It’s Easy to Assume Custom WordPress Projects are Cheap

Why custom work isn't cheap

Not long ago I read a great article called How Public Perception of WordPress Influences Developer Contracts and it really got me thinking about how this applies to me and my business. The main takeaway is:

Some people massively undervalue custom WordPress projects

With WordPress, so many things are cheap or even free. You have a huge repository of free plugins and themes available. You also have websites with massive selections of “premium” plugins and themes (usually ranging from $20 to $80). For an entire website/blog, that’s dirt cheap (or entirely free!). We run into a problem when people then want to enhance their site with custom work.

The thinking is: If I buy this plugin for $35 and want to hire a developer to tweak it, the tweaks should be less than the price of the plugin since the modification I want is smaller than the plugin itself.

Sadly, that’s not at all true!

Custom work is worth more than a pre-made

I sell my Ultimate Book Blogger Plugin for $35. That gets you:

  • Tons of boxes for entering in book information.
  • 8 review archives that update automatically.
  • 8+ custom widgets
  • And so much more…

So then let’s say someone comes along wanting to add one extra book info box for “Country”, one custom widget, and one extra review archive (for reviews listed by country). Their logic is that they’re asking for extra features that make up a teeny tiny fraction of what the plugin actually is (1 field next to 12+, 1 widget next to 8+, 1 archive next to 8). So, by that logic, this custom work should just be a fraction of the plugin, right? Maybe $5 or $10 max. And if you think about it like that, it does make sense. But, when you compare custom work to pre-made work, that’s when it doesn’t make sense at all.

Custom work is sold once and tailored specifically to you

A pre-made plugin with tons of features can be priced at $35 because I build this product once and ship out this same product to hundreds or thousands of people. That’s why we can justify the small price tag.

But when you order custom work, I have to take hours out of my day to build something ONLY and SPECIFICALLY for you. These hours I put in can’t be re-sold to hundreds or thousands of clients. They’re only for you.

So let’s say I value my time at $50 per hour (which is pretty cheap for a web developer, by the way). Well if it’s going to take me an hour to do this work for you (which it probably would), that’s already $50, which is more than the price of the plugin! I know why someone would balk at that price tag, but at the same time, the developer is putting an hour of time into this just for you. Shouldn’t they be fairly compensated?

How do you feel about paying for custom work?

Have you ever been shocked at the price of it? Or do you understand why it costs more than a pre-made?

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I'm a 30-something California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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25 comments

  1. I don’t assume they are cheap, I just never have the money to pay for anything..lol. Like I would love to upgrade to your tweak me 2 but just bought your tweak me 1 and can’t afford an upgrade even and half off. πŸ™ I wish I knew how to make a heat rating on your UBB, but I don’t. πŸ™ I have been trying to learn coding and there is a lot to it so I know why it’s expensive even if i don’t have the money to pay for it. πŸ™‚

  2. Nice reminder πŸ™‚
    I think it’s not just WordPress, but since there is more individuals (vs companies) using WordPress than other more technical platforms or technologies, you see it more.
    There is the same phenomenon in independent game development. Lots of individuals have ideas and contact developers to implement them… except their budget is like $200. It seems that there is a perception that doing stuff on a computer takes 5min if you just know how to do it.

    1. Well I think a lot of it has to do with open source programs. When something is open source, it’s free and usually has a lot of free add-ons (in this case, plugins and themes). But when someone (whether it’s an individual or a company) has to pay for the core program, they expect to have to pay decently for any add-ons as well.

      A good example would be the IPB forum software. It’s an excellent forum software, but it’s not free. It costs something like $175. So if someone is already paying $175 for that, they’re happy to also pay money to get a good theme for it.

  3. I have no problem paying for custom work as long as I can afford it and the price seems fair. I have some previous experience with design work so I feel like I have a good grasp of the money aspect of it all. I do think there are people who upcharge because of a “name” but overall I think everyone I’ve looked at is pretty fair.

    1. Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes I see what some people are charging and I think it’s absurd.

