Premium WordPress themes have really taken off in the last year and the market has proved that people are willing to pay for quality themes. Premium themes are normally sold with customer support included, in the past they had to rely on support from the theme designer who may or may not have time to provide it or reply on support from the general WordPress community. For a blogger or company that relies on their theme for their business, having customer support on hand when they need it is a huge selling point.
Premium themes also include extra features such as an admin panel and more widgets that lets the user customise their blog a lot more easily than delving into html code which they may not be familiar with.
I'm not sure how many people currently use WordPress as their blogging platform but a staggering 23,448,396 people have downloaded WordPress 3.0. Thats a huge market right there and its only going to grow as WordPress continues to improve and move more in the direction of becoming a full-blown content management system.
I have always been an advocate of generating extra income streams, especially if you work for yourself or on a freelance basis, building a passive income can take a huge weight off your shoulders. So if you are a good WordPress theme designer, why not start selling your designs as themes and create extra income?
In this guide Im going to look at all the aspects of selling premium WordPress themes, from building the themes to marketing them.
There are a few things to consider when designing a theme as opposed to creating a custom design for a client site. You need to decide what the theme will be used for, the market you are targetting. There are many specialist themes available such as for Real Estate sites, Gallery / Portfolio, Magazine-Style, Personal Blog and so on. You need to decide if you will target one of these niches or try to create a more general purpose theme or framework, such as Genesis.
You will need to think about how the end user can customise your theme via the admin panel you provide. Will you let them change the colors? How about the layout - allowing for a 3 column layout or 2 column layout ?
Taking a look at the ThemeForest list of WordPress themes and ordering them by the most sales, the top 20 break down like this :
- Corporate / Business: 10 Themes
- Blog / Magazine: 3 Themes
- Creative: 3 Themes
- Creative / Portfolio: 2 Themes
- Creative / Photography: 1 Theme
- Corporate: 1 Theme
As you can see overwhelmingly, the Corporate and Business themes are the most popular, having sold 19541 units between 10 themes. This stands to reason as companies are more likely to spend money online for services and tools that improve their business. Imagine the cost of a premium theme compared to having a bestoke website designed, the savings are huge, especially for a startup company.
Here are some of the best selling business themes :
As you see from these, all are of a high standard design-wise. They are quite minimal in their layout and styling choices, so you can see how they could be customised to fit the customer's brand quite easily. They also all feature some form of slide show that can be managed from the theme options panel. I'm not saying that your choice of theme should be similar to these but it seems a good choice for maximum sales, if you're offering a range of themes then I would definately include at least one business theme.
Theme Options Panel
A must-have feature for premium themes is a theme options panel which allows for customisation of the theme. I have gone into detail in this post about them before, including examples and tutorials for coding your own.
At a minimum they should allow the customer to upload their own logo, add analytics code, favicon and customise footer text. A more extensive options panel will also include layout and color options, letting the user recolor sections of their theme with a color picker would be a big selling point as they can customise the theme to match their logo / branding colors.
You should also include links to your customer support and documentation for the theme.
It goes without saying that your theme should be widget ready, I would recommend adding as many widget-ready areas as possible. This again allows maximum customisation for the end user. The sidebar and footer are the most likely options but depending on the layout of your theme you could include extra areas on the main homepage area or in the header.
Selling your Themes
When it comes to selling your creations you have a choice to make: start your own site selling the themes under your brand or join a theme marketplace.
ThemeGarden - Theme Marketplace
There are pros and cos to each of these so lets take a look at what they are ..
Starting your own Theme company
- You are building an asset
- You have full control of every aspect of the company
- You retain 100% of profits
- Start up time
- Marketing expenses
- Will take up more of your time
Joining a theme Marketplace
- Starting with an established audience
- No marketing expenses
- Have to pay fee or percentage of sales
- No control over selling policies
Which route you choose depends on what you want to achieve from your business, if you want to just earn some extra money on the side for the minimal amount of time put in, then using a theme marketplace to sell your themes would probably be best for you as you can focus on designing themes and providing support for them and leave the marketing & promotion to someone else.
If you fancy building an asset and your own brand, then starting your own theme company is the best bet. It will be a lot more work as you are essentially starting from scratch and having to do all the marketing yourself. In the long term you will end up making more this way if you handle the promotion well and build an audience.
No one says you have to do one or the other exclusively, maybe you could start with a theme or two on a marketplace site and gain feedback and get used to handling customer support before you move on and create your own website.
Good luck whichever path you choose, I hope you can go forward and start earning extra income from your passion in WordPress theme design!