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There is no shortage of good quality premium WordPress themes out there. Due to an ever-increasing demand, more and more WordPress theme developers are now selling premium WP themes across various channels. On one hand, there are dedicated marketplaces whereas on the other hand, theme makers can choose to sell through their own websites.

If you are a WordPress theme developer, where should you sell your premium WordPress themes? On your own store or website? Or should you opt for marketplaces such as ThemeForest and Creative Market?

This article shall discuss the pros and cons of each model.

Selling Premium WordPress Themes via Marketplaces

When it comes to WP theme marketplaces, three names are the most popular: ThemeForest, Creative Market and Mojo Marketplace. Each has its own user base and offers a wide array of products: design assets, icons, fonts, templates, mockups, and of course, premium WordPress themes. ThemeForest is highly popular because it has been around for a long time. However, Creative Market has earned a reputation of late by providing themes at a competitive price and with lesser bloatware.

Selling Premium WordPress Themes via Marketplaces

If you choose to sell your premium WordPress themes via a marketplace, you can be assured of a wider audience. However, on the downside, you will be required to pay a percentage of your profits to the marketplace (this can, over time, accumulate into a hefty loss of revenue as the commission needs to be paid per sale).

The Good Part

When you sell your premium WordPress themes through a reputed marketplace, you automatically get access to a huge array of prospective buyers. Marketplaces such as ThemeForest have been around for years now and as a result, they have built up a loyal user base. Your WP theme can be noticed by this user base and you can earn good revenue.

In this sense, a theme marketplace is a boon for new theme developers out there. Since you cannot possibly expect to have millions of users visiting your brand new WP theme shop from day one, selling via a marketplace can give you access to more buyers in a shorter span of time. This is especially true if you are a relatively new player in the field. Without a theme marketplace, it will be even more difficult for your theme shop to compete with the likes of, say, Elegant Themes.

The Bad Part

The saddest part about selling your premium WordPress themes on a marketplace is that you have to work extra hard to convince buyers. This can, in essence, mean a compromise in quality. There are many buyers in marketplaces that prefer a bloated do-it-all WP theme which comes bundled with 17 different plugins. As a result, more and more developers tend to cater to this demand. You may find yourself compromising on code quality or overall design satisfaction simply to make your theme more sell-worthy.

Another downside related to theme marketplaces is the commission that is deducted from your profits. For each sale, you are required to pay a percentage to the marketplace. This can be low if you are an exclusive seller (selling only via the said marketplace). Plus, on places such as Creative Market, your country’s tax treaties with USA also come into play -- if your country and the United States haven’t had a great tax treaty yet, you can expect to lose more than half of your profits just for the sake of taxation.

Selling via Your Own Theme Shop

The second option available to you is to sell your premium WordPress themes through your own website or webshop (WooCommerce for instance). In other words, you can set up your own theme shop and sell your WP products directly to buyers.

The most obvious advantage in this case is that you are absolutely in command: you can set the pricing, make custom plans (such as offer club memberships), and provide support directly to your buyers. The negative side is pretty obvious as well: there are just way too many things that you need to take care of, and you are also deprived of the millions of prospective buyers that a marketplace has to offer.

The Good Part

The best thing about having your own WP theme shop is that you can decide the direction you wish to take your business in. you can specialize in a specific niche, or sell minimal WP themes that are free from bloatware, or focus on users that value quality over quantity. It also becomes easier to provide one to one support to clients in the long run.

Another merit of this model is related to the pricing structure. You can run special promos -- Halloween discounts, Black Friday sales or club memberships -- and give out bulk discounts for regular buyers. Since you get to retain 100% of your profits and do not have to share any commission with the marketplace, you are in a better position to offer customized pricing and affiliate deals.

The Bad Part

Running your own theme shop is fairly like running an eCommerce store. It is not as simple as adding products and expecting sales. You also need to integrate a payment gateway, offer payment methods (at times more than one), streamline the checkout process, and so on. Furthermore, you also need to ensure your website has top-grade WordPress hosting and adhere to all tax requirements depending on your country. If your theme shop is offline, you will lose both revenue and reputation. As a result, good uptime and reliability is of essence here.

Conclusion

So, which method is best for you?

Opting for a theme marketplace is ideal for new developers that have just started out with premium WordPress themes. It will give you the boost that you need in terms of traffic, potential buyers, and more. Furthermore, you will not need to worry about additional things such as hosting, payment gateway integration, website security and SEO, etc.

Over time, as your business expands and revenue starts flowing in, you should by all means consider running your own theme shop. With the sales that you have made from the marketplaces, you can expect to get a loyal following of buyers that you can then convert to your theme club members. This model will help you save your money by avoiding marketplace commissions, and since you would already have made a good number of sales on marketplaces, your theme shop will grow faster than usual.

If you are a developer making premium WordPress themes, where do you sell them? Do you use a theme marketplace or are you managing your own theme shop? Share your thoughts and experience in the comments below!

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Writer; web dev; published author; coffee lover. Learn more here.

4 thoughts on “Where to Sell Premium WordPress Themes: Marketplace or Shop?

  1. Hi Sufyan, great post!

    Marketplaces can give you an initial boost. And it’s very important if you don’t have financial support. But in long term, if you really want to grow the business to a high level and in a stable way, running your own shop is better. You control the budget, you define how you do marketing and you decide which products to develop. However, the competition is hard and you have to do all the marketing yourself. But that’s worth to try!

  2. Nice review of both options, Sufyan.
    Readers should be aware of a third option, which is basically a combination that allows you to enjoy both worlds:
    You can submit your WordPress themes to the largest WordPress theme marketplace – *WordPress.org* and then let your users upgrade from within their WordPress admin dashboard, using a service like Freemius – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uqxPlG46J8
    That way, you’re using the large amounts of traffic driven by the official WordPress.org repository to your advantage.

    Another way to enjoy both worlds is to simply become a non-exclusive seller on a marketplace and combine that with selling through your own theme shop website.

    Good luck!

  3. I have seen many instances where the developer starts with the marketplace like Envato and after sometime (months or a year) they start selling from their own shop. This can be another angle to look at. It will surely give a kick start and users will be aware of the original developer, so no need to start from scratch.

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