this thread (and site) was brought to my attention by Jeff from WPTavern. Jeff thought that I could possibly add to the conversation because of several factors (for those that don’t know me which is obviously a lot of people):
- I’m an Elite author at ThemeForest
- I’ve been on ThemeForest selling for almost as long as it’s been available
- I’m quite outspoken about themes, theme forest and Envato.
So, back to the question, which is very hard to answer. I’m actually not sure anyone can answer this as there are too many situations in play here and many of them are personal. What I’ll try and do is give some benefits and negatives plus some insights.
Themeforest will provide HUGE amounts of traffic. This ‘should’ convert in to healthy sales even at a low percentage of conversions, in theory, in realty it was like this but in the past 12+ months things have changed, a lot.
Now, you must first understand that I am an advocate for bloat-free themes, plugins are for extending the functions of WordPress and a theme should style the output only. We didn’t always do this, as, like many, we plunged in to WP development for the money and then realized we actually want to be part of the community and to learn from it. We have made massive efforts in the past 1-2 yrs to push our code and themes to become better and using best practices.
Having made the above clear you now need to understand that this has alienated us from the bulk of the buyers at ThemeForest, which has seen a swing in the last 12 months. Most buyers on TF these days are either end users, or those that prefer to ‘flip’ themes. These are not your developers or code shops, they are not akin to rolling up their sleeves a little to change a few styles in the style sheet. They want drag n’ drop layouts, change all fonts via a drop down select and alter all colors etc by color pickers. They demand multiple options for everything and when I say everything you should read that as EVERYTHING! This is fine if you are comfortable in producing themes with 10 blog layouts, 20 portfolio layouts, 10 home pages, widgetized everything and 5 premium slider plugins. We are not, so, we have seen a 70% drop in earnings (this is myself and my wife - I design and she develops) and I can tell you it’s been rough taking the high road on these issues.
So you are saying that if I produce these monster themes I should sell on TF right?
No. Why? Because that’s what everyone has done. You can’t sell the same thing as everyone else or everyone is sharing at the same pool. You have to be ‘different’, when you work out what that means, please message me because I’ve tried a bunch of different things, some with a little success and others have fallen flat on their faces. I’ve tried to explain reasons for not having 10 sliders and buyers don’t get it - my products, in their eyes, are inferior (i’ve actually had this conversation several times with potential buyers) because they have to upload plugins (that I freely make available to everyone) - they just presume that it should be included in the theme like the really ‘good’ themes.
So you’re saying don’t sell on TF then?
Not exactly They have massive traction. You get eyeballs in front of your products. If it has what they want they will buy and if you strike it lucky then you can earn massive money (see Avada). It’s a painless experience selling on TF because they do all the money side of things, bring in the traffic, display it etc. You build and then collect right?
Well no… the other thing about selling on TF and that has altered vastly in the same period as mentioned has been support. You now have far more support because the skill level of the buyer is lower than it previously was. Envato say you don’t need to offer support but if you build something then support the damn thing, it’s the right and only thing to do.
So you get lots of I can’t install the theme type questions, what is a post, how do I set this and that (all of this is always in our documentation but you know, you have to read that!) - this takes time, effort and a little bit of your soul over time and no way to monetize for your time. Efforts, they say, are being looked in to but honestly - sorry Stephen you’re a great guy, I love you man - things are soooo sloooow at being developed and then they develop new things that you just stare at the screen with… you know like a new badge, or it’s half-assed fix and they didn’t ask the community.
Here’s the simple truth. You must also realize that Envato, ThemeForest are running a business. One that has completely different targets to the individual author. There business model runs perfectly because the more authors producing more items means more sales. For authors, more authors means more competition, more products means it’s harder to get noticed. See the difference? Basically it doesn’t matter if sales come from 1 or 10,000 people because they still earn as the top of the pile - obviously as it’s their marketplace - but most people just don’t seem to get that.
As Envato is a business they put more and more effort in to promoting top selling items - check the forums for the last 2-3 years, every day authors complaining. Look at their official twitter accounts etc and see what they are promoting - ‘author makes $2 million dollars’, ‘Author builds massive house’, ‘new author video from top seller’ it’s all right there but again it’s because it makes absolute sense for THEIR business model - not yours.
OK so sell on your own?
Ha, loaded question because wowzers you have a lot to do and maintain and keep on top of and promote and SEO, SEM and every other acronym you can think of. However you have 100% control. You can set your own prices. You can promote how you wish (at ThemeForest, even though you own the item you can’t promote by offering a free copy, a price reduction or… well anything tbh.) but the garden is yours and if you feel you have incredible products, a great business head and superb promotional skills it may be for you. Many veteran authors have now left to sell on their own or just give up selling and try something else because of many reasons I guess - some personal, some financial some because they wanted ‘freedom!’ - hows it working out for them… well I can see signs that it hasn’t been a bed of roses. Keep an eye on those that left and you may see what I mean.
Let me finish this stupidly long post with a few key points.
ThemeForest is a fantastic launch platform to get reviewed (it’s actually not the walk in the park many people think these days), sell stuff, get a following and earn money.
Starting your own theme shop looks hard, you’re not the only guy/gal out there selling on your own you have just as much competition and some are ridiculous on their pricing.
I’ve got more to say, input and waffle about but I have a feeling that this, being my first post, I’ll come over as a dude who can’t stop typing, hates themes with options, wants to see Envato buried and has a nothing useful to say - trust me, that’s not the case