      For example, once a friend contacted me because he wanted some help configuring some ecommerce stuff. He already had his WordPress theme and the ecommerce plugin installed and he just wanted a little help tweaking some settings. Setting up ecommerce on WordPress is honestly INSANELY easy. You can do it in like 20 minutes. So I just charged him my hourly rate. He told me he got a quote from another guy for like $5,000 (using the same ecommerce plugin). As a developer who knows exactly how easy it is, I felt like that other guy was being a total scammer. They see the word “ecommerce” and immediately multiply the price by like 10 just because.

      It ended up taking me like an hour. (And that was only because we hopped on a Skype call, which took up some time. The actual tweaking probably took me 20 minutes.)

    1. Yeah, especially for the designers who make their living doing this stuff. That’s not to say that people who do it as a hobby don’t deserve money.. but if a designer is literally making a money doing this stuff, they do need enough money to pay the bills!

    1. Absolutely! Plus if this is someone’s full time job, they need to earn enough to actually pay the bills. πŸ™‚

  4. Brilliant post. I work in a marketing agency so I understand the costs in tweaking things, and we see people who don’t think it will cost much to make a little change but it actually takes a lot of work to make those small changes sometimes. I think when people don’t understand exactly what you have to do then it’s easy to assume it’s not that big of a job.

  5. Folks should always be looking at the VALUE of what they buy and not the cost. Prefab plugins can work in most instances, but there are many in which they will not.

    We’ve come across this many times. It took me a while to realize the fact that you get what you pay for. You want cheap, get cheap. You want the best, be prepared to pay!

    Like my dad used to say, there’s getting it done and getting it done the RIGHT way.

    Great post!

    Victor Salinas (@VictorASalinas) recently posted: Best of BookTube: Social Media Book Tag
    1. You’re absolutely right! I’ve seen a lot of people hire super cheap designers/developers, then I look at their sites and see them riddled with errors. Or they buy my plugins and wonder why certain features aren’t working properly (because the themes don’t abide by WP coding standards).

      You get what you pay for!

  6. I guess people assume you just throw a piece of code into the pre-made?

    I never understand how people don’t value professionals. I think it happens in every industry too. For example – I work for a vet and friends/family are always calling me for medical advice so they don’t have to pay for a visit. I realize that’s different from what you’re saying but I get it.

    You’re providing a service that’s tailored to them. It takes time. Yes, some people take advantage and overcharge (or are very cheap but don’t do a good job) but most people are fair and deserve to be paid a fair amount for their time and expertise.

  7. I’m still using blogger and one of the reasons why I haven’t moved to wordpress is exactly because I would probably want to hire someone to tweak it and that would cost some money. That being said I totally understand that developers have to be payed for their work and I don’t question the prices.

    Rosa @ Bookish Findings recently posted: Holiday Gift Guide for Bloggers
  8. I always believed that “you get what you put into it”… and with that concept comes “you get what you pay for”. Having said that I don’t have a lot of money to be buying things like this but with my site I splurged because what I wanted and what I could do myself were two completely different things. I could never have what I have now without buying it. I might have played around with the Tweak Me Theme or something similar and eventually been somewhat happy, but nothing like I am now. All of these creations do not come cheap but I must say that you are very reasonably priced in comparison to some other places.
    Again… you get what you pay for. I wouldn’t be able to do it again but only because I can’t afford it… not because I don’t think it’s worth it.

  9. I want a custom design and i know it will probably be expensive, but if the designer can put out my ideas and to a blog that i will love it will be worthy. i have seem some crazy prices and some cheap pre made themes, i know my project it will expensive but it will have my soul imprint on it and i don’t think the work of the designer should be cheap, they take hours doing projects!

    i just need to change to wordpress.org and have some money XD to search for a designer πŸ™‚ can’t wait to have a custom design

    Vera recently posted: Bom dia :)
  10. This is so informative! From the TINY BIT of tweaking I’ve done (and may I stress tiny bit) and how much work it was to make even the smallest changes this makes so much sense. I think it does seem weird that one field would cost more than a plugin, but it makes perfect sense when you think about it. I haven’t had any custom work done because I know I probably can’t afford it lol. I would like to get my blog redone someday though, I just need to wait I guess πŸ™‚

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