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dtribble says

Hi everyone,

I’m considering getting into selling WordPress themes and wanted to find out more about the pros and cons of being a theme author. I’ve listed some pros/cons I thought of below. I would love it if any of you experienced theme authors could add to or comment on this list.. I want to make sure to have a realistic idea of what to expect as I start this venture. Thanks for any insights or advice you can offer…

Pros

  • “Passive” income…less reliance on constantly getting new clients/projects
  • Increasing web development/wordpress knowledge
  • Themeforest provides easy channel for selling
  • Ability to study other themes for best practices
  • Low start-up cost
  • Ability to create more themes once first is complete…multiple products
  • No deadlines, no nutty clients
  • Creative freedom

Cons

  • No clients…less people contact
  • No deadlines…must be disciplined
  • Takes a while for $$$ to start coming in…large up-front time investment
  • Lots of studying/ramping up to do
  • Must provide ongoing support/bug fixes/updates
  • Cost of incorporating premium plugins, stock imagery

Thanks, Damon

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pixelgrade says

I for one see many of the cons you’ve enumerated as pros: the need for discipline, the constant need to learn and innovate. As for cons I have experienced: somewhat of an uncertainty with regards to the review ( you may find yourself with rejected items that you wouldn’t have thought), also the market is quite volatile in terms of what sells and what not, so you need to take some risks here. Overall I think you need to stand your ground and follow your own path, and you will eventually make it. The market for “inspiration” driven authors is pretty swamped (see the Avada clones outthere just to name one). Also I would advise to stay clear of stock photography for your demos, as we do. For me those photos are oozing falseness. You can contact photographers you like and in most cases you will get permission to use their photos in your demos.

Just my 2 cents :)

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codeblvck says

I for one see many of the cons you’ve enumerated as pros: the need for discipline, the constant need to learn and innovate. As for cons I have experienced: somewhat of an uncertainty with regards to the review ( you may find yourself with rejected items that you wouldn’t have thought), also the market is quite volatile in terms of what sells and what not, so you need to take some risks here. Overall I think you need to stand your ground and follow your own path, and you will eventually make it. The market for “inspiration” driven authors is pretty swamped (see the Avada clones outthere just to name one). Also I would advise to stay clear of stock photography for your demos, as we do. For me those photos are oozing falseness. You can contact photographers you like and in most cases you will get permission to use their photos in your demos. Just my 2 cents :)
+1

I may not be as experienced here as others but my 2 cents

Cost of incorporating premium plugins and stock imagery is not a con, its a personal preference. You can create pretty nice products without spending a dime. Naturally premium plugins cost money but till then you have free alternatives.

Resources vs resourcefulness. Social aspect and long hours, if you can deal with that, you can give this a go.

You will always find 10,000 reasons not to do something.

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ThemeBeans says

Here’s my bit:

Your Pros:
1. “Passive” income…less reliance on constantly getting new clients/projects
Being a theme author is not really as passive as one would think. Not only do you need to invest time in making the themes – one can’t forget the innumerable support hours, marketing investments/time, theme updates, etc. At the end of the day – if you really want to be successful and take it to the “next level” then it’s a full time job/career.

2. Low start-up cost
Yup, just time – lots of time. Though time is money. :)

3. Creative freedom
There’s a certain level of creative freedom yes, but you don’t want to publish themes that buyers aren’t buying. Theme publishing is a careful balance of following, leading & creating trend – with stock themes. What’s the “trend” in websites is not necessarily the trend with stock themes here on ThemeForest.

4. No deadlines..
Set your own – or you’ll start noticing your sales falling due to lack of inactivity. In these days, if your theme doesn’t make the top charts in it’s first week – then it’s probably (and quite unfortunately) going to get buried beneath the copious amount of themes in the market.. especially if it’s a popular/trending category. Every time you publish a new one, people have a better opportunity to view your older items.

I tend to follow my sales and aim for a certain minimum per month. If I can hit that (per projected sales) without releasing a theme that month, then I’ll wait to release. I will still work on one, but just take extra time to fine tune, add features, research better techniques, etc.

Another thing to consider is the potential cannibalization of your own items. You would not want to release two of the same category of themes back-to-back – as customers that bought one, would be unlikely to buy another.. and customers that have not purchased either one, would settle for just one of the two. Don’t limit your item’s maximum potential.

Your Cons:
1. No clients…less people contact
Yikes, you’ll be fending off support requests daily (even with a team at your disposal) if you start to “make it”. Even the simplest of themes will stem some questions to be answered.

Personally, I’d prefer no “clients” haha.

To add:

1. As Pixelgrade mentioned the lack of a “standardized” review process plagues TF with more and more uncertainly with every theme upload I perform. It’s very troublesome that clones/low quality can make it on the site seemingly easier than most. It’s very frustrating, but there are alternative markets to sell your hard rejected themes (if they are rejected on basis of features/design – not function). Sure TF gets a lot more traffic than the others, but at least you’ll get some return to mitigate the development time lost.

2. When it comes to premium plugin integration – I typically do not add any of those. Mostly because if the plugin developer(s) change something that causes an error in the theme – the theme is seemingly “at fault” and I’ll have to push another update just to fix that. On top of that, I don’t want to bloat a theme with a lot of plugin CSS on the IF case that a user utilizes that specific plugin.

A suggestion would be to create (or outsource) your plugins. That way you know when they will be updated and can build your themes with their capabilities in mind. It’s also a great way to add value to your themes.

All in all, it’s more than a job, it’s your business. You can be as successful as you want to be. There will be downs, and the will be ups. Just stay focused, don’t give up, don’t tire yourself out, and always always KEEP LEARNING.

Rich

ps: longest forum post ever ;)

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SnoopyIndustries says

What’s been said so far has been fairly correct mostly, but I’d like to mention a con, perhaps the biggest.

It’s the big elephant in the room when it comes to TF officials and it’s of course the fact that they simpl don’t like making money. Because if they did, they would havefound a way to limit copyright infringements ages ago. So now it’s much like an old car. It does its job providing for the driver a means of transport, but at the end of the day it’s still full of faults.

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pixelgrade says

Well said ThemeBeans. @am_themes: You are right but only to a certain point. When communities get bigger and bigger things change because of the shier number of people. This is the point when some hard rules need to be set and sometimes be a little “not-so-nice” to keep things under control. It’s either that or hire hundreds of people to keep and eye on things (this is just not feasible).

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