How much are the big WordPress companies making?
It's a question many of us have pondered. Just how much money do these “big” WordPress product companies make? WooThemes, Copyblogger (makers of StudioPress), Gravity Forms, WP Engine, Sucuri, and many more companies are clearly making significant revenues compared to one and two person businesses. But it's rare you hear a business say specifically just how much revenue they have.
The best I've heard up to now is that the largest of the visible WordPress companies are making “multiple millions” of dollars per year. Well, that could be $2 million or $200 million. My personal guess was that the top theme shops are making around $10 million per year. But that was an educated guess, based on various reports of active subscriber counts, hiring rates, etc. Also, the number of people that work somewhere hardly correlates to revenue, though it's at least a sign of investment. As for hosting companies, I really have no clue.
Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger Media, has helped clarify this question for at least one of the most visible WordPress based companies out there. In what amounts to a big chest puffing exercise, for lack of a better term, Brian Clark revealed in the comments section of a Fast Company article that Copyblogger Media is a $7 million per year company.
The number is actually a little lower than I would've anticipated for Copyblogger, even though it's still very impressive to me. And I'm sure they are experiencing a bunch of growth. But Copyblogger isn't strictly the point of this post. What it does is confirm that my method for estimating revenues is probably pretty good. And I think it helps confirm that some of the other big players in the WordPress product market must also be in the $5 million to $15 million range annually.
One note I'll make is that I think that the average WordPress product company is probably making a bit more right now per employee than the average consultancy. If I had to guess, I'd guess that the product companies that are successful might be making around $150,000 to $250,000 per employee, if I attempt to create a linear relationship. I've heard from a CPA on a creative / business podcast before say that most successful consultants they work with operate on / around at least a 50% profit margin. Depending on whether the consultant has office space, benefits, etcetera, it's possible to calculate a range of what that amounts to per employee. In general, I'd assume it's closer to $75,000-$150,000 per year per employee depending on the company and genre.
I hesitate a little bit to publish this post. It's unbelievably speculative, and I'm sure some of the people behind these companies may read it, roll their eyes, and laugh at me while swimming in piles of money ;). Or maybe they'll just tell me I'm an idiot and they could only dream of making $250,000 per employee. But either way, let me go ahead and put out the disclaimer that I do not have inside knowledge about these companies' revenue, and I am only speculating. And I post this because I found it interesting that Brian Clark openly disclosed Copyblogger's revenue. And I think individuals considering moves into consulting or the WordPress product market may take at least minimal value from this post.
Pricing in creative industries is a huge grey area, and not many people talk about it. That's why I personally love when people are open about business finances. I've been listening to the Businessology podcast the last couple of days, and it's been refreshing to hear Dan Mall (one of the show hosts) talk about money. I also loved this episode with Jon Lax, a partner of the swoon-worthy consultancy Teehan Lax, where he talks about money, billing, and business experimentation with some specific references.
By the way, if anyone else wants to say how much money they make, feel free to do so here and not on Fast Company.
And a final note, these comments and others on that Fast Company article are founded in some related #dramapress. It's written by Ghost founder John O'Nolan, reeks of an advertorial, and Matt Mullenweg shot back in the comments.
Money is always a tough thing to talk about. We each feel so self-conscious about it. My current income (invoices paid) sits around $45 – 50k which is by no means super huge, but it lets me live comfortable.
To many that number may seem super low, I’m have no doubt that others in the WordPress industry may have thought they did more business than me and realize now that they don’t and I’m sure it swings the other way as well.
Whenever I see discussions about finances like this it’s always important to frame them in what the expectations of the owner/operator are. I’m happy taking Friday’s off and most of Tuesday mornings to do podcasts, ride my bike…I could do more income if I worked more, but then quality of life…
Curtis, thanks for sharing! I love your openness. When you say “current income (invoices paid)” do you mean so far this year, or that’s your average per-year? Just out of curiousity, because I’m not sure it was clear.
Money in and of itself means nothing. You are totally right. It all depends what you expect, what you want, and what you plan to do for it. Working 80 hours a week to make more than the other guy is dumb. Working 80 hours a week to do something special that you are proud of is totally worthwhile for many. On the other side, making a good living working 35 hours a week is super attractive as well, even if it’s not as much as the guy working 80 hours per week is making.
As in that’s the invoices collected this year. That’s about the total income for last year so I’m on track to 2x my income from last year.
My wife and I have been teaching some financial management courses lately. I’ve seen the power of just sharing numbers without tiptoeing around them.
Way to many people view money as an indicator of their worth. It is not that at all.
Hey Brian. Sorry if that comment seemed like chest puffing. I actually hate talking about money, because that’s a byproduct of what we’re trying to achieve, not the main focus.
The Fast Company “article” was a blatant attempt to disparage the WordPress market, which is vibrant and growing ever faster. I though it was appropriate at that point to give some hard facts about where we’re at to counter his misrepresentations.
As far as we know, there are no other WP companies that make more than us, other than Automattic. Hence the “second” designation.
And if you’re disappointed in $7 million, stick with us. We’re just getting going.
Hey Brian! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I actually love that you disclosed the revenue, but I’d rather see it in a post with some analysis or something. John really stirred the pot with that post, and that’s why I felt it was a bit chest-puffy in that context 🙂
Technically, I don’t *know* of others that make more, but that’s because it’s just not public. I have a feeling that a couple are beyond that number – but I don’t know for sure. I also think there are probably a few companies we’ve never heard of that are making a ton of money using WordPress.
And don’t worry about my disappointment, you guys are doing just fine obviously, and I’m excited to see what you come up with next 🙂
PS, for real, I’d love to see a post or video where you break down your revenue streams and strategies. I’m fascinated by that type of information (and would pay to hear you discuss it).
Interesting information. And the openness in the comments is always refreshing.
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