Themeforest as an full time income source? Some number crunching curiosity.


#1

Ok so I have always kinda liked the idea of selling templates through a site like themeforest (or mojo) or any number of a myriad of other companies. However, I am really struggling with it as a viable income source and would love to hear from some of you that regularly sell your products here.

To do a quick test I looked up a one of the categories and ordered it by “sales”. Then went to page 5. (which, of the 360 items in the category reflects the top 30% of products. Perhaps optimistic but still reasonable.

I then started looking at the profit the vendors might be making from each item.

Example #1:

102 Sales. Price $20:

Assuming the lowest commission rate the person who created that template has earned $1020. It was uploaded over a year ago. Assuming the highest commission (unlikely), $1428.

Example #2:

Taken from page 7. The median sales of the category:

51 Sales, Price $12:

Also uploaded a year ago. Minimum commission: $306. Maximum commission: $428.

Example #3

The top sales item of the category.

5218 sales, $35

uploaded a year ago. Max commission: $127,000

After looking at these numbers it pretty much took the wind out of my sails. How is it viable to make a living off selling themes? All of the above examples were EXTREMELY well done websites with multiple pages and in all cases, 7 or 8 different variations on the same theme. They also include dynamic elements and advanced javascript. They reflect a LOT of work from the seller.

While, it seems if you get lucky and make it to the top of the list you make a killing, otherwise, you can’t even afford to put food on the table.

If I was to create the same site, design, and functionality for one of my clients I would be charging in the range of $5000-$7000.

I can’t imagine being able to make a living off of the above media sales. I could spend upwards of a month carefully putting a site together from scratch to meet the quality requirements of theme forest and if I am lucky and reach the “average” sales my theme will make me less than $500 over the next year. Assuming 30-40 Man-hours to create the site I would be neting 12-16/hour on a delayed income, after subtracting cost of doing business (equipment, software, power, internet, etc) I wouldn’t even be earning enough to pay the rent on a bachelor apartment let alone making enough eat or do anything else. Sure I could get lucky and be one of the top 5% but that isn’t likely, especially since even the themes in the bottom 20% are of a quality that they are easily comparable to the top ones.

Thus my question is, am I missing something? How can sellers here afford to build enterprise quality sites when the odds are they will be taking home significantly less than minimum wage (in the US). I really hope I am missing something and that there is much more viability than I realize

thx!


#2

I don’t believe it is possible for an author to make a full time income selling only HTML templates. However it is possible for authors to make a living (and a great one at that) selling WordPress themes.


#3

Most authors have more then just one sit up and running here. If you have for example 5 designs for let’s say 35$ and you sell each 50 times in one month you have

(35$ * 50times * 5templatestotal)/2 (for 50% rate)

= 4375$

This would be a nice passive income. But You’re right, it isn’t safe like lot of things in the freelance business are.


#4

Using the example of 30-40 man-hours per site it would be possible to do 1 site per month while working a day job if you can set aside 1-1.5 hours per day. If those templates can average 30 sales in a month (the lowest items on the popular files list average 30 per week), at the end of a year you would be making $5250 per month on top of your day job! There is also the hope that you find a winning formula so that you can have a real blockbuster like Classica or Striking that sells 150+ per week. I believe both of these themes were released by authors who were new to Themeforest at the time.


#5
BroOf said

You’re right, it isn’t safe like lot of things in the freelance business are.

So true.

But I think a “livable wage” really depends on your location in the world too. The U.S., U.K, Australia, etc. have much higher standard of living than other countries. There are some people here who can call themselves full time Envato authors with an income of $1000/mo (or less) because that’s more than enough to pay their bills in their country. Since you’re in the U.S., it’s a different ball game.

As EugeneO said, it’s very possible with WP themes for an author who is talented enough to repeatedly gets their items approved. I guess it all comes down to having the skill, the time, and the guts to keep at it. :wink:


#6
JamiGibbs said

But I think a “livable wage” really depends on your location in the world too. The U.S., U.K, Australia, etc. have much higher standard of living than other countries. There are some people here who can call themselves full time Envato authors with an income of $1000/mo (or less) because that’s more than enough to pay their bills in their country. Since you’re in the U.S., it’s a different ball game.

It is even more complicated in the EU. I have to convert from $ to €. So if I earn 100$ I mostly get between 68€ - 72€. Germany also has huge living expenses and things are generally more expensive then in other countries…


#7

Interesting, however, fillerspace is 30 sales per week even remotely expectable? When looking at word press themes ordered by sales around the midpoint I am seeing most making around 200 sales in 8 months to a year. Which is more like 4 sales/week.

For example lets say I do an above average word press them and over the next year it sells 200 copies at $20 each. I make $2,000 on a delayed return.

