The WordPress theme development business has become very competitive today and even Power Elite Authors at ThemeForest are thinking about their future. It is very hard to enter the market with the new product now. The authors have already experimented with prices and products, so the barrier entrance is incredibly high now.

Let me introduce you, Henry Rise, the owner of ThemeRex Power Elite Author account, sharing some valuable information about making a living in this sphere.

ThemeForest has become a much more challenging place to succeed in since 5 years ago. It has become more popular, so you’ll have to compete with thousands of other developers from all around the world. If you want to grow as an independent vendor, you’re going to have to spend a lot of money on advertising your products, something a lot of beginner developers can not afford. So if you don’t have the money, you should join a marketplace. That will give a chance to focus on making quality products instead of having to worry about marketing all the time. That was our way in 2013 and when we started ThemeRex. Since then, we have created 140+ WordPress themes and 35K sales.

Being an Exclusive or a Non-exclusive author.

The difference between an exclusive and a non-exclusive author is the amount of revenue they get from each sale. Envato much favors exclusive authors, which means they get paid more. The fees a non-exclusive author would have on their products could be up to 55% as opposed to 12.5% for exclusive products. So, being an exclusive author would generally be a better idea for a beginner as you would get more money per sale. You wouldn’t be able to sell the goods you have on Envato anywhere else, but again, if you’re a beginner, nobody knows about you and your things probably won’t get too many sales anyway. You would begin to get exposure being a non-exclusive author, but most beginners stick to getting as much money as possible per sale.

It has never been a question for us. Since the first day and until now we are making good money on selling exclusively to Envato. Moreover, there is simply no other point of selling your themes elsewhere. ThemeForest gives you the biggest relevant audience on the internet. The sales on other marketplaces can’t give you even nearly what ThemeForest is giving its users in terms of monthly sales.

The first step

The first step in anything is the most important one and quite often the most difficult one. In the case with Envato, it is getting your theme accepted to the marketplace. It will probably will be the hardest challenge you have to face at first as ThemeForest has a strict review protocol that pays close attention to the theme’s design and code. It must be unique, feature a clean visual hierarchy, readable typography, semantics and so on. I am not going to continue with a full list of requirements, but one thing you should know is that many authors get dozens of theme rejects before they get their first one accepted. So, a good idea would be to start out with something simple, like a PSD template or an HTML5 template. With that approach, you’ll be able to gain better understanding of ThemeForest’s design and code guidelines and pave your future works a way into the marketplace.

Funny story time. We uploaded a bunch of products on the first day. But you know how it goes – some get accepted first, some later and some never get through. You never know which ones will be the first to get accepted.  So, our first theme was for a funeral bureau. Quite unexpected, but funny. We’re not superstitious, so we didn’t mind at all. It also brought us tons of sales!

Another thing a beginner should know is that there are lots and lots of authors on the marketplace. So, naturally, the support system is going to be very busy. So don’t get mad at the support staff for not answering your questions for a few days! Trust us, you’re not the only one. But as your skills grow and you gain exposure and start climbing the Envato Elite ladder, you gain perks. One of which is better, faster support. Being a Power Elite Author, your maximum response time would be 2-3 days. It might be a little frustrating at first, but you have to remember that the marketplace is a very, very crowded place.

The Pros and Cons of Selling on ThemeForest

Well, first of all, we should mention that working with a marketplace like this, you never have to worry about advertising your products. It just gets taken care of by the website, so you get exposure much easier and quicker than you would on your own.

You also become a part of a huge community and get a chance to talk to other developers just like yourself. You can share your experiences with each other and exchange some ideas which can be beneficial for each side. There are always people willing to put their time and effort into projects and you might as well collaborate with them for some mutual profits. Of course, that makes the marketplace quite crowded, so you’ll have to keep an eye on what people are up to if you want to get to the top and stay there.

Not only that, but Envato also exposes your products to possibly the largest relevant audience in the world. You get to meet new customers and help their businesses, while they help you with your bills.

