There’s no doubt that WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platforms and content management systems on the Internet. It’s widely supported, relatively easy for the end user to learn, and is easily extensible. For the average user, the WordPress theme engine makes it easy to customize the look and feel of your site. It features a robust plug-in system, and with an expansive ecosphere of existing plug-ins, you can add new features with ease.

It stands to reason that many a small business would turn to WordPress to establish its online presence. So we’ve put together a collection of great ecommerce plug-ins to add catalog, cart and sales functionality to your WordPress site. They range from basic to complex, from free to commercial, but each provides tools that allow you to easily sell your wares on a WordPress-powered website.

WP e-Commerce

WP e-Commerce is one of the most popular ecommerce plug-ins for WordPress. For a free plug-in, WP e-Commerce doesn’t skimp on features. It supports multiple payment gateways such as PayPal, Authorize.net and Google Checkout. The plug-in comes with a variety of ready-made themes, but still fully supports the creation of your own custom themes. You can also customize your order forms, share products via social networking integration, organize products into multiple categories, provide product variations (e.g. size, color) and much more.

For all its features, WP e-Commerce installation keeps it simple, requiring no more effort than other WordPress plug-ins – simply upload to the plug-ins directory and install from within WP Admin. If you’re looking to quickly launch an ecommerce site while avoiding a large time commitment or financial investment, WP e-Commerce is a fast and free, yet feature-rich solution.

Price: FREE

Jigoshop

Jigoshop is another great, free WordPress plug-in that looks quite promising. Boasting a lengthy set of features, Jigoshop gives you complete control over managing your inventory, coupon codes and shipping rates. The plug-in also supports multiple currencies, tax collection and various localization options. While the list of supported payment gateways isn’t quite as extensive as WP e-Commerce, PayPal is supported. Jigoshop also includes a couple of handy sidebar widgets for product search and filtering.

Though a few more supported payment gateways would be nice, we’re still impressed with the features of this free plug-in, and definitely think it’s worth trying out.

Price: FREE

ShopperPress

ShopperPress is meant to act as a one-stop solution for ecommerce in WordPress. With over 20 ready-made themes, you simply install the plug-in, select your desired look, add products and start selling. ShopperPress supports both physical and digital goods, custom order forms, multiple languages and over 20 payment gateways. You can also easily integrate Google Analytics, as well as your own advertising. It’s not entirely clear how easily you can customize the storefront beyond the 20 or so included templates, but if you need a drop-in solution for ecommerce, ShopperPress may be just what you’re looking for. Furthermore, the $79 price tag includes technical support from the ShopperPress team.

Price: $79

Cart66

Formerly PHPurchase, Cart66 is a WordPress ecommerce solution for selling physical and digital goods as well as subscriptions. The plug-in includes Amazon S3 integration so you can easily and reliably deliver digital downloads to your customers. PayPal integration allows for Instant Payment Notification and delivery. Cart66 also lets you set up your own merchant accounts and gateway services.

It has all the features you’d expect from a commercial ecommerce solution, including inventory tracking, support for promotional codes and multiple product variations. Unlike some of the other plug-ins we’ve discussed, Cart66 doesn’t have a storefront, per se, but rather allows you to drop products into any WordPress page or post on your site. While this may be a hindrance to some, this level of flexibility is great for vendors selling only a few products, or for those who wish to place some products behind a registration page or member area.

Price: $89-$399

Shopp

Shopp is an SEO-friendly, powerful and popular ecommerce plug-in. Shopp claims to work out of the box with any WordPress theme, so integration into an existing site should be simple. Other WordPress-centric features include dashboard widgets to easily view sales and product history, short codes and theme widgets to allow you to quickly drop Shopp elements and products into your pages.

Shopp also has a host over other standard ecommerce features: multi-category inventory management, payment history, multiple product images and variations, email notifications and a shipping calculator. The software also includes a number of promotional tools and supports a large variety of payment gateways, either natively or via plug-ins (PayPal, Google Checkout, 2Checkout, First Data, Authorize.net and more).

Price: $55-$299

eShop

Free plug-in eShop is another economical solution for rapid ecommerce integration into your WordPress site. eShop supports both physical and digital product sales, integrates Authorize.net and PayPal gateways (as well as a few others) and is compatible with the WP affiliate plug-in. Some basic features include stock management, configurable email templates, a variety of shipping methods, basic statistics, downloadable sales data, and much more. Like Cart66, eShop uses WordPress pages and posts, so you can easily integrate your products into any section of the site.

