The beauty of WordPress lies in the easy availability of themes and plugins that you can use to extend and customize your website within minutes. There are millions of free and premium themes as well as plugins out there that work with WordPress websites.
Now, speaking of free and premium, those are not the only options out there. Many plugins and themes follow the Freemium model too, wherein you get the core product for free, but can spice it up using paid or premium addons and extensions.
In this article, we take a look at some such WordPress themes and plugins that follow the Freemium model.
Top WordPress Businesses That Have Thrived on The Freemium Model
WooCommerce is definitely one of the most popular freemium plugins for WordPress. With over a million active users, WooCommerce is a brand in itself, and can be used to create an eCommerce site of any nature.
WooCommerce is a free plugin, but is backed by premium and paid extensions and addons. You can download these extensions from the WooCommerce repository, or purchase them from marketplaces or directly from the developers.
Initially developed by WooThemes, WooCommerce was acquired by Automattic along with all other WooThemes product for a whopping $30 million last year. The major reasons behind the success of WooCommerce are actually pretty simple to comprehend and swallow:
- Owing to its ease of use, WooCommerce has enabled end users to setup an eCommerce store within minutes.
- Unlike Shopify and others, WooCommerce does not truly want you to purchase anything from the start. If the free plugin suffices for your needs, just use it and save your money. For anything else, you can go with the addons.
- WooCommerce is integrated within WordPress — the world’s most popular CMS. Naturally, this goes a long way in adding to the popularity of WooCommerce.
2. Easy Digital Downloads
Much like WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads is also an eCommerce plugin meant for WordPress. Furthermore, just like WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads too comes with a core plugin that is totally free for you to download and use, but is backed by premium and paid addons that you can use to extend the functionality of the core plugin.
However, unlike WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads focuses more on digital goods; WooCommerce, on the other hand, focuses more on goods that are physical in nature. Easy Digital Downloads is not as popular as WooCommerce, but it is still a very worthy and well-respected plugin that can be used to run an eCommerce store with ease. Furthermore, since Easy Digital Downloads focuses more on digital goods and products, it is probably the most ideal pick for a wide variety of users: photographers, digital artists, as well as ebook writers who need to sell digital products can count on this plugin to deliver and perform well for their needs.
3. Ninja Forms
Ninja Forms is a WordPress plugin that lets you create contact forms, surveys, quizzes and a lot more. In other words, Ninja Forms is a plugin that you would use to gather user feedback.
The core plugin for Ninja Forms is totally free to download; however you can extend it with the help of premium addons. This freemium model based plugin has risen to popularity in a short span of time, and is now as popular as some of the bigger names out there, such as Gravity Forms. Ninja Forms core plugin is actually pretty powerful, to be honest. You can create a wide variety of forms using this plugin, not just contact forms. Thus, if you are looking for an effortless solution to count on and add forms to gather user feedback on your site, Ninja Forms can do the task for you without you having to invest money in the addons.
However, if you truly are serious about it, purchasing the premium addons with give you extra features for your forms.
4. Awesome Support
Awesome Support is a plugin meant for folks who need to add a help desk to their sites. If you are running a WordPress website and intend to add a help desk or a ticketing system wherein your customers can seek support for the issues that they are facing, Awesome Support is the plugin meant for you.
The core plugin is totally free to download and is available in the official repository. It comes with a basic set of features. However, to do more with it, you might need to purchase premium addons that include functionality such as integration with WooCommerce, as well as the ability to reply to support tickets through email, among other things.
Awesome Support is not like the other plugins out there — this plugin has a clearly defined audience. You probably will not be adding a support section to your blog, but if you need to add one to your business site, this plugin is meant for you. As such, the freemium model is truly beneficial for Awesome Support — you can opt for just the features you need and stay away from anything else that you do not.
5. Layers for WP
Unlike most other items on this list, Layers for WP is a theme and not a plugin. However, it is not your usual theme; it is instead, a full-fledged WordPress website builder.
Layers comes with a drag and drop interface, custom blocks, special page templates, shortcodes, as well as many other features to help you build your website from scratch. No matter what the nature of the website that you are building is, Layers is fully customizable, responsive and also supports WooCommerce.
The core theme files for Layers are free to download and open source in nature. You can further extend the functionality of Layers by means of premium extensions and addons, as well as go for a Pro version of Layers that gives you added features and customization options.
Layers is one of the very few WordPress site builders that have risen to popularity in an extremely short span of time. Why so? Well, it is backed by Envato, and that means Layers child themes have a special place on ThemeForest. Naturally, this gives ample exposure to anything build via Layers, and more importantly, encourages theme authors to give Layers a spin. Since Layers in itself is totally free, it is furthermore beneficial for anyone looking for a superb theme builder solution.
6. Ultimate Member
Ultimate Member is a free WordPress plugin that lets you add communities to your WordPress website. It lets you add custom user registration and login pages as well as custom form fields and user roles. Yu can specify user access privileges and many other things and also integrate the free plugin with Mandrill. For additional features and functionality, you can opt for premium addons and extensions that can help you do more with the plugin.
Naturally, Ultimate Member is a very unique WordPress plugin that can allow you to build a community around your website for no extra charge. The free plugin can suffice for the needs of most basic and advanced users, but if you do need the additional features, there are a lot many addons and extensions, such as integration with Instagram and WooCommerce, custom user profile fields, social media logins and so on.
7. WP Job Manager
WP Job Manager job listing plugin. In other words, it lets you add a job board to your WordPress website.
This plugin is fairly simple to use; it lets you add, manage and edit job listings, and then you can add those job listings to posts and pages using shortcodes. Logged in users can view, edit and even delete job listings from the Dashboard itself.
The core plugin is totally free to use and lets you create a basic job board. However if you need added features, such as resume manager, job alerts, email alerts and paid job listings, you can opt for premium addons. This is pretty simple, therefore — for anyone looking to create a simple job board, the free plugin will do the task and he or she does not need to rob the bank. However, for anyone wanting to create a serious job board, probably for commercial purposes such as paid job listings etc., the premium addons are well worth the investment.
Over To You
The success of these premium plugins and themes has shown that the freemium model does have a lot of potential for growth in the WordPress economy. Most of these plugins continue to grow at a very rapid pace and are gaining new users with each passing day. As we have already seen, the freemium model is beneficial not only for the plugin or theme authors, but also for the end users and customers themselves: you do not have to purchase the full bundle. Instead, you can opt to pay just for what you need and actually use. The core plugin is free, and if that is all you need, good for you. However, if you need some added features, pay for those particular addons only. Obviously, this saves your funds as well, and is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
What do you think of the freemium model as a viable economic system? Share your views and thoughts in the comments below.