This was one question I was asked at the WorldHostingDays last September in Munich. This made me really think about it. How do we earn money with TYPO3? Basically this question is valid for all other FOS-Software too.

So I took a look at what agencies and freelancers around TYPO3 offer to the world. Most of us provide services like
  • Consulting
  • Website – Integration
  • Individual Extension Programming
  • Support
As one offers these services, only the time spent on a customer can be charged. The only variable is the amount charged per hour or per day. The amount charged is dependent on how valuable the service seems to the customer and / or how good the sales person is. But it is limited by the available workforce.
To some extent there were some crowdfunding initiaitives. As examples there are the extensions gridelements or themes. I don’t know for sure, but the aim was to fund the development of those extension, to make them public afterwards in a more or less long timeframe.
A second variant is asking the community for some kind of sponsoring like Georg did with his extension „news“. It is quite similar to crowdfunding, but without a sponsoring goal that has to be reached upfront.
Another flavor of crowdfunding are EAPs (Early Access Programms). This was used by dkd.de for the TYPO3 SolR Extension. The difference to crowdfunding is, that main parts of the functionality is already available and additional features will be added over time. These features will be available to the EAP members first and will be released to the public step by step.
From a customer perspective these have two main questions / implications:
  1. Why should I pay now, if I get the result somewhen in the future? I need it now!
  2. Why should I pay for it, when I can get it somewhen in the future for free? I need it now!
From a sellers perspective these four possibilities are some kind of “body leasing“, whether it is pre-paid (crowdfunding, sponsoring) or post-paid (services) or some in between (EAP). None of them scales really and enables an agency or a freelancer to do what (s)he likes most: To contribute to the TYPO3 community (or go surfing in Hawaii ; -) )
As we all like to contribute to TYPO3 (or go surfing on Hawaii), we desperately need something that scales! Something, that creates much higher value than the additional effort to provide it, is a product that scales. With product I do not mean the TYPO3  family itself (Neos, CMS,  Flow or Surf), but something that is based on and tightly connected to it. Let me just name a few:
  • Basically free extensions with paid premium features
  • Paid Webinars
  • Books (Yes, I mean books! An article about my ideas will follow in the next weeks)
  • Paid themes / distributions
  • Hosting
Just to name a few of them. But I expect your ideas are much creative and wider than these. All of them have the potential to scale. But in order to make them scaling there are four prerequisites. I mention the in an ascending order according to my opinion:

1) TYPO3 Marketplace

A TYPO3 marketplace can be a service, where offers and demands find a place, where they will meet. Alain Veuve wrote an excellent article about his vision of a TYPO3 Marketplace (German  | English) . There you will find most of these ideas for scaling products and some more.
A marketplace needs a lot of infrastructure, legal and marketing work in order to be successful. Envato is one of the biggest players for marketplaces of digital goods, like WP-themes or HTML-Templates. They charge up to 75% of the buyer fee. Only 25%+ gets the seller of the item. I am not yet sure, whether the TYPO3 Association, as a provider, can offer better quotes. The number of sold items is IMO not that high, as I would expect it for relatively good known marketplaces.
For TYPO3, both figures might be better, since it is meant to be a very unique entry point for selling and buying TYPO3 extensions, distributions and other services.

2) Selling on your own 

As I only know the WordPress ecosystem a little bit better, I can only speak about my experiences there. But I expect the other OS CMS having a quite similar ecosystem.
The vast majority of vendors are acting on their own without using marketplaces . They offer free and paid templates. They offer free and paid plugins. The free stuff is to feed the customers and make them interested. The paid stuff has major advantages and / or features for professional use like support contracts, SLA, additional features and so on. The licensing options vary very much: Per per website, yearly payments, pay for one year with updates, lifetime access, … . Most of them offer at least two of the licensing options. The revenue per sale is for sure higher than an on a market place.

3) Free – As in Free Speech :: Don’t fear the GPL 

As WordPress is also GPL’ed every plugin and every theme is GPL’ed too. So why don’t they fear that their plugin is published by another community member as a free or paid version?
Yes, you are right: Everybody can do with your extension and code what (s)he wants: Modify it, republish it, add some code … But seriously: Can you name one or more attempts of hijacking an extension / plugin / theme? Most (all?) customers are endusers or semi-professionals who like to get their job done quickly with a acceptable amount of support at a reasonable price.
An additional aspect is the the pricing and the possible financial revenue a hijacker can achieve. It is all about the risk the hijacker is taking. If the price is low, the possible revenue for a hijacker seem too low. If the price is very high, he has to exceed the trust that is provided to the original publisher in order to make profit. A real risk would only face those extensions / distributions that have a mid-range-pricing. So for most of the extensions / distributions that would be no problem.

4) Free – As in Free Beer :: Inspire people to share

Yes, you are right! Our claim is „Inspire people to share!“. And yes: I am „All in“ for that. But this does not mean everything is for free. Think about all the services you provided your customers? Did they pay you? Or did you do everything for free? Would you like to contribute more efforts for TYPO3? Yes? Yes!
This is why we need scaling business models: Enable agencies and freelancers to follow their passion to contribute to TYPO3. It is not about making all and everything paid. It is not about black and white. There will always be free extensions, paid versions of free extensions with premium features and completely paid versions.
So: if we are enabling somebody, who is not able or willing to contribute to the TYPO3 community directly (codewise or in other means), to foster the whole community by using such premium feature extensions and / or paid distributions, we are doing a great job.
It is about creating a sustainable revenue stream for agencies and freelancers, so that they can feed their families and are able to contribute: May it be for the core, may it be for (freely) available extensions, may it be for going to surf on Hawaii.

Conclusion 

In short: We have to change our mind in this direction and must embrace it!
So let’s do it together and let’s get game changer again as we were in the starting times of CMS!