By spending the same amount of time building a similar website for a client I can charge as I said $5-7000.

Thus in comparison I take a pay cut of about 60%.

And that is assuming my theme is average sales. Also on a side note, how much of a theme has to be original? For example on many themes I see an elegant flash or ajax slide show as part of the theme. Does that have to be specific to the theme or can that flash object be used in several themes that are all different aside from that one common element? Can these common elements be purchased from say activeden so I don’t have to invest the time in building them myself?

I am sorry to be all negative, I am just trying to do my due diligence as I really do like the whole concept of selling themes as it puts the creative flare back in the hands of the designer.

Oh and one other curiosity. How often do you sell “extended licenses”? Is that like an almost never once is a blue moon, “yay” kinda sale or can a popular theme expect to sell a fair number of them?

thx for the comments so far everyone!


#8
terminalvelocity said

Interesting, however, fillerspace is 30 sales per week even remotely expectable? When looking at word press themes ordered by sales around the midpoint I am seeing most making around 200 sales in 8 months to a year. Which is more like 4 sales/week.

My example was 30 sales per month, compared to the popular files list, where the lowest items sell 30 per week. 30 sales per month would be about 7.5 per week.

I think you’re seeing a lower average because you are looking at the whole year and averaging, but in reality, most themes will sell more per week during the first few months, then trail off to a trickle. A theme that sells 200 in 1 year might have sold 50 the first month, 30 the 2nd, 20 the 3rd, and so on.

terminalvelocity said

By spending the same amount of time building a similar website for a client I can charge as I said $5-7000.

I think if you can regularly get these types of clients and they don't drive you insane, you should continue to do that. I got away from big-ticket custom web design because I couldn't stand the clients. I'm about to submit a theme I've been working on since December, and it was the most relaxing project in a long time because I am the client and there are no deadlines. Even if I didn't sell it, it was worthwhile to do because I learned a lot about HTML5, CSS3, jQuery, and Wordpress in the process. Any money I make from it will be icing on the cake, especially since I already have a high-paying day job.

#9
terminalvelocity said

Interesting, however, fillerspace is 30 sales per week even remotely expectable? When looking at word press themes ordered by sales around the midpoint I am seeing most making around 200 sales in 8 months to a year. Which is more like 4 sales/week.

For example lets say I do an above average word press them and over the next year it sells 200 copies at $20 each. I make $2,000 on a delayed return.

By spending the same amount of time building a similar website for a client I can charge as I said $5-7000.

Thus in comparison I take a pay cut of about 60%.

And that is assuming my theme is average sales. Also on a side note, how much of a theme has to be original? For example on many themes I see an elegant flash or ajax slide show as part of the theme. Does that have to be specific to the theme or can that flash object be used in several themes that are all different aside from that one common element? Can these common elements be purchased from say activeden so I don’t have to invest the time in building them myself?

I am sorry to be all negative, I am just trying to do my due diligence as I really do like the whole concept of selling themes as it puts the creative flare back in the hands of the designer.

Oh and one other curiosity. How often do you sell “extended licenses”? Is that like an almost never once is a blue moon, “yay” kinda sale or can a popular theme expect to sell a fair number of them?

thx for the comments so far everyone!

These are valid worries when considering doing this full time but most people here don’t do it full time and instead make a nice part time income from it.

Also, it’s great that you’re able to charge $5000-$7000 per client but that’s also not something everyone can do either. Kudos to you that you’re able to pull in those numbers.

For me, personally, being a ThemeForest author is about having a small bit of freedom. I love my freelance clients but there’s a certain sense of satisfaction in designing for yourself. Freelance designers always need to give in a little with their designs to accommodate a client so, even though I’m not making full time income here, it’s something I love doing anyway because it’s what I want to do, not someone else.


#10

There are only a few designers on TF that have shown a sustained wage enough to support a family in the US and it seems to involve equal amount of skill and luck. Also those folks are likely going at it with a near full-time effort (or more). It does seem possible to secure a decent income here. Probably for the average theme, the payout is not significantly better than for the same theme done for freelance client work in a mid-sized US city (of course that is just my observation).

Of course the hope is to catch the spotlight and make significantly more. Like Classica for example. However, that is not a typical theme. Everything from the design to the code is spotless. I am more surprised by TF customers’ ability to recognize its quality than by that theme’s worthiness to sell. I am hoping that Classica’s success means the trend is shifting from the glossy, glowy, just-came-from-photoshop-tutorial stuff to more minimal and refined.


#11

You could possibly make the same as a barrister full time here. You have to be efficient though.


#12

Another factor worth considering is that once you have a solid base with your first theme, it seems likely that the next theme will come a bit easier. Of course that is also true with client work I suppose… Ok, never mind.

