Mike Rogers on a Snowmobile

Mike Rogers

Web Developer

A year after monetising my Chrome Extension

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Just over a year ago, I wrote a post detailing my experiences monetising my Google Chrome Extension LivePage via a subscription model. It has been a pretty exciting year since I wrote that, and I wanted to write a follow up post.

Subscriptions were a terrible idea

The last three months of income status, a very up and down line between £0 and £15
Most days I earn about £8 from LivePage via one off payments.

A year ago I was pretty confident that asking for $2 or so a year was the right way to go. I couldn't have been more wrong.

One of the big feedback points I received from the comments on Hacker News was that I should make it a one off payment. So I experimented! Previously when I had subscriptions I'd earned about ~£140 a month, during the month I switched to one off payments I earned a total of £200. Clearly the one off payment was the more popular choice.

Sticking with annual subscriptions for so long really came back to bite me when they started renewing. I didn't add any mechanism to warn users that they were about to be charged, and I ended up receiving a lot of emails from annoyed users requesting refunds. I provided all users who messaged me with a refund as quickly as I could, but it sucked.

I decided to sift through the subscription data I had available to make a decision on what to do next, I discovered:

  1. Approximately ~40% of users had cancelled their subscription within a week of purchasing
  2. 50% of the remaining subscribers would email me when their subscription renewed

I decided the only sensible thing to do was cancel out the remaining subscriptions. Ultimately I didn't want to spend my evenings refunding unhappy peoples money, when I could be focusing on better things.

Over the last year I've earned a total of £2,532 (An average of £211 a month). This has been awesome! While this doesn't quite cover my rent, it does allow me to happily provide support & do a few days of maintenance a month.

Support is an adventure

Supporting an extension that I initially wrote when I was a junior developer has been an experience. Development wise, I mostly just sit down when I get a spare weekend and bash through the issue list on GitHub.

Supporting users on the other hand! Users continually manage to surprise me!

I used to assume everyone who used LivePage was a front end developer who is using SASS and had a local development environment. This is almost never the case. I've had users get in touch with me are working with unprocessed CSS, in production via FTP. Others weren't even using it to build websites, they simply just wanted a webpage to be refreshed when it changes. It was pretty eye opening how vast the spectrum of users can be.

My choice to internationalise LivePage into languages I didn't speak proved to be a double edged sword. I did have an uptick in sales from countries such as Russia, Brazil and Japan, but received the odd support email in an unfamiliar language which often took a lot longer to solve.

Providing support can feel a little disheartening at times as well (especially when a customer is unhappy), but at most it takes an hour per a week, so I'm happy to keep doing it myself.

The Chrome Store is imperfect

The Google Chrome Store feels very much the same as it did a year ago. I'm aware they're working on making things better behind the scenes, but it feels like any changes are happening at a snails pace.

Small things like being made aware of and responding to reviews where a user is reporting a problem they encounter is fairly cumbersome. I combated this by encouraging users to message me via emails (Or on GitHub) instead of returning to the Chrome Store, which seemed to work pretty well.

What's next?

The last three months of weekly users is a slow decline with a 90,000 blip one week
One week I had 90,000 users, but generally weekly users are declining.

The weekly active users has dropped from ~49k users to ~21k over the last year, I want to do everything I can to improve that number. I've recently started using Firefox more often, so I'm looking into ways to make a Firefox version which is also monetised.

I have also been working on other passive income projects, for example I've recently launched the extension TrackChanges for Google Chrome which provides developer friendly summaries of what has changed on a webpage since it loaded. I'm planning on monetising it, just like I did with LivePage once it reaches a decent amount of users.

In the grand scheme of things, I've been rather lucky to have earned £2.5k over the last year, I'd love to see similar results next year, but ultimately as long as it earns enough to buy a me nice beer or two every month, I'll be happy chap.

This was written by Mike Rogers, a freelance Ruby on Rails developer based in London.

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If you want to discuss this post, feel free to tweet me (@MikeRogers0) or drop me an email. Any code samples unless stated otherwise are licensed under the The MIT License (MIT). Spotted a mistake? Send me a pull request :)