How to Make Millions Selling WordPress Themes: StylemixThemes Approach
Today StylemixThemes is a big and successful company with an impressive portfolio of WordPress themes and a status of Power Elite Author on Envato Market. But that wasn’t always. And it wasn’t easy to reach the top.
The founder of StylemixThemes, Igor Ligay, gathered all his experience and knowledge and shared it with people through his book “How I Made $1 Million Selling WordPress Themes”. This is a blueprint, a plan to take you from the anonymous sea of countless WordPress developers to one who is sought after by clients.
In this article, we want to cover the major topics and insights from the book to show you how Stylemix started its developers journey. It has been a lot of learnings that have come from initiating the company and entering the ThemeForest market. Now we believe that we should help others in the industry and share our knowledge into developing a successful theme for ThemeForest.
The StylemixThemes Approach
It’s important to learn from your mistakes and experiences, but to always inject your own style into the mix. We believe that applying this approach can help you to truly excel in your work.
you’ll find here complete instructions for building a business that works, finding clients, and developing an approach for yourself which will bring further successes into your working life.
What we started from is studying and learning the field of website development. We began building websites designed to generate traffic on Google. Then, using Google Adsense, those websites would slowly generate advertising revenue. We didn’t just make the sites, we filled them with content.
At that time more and more clients were requesting that we design themes for WordPress. Noticing this trend, we knew that we would have to maximize it to increase our revenue. So, we did the research and discovered that with Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress, savvy developers were able to create themes that could be sold to millions of people. It led us to websites that were selling those themes. We stared at Themeforest knowing it was the future for our business.
All we needed to do is to upload a ThemeForest theme which is of a much higher quality than most of the others available. We put in extra hours at the end of each day working on our new ThemeForest theme.
Our process those days was based on three aspects:
- Study: We had to learn everything we could about how ThemeForest worked, study the competition. This is our advice: Always learn!
- Discussed: It is important to listen to your team input. What are their thoughts? How could we make a better theme than the competition? How could we speed up the process?
- Planned: Once design decisions were made, we drew up plans for the theme. Having a clear blueprint for how your theme will display, keeps everyone moving in the same direction.
The first ThemeForest Upload
Hard-working days and extra hours resulted in our first WordPress theme that we were ready to upload on ThemeForest. We created an author’s account following ThemeForest’s guidelines and then uploaded our finished theme. It was a portfolio theme designed for creatives and so we submitted it under ThemeForest’s Creative category.
Then we had to wait for the approval. ThemeForest has to keep the quality of the themes they sell to a decent standard, so someone had to look at our portfolio to give it the go-ahead. A week later we heard back, and the feedback was not great. We were told that our theme did not have a “competent visual hierarchy”.
After two days of further study, we finally found the answer to our problem. It appeared that our theme was overloaded, and the information presented to users of the theme was out of order. You see, the “hierarchy” of a theme describes how information is displayed to the user. The way we had designed our theme meant that our sections and text formatting were in the wrong order to be useful to anyone using the theme.
Now knowing what the issue was, we went through the entire theme from top to bottom. After that, we submitted for the second time, and we got refused again. However, the feedback wasn’t that bad. We just had a few bugs to work through, our design choices were on point. That led to our third submission and… Success! We were accepted. The theme was called FlexFolio. ThemeForest gave us instant access to a huge number of potential clients.
How to Select Your Niche
One of the most important parts is choosing the right theme, this is a huge step towards making your first million dollars on ThemeForest.
On ThemeForest all of the available themes are collected together under different category headings. For the first time, we picked a category without doing the necessary groundwork.
After the first few attempts of ours didn’t do so well, we decided to put more time into choosing which theme to develop next.
That’s when the power of niches and micro-niches were discovered. On the ThemeForest WordPress section, you’ll see a selection of categories such as “retail” and “technology”. But even those categories are really broad. So, we devised a process that involved picking an overall niche and then focus on a micro-niche within that category.
Niches are important because they:
- Focus your attention on one specific area.
- Reduce your number of failures.
- Establish your reputation as an expert in the niche.
How to pick the right niche
We used to look at two main factors of niche selection:
- Global Trends: This involved using Google searches to see which sort of business niches were trending, and what keywords people were looking for.
- ThemeForest Sales: Looking at recent trends in ThemeForest sales helped immensely in pointing us in the right direction.
After identifying several potential micro-niches, we set out our golden rule for selection: Facts over opinions.
When comparing two different potential niches, we made every development decision based on: Trends > Sales > Growth > Observation > Logic.
After making the analyses, also ask yourself two questions:
- Can I offer customers something different than what’s already on the market?
- Can I make a theme which is better than my competitors within this niche?
And if you are able to do this, go ahead!
