There’s huge potential to make money online with WordPress themes – as I write this, WordPress.com states that there are 71,822,299 sites (that’s sites – not pages) that are currently powered by the popular blogging platform. I’ve heard numbers thrown around that WordPress actually powers between 10-25% of all sites out there – whatever the number, the figures are unbelievably impressive. Each year the service continues to grow exponentially, meaning that the target audience continues to grow with each passing month and the demand for products or services for WordPress continue to grow as well.
Because of the large number of blogging, design, and programming sites out there – making money with WordPress themes can be applied to many different niches or topics.
Capitalizing on the WordPress Theme Market
This phenomenal growth has opened the doors for the ambitious money-makers who provide marketing, programming, or design services for those using WordPress. With this post, we’re going to focus on the design aspect – specifically, the income opportunities that are available by creating or promoting WordPress themes. To capitalize (and profit from) the WordPress theme market, there are basically two options that you can choose to pursue:
- You can design & sell your own themes
- You can promote the themes of others
Each option has their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to making money and the skills involved. Designers and programmers would likely lean to the designing and selling your own themes, while marketers and content producers would steer more toward the promotion aspect (i.e. affiliate marketing). What’s interesting is that while there are thousands of free plugins and themes out there, people are willing to pay a premium for features, functionality, and support they might not otherwise find in a free theme.
I believe that whatever choice you make (to create themes or promote them) the ability to generate good money is basically the same.
Creating Your Own Themes
If you’re a programmer or designer, there’s a ton of money to be made by either creating and selling your own themes or by doing custom work for select clients. There have been multi-million dollar design businesses built around this model: ElegantThemes, WooThemes, and StudioPress are just a few examples that pop up. Each of those companies has sold thousands (even hundreds of thousands) of WordPress themes and have built thriving, sustainable businesses around them – all of which can be very profitable.
There are thousands of people who make a living by solely designing and selling their own WordPress themes. Whether you only have one theme on the market like DIY Themes’ Thesis Theme or you’ve released dozens like the three companies just mentioned – there’s a limitless number of designs that you can create (and if good enough, make some serious cash along the way). You don’t even need to have your own site as theme aggregators like ThemeForest allow designers to publish their themes directly on their site in exchange for a cut of the sale price.
- Larger margins to work with
- You can drive traffic through affiliates
- You set your own price, terms, and processes
- A great add-on to an existing design business
- You have to set up all processes (payment, delivery of themes, refunds)
- Usually there is a high demand of support needed from customers
When you design your own themes, an in-depth knowledge of how WordPress works is required. Testing for compatibility, debugging, and plugin conflicts can lead to a large amount of time and effort needed to support your customer base.
Promoting WordPress Themes of Others
I have run several sites (and even on this site), that shows the affiliate model can be a very passive and hands-off income stream. However, the promotion route requires either up-front money to fund PPC campaigns, some time to achieve good results from SEO, or a lot of traffic from your content to generate clicks that result in sales.
- Wide selection of products to promote
- Typically, can be more hands-off promoting vs. creating themes
- Fewer processes to set up
- Slimmer margins
- Must be good at driving traffic to your affiliate links
I’m not a designer, so the affiliate model has been the option I’ve always pursued. It can provide a good, passive way to generate some nice income – provided you are able to generate the traffic to make your efforts worthwhile.
[box type="note"]Even if your site’s topic falls outside of the design/WordPress realm, you can still make good money promoting themes. Take a look at any one of Chris Brogan’s individual posts to see his unique and persuasive way of promoting the famous Genesis Theme by StudioPress.[/box]
Making Money With WordPress Themes
Whichever model that you decide to go with, know that there are people making some serious money (thousands or even hundreds of thousands) with WordPress themes. It’s a market that’s constantly evolving and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Get a little creative with your approach and you can generate some great income off WordPress themes no matter which route you choose.