With the wide-spread adoption of WordPress, many web designers have found themselves in a unique situation. WordPress’ theme functionality provides a way for designers to spread their designs via easy to install, self-contained packages. Thanks to industry pioneers like BrianGardner, WooThemes, and ThemeForest there is now a huge market for high-quality themes.
While these marketplaces offer some great visibility, they also offer lower returns on your work! Wouldn’t it be great if we could get eyes on our theme without sacrificing returns? Why isn’t there a great ThemeForest alternative?
I’ve been relatively successful in ditching the commission based big boys and leveraging WordPress’ built in (and awesome!) theme browser to create added value for the consumer. Now, this isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme, but a “how I accidentally made a little money on the side” scheme (and hopefully made a lot of WordPress users happy).
1. Create 2 (or more) Editions of the Same Design
The first edition is the basic version and it is free! There are no strings attached, its just a service your provide to users who like your work and can’t afford to pay for it. Ideally, it’s a simple theme with a great design but has no special features.
The second edition is the pro version. This is your free theme on steroids. Most theme developers will attest to the fact that users of their themes want customization. Many can’t afford $80 an hour for a seasoned developer, so try to build those common requests into the pro version. It should have ALL the common modifications. Left sidebar, right sidebar, color schemes, header customization, custom homepage layouts, etc…
Customers will be happy to pay $20 or $30 for a pro theme with slew of features if the alternative is paying a developer a relatively large sum to customize a similar product!
Now that we have our two editions, let’s get some eyes on the theme!
2. Use WordPress.org For Visibility
This is where you need to submit your free theme. Be aware that they may deny your theme if it doesn’t meet their standards. Also, they don’t allow footer links that appear spammy, so keep it simple. A link to your homepage or post about the theme will do fine and is usually permitted.
Also, be sure to set your “Theme URI” and “Author URI” in your CSS file, many users will visit your site from WordPress.org using those links, which is very important for our next step.
3. Use Your Site as a Landing Page
This is where the magic happens! After WordPress accepts your theme, you should have a flood of interested users hitting your site to learn more about your theme. While you’ll offer some great information about your free edition and even offer it up for download, try using a service like BitBuffet.com to sell your pro WordPress theme via PayPal. BitBuffet offers a way to sell digital files for as little as $5 a month and takes absolutely no cut from your sales.
At Gazelle Themes we even offer a forum for all Pro owners where I offer help and support. This can be a great way to connect to your users and add even more value.
Some Extra Tips
- Try to build your theme around trends and popular designs. Keep them appealing to a large number of users.
- Submit your free theme to any number of theme directories. Get eyes on your theme.
- On your landing page (where you sell your pro theme), try using Google Website Optimizer to increase your conversion rates.