July 14, 2024

Selling WordPress Themes for Profit – 3 Business Models You Need to Try

Selling WordPress themes is one of the most reliable ways to make money online as a WordPress theme developer. Unlike offering WordPress theme development service, selling themes let you open a steady stream of passive online income.

In fact, if you’ve been a freelancing for a while, you’ll know that working on client projects is not always fun. At times, the job can be tedious especially if you’re not good at dealing with various clients. Besides that, you’ll also need to spend a significant amount of time for hunting down new clients.

And those hours you put in for finding new clients are typically non-billable.

On the other hand, you can find many successful examples of making a full-time income by selling WordPress themes. But that doesn’t mean that selling is easy. Ideally, it is going to be tougher than making a living by offering freelance development services.

But in the long run, it is going to be more profitable than working on freelance projects.

In this post, I’ll explain everything you need to know about selling WordPress themes for profit.


Before jumping in to start creating an excellent theme to sell, you’ll need to research the market and brainstorm different selling options.

To get a plan, try to find answers for the following questions.

  • What kind of theme should you create? In what niche/category?
  • Where to sell your themes?
  • Who are your ideal customers?
  • How to sell your theme to masses?

Sell WordPress themes- Freemium model

It’s true that WordPress is the CMS of the choice of most websites out there, but that doesn’t guarantee that the theme you create will gain traction amongst WordPress users. As thousands of awesome WordPress themes are available in the market, it is harder to sell a premium theme especially if you’re just starting out as a premium seller.

One of the ways to gain traction amongst the users is to create a free WordPress theme at first. It may take some time to gain an initial traction, but once you took off, you can release a premium theme with premium features and support.

Leverage the community of WordPress official theme directory

First things first- create a WordPress theme and submit it to the WordPress official theme directory. WordPress.org allows you to add a link to your theme’s homepage right from the free theme page.

Once your theme started gaining traction, you can expect a significant amount of traffic to your website from the theme page.

  • Create a landing page and a demo site: Create a landing page specifically for selling your premium theme. For a quick solution, you may consider installing any of the landing page plugins on your website. You’ll also need to create a demo site so that users can figure out how it looks like.
  • Track onsite behavior: Install a free plugin like Leadin to track the onsite behavior of your potential customers. This plugin also tells you more details about them like what pages they’ve visited, when they return and what social networking sites they are on. The more data you have, the better marketing decision you can make to convert free users into customers.
  • Create a membership site: Aside from selling premium themes, you can even entice your potential customers to join your premium membership site. This can be a premium club for accessing all of your premium themes with dedicated support.
  • Promote your premium theme: One of the best things about freemium business model is that you can promote your premium theme within the free theme. That means as long as your customer is using your theme, you’ll be able to promote premium themes.

Sell on marketplaces

Selling your premium themes on a crowded marketplace is probably the easiest way to make a living as a seller. Unlike freemium model, you don’t need to offer anything for free. All you need to do is to start creating products and list it on marketplaces.

Below are a few popular premium WordPress themes marketplaces.

Themeforest is one of the best premium marketplaces for buying and selling WordPress themes. You can find a lot of Themeforest success stories out there similar to that of Ivar Rafn. In his first year as a WordPress theme seller, Ivan has made $97000 in sales by launching 4 premium WordPress themes and one HTML template.

All you need to do is to create a premium theme and launch it in the marketplace. Of course, you’ll need to ensure that your product is adhering to the quality guidelines of the marketplace. The design is the most important part. In order to get accepted, you’ll need to make it unique in terms of visual hierarchy, typography, semantics, etc.

The downside is that Themeforest is saturated. Unless you create something innovative, you can’t expect many sales to roll in. However, there is still room for more themes. Take a look at the categories list and create a theme in a category where competition is low.

Alternatively, you can upload your work on other less crowded marketplace and check if it helps you bring in more sales.

Sell on your own website

One of the biggest advantages of selling your theme on your website is that you get full control on what you sell and are not restricted by Terms of Services of any third-party platforms. In addition, you can keep all of your profits without sharing it with the marketplaces.

While selling on your own website is definitely more rewarding, you should look at the whole picture before jumping in to start selling on your own website.

The exposure you get from a marketplace is priceless, which you can’t achieve by selling your products on your own especially if your theme isn’t revolutionary or if you don’t have a strong reputation or big audience in place.

Below are a few tips to follow before you start selling on your own website

  • Grow a user base: If you’re looking forward to self-hosted selling, you’ll need to have a solid user base at first. You can grow your user base by leveraging one of the community-powered theme marketplaces before rolling out a self-hosted selling platform.
  • Create a marketing plan: ‘If you build it, they’ll come’ strategy could be disastrous. Instead, have a solid marketing plan and stick to it.

Do you plan to start creating premium themes? Which one is your favorite business model? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

Shahzad Saeed specializes in content marketing for startups and small businesses. He writes on CRO, ecommerce, marketing and design. You can hire him for your next writing project.

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