The Theme From Scratch – How We Do It
We believe in simplicity. From the very beginning, we tried to break down difficult processes into smaller ones. The theme creation also can be broken down into 9 stages:
- Studying Competitor Themes
- Creating a Prototype
- Mind Mapping Your Theme
- Designing Your Theme
- Designing Item Promos
- Uploading to ThemeForest
Such an approach helps you to create a logical consequence for your work and follow the strict outline.
Focusing on the design stage, there is no universal recipe for the perfect design but we have developed a list of ingredients, which we believe will help to improve the chances of creating a successful ThemeForest theme.
Here is a quick snapshot:
Unity of Styles and Features. Your style and features have to support each other. There should be consistency throughout a theme.
Universal Soldier. Create themes which service a niche, but have a good level of customization.
Minimalism. Keep everything as pure as possible. The basic features of minimalism are simplicity of forms, clarity and accuracy of composition.
Responsive Design. Keep your designs responsive and customers will thank you for it.
Color Choice. Good color choice creates harmony and consistency which customers value.
These are time-tested techniques that have led us to success more than once and these are only the half of it. In the book, you can find many more special ingredients that will help you to create and design an outstanding theme.
Things You Need to Check Before Uploading
Before uploading your theme on ThemeForest you have to recheck it. We use a special checklist that helps us to identify possible problems.
The StylemixThemes Checklist
Theme Unit Test 2. WordPress Requirements 3. Envato Theme Check 4. Markup Validation
It’s taken us a while to develop our own checklist, but it feels like a great foundation for any developer wanting to release themes to a high standard.
Theme Unit Test
Before we upload to Envato we first perform a Theme Unit Test. This allows you to create an export of your theme which can then be imported into a WordPress installation. The theme unit test creates a working version of your theme which you can then interact with and test just as a customer would
Checking WordPress Requirements
This stage involves a series of checks to ensure that your theme is safe and reliable and that any included third-party content or plugin functions effectively. This involves feature requirements, plugin requirements, coding requirements, security requirements, general requirements.
There is an option that can make this process easier. It’s called Envato Theme Check. This is a plugin developed by Scott Parry and designed to be an easy way to ensure your theme passes Envato’s review standards.
A Personal Brand and Why You Need One At
Once we entered the market it was the next step for Stylemix to create a personal brand that customers can trust. But be ready, It takes time to develop a personal brand which will work for you and your themes.
What is a personal brand? In short, it is everything about you and your business which promotes what you stand for. It can include:
- The look and color scheme of your websites
- The images you use on your social media profiles
- The slogan of your business
- The logo and watermark on your promos
Branding can say something about you and your themes and if you get it right, it can convey a mark of professionalism and reliability.
We would like to tell you about the mistake we made, so you could learn from our experience and prevent yourself from the wrong steps.
One mistake we made as a company was to have different brandings for our different themes.
We also realized that we could brand not just our websites and themes, but also the individual components of our themes. For example, we could include a logo on our sliders, header builders, footer builders, mega menus, and even our page builders. So in just one theme, we were able to connect our high-quality design work with our company name and make a deep connection with our customers.
After years of designing themes, we had a question “why do customers buy our themes?”. And then we realized how all of our work on building a personal brand for Stylemix had taken us to new heights and brought about increased sales. People were seeing the StylemixThemes branding and making a purchase just because of that! We took branding each theme more seriously, and this paid off big time.
Our branding had to go beyond just the themes alone. One such place was in our documentation. It was important that our documentation had our branding and was in line with the image of our company we wished to convey. That meant including our chosen color schemes and our logos. This proved to be an important step.
We ensured that our ThemeForest profile page used colors and an avatar which were in line with the rest of our brand
All of this has combined together to create a brand for StylemixThemes which is effective, long-lasting, and leads to continued sales. We encourage you to take the same approach – you will then reap the rewards.
We’re all happy when a theme or plugin gets published on the marketplace. But here is an important thing, your work is not done after the theme approval on ThemeForest. On the contrary, you have to immediately turn your attention to customer support and work even harder.
The StylemixThemes Tech Support Strategy
After trying several options we finally came to the way on how to successfully provide the tech support:
- Lay the Foundation: First, you have to assign your support team. It really helps to be able to have at least one person on your team who’s entire job description is to handle support issues. Also, try to find a balance so that customers receive a prompt response, but that you still push forward as a developer at the same time.
- Be Responsive: Never let a comment go unanswered. This creates a reputation for being attentive to customer needs, and it actually cuts down on support times overall. If you can answer a support query on a theme’s comment section, then others with a similar issue will read that comment and have their issues resolved without needing to contact you for further assistance.
- Be Polite: Customers will not always be polite with you. It’s best to instruct your team to always maintain a friendly, professional tone when handling customer comments and queries.
