5 Years of Selling on ThemeForest – Pros and Cons
By Brian Jackson, Updated: August 3, 2017
With WordPress being used by over 28% of all websites, the space can be very competitive! A big dilemma for a lot of new WordPress theme developers is whether or not they should go out on their own or distribute their work on an already established marketplace. Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Henry Rise, the CEO of ThemeREX, a Power Elite Author on ThemeForest. He’s going to share with us his first-hand experience of having sold themes on ThemeForest for five years, and some of the pros and cons to the platform. If you are still contemplating which route to go down, hopefully this can help you make a more informed decision.
ThemeForest + WordPress
For those of you who might not know, ThemeForest is owned by Envato, and is an online marketplace where you can buy and sell HTML templates and themes for popular CMS products like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. According to Alexa they are listed in the top 1,000 websites in the world and receive millions of visitors each month. They are definitely one of the largest marketplaces of its kind.
As of writing this, there are over 10,000 WordPress themes available on ThemeForest. They have what you might call a “need each other to survive” type relationship. According to research from Freemius, while only 28% of the Themes on ThemeForest are WordPress Themes, the WordPress themes are driving 80.5% of the total revenues. You can buy a theme for literally anything, from a corporate e-commerce theme to a wedding theme. Just for fun, we pulled a screenshot of ThemeForest back in 2008, in which time they had only 14 WordPress themes.
Why the massive growth? Well, it’s quite natural as WordPress themes are easy to develop. Moreover, entrepreneurs and small businesses tend to prefer WordPress over other content management systems as it is easy to use. According to W3Techs, 59% of all CMS users are utilizing WordPress. You can also check out our in-depth to learn more about the history of WordPress.
However, due to the fact that there are so many WordPress themes on ThemeForest, this makes the competition tough. You can no longer just list your theme and watch the sales start rolling in. ThemeForest authors and developers have to make certain changes in their strategies in order to succeed. If you want to reach the top of the selling lists it isn’t recommended to place your entire business solely on ThemeForest, as this can be risky. It’s also recommended that you run additional marketing campaigns for your brand, even if you’re a power elite author.
What is a Power Elite Author?
Envato has what they call an elite program. This is to reward sellers that cross certain thresholds when it comes to total sales volume. The first level is once you pass $75,000 in total sales, you are rewarded with an elite badge, a 12 months tuts+ subscription, and Google Analytics on your seller profile. This would then allow you to add UTM parameters to marketing campaigns and see what is actually converting. The levels go all the way up to $25 million, in which you can pick your own adventure and Envato foots the bill.
While those levels might sound outrageous to some, there is a lot of money to be had in the WordPress theme market. The number one selling theme on the marketplace, Avada, has sold over 300,000 copies! And if you do the math on $60 a license, that is over $20 million in sales on just one multipurpose theme. However, they also have the advantage of time on their hands, as they have a very well established brand and theme. It can be a lot harder now with all the competition.
Pros of Selling on ThemeForest
Today we are interviewing ThemeREX, a power elite author with over 37,000 in sales. They have over 156 WordPress themes on ThemeForest with a 4.5 out of 5-star rating. If you are thinking about selling your designs on ThemeForest, you should know all the pros and cons before taking any actions. Who better to take some advice from than an already well-established seller?
Here are some of the pros that Henry, their CEO, shares with us about selling themes on ThemeForest:
Envato gives you stability and confidence in your bright future if you are building a web design business (we mean serious business, not creating templates from time to time when you’re in the right mood).
2. Lots of Traffic
Envato has insane amounts of traffic. According to SEMRush they get over 9 million organic visitors per month, and this is only estimating desktop traffic. So you can safely assume it is a lot!
What does that mean for you? Your themes are viewed by a targeted audience, lots of relevant people. This traffic is not random. Users who browse your themes have extensive knowledge of the topic. Sometimes it seems that they know more than you do about it. So, what should you do? Try to convince them that your products are good.
Let’s take ThemeREX as an example. We started from nothing and our traffic has grown to 200K visits per month very quickly. Please keep in mind that most of the traffic comes from demos. The trap is that the majority of customers will never see your home page. How to avoid it? Show them more templates on demos, or use banners, etc. Make sure that you have your finger in that traffic pie.
3. Choose Your Pricing
Envato gives you the choice. You are free to choose prices for your items. For instance, you can opt for the lowest price and sell your magnificent, time-consuming work for a dime. This will be your sacrifice to name building and climbing to the top. Or, you can do just the opposite. You can set your price at hundreds per theme like some vendors at the high end of the charts.
