Bootstrapping update (2)

- Posted in build-in-public figma

Today I want to talk about why it’s probably not that interesting to release Screenshot to Layout to the public, even though I put a lot of effort into it in the month of July.

I am not saying I won’t ever release it, but it needs to be part of a bigger plan. In the meantime if you are interested, I can drop you a copy to install locally and a testing API key.

Right before my holiday I delisted my plugin. It’s actually ready to be out there, it fully works and it’s an addition to my workflow.

But… I haven’t found a way to release it in a way that won’t give me maintenance work forever.

One of the indie goals is to make meaningful money off of a side project. Otherwise I might as well consult on UI design projects or scale up design work through an agency logic.

The problem with Figma plugins is that the market is really not that big.

If you look closely on the Figma marketplace, you can probably tell pretty fast there are relatively few plugins making money.

There are some UI kits listed where, if you divide the views/uses between 100 to get a sense of the revenue, you end up with something like €20-€400 which is frankly not worth the effort. I am not that interested in UI kits either. I don’t think they lead to good design.

Then there are some paid plugins that might have made a meaningful amount but they are few in between. I think some people made some money, but no one made meaningful money.

Let’s say I release the plugin for cheap and 100 people buy it. Now I have to support the plugin for a long time, even though the amount they paid was less than a coffee.

I could release it for free to promote something else, but if it gets popular I can’t start charging users, because

  1. that’s not how the Figma plugin marketplace works. You can’t make a free plugin paid
  2. It’s also not how I want to work. If it’s paid, there’s a promise of working software that provides value (and keeps providing value). If it’s free, there’s much less of a promise in there.

If 100 people buy it, and the amount was $20, it would still be less +-3 days of UI design consulting. For those 100 people, I would now have to:

  • Maintain my Supabase user logic ($25/month although I could probably get away with the free plan then)
  • Maintain an active Azure account that I have to monitor
  • Deal with any issues that arise
  • Provide other support, around invoicing (and the ways to provide support via Figma’s tools are pretty limited, can’t even refund!)

If 1000 people buy it, then we are talking about a meaningful amount of money – $20k. But now, first 15% gets cut off by Figma themselves, and then half by the Belgian tax collector. So in reality we are still talking about $8500 (+-€7800).

That’s nice money but very hypothetical, amd depending on a 1%-4% conversion rate of trial to paid user, I would need between 25 000 people interested and 100 000 people looking at it.

If you look at the these numbers, compare them to the most (free) popular plugins on Figma that reach +-200-500k users – you can tell the market just isn’t there.

Then there is the hassle of making a trial of a Figma plugin. You can’t really. Via their systems it’s either 24 hours refund on a paid plugin or 7 day trial but then you have to force people to pay monthly. This doesn’t vibe well with my ideas around payments.

Jan suggested a yearly fee which sounds like a good in-between between annoying SaaS pricing and not getting anything out of active users when supporting a product for years.

But to implement such a structure, I would need to set up Stripe, connect it to my Supabase accounts and basically invest more in setting up my own infrastructure. This way I have access to subscriptions, refunds… which would solve some of my woes, but not all of them.

Ideally, Figma will improve their payment APIs.

Right now you basically have to roll your own logic or (probably) prepare a world of support pain. Unless your plugin is really simple and you know it will always work reliably.

Furthermore, there is not that much plugin development activity. At least the community around plugins is rather silent on Discord in general. This worries me from a developer standpoint.

So that’s a long explanation why I am not going to go ahead with releasing my plugin for now.

But hey, I learned something. A lot actually. On to the next project!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *