How & Where to Sell WordPress Themes & Plugins
Have you been told “You could sell these!” when you show off your custom WordPress themes and plugins? While this is flattering, figuring out how to get started in the premium WordPress theme and plugin business might seem too complicated for what could be an uncertain payoff.
Fortunately, there are plenty of theme and plugin marketplaces that exist for entrepreneurial programmers like yourself. There are many ways to develop and launch your theme and plugin business. Plus, designing for WordPress can be very rewarding, even if it requires a bit of guidance when you’re just starting out.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how and where to sell your premium WordPress themes and plugins, and also delve into why this might be a great outlet for your programming skills. Let’s get down to business!
Why Sell WordPress Themes & Plugins?
If you’ve worked with WordPress for any length of time, you’ll likely understand the need for plugins and the appeal of building with beautiful, custom themes. One of the best parts of building a website in WordPress is knowing you can use all of these tools to create a truly unique showcase for your brand on the web.
For theme and plugin developers, this also means there’s a huge potential market out there for your work. WordPress is a truly international product, used by companies and organizations both large and small.
The marketplace for themes and plugins is competitive. However, the barriers to entry are low, and there are lots of places where you can showcase your products (we’ll introduce several options later in this post).
How to Sell WordPress Themes
If you are trying to decide whether to focus on developing themes or plugins, there is some research that points to the theme market being larger. With that in mind, let’s look at the eight steps you’ll need to take to get your themes ready for the market.
Step 1: Choose a Niche and Design Your Theme
One of the best ways to stand out in the crowded theme marketplace is to focus on a particular niche. Niche themes are designed to serve a very specific need. After all, the needs of a podcaster are likely to be quite different than those of a ‘mompreneur’ selling handmade soaps.
One way to find a niche that may have room for new themes is to use a tool like Google Trends to understand what people are searching for:
Once you identify a likely niche, you can outline your theme design based on the needs of that audience.
Step 2: Develop Your Theme Using Responsive Design Principles
Designing primarily for mobile devices is an important trend, for many reasons. One significant advantage of this approach is that you only have to design one version of a project that will work on many platforms.
To do this, you’ll need to pay attention to responsive design principles when designing your theme. This means considering elements such as fonts, image sizes, menus, and more, opting for styles that will serve mobile users more effectively. There are many resources available for information on responsive design, and you can even get some help by installing a dedicated plugin.
Step 3: Follow the WordPress Coding Best Practices
As a theme developer, you are more likely to encounter success and repeat customers if you know and understand WordPress’ Coding Best Practices:
Following best practices in your development process will also go a long way towards ensuring that your new theme is well-documented and functional. This is a win for everyone involved, and helps you build loyalty and trust as a developer trying to sell themes.
Step 4: Include Appropriate Theme Templates
WordPress subscribes to a specific theme template hierarchy, which structures how templates are named and applied to posts and pages. You’ll want to make sure you have the right templates included in your theme, so that users have some level of customization and control.
This means users will be able to choose what theme templates to apply to different types of posts or pages. If your theme has some special bells and whistles, you’ll want to make sure to include them in your custom templates where relevant, but tread lightly and beware of theme bloat.
Step 5: Create a User-Friendly Theme Options Page
The Theme Options page is where users will get to dig in and customize parts of your theme. Without it, users would have to delve into the CSS or PHP coding themselves. Therefore, it’s important to make this page clean, organized, and easy to use.
Being able to click through settings without having to understand CSS is a major reason people pay for a premium theme. Therefore, making sure they can navigate the Theme Options page is key to building a strong reputation.
Step 6: Create Clear Theme Documentation
WordPress has specific recommendations and requirements when it comes to theme documentation. Familiarizing yourself with these will help when it comes time to submit your theme to WordPress. Having your theme available through the WordPress theme finder can be a significant benefit.
Your documentation should outline the limitations of the theme, and explain any out-of-the-ordinary installation or setup considerations. It should also document your theme’s code, in case another developer wants to make customizations.
Step 7: Choose a Theme Marketplace
You’ve made it through the gauntlet of the previous six steps – now it’s time to pick the theme marketplace that best suits your needs. For many developers, the WordPress.org directory remains the best free marketplace choice out there.
If you decide to go with another option, just keep in mind what goals you have for your theme, what marketing will work for you, and how much you’re willing to pay in fees. We’ll cover many of the marketplace options in further detail below.
