When I wanted to sell my themes on my own site, I started out with Easy Digital Downloads combined with various EDD extensions. As time went on, I got more interested in creating maintainable websites. Building websites with a group of plugins is a great way of bootstrapping a website quickly. Which is good for testing out an idea and getting a product to market quickly, but does create a site that requires a lot more time.
I wanted to create a website that was easy to maintain, that once built, I could almost forget about and concentrate on other projects or marketing and spend less time on maintenance. I considered just writing custom code instead. That way I could write code that required less maintenance. But that’s a big investment in something that doesn’t make me a lot of money and probably never will. Most theme authors will tell you that most sales come from 3rd party platforms – not via their own site. So I hardly wanted to now invest a lot of time.
When you are running a WordPress website and you want to sell something, your mind naturally goes to WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads. But there are other options. I started to investigate third-party platforms. I tried a few and opted for Gumroad. Why would I do that if I have to pay a percentage per sale?
I did some reading and found that some people actually saw an increase in sales after switching to Gumroad after selling on their own site. A lot of people know Gumroad, have already purchased from there and if they haven’t then a quick google can tell them that it’s safe. I think that sales did increase after I switched.
By removing all those plugins associated with running a store, it reduces the maintenance required and thus saves me time. That time costs money because it’s time that could have been used elsewhere.
It took me a lot more time to setup and skin EDD then it did putting my products on Gumroad. It also allows you to get selling quickly to test out a product, before investing in the website.
Good plugins cost so create an upfront cost. Set up also takes time as and time is money. So although I pay a commission, I only pay that for any sales I make. So if I don’t sell anything, I don’t pay anything.
By keeping my website as just a blog, it means a faster website. Whatever I use to run my site, it can be served statically.
By keeping the blog and E-commerce separate, I can be flexible with the blog. I can change themes without worrying about breaking something. I can also switch out WordPress and play with something else for fun. I’m currently using Jekyll, in the future I may go back to WordPress or even try something else. I’m a free agent.
Often WordPress is used to bootstrap a website quickly to save time. I’d argue that often there are quicker ways to bootstrap websites. That won’t apply to every situation. But it’s worth thinking about whether you really need to have complex functionality on your site or whether a 3rd party site could provide the functionality you need, at least in the beginning.
You don’t need a website
Some have very active traffic sources and don’t use a website. Say you’re a YouTuber or very active on social media.
Dealing with tax
It’s not something that most of us want to bother about. The EU Tax law is something that’s quite laborious for a smaller company to deal with. I have seen many simply remove their own products so they don’t have to deal with in order to focus on their less legally burdened services.
But with third parties like Gumroad, you don’t have to deal with EU Tax. In case you didn’t know, anyone selling to an EU citizen has to worry about it, your not except if you aren’t an EU citizen.
I’m not saying that there is never a time to use WordPress solutions, of cause there is. But I think that often alternatives are overlooked when they could make a lot of sense. Because friends and family know I work with WordPress and know that I’ve worked with lot’s of WooCommerce stores, they can be surprised when I tell them not to open one right now and even more surprised when I tell them that I am not selling via WordPress.
When they are just getting their feet wet in the E-Commerce world, when they are still defining their market and their product, learning how to run a WordPress store just isn’t the right focus for them. Down the line, when their site grows and they find that the percentage they are paying out to another service far outstrips the cost of running the store themselves, or when they find that there is something custom they want to do that they can’t do via that service.
That’s the time to revisit the idea of running their own store. I have been selling with Gumroad now for quite some time and the maintenance my site has needed has been zero. I have no plugins to update. The only attention I pay my site is for content changes.