How to Start Selling WordPress Themes (All You Need to Know!)
How would you like to earn passive income from your web development efforts? WordPress Themes is one such market niche that offers not only passive income but lucrative business and career opportunities for the determined candidates. Popular theme developers and agencies can earn upwards of millions of dollars per year, all from designing and developing themes.
And take a look at the modern theme landscape today. Functionality, features, and compatibility are through the roof. Not to mention, look at how many agencies are leaving custom development behind and instead focusing on using WordPress for all their designing needs.
If you have been contemplating selling themes or at least developing custom ones — you can use this post as a reference to learn all about becoming a WordPress theme seller yourself. We take a look at the most prominent marketplaces, and alternative solutions like partnerships, ad networks, and more.
So, ready to get started? Let’s get to it!
Sell Your Themes with Envato
You can’t say you have never heard of Envato before. And if you can, then this is either your first day on the internet, or you have been living under a rock for more than a decade.
Envato is a household name in all things graphic design, developer and designer marketplaces. Further, Envato owns Tutsplus — a resource with extensive tutorials and courses on web development.
And last but not least, Envato owns ThemeForest and Codecanyon. Two marketplaces that are best known for the immense popularity, high-quality content, and numerous famous releases. Namely, plugins like Visual Composer have been birthed on Codecanyon. And the Avada theme (485,000 sales) is comfortably being sold on ThemeForest.
We at StylemixThemes also love Envato products and have accumulated more than 50,000 customers from our themes alone. In a nutshell, ThemeForest has a lot to offer to both new and seasoned theme developers.
What does it take to get your theme published in ThemeForest?
Honestly, it’s not that bad. Even though Envato requires quite a lot of specifications for themes to be published — with enough hard work it can be done.
Rich Tabor, who is a ThemeForest-published developer, wrote a blog post outlining more than 11 steps on how to get your theme published every time.
Some of his suggestions, such as “Theme Check is literally the easiest way to check your WordPress theme against the latest coding standards and techniques.”, might seem self-explanatory, but are often forgotten by careless devs.
Also, Rich emphasizes having offline documentation readily available, “Having offline documentation ensures that your customers are not hanging when there is not an Internet connection available or when your files are inaccessible – for any reason.”.
Above all, you should prioritize the quality of the theme design as the number one factor for getting accepted. With more than 11,000 premium themes published already — know that you are going up against some serious players in this niche. And standing out takes a lot of hard work and sweat.
The team who is vetting ThemeForest submissions is unlikely to let a duplicate theme slip by. As a result, you as a developer need to think of new and innovative ways to create a theme that stands out.
In the last year or so, many developers have switched their focus to building theme frameworks. A theme framework lets customers use the theme elements to create endless website combinations. Similarly to how a page building plugin would work.
What are the advantages of publishing your theme with ThemeForest?
ThemeForest is the home of tens of thousands of creators, and tens of millions of people visit Envato marketplaces every month. This kind of exposure is hard to ignore, even if Envato decides to take a substantial fee payment from each of your sales.
As a platform, ThemeForest provides support for pretty much everything. All you have to do is submit a theme, get approved, and the sales will naturally come as long as your product is good. In many ways, the theme listings act like mini landing pages, which also get ranked in search engines.
But, what else, why should you publish with Envato and not somewhere else?
One of the reasons you might not see straight away is actually a very popular affiliate marketing technique used by all types of bloggers. For example, bloggers create popular theme lists for specific categories (E.g. Creative, Blogging, Lifestyle, etc.) and compile a list of premium themes from ThemeForest.
As a result, if your theme matches the specific category and has a unique style — you’re literally getting marketing done for you for free. And believe me, this is a very lucrative venture that many bloggers are making a six-figure income from.
Grow your revenue with the Envato Elite program.
The Envato Elite Program has been put in place not only to incentivize marketing but also to promote the hard work of all Envato authors. On top of that, Elite authors gain access to a Google Analytics page for their profile. As a result, you can start tracking your campaigns and gather data on what is and what isn’t working.
