Maybe you make WordPress sites for cash. Maybe you design themes or write plugins. Then, after your work is done, your clients (or friends, lovers, etc) need to be supported. Somebody needs to keep WordPress and her plugins up to date, secure, and backed up.
Would you like to share that load with some co-cooperators in a WordPress hosting cooperative? Imagine a small group of developers collectively managing 50 or 100 WordPress sites instead of individually managing 10 or 20.
Ok, you’re sold on the vision, what about the details?
Initially, a loose association of a few individuals, no legal structure. I’m willing to act as the banker for the startup period. I’ll register a domain name and pay for a few servers. I promise to transfer ownership of the domain and any other assets when (or if) a legal organisation is created at any point in the future. Or, if I choose to move away, to transfer the domain and other assets to another person in the group.
My suggestion is that we adopt a split pricing model. We set a fair market price for customers. In the beginning, it’s probably simper to charge per blog irrespective of traffic, disk or cpu usage. We can change this policy as soon as we need to.
Members then pay a pro-rated share of costs based on their number of sites. For example, we have 10 customers paying $10 a month, $100. Expenses are $150 a month, we have 5 members with 4 sites each, $50 over 20 sites, each member pays $2.50 per month per site.
To distinguish between customer and member sites, we can say if money changes hands, it’s a customer site. So a member might pay for 8 of their client’s sites at customer rates, and 3 for their family at member rates. The distinction is whether or not the member receives cash from somebody for that site. We trust each member to be honest.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds, honest! I suggest we adopt a post-paid, payment optional policy. At the end of each month, we send invoices marked payment optional. Customers can choose not to pay and their sites will be taken offline in reasonable time period.
The advantage of this model is we don’t ever have to deal with refunds, price disputes or otherwise. If the client is happy with the service they already received, great, if they’re not, they don’t have to pay and we part ways amicably.
- Transparency: All financials are publicly visible.
- Profits: Until we have a legal organisation, any profits are kept in the group to pay for expenses. No payouts to members until the legal structure is sound.
- Do-ocracy: Until we decide to change it, we each contribute what we can and what’s needed to keep the system online.
- Respect: Inspired by the Ubuntu project, in joining the group, we each commit to treat other members and customers with the utmost of respect at absolutely all times.
These are my initial thoughts as I wrote this post in half an hour. If you’d like to join the discussion, become a member or a customer, post a comment below, shoot me a message, or otherwise open the communication lines.