Price: FREE

WP Secure Downloads

This premium WordPress plug-in is designed specifically for managing and selling digital goods online and is perfect for selling software, music, artwork, documents, and anything else to be delivered as downloadable content. The plug-in installs just like any other WordPress plug-in, with no outside configuration necessary, and boasts features such as automatic theme integration, a built-in shopping cart and subscription-based purchases.

If your sales are limited strictly to digital products and you don’t want the overhead of a large ecommerce package, but desire the flexibility of simple product management and sales, WP Secure Downloads is the ideal solution.

Price: $37-$179

MarketPress

This BuddyPress and WPMU-compatible ecommerce plug-in allows you to quickly and easily create an entire network of ecommerce sites (of course, you can use it for single storefronts as well). If you’ve got a lot of products to sell across a number of websites, or want to create a network of hosted ecommerce sites, this is definitely the plug-in to consider.

MarketPress keeps your database tables clean by using custom post types and fields for product data; new products are added simply by creating a new post. Other features include multiple product images, coupon codes, custom email templates, multiple currency support and customizable widgets. The plug-in also features a powerful API for extending functionality – for example, to create your own custom payment modules or collect a percentage of sales from network stores.

Price: $39-$209


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More About: business, ecommerce, List, Lists, shopping carts, small business, Web Development, WordPress, WordPress plugins

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wordpress image

Brian Casel is a web designer and business owner who works with WordPress every day. He’s the co-host of Freelance Jam, a live web show for freelance web designers. Connect with Brian on Twitter @CasJam.

It’s no secret that WordPress is the fastest growing content management system (CMS) platform on the web. As of this writing, WordPress has a 54% market share of all websites that use a CMS. As users continue to flock to WordPress, we in turn see massive demand for WordPress’ products and services.

If you’re a WordPress expert, your products and/or services are part of a rapidly growing market. In fact, over the past few years, we’ve seen the launch and success of businesses that are built entirely around WordPress.

In this article, we’ll look at various business models that have proved successful in the ever expanding WordPress arena. We’ll look at the mechanics of each model and how they differ in terms of craft, operation, benefits and downsides. If you’re a designer or developer looking to leverage your expertise in WordPress to build a business, let’s just say you have quite a few options to consider.


1. WordPress Design/Development Consultancy


The most common way for a web designer/developer to build a business around WordPress is to offer web design services specializing in WordPress CMS sites. Your client base would be businesses, organizations and individuals looking to establish a web presence with a user-friendly way to update and manage their site content.

Like any consultancy, this business model is time-based. Either you charge an hourly rate or quote flat project fees that are derived by estimating the amount of time a project will take. While a time-based model may be more difficult to scale, there are two factors that allow you to gradually raise your rates: your skill level and the demand for your services. Both should improve naturally as your consultancy progresses.

Plus, the fact that you use WordPress speeds up your development process by providing amazing base functionality, a strong community to support your craft, and a user-friendly platform to build on top of. Using WordPress is a highly efficient way to capitalize on your time-based business model.

There is a vast abundance of WordPress consultancies out there. CodePoet maintains a worldwide directory of WordPress specialists. FreelanceSwitch is always a good place to find freelancers as well.

WordPress Theme Customization

WordPress themes have become wildly popular among both users and web developers. One of the most common requests from clients is to have their WordPress theme customized to fully suit their needs. Freelance web designers who are just starting out may find this to be a great market to serve.

You might specialize in customizing themes from one particular theme provider. For example, WooThemes has a listing of “Affiliated Woo Workers.” Or theme customizations may fall into the general mix of WordPress services you offer. We’ve also seen specialized shops like TweakMyTheme that exclusively offer theme customization services.

Subcontracting

If your skills are more specialized, you may find steady work as a subcontractor for agencies and other consultants. For example, if you’re a WordPress plugin developer who lacks design skills, you can offer your PHP expertise to designers or agencies looking for specific functionality built into a larger WordPress site.

One benefit of subcontracting is that all of your jobs are collaborations with design/dev professionals rather than the end client. There tends to be less stress and easier communication when the people you work with “speak the language.” You can generally expect more professionalism this way as well.


2. Web Design/Development Agency


After working for several years as a freelance consultant, you may reach a point when you want to grow your business beyond just raising your rates. The logical next step is to hire full-time employees or subcontractors and transition to an agency operation.

WordPress can play a central role at the agency level. Not only can it serve as your primary web development platform, but you can look to the vast WordPress community to find new hires and collaborators.

Having a team allows you to multiply your earnings per hour or take on more projects simultaneously. You can also deliver a better final product since it was built by a team of specialists.

