?

Well, I can say that there is a broad range of customers for Ditty News Ticker and it could be used on any type of site.

How do you monetize? How are you making money? Who pays you?

The biggest part of my revenue is generated by Ditty News Ticker extensions that are sold directly on my website, metaphorcreations.com. Ditty News Ticker itself is available for free on the WordPress repository and it allows users to manually create, in a very simple way, tickers for their sites.

The extensions I sell for Ditty News Tickers gives users additional functionality, like the ability to easily populate tickers with a wide variety of data that they don’t need to enter manually. Currently, the most popular extensions are Ditty Posts Ticker, Ditty RSS Ticker and Ditty Twitter Ticker.

Can you share a few numbers in terms of active users/downloads or website monthly traffic?

Currently there are over 40,000+ active installs of Ditty News Ticker. I don’t know the exact number of Ditty News Ticker extensions that are in use throughout the web, but I have over 5,000 unique sales between all of them.

How do you acquire visitors/users/customers?

I believe that most customers come across my plugin after searching the web for a news ticker to add to their site. I also send out occasional emails to existing customers with new products or deals, and as soon as something new is happening on my site.

What are your current struggles? How are you planning on overcoming them?

As you probably guessed, my main struggle is finding new customers. My time is split by many different activities, as I also do freelance work and my own support, along with a wife and 3 kids. However, I do hope that I will be able to gain more customers by simply increasing exposure to my products.

This year, I would really like to build out an entirely new product and sell it on my site. Right now, I’m still debating on what that may be, but I do have some ideas. I also have ideas about major changes I want to make to Ditty News Ticker that I would love to implement within this year.

What would you say are your biggest strengths?

Definitely my determination. Over the past 5 years I have been selling plugins and themes, but the sales don’t always match up to the amount of effort I have put into the products… but, I keep trying!

Can you share a tough moment in the course of your business? What were the takeaways from it?

Right after going out on my own, all my freelance jobs dried up in the first few months. This wasn’t what I was expecting at all! I was on the verge of putting together a new resume to find another 9-5 job, but luckily new freelance work started coming in again before I got to that point.

During that time I realized that there is always work to be done. Even when things are going well you need to think about different avenues to generate income. Wether it’s a new product or searching out new freelance customers and jobs, you always need to look to and prepare for the future… But, you also need to relax a bit and enjoy your successes!

What are some of the tools you’re using in the development process?

I use Coda 2, CodeKit, SourceTree, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Google Search.

What do you think about the WP ecosystem in general? Where do you think the opportunity lies in the following years?

WordPress is one of the easiest content management systems to work with and customize. As with any technology there’s a learning curve to it, but once you start figuring it out you can create pretty much anything you can dream of. There is also a lot of information and resources available compared to other CMS systems. With a little Google searching you can find out answers to pretty much any question or issue you come across.

It’s hard to say what the next years could bring. Generally speaking, I believe customers are simply trying to find the best solution for their needs. In some cases cost is a factor. But, for the most part, if you build something the people really need (or works better than an existing product) they are willing to spend a little extra money to make their lives easier.

What would you recommend to anybody that is looking to start their own WP business?

Just start. Begin with developing a few plugins, build some themes, then put them out there for the world to try out. It’s almost impossible to come with the “perfect” product, so don’t wait until then to put something up. Then, improve your product as you see fit and as you get feedback.

It’s great to have freelance customers with a specific need and money to pay for your time, but you will grow the most if you have a large variety of people using your code. My suggestion is to start with a couple of freebies, plugins or themes, and learn from the responses you get from the general public!

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