💵 Funding a plugin through sponsorware, how successful is it?

— 2 minute read

I've learnt about Caleb Porzio's sponsorware model as a way to fund an open source project. The idea is to release a new feature only to the funders and, once you got X new funders, only then the new feature becomes open source, available to everyone.

But I haven't seen much success with this strategy yet to fund my open source plugin. The reason is clear: Sponsorware initially worked for Caleb because he asked the 10.000 subscribers on his newsletter for support, from which 75 agreed to be part of it. But I do not have 10.000 subscribers or followers or users, and building such a list takes time.

Caleb's second strategy seems much more promising: He also started selling access to tutorials on using the software. He says this strategy has been incredibly successful: as I'm writing this, he's surpassed 1100 sponsors!

The quest for learning appears to be a strong motivator to fund a project.

I've been delaying implementing this strategy, though, because it takes effort to:

  1. Build the website to check if the user is sponsoring me on GitHub, and only then grant him/her access to the private video in Vimeo
  2. Create professional videos

The day has only 24 hs, and I'm working alone on my project, so there's only so much I can do. I've so far decided to prioritize improving the plugin first, adding all the minimal basic features that I would love to have as a user, and only then start producing tutorial videos.

I've actually been lucky: just a few days ago, site spatie.be (based on Laravel) was open sourced, making available the code implementing several of the required features:

  • Validating users through GitHub login
  • Giving access to private Vimeo videos to paying users

So building the site is now within my reach. I just need to work on creating the videos.

Hopefully I'll soon be able to comment if selling tutorial videos can succeed in funding the open source plugin.