Interview with Pippin Williamson, a WordPress Freelance Plugin Developer

We continue our series of interviews with WordPress rockstars today by having a chat with Pippin Williamson, a very talented plugin developer who is known for his many plugins available on CodeCanyon, as well as his tutorial site Pippin’s Plugins.

Pippin has managed to create a freelance business focusing on WordPress plugin development, and I am sure it will be very interesting for those of you out there who dream of concentrating fully on WordPress work in a freelance environment.

Being a freelance developer myself, I found Pippin’s hardware setup as well as his views on marketing oneself very interesting.

Enough talk, let’s hear it from the man himself:

Thanks for joining us today Pippin, please tell us a bit more about your background, how long you’ve been working with WordPress and what you do for a living.
I’m a 23 year old freelance WordPress developer from Lawrence, KS, USA. I primarily focus on WordPress plugin development and run a website called Pippin’s Plugins, which is a tutorial site purely dedicated to plugin development.

Being your own boss is certainly something many of us aspire to. Can you share some secrets on how you made this work for you as a WordPress developer?

It works differently for everyone, of course, but one of the things that worked really well for me was going to school full time, while developing for WordPress on the site. While I was in school at the University of Kansas, I was forced to find a good balance between school and freelance work. As I also had a part time job on campus during my four years of school, I had to balance this with my work load from school and freelance as well. I feel that learning to balance all of these things, and still finding time to spend with my fiance-now-wife, was integral the success of my freelance business. In freelance, one of the hardest things for sure is finding the motivation to force yourself to work (when you could just spend all day doing other things) and to balance the work load of various client and personal projects. By forcing myself to do this during school, when the financial success of my business did not determine whether I could buy groceries each month, I really helped to shape my work habits for when I was out of school.

My advice to people who have not yet managed to become their own boss, but are aspiring to do so, is to make sure that you spend a minimum of one year doing freelance work at the same time as either school or a full time job. If you can manage an array of client / personal projects at the same time as a full time job, then you should have no problem once you are your own boss.

You’re one of the most successful WordPress plugin authors on the CodeCanyon marketplace, how do you get ideas for new plugins and what do you think are the qualities needed to succeed as a developer in such a marketplace?

Ideas for new plugins are by far one of the most difficult things to come up with. Most of the time, ideas for plugins come from either need or a proposal someone has submitted to me. If I find that I have a need for functionality that is not already provided by the WordPress core, or another plugin, then I will often make my own plugin to do it. Sometimes this results in a plugin getting published on Code Canyon. I also get a lot of ideas from small scripts people have written that I see as something that could be incorporated as a component in a much larger plugin. For example, Sugar Modal Windows came about because I found a jQuery modal window script and really liked it, so I decided to adapt it to WordPress.

Aside from solid development, probably the single most important quality you need to succeed on a marketplace like Code Canyon is good technical support. If you do not provide top notch quality support for your products, you will never succeed. I cannot tell you the number of times a buyer has decided to purchase another one of my plugins after being happy with the support they received on the first. Customers that continue coming back and purchasing your work are very, very vital to your business, and these kind of customers only come from provided excellent support.
Ignore support requests, or provide very flaky support and you will quickly find yourself with a bad reputation and low ratings and sales.

As a WordPress developer, what do you think are the best ways of marketing yourself and creating your own niche?

Leveraging the traffic that a site like Code Canyon provides can give you and your product a huge amount of exposure. By simply placing your plugins for sell on Code Canyon, and then linking to live previews and further resources on your site, you will see a huge traffic spike. And, as has been said so many times before, do NOT ever underestimate the power social networks, such as Twitter.

I find that Twitter and my weekly newsletters (delivered through Mail Chimp) are responsible for a pretty decent chunk of all monthly traffic.

What’s the favourite plugin you’ve created?

At this time it is definitely Restrict Content Pro. It’s my favorite in part because it provides a huge amount of functionality to my personal site, but also because it is probably the best I’ve built in terms of code quality. I built it with extensions in mind, so it’s really easy to create add-on plugins, which are always fun.