It doesn’t happen that much nowadays simply due to the rapidly growing number of templates, but the marketplace used to help new themes get sold. They used to get significant promotion, which helped a lot of Power Elite Authors get their boost.

But this is not the place you want to stay in if you want to build your own brand. While joining the community is beneficial for you and the community itself, you become another author at the marketplace. And people don’t really care that much for names, for them your themes are just different ThemeForest templates. They only care about quality.

The authors get the authority to set their own prices for their products. You should be aware of the fact that lots of people choose to set the lowest possible price in exchange for more sales. That is a risky strategy, but it does work sometimes. But it can also affect the sales of other authors. People got used to buying cheap templates over time. Even though an average ThemeForest template costs less than one from most other template providers, the competition within the marketplace is still tough.

Envato has certain standards for the products. It is good for business because every author has to play by the rules and the customers get high-quality products. But there might be some tension with the WordPress community. The “war” days are over but you can still notice that theme providers split people into two types: those, who sell their products on Envato and those who work with resources like for their freemium model.

Now, you’re not going to get hate just because you’re working with ThemeForest, but a lot of WordPress nerds are always ready to express their opinion on the WP themes that are available on ThemeForest. They don’t think their quality stands up to their standards.

What About Promotion?

Even though you get pretty good exposure and a solid traffic-heavy platform to work on, new themes are being created every day and it becomes harder and harder to get noticed for beginners. When there weren’t that many templates around, Envato used to give a week-long boost for new themes. Even though the exposure is still decent today, that is not the case and if you want to earn more, you might want to consider getting additional promotion.

If you want to grow as a brand, being just another theme vendor on a marketplace won’t do. But nobody restricts you to being just that! While selling your products on a third party platform, you can always start your own website, blog or whatever, be active on social media and seek for customers. You should always seek for opportunities and new customers and, if you have the money, start ad campaigns and promote your business.

We have had a pretty nice experience with ThemeRex and never had any trouble with marketing issues. We have launched our own ThemeREX website and participated in the community life a little bit. But that’s it. Still, we got our Power Elite Author status and reached 35k+ sales. So, Envato can help you out quite a bit. But if you want to grow as a brand, a well thought-through marketing campaign is a must.

How to Be Successful

Rising in the ranks is always difficult, and so it was for us. There were already some big vendors who were getting a large portion of the profit in the business. But now the situation is way more saturated. There are thousands and thousands of developers willing to work at the marketplace. So, coming up with something unique gets harder and harder every day.

You could still get decent revenue as a beginner though. Whether you focus all your attention on singular perfect templates or produce dozens of themes of slightly lower quality weekly, work on multipurpose themes or niche templates, you will still find your audience. Our thing turned out to be micro-niche templates.

But instead of trying to invent something new, it would be much easier for you to concentrate on improving already existing concepts. Like widening the functionality of your themes. If your products can do more for the same price than your competitor’s ones, you’re likely to attract attention. You should analyze the situation on the market, learn all the needs of your customers and all the aspects of the most popular templates and come up with ideas that will improve them. Like, say, adding a loan calculator to an insurance agency theme. Handy, right?

You also should pay attention to the visual aspect of your products. No matter how well they perform and how many functions your themes have, they are not going to get noticed if they look generic or unattractive.


Being a success on ThemeForest got harder than it used to be, but you can still come on top. So, the things you will need to do are:

  • Develop a strategy for your business
  • Learn the marketplace and other vendors
  • Come up with original ideas or ideas that bring something new to already existing concepts
  • Make sure your products’ visual aspect is as good as their functionality
  • Run a marketing campaign to gain exposure and get customers (optional)

I hope this article was at least of some help to you and showed you the general idea of how to profit at a marketplace. I wish you luck. And be sure to tell me and the community about your own experiences with ThemeForest in the comment section, I appreciate all the feedback you leave as it always helps to improve. If you have some personal questions, just reach out and ask. Wish you many sales.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.