Step 8: Price Your Theme and Start Selling
Finally, it’s time to put a price tag on your work of art and (hopefully) watch the money roll in. Market data suggests there’s a sweet spot around $59 for premium themes. There is, however, flexibility to put niche themes at a higher price point.
If you’re planning to be prolific with your theme and plugin creation, you could investigate marketing a theme club or subscription service. Regardless of how and where you sell your products, though, it’s wise to understand the theme market and how consumers will be shopping.
Where to Sell WordPress Themes
Now that you’re ready to sell your themes, let’s take a look at the options for marketing your work. Here are seven top WordPress theme marketplaces, and a rundown on what each has to offer.
Creative Market focuses on providing people of all skill levels with a place to sell their work. This includes not only WordPress themes but also photos, fonts, graphic design, and more. It boasts a network of six million members, which is a huge potential audience for your themes.
One of the perks of Creative Market is its flexibility. You won’t be locked into just this one marketplace, since you’ll retain the rights to sell your product on your own site or elsewhere. You’ll also see 70% of your themes’ profits, and are free to price them as you choose.
ThemeForest also offers some choice in terms of exclusivity and profit. This marketplace is powered by Envato and draws a lot of traffic, which is a good thing. However, you’ll have to decide if you want to give over exclusive sale rights to ThemeForest for a smaller fee.
The difference is significant. Non-exclusive sales fees can be upwards of 55%. If you choose to be an exclusive seller with Envato, the more you sell, the smaller the fees become. This marketplace does have some wild success stories, and can be a good place to get your first big win.
Codester is a straightforward marketplace that might be better for plugins, but also offers a home for themes and other digital products. The best part about Codester is the standard, across-the-board 70% profit share for everyone.
There are no exclusivity requirements, and you don’t have to be a veteran seller to reap that reward. Codester does have a review process for submissions, but it boasts a very simple and less intimidating ‘get started’ page than most marketplaces.
When you choose TemplateMonster as an exclusive seller, you will take in 70% of your sales. If you decide to play the odds and keep your options open by selling your products on more than one platform, on the other hand, you’ll take in 40%.
While their non-exclusive profit percentage is similar to most marketplaces, TemplateMonster offers a lot of support for both customers and designers. Programmers can also choose their pricing within a suggested range.
MOJO Marketplace boasts a whopping 5.8 billion users. And while Mojo Marketplace does set its own pricing on themes, you can bring in a flat 50% of sales for non-exclusive items, or take advantage of an increasing scale on exclusive items. As an exclusive seller on MOJO Marketplace, the more you sell the more you make.
The other advantage to MOJO is the access you get to its partners. This marketplace is connected to several hosting services, and provides customers with immediate access to their themes during host setup.
CSSIgniter offers a lot of options for its customers, including theme clubs. This translates into some great payouts for theme developers. As a developer you can take home 50% of each sale, but you also have some other perks.
If theme users (you refer) decide to renew a subscription, for example, you get a commission. It’s worth noting, however, that you need to bank a minimum of $100 a month in order for them to release payment to you via PayPal.
Placing a theme in the WordPress Theme Directory offers great value. It gives you access to a huge audience, and can be a great way to get started. Many users choose this as their first location when searching for a new theme.
As this is a free directory, you’ll need to include a ‘lite’ version of your theme here. Then you can direct customers to the full premium version, which you’ll need to host elsewhere. This may be a little more complicated, but it lets potential customers try out your theme with no risk.
Which Marketplace Should You Sell Your Themes On?
There’s no one right answer when deciding which marketplace is right for your themes. You’ll need to take into consideration whether you want to be an exclusive seller in a given marketplace, or if you want to retain the ability to sell your products elsewhere.
Another consideration is if you’re willing to program a free, basic version of your theme. This will enable you to offer your free version on certain marketplaces, and gain the trust of customers as they get to know your products – an investment that can really pay off.
Learn More With WP Engine & StudioPress
It might seem like a jungle out there in the theme marketplace. Fortunately, there are many ways to kick off your premium WordPress theme or plugin business.
However, you won’t want to go it alone. WP Engine offers plenty of developer resources, and can help you create an incredible digital experience for your customers by creating premium themes with the Genesis Framework. Our plans provide a lot of options, so there’s no doubt you’ll find something that fits! Plus, the Genesis Framework and StudioPress Themes are included for free.