- Always Meet Customer Needs: As well as being polite and helpful, we always do our best to satisfy each and every customer. This again earns you a good reputation and leads to more sales.
- Create Bugs and Features Lists: Look on your customers as the best quality assurance testers out there. Your customers will put your items through rigorous testing, using them in ways you otherwise might not have anticipated. This gives you a useful list to work through when updating your theme. Likewise, customers will find certain features lacking or request a specific feature’s inclusion in future updates.
How Best to Offer Support
There are a number of ways to communicate with your customers. We found helpful the following means of communication:
- Live Chat: This text system allows our support staff to interact quickly and discreetly with customers.
- ThemeForest Comments: As I said above, answering all the comments on a theme’s profile page is important. It’s a great way to offer support and cuts down on support queries.
- Forums: Customers can use a forum for themes to give us their opinions on our products. Our support staff monitors the forums daily.
- Ticket System: A ticket system allows customers to log issues with us, which they receive a ticket for in return. When we look at that ticket and try to resolve that issue, we get back in touch with the customer. Currently, we have two tiers of tickets — Tier 1 involves easy support problems which can be resolved by regular support managers. Tier 2 involves more complex issues that our Senior Support Manager deals with.
Another thing about support and feedback you need to put under consideration are negative reviews. It is impossible to satisfy everyone, so negative reviews may appear from time to time. What is more important is how you are dealing with them.
Being Honest: You need to be honest and not defensive over negative reviews, the rare times they happen. Ask yourself the question, does the comment have merit? Is the criticism valid? Look at the theme and decide whether it needs updating in order to avoid the same criticism again.
Unhelpful Criticism: Very occasionally, a customer will review a theme unfairly. Their comment will be an attack on you and your team. In this case, you can contact Envato’s Support service. Let them know about the negative review and that it is either unreasonable or doesn’t have a detailed explanation as to why the reviewer didn’t like the theme.
Presentation of the theme
How you present your product directly reflects on sales. Many developers fall down at this hurdle. Don’t be one of them! To be a successful developer, it’s not just about the theme, but how you present the theme.
The ThemeForest Preview
While some authors don’t care about it, we at StylemixThemes know just how important it is to showcase a theme as you have to grab the attention of customers.
To create a good presentation you’ll need a graphical element and a text element to your preview. Ensure that your text showcases the name of your theme plus a tagline. What you include in your text is up to you, but no more than 2-3 features should be included.
Alongside your text, you’ll need to include a visual representation of what your theme can do. Few small screenshots of your theme demo showing some of the looks your customers can achieve are enough.
What to Put on Your Item Page
There are various ways to set up your item page on ThemeForest. We would highly recommend creating a promo video as your first image. That way you can convey more about your theme to a customer in a stylistic, concise way without relying on too much text.
Keep SEO in mind when designing your item page. This is a great opportunity to research some search terms and include the keywords you think customers will be using to find a theme.
To find the best solutions and ideas for item page design, we have narrowed the process down to:
- Brainstorming with the staff. When we get down to it and brainstorm marketing ideas, there is always someone with a unique take on it in our group. Brainstorming sessions are great for this.
- A/B Testing. This simply means we test more than one marketing technique at a time and compare them. A small version of each approach is implemented, then we see which performs best before scaling up.
- Competition. With a little research looking into our competitors and their approaches to marketing, we can learn from this and tweak their approaches to come up with something even better.
How to Market the Theme
All marketing activities can be divided into two types:
Outside: This involves any way to promote your themes and your brand outside of Envato;
Inside: How to make the best use of the marketing tools Envato provides you as a ThemeForest developer.
There are many other avenues for promotion outside of ThemeForest, but if you spend too much time on too many different avenues, you won’t get much done. Instead, it’s more economical with your time and money to focus on a limited number of promotions.
Social media platforms: Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube are the most effective according to our experience.
Review Websites: WordPress and Plugin review websites that have a ready-made audience looking for well-designed themes for their projects.
Newsletters: Both our own email mailing list and featuring on other email lists for third party cross-promotion, works well.
Other Third Party Sites: Where we buy banner ads as well as featuring sponsored posts when relevant.
Promotion inside of ThemeForest is limited. There are two options for inside promotion:
Promotional Campaigns: Competitions and curated campaigns listed by Envato employees.
Freebies: Free versions of themes to boost your brand and create goodwill between you and your customer base.
Whether you’re a single developer or a team of talented creatives, we hope that these tips can help guide you, wherever you are on your journey. For more information and tips based on our personal experiences and learnings on ThemeForest, you can check out the book we have released.
Thank you for taking the time to read the story of StylemixThemes. We wish you all the success as authors on ThemeForest!