I think that if you have the market and connections to do sites in the $5k - $7k consistently, it is more likely that you will do better financially with client work. However, if you don’t have access to that sort of market or working for yourself is more appealing, TF might be a good option. Truthfully, just try both… the only loss is time and that is just an illusion anyway…


#13

Also good points and ya, one of the big reasons I love the idea of themes is not having to deal with clients. I can charge that much for a job, but it is always an extremely negative affair that usually by the end I am closer to shooting the client then sending them a bill :wink:

I will have to give it some thought, perhaps I will give it at go. How is it working with wordpress making themes? I have never used ti myself but anytime I have to skin third party CMS software I always find it to be more an exercise in frustration than anything else?

thanks again thought for your thoughts everyone, I really am grateful that you are taking the time to give me advice.

Also is exclusive worthwhile or is it better to put my work up on every theme marketplace I find? (aka smaller commission vs bigger market)


#14
JamiGibbs said

But I think a “livable wage” really depends on your location in the world too. The U.S., U.K, Australia, etc. have much higher standard of living than other countries. There are some people here who can call themselves full time Envato authors with an income of $1000/mo (or less) because that’s more than enough to pay their bills in their country. Since you’re in the U.S., it’s a different ball game.

That’s an important point…with the median income for a single earner in the US at $50,000, it would be difficult to be a full-time ThemeForest author. You would have to consistently sell about 250 $35 WordPress themes per month.

Contrast that with a place like the Philippines where you can live very comfortably (even better than in the US, with maids, driver, cook, etc.) on $1000 a month. An author living there could sell 60 $35 WordPress themes per month.


#15

Some of the same points that I ponder myself… not thinking of quitting my job, just freelance work that I unfortunately need a bit of to meet my financial commitments.

WordPress is the only CMS that I have worked with really so not sure how it compares to others as far as coding themes. There certainly is a learning curve and matching those themes at the top at the sales list is pretty involved… even the ones that appear simple.

I don’t think that there is a bigger market than TF. I think that TF’s commission is still too high, even though they recently raised it but access to their market is a huge factor. (50% is way too high)


#16
EugeneO said

I don’t believe it is possible for an author to make a full time income selling only HTML templates. However it is possible for authors to make a living (and a great one at that) selling WordPress themes.

I think its possible to make a full-time income with just html template but it will be a ton of work for example you’d have to produce 20 themes a month with an average of 50 sales at an average of $7 profile 20 x 50 x 7 = $7,000 x 12 = $89,000 now that being said thats almost a template a day and theres no guarantee that theyll all be accepted within 30 days nor that youll be able to average 50 sales per item but it is possible just not that probable


#17
BroOf said

Most authors have more then just one sit up and running here. If you have for example 5 designs for let’s say 35$ and you sell each 50 times in one month you have

(35$ * 50times * 5templatestotal)/2 (for 50% rate)

= 4375$

This would be a nice passive income. But You’re right, it isn’t safe like lot of things in the freelance business are.

and you gotta add customer support…which is free and stressing!!


#18
OrganicBeeMedia said
EugeneO said

I don’t believe it is possible for an author to make a full time income selling only HTML templates. However it is possible for authors to make a living (and a great one at that) selling WordPress themes.

I think its possible to make a full-time income with just html template but it will be a ton of work for example you’d have to produce 20 themes a month with an average of 50 sales at an average of $7 profile 20 x 50 x 7 = $7,000 x 12 = $89,000 now that being said thats almost a template a day and theres no guarantee that theyll all be accepted within 30 days nor that youll be able to average 50 sales per item but it is possible just not that probable

I do not believe there is anyone alive that can produce a template a day, and documentation, and get it passed the reviewers, and make it good enough to make sufficient income, and offer customer support. The higher income from each WordPress theme makes it much more realistic. One WordPress theme a month averaging 300 sales over a year would provide a decent income. It's certainly not guaranteed but it's attainable.

#19
Daniel_R said
BroOf said

But You’re right, it isn’t safe like lot of things in the freelance business are.

and you gotta add customer support…which is free and stressing!!

…so it’s just not worth it.

Kidding. My only advice would be to submit one WP theme and see how it will sell, then decide. It’s a little pointless to have this debate at all, because what matters is your product, everything else is not necessary and isn’t even worth talking about - you are just loosing time thanks to this mindset.

Maybe if you could show us some of your work, we could tell you if it would be accepted by TF reviewers, but that’s pretty much all we can help you with at this point.


#20

Hmmm.

  • Minimal salary in Serbia - $200
  • Normal salary in Serbia - $500

Most people i know have the minimal and a few of them have Normal.

  • My first month on TF (a month ago) - $800
  • My second month on TF (this one that just ended) - $1650

So this is my full time job and i earn far more then 80% people in Serbia.