You want to stand out, get noticed, and make more money? Be nice.
I’m a freelance WordPress plugin developer who is maniacal about polite, prompt support ticket response. So far it has made me about $3000 over the last 10 months, plus one brand called about acquiring me and my plugin.
Free product + free support + prompt polite developer = $$ + opportunity
So many support requests come across my desk begging for a “YOU SHOULD HAVE READ THE BLEEPING MANUAL” response.
- People don’t read FAQs.
- People don’t scour forums for answers.
- People certainly don’t pay for support for a free plugin.
Instead, they open the support forums, create a new topic (or worse, tack their request onto the end of a resolved ticket), and blast off the same inane support request that you’ve answered (what feels like) 250 times.
That request may frustrate you, because you are the one who has answered it (what feels like) 250 times. This user? They’ve never come across it, and you have one chance to help them have a good first impression of you.
So far, I’ve gotten 3 monthly recurring clients for backups, maintenance, and now even hosting, from being nice to a stranger on the forums for my free plugins.
I’m working on a pretty great conversion rate, too. 19 tickets for one plugin and 30 tickets for the other, with 3 monthly clients now representing roughly $200 in recurring revenue, so far. That doesn’t count the handful of one-off code fixes and other things that I’ve contracted to do for folks after first meeting them in the forums. Those have grossed about $2000 total so far.
My oldest plugin is not even a year old yet. Could you handle an extra $3000 in your pocket* from being nice this year?Could you handle an extra $3,000 in your pocket from using a grade-school trick? Click To Tweet
Start by acknowledging that you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be an outsider to the WordPress community, and a novice user. Then answer every question like it’s your best friend asking it.
Just because you know to check the FAQ, do a simple Google search, or run down a list of possible solutions to the problem doesn’t mean that your users will, or even should.
My first inclination when I run into requests that are absurd or that could have been easily answered with a lmgtfy.com link is to assume the user is intentionally trying to be a jerk. They clearly know they are freeloading, and expecting not only a premium quality product, but also 24-7-365 service on that product, for free.
But that’s the thing: In most cases, the user has no idea they are being unreasonable, and if you gently answer the question you go a long way toward helping them to see their own absurdity.Most of the time, novice users don't know their free support requests are unreasonable. You have to teach them. Click To Tweet
Now, I don’t mean you need to get walked all over by entitled users who think everything should be free. A stock phrase I use often in support requests is “that falls outside the scope of the free support I’m able to offer here.” (coincidentally, that’s the exact phrase which has led to multiple ongoing financial relationships)
But I suppose this is all still anecdotal at this point, but it sure seems like the way any developer can stand out (and make some great spare coin) is to decide to be nice. I can assure you of one thing: here inside the anecdote, it’s quite pleasant.
*the governments of both these United States and my specific state of North Carolina have conspired to take (at gunpoint) 36% of those earnings. Because the alternative way to generate revenue—when being nice doesn't work—is forcibly taking it with the support of (unjust) laws. So my $3000 looks conspicuously like $1920 by the time it reaches my pocket. Your results may vary.