If you’re making the transition from being a solo consultant to agency, your personal job description will change quite a bit. Expect to spend less time in Photoshop and code and more time in calls, meetings, reviewing portfolios and juggling the many responsibilities of a business owner. Some find this transition exciting while others prefer to focus on their craft. That’s something you need to consider before growing your operation.


3. WordPress Themes Sales


Among the most prominent business models in the world of WordPress is theme sales. Today’s market is flooded with WordPress theme shops and the competition is fierce. The massive growth of the WordPress user-base means thousands of new users are entering the market every month.

Selling WordPress themes is a product business, which offers the benefit of being detached from time-based revenue. But don’t think that running a themes shop doesn’t require tons of time and work. You’ll be busy creating and maintaining themes as well as handling ongoing customer support.

In the world of WordPress themes, there are quite a few options to consider as you plan your business:

Independent Theme Shops

One way to enter th
e themes business is to start up your own independent ecommerce website to sell your themes. There is a lot to consider before diving in. First, building an effective ecommerce site is a tough task in and of itself. You’re also responsible for all of the marketing costs and customer database infrastructure. Of course, the benefit is you get to keep 100% of the revenue from your themes.

Another benefit to selling WordPress themes independently is the freedom to try out various pricing models, such as simple one-time theme sales, membership to access all themes (a recurring revenue model), or free themes with premium support.

WooThemes, Press75, and StudioPress are a few examples of the big players in the independent theme shop arena. Smaller shops have followed suit.

WordPress Theme Marketplaces

For those interested in designing and selling WordPress themes, but aren’t ready to build and market your own independent ecommerce website, joining a popular marketplace could be the way to go.

The benefits of selling on a marketplace is that you get to focus on designing and supporting themes while the marketplace handles the bulk of your marketing and traffic generation. The downside is most marketplaces take a significant commission on sales and usually don’t give you control over theme pricing. Another potential downside is your themes are listed right alongside many competitors so it can be easy to get lost in the mix. But with great products shown on a high-traffic stage, the pros can certainly outweigh the cons.

Theme Forest, Mojo Themes, and Theme Garden, are all thriving and reputable WordPress theme marketplaces worth consideration.


4. Plugin Development & Support


Premium plugins may offer more of an opportunity for newcomers than theme sales. While they are very popular with users, there are simply less plugin developers in the space. But the market is growing rapidly.

If you or your team have the development chops to create awesome functionality built on top of WordPress, plugins could be the business to look at. Like WordPress themes, one route is to independently sell your plugin through your own ecommerce site. Gravity Forms, Plugin Buddy, and Cart66 have shown that this business model can be successful. You can also release your plugins on marketplaces such as CodeCanyon, WP Plugins, and Mojo Themes (they also have plugins).

One potential challenge in a plugins business might be customer support. This can prove to be even more difficult than supporting themes since there are so many compatibility variables. But with the right support team in place and a great, carefully developed product, the customer support challenge can be overcome.


5. WordPress Web Hosting


These days, recurring revenue is among the most sought after pricing models for new startups. The power of a recurring revenue stream is tremendous when you think of the growing potential lifetime value of each of your customers. Looking for a recurring revenue model in the WordPress space? WordPress hosting may be worth consideration.

Every user on a self-hosted WordPress site needs some kind of web hosting. Popular and low-cost web hosts like Godaddy, Dreamhost, MediaTemple and others all offer WordPress compatability and one-click installation. But this seems to be the extent to which their services go in respect to WordPress.

Other hosting companies have positioned themselves as WordPress hosting specialists, with an extended set of WordPress services attached to their hosting, like theme installation and WordPress support and optimization. A few examples include Page.ly, WP Engine, and ZippyKid.

Getting into the hosting business is no easy task. You’d better have an intimate knowledge of server technology and scaling issues. It also requires a significant investment in infrastructure, customer support staff, and marketing. And don’t forget the potential firestorms that will arise when your servers inevitably go down and every one of your customers flames you on Twitter. That said, the recurring revenue is a powerful benefit not to be understated. If you make it work, it can be a very lucrative business model.


6. WordPress Community Content


Creating valuable WordPress-related content is a great way to build a long-term brand and audience, which in turn can be leveraged to build a strong business. The WordPress community provides an abundance of helpful information. With just a few Google searches, you can find anything you want to know from a WordPress user.

You can start a blog with focused content in a sub-niche within the WordPress world. WPCandy covers all news related to WordPress. WP Beginner provides helpful tutorials to developers starting out with WordPress. WP Engineer tackles more advanced topics for developers. There are also podcasts like WordPress Weekly. The possibilities are endless.