The first Elite badge is awarded for creators who have earned at least $75,000 through any of the marketplaces. And you can keep earning badges — and rewards! — until up to $25,000,000 in sales. At that point, you can go to outer space if you like, or get Envato to pay for an expensive trip of your choice.
If you’re new to Envato — you might think these are insane numbers. But, are they really? Many themes get up to 1,000 sales in as little as a year — and that’s about $60,000 in total sales from one theme alone. Not to mention that some themes get up to 25,000 sales and more. As the sales grow, so does the budget for doing extra tasks like marketing and promotion.
Partner with StylemixThemes
Before we wrap up all this talk about Envato and ThemeForest, we thought you might be interested in hearing about our Partnership Program.
StylemixThemes is open for co-operation and partnership with free-lancers and authors. Having big experience and expertise on Envato Market and web marketing we can publish your WordPress theme, provide 24/7 professional technical support, consulting as well as marketing and promotion.
Essentially, this is a program built to help you get your WordPress themes published by an established and well-respected brand. StylemixThemes will ensure that your Theme is fully compliant, and we will provide multiple marketing campaigns during the first months of the release.
This is an exceptional opportunity if you want to focus only on developing themes, and hand over the business aspects of it all to us.
Visit the partnership page here: https://stylemixthemes.com/partnership/
What are some other popular marketplaces where you can sell WordPress Themes?
There’s no shortage of alternative marketplaces. The question is, can you meet the requirements and agree to their rules? And if you do, you might find alternatives that strike a better deal for you.
At the moment, there are quite a few such platforms, and we would like to highlight the two most prominent as a follow-up to ThemeForest.
Creative Market is inspiring creators from all across the globe to promote their creative work. And, earn respectable money while doing it. What started out as a small company providing the means to sell graphic designs — Creative Market is now visited by more than 6 million buyers every month. That’s enough to change your life ten times over.
And Creative Market makes it easy to open your own store too. You can earn flat 70% of each sale that you make, never less than that. Further, unlike other platforms — Creative Market doesn’t care if you sell your work elsewhere. You can sell anywhere without worrying about licensing issues.
You can adjust pricing whenever you like, especially at times when you feel a new trend is emerging. You can sell WordPress themes, plugins, and just about any Graphic Design resource imaginable.
Founded in 2009, MOJO Marketplace is a leading platform for digital goods, connecting our 5.8 million users to 7,500+ items. Based in Salt Lake City the MOJO platform was built for the creators, the doers, the Imagineers, the bloggers, and the entrepreneur to provide the tools that bring ideas to life.
Anyone can become a Seller on MOJO Marketplace. All you need to do is follow the thoughtfully outlined instructions and you’ll be good to go.
Open Your Personal Theme Store
Another way to sell WordPress themes is to avoid the middleman altogether. Rather, you could focus on building a website that acts as you centralized platform for selling and promoting your themes. While it’s much harder to do in terms of promotion, it’s a viable approach if you want to save big money in third-party fees.
One of the reasons why so many people avoid creating a personal theme store is because of the formalities involved. E.g. You are responsible for refunds, feedback, support, and other parts of the business exclusively. This means you are forced to spend a lot more time on tasks that would otherwise be taken care of on your behalf.
But, it’s not all bad. You can, for example, take advantage of membership plugins. With a membership plugin, you can sell multiple themes at one fixed price and charge that price either every month or every year. This way, those who use your theme have no choice but to keep subscribed.
As for taking payments, this has been made fairly easy by payment gateway platforms such as PayPal and Stripe. Both services offer credit card payments and have a decent reputation for being reliable and fair when it comes to refunds.
And if you are worried about promoting your theme store, in general, you have two options. The first option is to use paid ads (more on this soon), and the other option is to run a content marketing strategy. The latter is cheaper but might take a longer time to deliver fruitful results.