4. Higher Revenue With Exclusivity
You have to make another big choice partnering with Envato. Would you like to sell your themes everywhere or exclusively on Envato? The difference is in the revenue. If you are offering your products here and there, you get 50% of revenue. Maybe you will be satisfied with that. But most of Envato partners choose exclusivity and sell their themes only there. The fee can then be reduced to 12.5%, but it also depends on gross sales. So, you’d better think twice about what’s more beneficial for you. Learn more about Envato author fees.
5. Envato Wants You To Succeed
Envato cares about its vendors. The team wants you being recognized as an elite/power elite author. And of course, the more sales you generate directly correlates to more revenue for them. You get lots of perks, badges, they include you to their wall of fame, post your interviews on their blog and do many other things. For instance, when your new theme is released Envato features it on its homepage. This way your new theme gets super-exposure in the first few days.
6. Earn Extra Income on Support
You can raise good money on support, as long as you are super efficient. Customers pay for additional support now on ThemeForest, so it can be said that support department pays for their salaries. This works really good. Read more about the ThemeForest support policy.
7. Great Community
And the last pro is the community around Envato. You become a part of it. You get an opportunity to talk to the developers who have similar interests, learn from them, share thoughts, ‘steal’ creative ideas, etc.
Cons of Selling on ThemeForest
While there are a lot of positives about ThemeForest for authors, here are some of the cons:
1. Theme Rejections
You are likely to get multiple rejections from Envato as their standards are very high and the sometimes change too abruptly. The rejections make you feel frustrated, sometimes you start to think that things are too complicated for you. Here is just one example from the forum.
But you should understand that Envato has a good reason for their terrific requirements. They must maintain a certain quality level. Take this as a challenge to your professionalism and your work will become better as well as your level of expertise will become higher. Adopt, become stronger and you will win customers hearts, which is what Envato is aiming for.
2. No Branding
A lot (if not all vendors) hate the faceless factor. All of us have our own ambitions. But we have to sign up for this of our own free will. The fact that customers buy from Envato and not from your brand may be irritating. You should be ready to get heaps of support tickets addressing you as the Envato support team. This doesn’t help you build your brand. Everything has its price, this is the price you should pay for tons of opportunities Envato gives you. If you want to build your brand – do your own marketing.
3. Just Part of a Machine
Do you remember the words of the songs by Scorpions “You’re a drop in the rain, just a number not a name…” It’s not very pleasant to feel like that, but the truth is that, even though they want you to succeed, you are still a cog in the Envato machine. If you pop into the community forum, you’ll see vendors posts where they tell about their pains like the drop of sales (example below) and other topics that are crucial for them.
But they get no reaction from Envato. Moderators don’t care either. ThemeForest should care about their authors as they are the engine of Envato. That’s sad, but business is not for whiners.
4. Mess With Pricing
Prices are another serious issue. According to Envato terms, everyone can set their own prices on their own products, which is fair enough. But some authors sell their products as the most expensive items while others sell their themes with almost 0% revenue for the author chasing their marketing purposes. Multi-skin templates are also great competitors as they could be used for building lots of websites for the price of one. Due to this mess with prices, a lot of people leave feeling cheated and disappointed. We understand that we must not blame others for their success and our failure, but this understanding doesn’t make things easier.
5. It’s Difficult To Succeed
If you are only going to start your partnership with Envato, be ready for the hard times. We don’t want to scare you away, but it’s incredibly difficult to enter ThemeForest today. Even the biggest players are starting to feel the competitors breath on the back of their heads. It might cost you an arm and a leg to add an extra value with the price markdown tactics and the overflowing market of quality products. And don’t hope for any answer from Envato. Even Power Elite authors have to patiently wait, standing in line to get their questions answered. Sometimes it takes two or three days to get a simple yes-no email answered.
6. Requires Extra Marketing
You have to make extra marketing efforts to get your themes exposed if you want to survive on Envato. A little bit of math: ThemeForest needs to get at least 2 million extra people to buy their WordPress products in order to just keep afloat. Two million people is huge and that’s all just to keep business the same without any growth. You may say that the WordPress demand is growing and people are becoming even more dependent on websites and the internet, but who knows how large the demand could grow.
Any business has its pros and cons, especially the big ones that involve so many people. Besides the cons mentioned above, most of Envato vendors are happy to be a part of its community and build their business around it. If you are hesitating whether to try your luck with Envato or not, we can say only one thing. It’s better to take action and fail than stay idle. Maybe you are a future rising star of ThemeForest. We wish you the best of luck! Have your own story or experiences of selling on ThemeForest? We would love to hear them below.