The primary revenue source for content-driven models is advertising. However, building a strong readership can also be a great launching pad for a products and/or services business.

The challenge with a content-driven approach is the lengthy period of time and unwavering effort required before you start to see results. It can take months of posting several blog posts per week before you build enough traffic to attract advertisers. And don’t forget about the time involved in creating all of that content, or the cost of hiring writers.


7. Premium WordPress Support


This is an interesting and innovative business model that has popped up in recent years. Since WordPress is an open source community-driven project, there really isn’t a centralized location where you can get instant and reliable general customer support. That’s not to say there aren’t amazingly supportive community forums like those on WordPress.org. But sometimes people or companies seek more substantial support options.

One company that comes to mind is WP Help Center, which offers monthly subscriptions to on-call WordPress customer support and development. Another innovative startup is WP Questions, where anyone can ask or answer questions related to WordPress. Those who offer the best answer win a monetary prize paid by the asker, with a portion going to WP Questions.


The Possibilities Are Endless


These business models are just the tip of the iceberg. There are tons of innovative approaches popping up all around the WordPress platform. It’s truly an exciting time for WordPress and the larger community of those who build the web.

Are there any other WordPress focused business models worth noting? Untapped opportunities in the WordPress space? Let us know in
the comments.


Image courtesy of Flickr, Titanas

More About: business, business models, dev & design, ecommerce, WordPress, wordpress business models

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The Web Development Series is supported by Rackspace, the better way to do hosting. Learn more about Rackspace’s hosting solutions here.

WordPress.com is a great platform for users who want to easily create a free website or blog. With more than 23 billion pageviews in 2010, the service is a hit with millions of users.

Premium themes are now available for WordPress.com, but the nature of the system still limits what plugins can be used and how deeply customized a design and overall site structure can be.

For that reason, it is natural that some WordPress.com users will want to take the leap to the self-hosted WordPress.org software.

Transitioning from WordPress.com to WordPress.org may seem daunting — especially for users who have lots of content and multimedia already hosted on WordPress.com. That’s why we decided to put together this screencast that walks through the entire process from beginning to end.


Moving From WordPress.com to WordPress.org


Note: This process covers moving from an existing WordPress.com blog to an existing WordPress.org installation. If you need help installing WordPress.org or finding a web host to use with WordPress.org, WordPress offers some recommendations.


Using Plugins to Re-create WordPress.com Features


As I point out in the screencast, the real key to getting WordPress.org to function (and look) like an older WordPress.com site comes via plugins.

Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, has customized its hosted version of WordPress to include some built-in features that just aren’t included in a standard WordPress.org installation.

As a result, some media like videos, embedded tweets and polls may not show up properly.

I mention some of the most common plugins in the video, but here are some quick links:

  • WordPress.com Stats — This will give you the same kind of stats on WordPress.org that are available to WordPress.com users.
  • VideoPress — If you have ever paid for the VideoPress video upgrade, this plugin will bring the same functionality (and access to your VideoPress videos) to WordPress.org.
  • Wickett Twitter Widget — This is the same widget WordPess.com uses to display tweets in the sidebar of a blog.
  • Grunion Contact Form — This plugin was used as the basis of the new Contact Form feature in WordPress.com.
  • PollDaddy — This plugin will enable any polls created in WordPress.com.

After the Move


After moving content from WordPress.com to WordPress.org and installing any plugins to enable native WordPress.com functionality, users may want to consider purchasing the Site Redirect upgrade from WordPress.com.

For $12 a year, WordPress.com will redirect your old WordPress site links to the new site. These are proper 301 redirects which means search engines will get updated to redirect traffic as well. That also means that most users won’t need to pay for the upgrade after the first year.

You can learn more about Site Redirect at WordPress.com and add the feature from the Upgrades section of the WordPress.com dashboard.


Your Tips


Have you ever migrated from WordPress.com to WordPress.org? Let us know your tips in the comments!


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The Web Development Series is supported by Rackspace, the better way to do hosting. No more worrying about web hosting uptime. No more spending your time, energy and resources trying to stay on top of things like patching, updating, monitoring, backing up data and the like. Learn why.


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WordPress developer and all-around web geek Joost de Valk has just graced the Internet with a highly useful infographic.

For a medium that leans toward the amusing, infographics can occasionally be enlightening or even helpful for later reference.

This one serves as a sort of “cheat sheet for how your blog works” and takes the reader through the basics of a normal WordPress theme.

It’s a posts-to-plugins look at the anatomy of a typical WordPress theme. Have a look, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Click to see original.



More About: infographic, joost de valk, WordPress, WordPress theme, yoast

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