Some questions don’t really have an answer until you ask the question a bit more precisely.
If you’re just here for a numerical answer, here it is: “Between $100 and $10,000,000.”
Why the large range? Because some questions—like “How old is a painting?” and “What color is a girl’s hair?”—simply don’t have an answer until you ask the question more precisely. “How much does a custom plugin cost?” is one of those.
So if you think you may need a custom plugin and you’ve found this page: Welcome, and let’s talk plugins!
What Is a WordPress Plugin?
A WordPress plugin is just standalone code that does a specific job. That job could be anything, and the plugin could be of any size and complexity.
That’s the key question. You see, a WordPress plugin is just a body of standalone code that does a specific job in WordPress.
That job could be anything, and the plugin could be of any size and complexity.
Let’s look at two examples:
- At Press Up, we wrote a tiny plugin called “Only One Category,” that only lets posts be in one post category at a time. It’s one PHP file, and only took a few hours to write.
- BuddyPress is an enormous plugin that transforms a WordPress site into a Facebook-like social network. It’s been under active development for years by dozens of people, meaning tens of thousands of hours of very smart developer work have gone into it.
A good developer could do Only One Category in an afternoon. A team of good developers could recreate BuddyPress in its current state in perhaps two years. And yet they’re both WordPress plugins.
So you see, there’s no good way to price a “custom WordPress plugin” without knowing a lot more.
Understanding Plugin Pricing
Plugin pricing is a function of two things: the time your plugin will take to develop, and what your developer will charge for that time.
Plugin pricing is a function of two things:
- The time your plugin will require to develop.
- What the developer you choose will charge for that time.
To start to get a cost estimate, you’ll need to understand both of those pieces. Follow the steps below:
1. Ask Around to Get an Estimate of Your Plugin’s Complexity
To find out how complex your plugin would be, there’s literally no substitute for a WordPress expert.
To find out how complex (and hence costly) your plugin would be, there’s literally no substitute for a WordPress expert.
If you know which developer you’ll be working with, you’ll want to ask him or her to prepare an estimate.
If not, and if you don’t yet want formal developer estimates, then ask around—at your local WordPress meetup, on WordPress forums, at the WordPress subreddit, and so forth.
Or ask us! We’re happy to get into the details of your project, and we can deliver ballpark figures on technical feature needs.
2. Understand Going Developer Rates
Luckily, good WordPress developers’ hourly rates are somewhat standardized.
In general, any developer who understands WordPress also understands how to make plugins. (If not, steer clear! It’s relatively easy and they should know how.)
And luckily for you, good WordPress developers’ hourly rates are somewhat standardized. It’d be good to read up on:
- Information on WordPress developer rates. (This article’s outstanding; read it carefully.)
- Time estimates for common tasks in WordPress development; these multiplied by the rates in the previous article start to give a sense of cost.
As a note: your developer may also attempt value-based pricing, which is working with you to understand why the plugin’s valuable to you and pricing based on that. That’s a great way to go too, and it generally indicates a savvy developer; but he or she will still need to do internal time estimation to know if the project’s worth taking on at the price you agree on.
3. Read Up in General
If a lot of this is news to you, you’ll also want to get savvy on how web development works in general. Some starting points:
- Understanding complexity in web development; your plugin’s complexity is ultimately what will determine both its cost and the difficulty of estimating that cost beforehand
- How to work well with a web developer.
- Two pieces (here and here) about planning and executing a successful web project.
After reading this article, I hope you understand two things:
- Why “How much does a custom plugin cost?” doesn’t really have an answer.
- How to go about answering “How much would my custom plugin cost?”
Thanks for reading. Again, we’re happy to help you think through your web project, and we’ve made a lot of projects work for very happy clients. So please get in touch if you’d like to talk!
Image Credits: Kevan