The reasons behind the popularity of WordPress are many: ease of use, flexibility, and of course, it’s easy to extend.
As a result of the platform’s popularity, more designers and developers are creating plugins and themes for WordPress. In fact, it’s kind of a saturated market now. How do you stand out? More importantly, what’s the best way to promote and sell your WordPress theme so that you reach the biggest audience possible and get promising returns?
Should you go the simple route and rely on marketplaces such as GumRoad or ThemeForest? Or should you go solo and sell through your own website?
What the WordPress theme market looks like right now
Speaking entirely in general terms, the WordPress theme market is incredibly crowded. Even a few years back, I wrote an article discussing the state of the WordPress themes’ business and analyzed why the market was overcrowded. That was 2013.
The reason the WordPress themes market is crowded is still the same: Whenever there is demand, the supply follows.
However, the more theme sellers there are in the market, the less each theme will be worth. After a time, even the end users stop looking for new theme providers and stick with the ones who’ve built a reputation, like WooThemes and Elegant Themes.
If you’d like to try to catch the attention of buyers as a theme developer, you’ve got some choices to make.
Selling through a marketplace
Users search for and purchase themes, and the marketplace deducts a commission off the sales. There have been a good deal of success stories about WordPress theme makers who’ve made it big via marketplaces: AJ Clark and Orman Clark are two names that come to mind straightaway, as both of them got their start on ThemeForest.
- A large target audience instantly available
- No headaches such as ecommerce management, billing tools, etc.
- Easy to get started
- Part of your revenue goes to the marketplace
- At times, you might be bound by the licenses of marketplaces
Selling your themes your way
The second route that you can take is to sell themes via your own website, much like WooThemes, Elegant Themes, WPZOOM, and a zillion other providers are already doing.
In general, every provider offers two solutions: The customers can either purchase a single theme or opt for the subscription model where they pay a fixed fee and are entitled to download the provider’s entire collection of themes for a period of, say, one year.
- You’re the boss!
- Easy to target a specific niche
- Ample room for growth
- Difficult to get noticed if you’re new
- Need to deal with security, ecommerce settings, payment gateways, etc.
Is one route better than the other?
Shockingly, there is no direct answer to this question. However, we can apply some logic to your choice. If you’re a new theme maker trying to get noticed in the crowded WordPress market, it’s probably worth it to sacrifice that commission and sell via a marketplace. This is particularly true if you sell themes targeted at a broad demographic.
However, if you’re targeting a specific niche, say church themes or photography themes, doing it from your own website might be a better solution. You can define a niche for yourself and cater to a specific user base that will probably need recurring subscriptions.
But remember that you can go both routes too. You can set up your own shop on, say, ThemeForest or Creative Market, and also sell a different set of themes through your own website. This is a model with a long-term selling strategy: A customer purchases your theme via ThemeForest, is impressed, and visits your website. They’ll see that they can get 10 other themes for a paid membership to your site. The next time they go shopping, they’ll keep your theme shop in mind.
In other words, a marketplace may offer better exposure for your business, but having your own shop has more room for a loyal clientele. You should try to grab the best of both the worlds.
Do you sell WordPress themes via marketplaces or your own shop or both? Share your experiences with us!