Commercial Developers: How to Sell Your First 100 WordPress Themes and Plugins

Over the last few years, the premium WordPress product market has gone from strength to strength.

These days, it really is possible for top developers to earn six- or even seven-figures a year by selling their premium themes and plugins. This has led to a surge of new products hitting the market, with lots of new developers looking for their piece of the pie. Unfortunately, many of them are left disappointed, with sales falling well short of their expectations.

What gives? Why are some developers super-successful while others struggle to earn a basic living? (Hint: it’s not just an issue of quality.)

The problem is that many developers have no idea how to sell their products — if the community is unaware of your products, how do you expect to make any money?

If this describes you, you’re in luck: today, I’ll be sharing four tips to help commercial WordPress developers sell their first 100 products.

1. Freemium Business Model

If you’re launching your very first product, people have probably never heard of you. As you can imagine, this makes building momentum ten times more difficult!

People are unlikely to drop big money on a product they’ve never heard of, built by an unknown developer — not unless the product is truly groundbreaking and exceptional.

They are, however, likely to test out a product if it won’t cost them anything.

Whether you’re selling themes or plugins, try to release a basic version of your product. Just remove one or two premium features, then submit it to the relevant WordPress directory — this one for themes, this one for plugins.

Impress people with the ‘Lite’ version of your product, and they’re far more likely to shell out for the full version.

2. Sell on the Big Marketplaces

If you sell your themes/plugins exclusively on your website, you have two obstacles to overcome:

  1. Attracting people to your website, and
  2. Convincing them to make the purchase.

You can make your life much easier by going to a place where you know big groups of buyers congregate — namely, ThemeForest (themes) and CodeCanyon (plugins). It’s the same reason big manufacturers all sell their products on Amazon — there’s a ready-made customer base in place.

Sure, you’ll still have to work hard to stand out from the competition, but it’s far easier to get noticed. After that, you can focus on perfecting your product page to generate conversions.

This might not be the most popular point, as Envato take between 30% and 50% of an exclusive author’s earnings, depending on total sales. With such a large customer base, however, selling your products on the biggest WordPress marketplaces can still be very lucrative.

In fact, CodeCanyon’s best-selling plugin, Visual Composer, has been bought nearly 80,000 times at $33 a pop — that’s around $2.6 million in revenue. On ThemeForest, the figures are even more impressive, with the best-selling theme, Avada, shipping over 145,000 themes at $58 — that’s nearly $8.5 million in revenue.

Truly eye-watering statistics, right? But could these developers have earnt anything like those figures by going alone? Not a chance.

Would you rather earn 100% of a smaller number (or zero), or 50%-70% of a much bigger number? That’s a decision that only you can make, but the Envato marketplaces certainly deserve consideration.

3. Start an Affiliate Program

You might not be the best marketer in the world, so why not attract marketing talent to do the hard work for you?

By launching a generous affiliate scheme, top marketers and blogs might pick up your products and advertise them for you — in return, they’ll receive a commission for each sale they drive.

You’ll still have to put yourself out there to attract your first affiliates, but if you’ve got a product that’s proven to sell, this strategy can snowball.

If you want to manage an affiliate program from within the WordPress dashboard, consider using a plugin like AffiliateWP — part of the Pippin’s Plugins family, which also includes Easy Digital Downloads.

4. Reach Out to WordPress Blogs and Bloggers

Where do the people most likely to buy your themes/plugins already hang out? That’s right: the existing WordPress blogs.

If you offer a review copy of your product, many top blogs will be happy to put you in the shop window by publishing an in-depth review. This is a great way to show potential buyers your product’s main features, as well as providing a demonstration of how to use the product.

My advice is to contact every top WordPress blog you can think of, including the writers that regularly contribute to them. If you cast your net wide enough, you’re bound to get some interest, and this is often all it takes to start building some momentum.

Final Thoughts

The famous line from Field of Dreams — “if you build it, they will come” — just doesn’t apply to business in the real world. I’m sure there are many WordPress developers building exceptional themes and plugins that are earning nowhere near what their talent deserves.

Remember: When it comes to business, a great product on its own isn’t enough. You also need an effective promotional strategy.

Every developer will promote his/her products differently, but the four tips in today’s post are easy to implement and general enough to be a solid starting point for any developers looking to launch a commercial WordPress business.

Now it’s over to you. Do you have any more tips you’d like to add? Then share your expertise in the comments section below!

Featured image courtesy of GotCredit.

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  1. Good Post.
    Selling WordPress themes/plugins is quite a task if you do not market them properly. Selling them in a good marketplace can make you money. TemplateToaster has a marketplace with a large audience where one can sell their WP themes/plugins. For more marketing techniques you can check the blog to get the proper insight.

  2. Hello Shaun. This post was very thorough. We never thought about reaching out to other WordPress blogs. Thanks for that. Our main focus so far has been doing keyword research, optimising our webpages for keywords our target audience will search for, and creating really good content and resources. We would definitely love to start an affiliate scheme. Do you have any advice you could share on that? Thanks.