Brands like Elementor, OptinMonster, Brainstorm Force, and StylemixThemes too, are using content marketing to drive organic search traffic. You can tailor your strategy for unique types of content, focus on problem-solving, and promote your themes in a way that makes sense.
The real goal of content marketing is not to do the same thing that everyone else is doing, but to focus on approaches that are creative and original. In the end, it’s the original and exciting ideas that get the most exposure.
And as far as WordPress themes are concerned, the market could do with some clearly-defined tutorials on how to create themes and more.
Promote Your Themes Using Ad Networks
And lastly, you can use advertising networks to get the word out. Admittedly, this is not a free solution for selling your theme. But, in many respects, it’s the one that’s going to deliver the greatest ROI.
For this segment, I’m going to focus on the most popular ad networks amongst WordPress theme developers. You can use additional networks as you like. So, without further ado let’s get to it.
BuySellAds provides some of the most comprehensive advertising offers on the market. Many exceptional brands use BSA to promote their advertising space. Brands the likes of Tom’s Hardware, Anand Tech, Live Science, and many others. The nice thing about BSA is that you can a truly diverse audience.
How so? BFA serves sites in categories such as Beauty, Entertainment, Education, Travel, and many others. But, also those in fields such as design, development, and general technology.
Each website that’s selling ads has a unique profile page that includes details about monthly visitors, social media followers, and the pricing for each advertising space. If you have a little bit of a budget — BSA is a great starting place to get the word out about your theme.
Interestingly enough, Carbon Ads is part of the BuySellAds network. However, only Design and Development platforms are invited to this service. As a result, the community and available websites are of much higher quality, but also of much higher pricing.
We focus on value instead of the “Click here! Click here!” ethos of other ad networks. Publishers in the Carbon network are hand-picked based on content quality and audience engagement, and we only work with advertisers that provide value to those audiences. Our native ad unit respects user experience, appears in uncluttered environments, and promotes products and services that are actually relevant to visitors.
Nevertheless, wouldn’t you want to have your theme advertising on sites like Bootstrap, Dribbble, Coding Horror, and others? Those are just the kind of sites where you can find a new customer for your theme and/or framework.
AdWords is a premium advertising platform powered by Google. You are already familiar with AdWords in your daily search-to-search endeavors. You know, those little “Ads” tabs that come up on the first results when you search for something. Those little “Ads” boxes indicate that the link is sponsored through Google AdWords.
The great thing about AdWords is that you gain access to an extended library of keywords and in turn, many new opportunities. Since people are constantly searching for new themes and website tools, you can directly target them using specific keywords.
Google is an absolute beast when it comes to search advertising, the giant holds most search market share in the majority of the countries. Further, you’re able to target users based on many different components.
On top of that, Google says that users who use AdWords see an average of 50% return for their investment. So, for every $50 that you spend, you should see a return of $100.
These days, many are flocking to Google Ads and other platforms because of the increasing difficulty to get good rankings for a strong keyword. Search engine result pages are starting to get bloated with all kinds of junk (snippets, etc.), and if you want to see steady growth then a monetary investment might be necessary.
And last but not least, sponsored reviews. A sponsored review is when you pay a blogger/brand to write about your product/theme. These are much more popular than people think. And given the right circumstances, you can expect a nice return too.
E.g. Maybe it would cost you an insane amount of money to get a sponsored post on Smashing Magazine. But, can you foresee the immediate benefits? Your theme gets exposed to millions of readers first and foremost. And second, you also get some incredible link juice through all the mentions to your product/theme.
How to find sponsored review opportunities? I would start by doing Google searches for WordPress-related keywords. Put together a list of all the top 10-20 websites. Afterward, go through each one and check if they offer sponsored posts. If they don’t, you can try your luck by reaching out directly to the site owner.
These kinds of opportunities range from $20 up to $500 depending on the publication. But, rest assured that your theme is going to get some solid attention if you keep at it.