Can you mention some other plugins that you find yourself relying on when developing new WordPress sites?

  • Duplicate Post – absolutely a wonderful tool when creating test / demo content.
  • Regenerate Thumbnails – this is probably the plugin I use the most on a daily basis.
  • Migrate DB – a phenomenal plugin for moving WordPress sites from dev to live environments.

What new features would you like to see in upcoming versions of WordPress?

There are several features that I’ve been wanting for a really long time:

  • An improved gallery system. The current one just doesn’t cut it.
  • Better control over the emails that are sent when users register or leave comments.
  • Post templates that work the same way as page templates. Post formats do not even get close to providing the kind of functionality custom templates give.

Tell us a bit about your development setup (hardware + software).

I work primarily on my desktop machine, which is custom built box with dual graphic cards and a 6-core AMD processor. This has three displays attached, two 21 inch Dell LCDs, and one 17 inch POS. I also have a 15 inch Macbook Pro for when I’m on the road, or just feel like sitting on the couch.

I personally love working on both Windows and OS X as it allows me to leverage the great elements of both operating systems. I was raised purely on Apple products, but got accustomed to using Windows during high school and college. I also have a deep love for Linux, but, sadly, do not use it very often.

With services such as Dropbox, sharing content between my two machines, even across operating systems, is not a problem at all.

My code editor of choice is Notepad++ when on my desktop, and TextMate when on my Macbook.

Any other online tools or resources you use on a daily basis?

Pastebin.com is one of my life savers when it comes to working with other developers. Recently I’ve started using Github to host some code repositories, which is awesome. My favorite app of all time, however, is Dropbox. I keep all of my project files in my Dropbox folder, which lets me really, really easily sync files between my desktop and Macbook. For invoicing and time tracking, I will never use anything but Ronin again.

Tell us a bit about your plans for 2012, any new projects in the pipeline?

I have a lot that I hope to accomplish this year. In regards to my freelance business, first and foremost is constant improvement to the premium section of my website. I plan to continue producing a minimum of one-two premium tutorials per week, along with several free tutorials, and to also bring on a couple of guest authors to write for me on occasion. I’m also planning to mostly move away from freelance client work. This is mostly so that I can produce more plugins and tutorials for my site and Code Canyon.

On a personal note, I’m really looking forward to welcoming my first born child into the world come may.

Once again thanks Pippin for taking the time for this interview, and we wish you all the best for this year, we are sure you will reach all your personal and business goals. 

About Jean Galea

Jean Galea is a WordPress developer, entrepreneur and padel player. He is the founder of WP Mayor, the plugins WP RSS Aggregator and EDD Bookings, as well as the Mastermind.fm podcast. His personal blog can be found at jeangalea.com.

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5 Responses

  1. Mario Peshev
    Mario Peshev February 13, 2012 at 21:25 | | Reply

    Very well, I like the list with the plugins listed above, as well as the setup (I use two notebooks and a desktop simultaneously when needed). That’s probably the first person I’ve heard of who switched from Mac OS X to Windows and not vice versa.

    I will have a look at the security permissions plugin. Wondering what does it have more than, let’s say, S2 Member.

  2. Pippin
    Pippin February 14, 2012 at 15:32 | | Reply

    I didn’t switch completely to Windows, as I still use my MacBook a lot 🙂

    Having never used S2Member, I cannot say exactly how similar they are. Is there a particular feature you’re looking for?

  3. Michael
    Michael October 22, 2012 at 23:56 | | Reply

    I just saw Pippin speak at a WordCamp. He definitely knows his stuff. I can’t believe he didn’t mention bbPress; he loves that plugin! Great material in the interview; it’s cool to see what hardware/software/plugins devs use.

  4. Remi
    Remi January 10, 2013 at 14:48 | | Reply

    Hi, that’s fun to see how many sales was having in early 2012 compared to now! So many sales!!!

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