Envato's Insider Information on the WordPress Economy

My recent trip to Phoenix for the Pressnomics conference was a reminder of how awesome the WordPress and Envato community are. Each day I felt a sense of camaraderie, excitement, and shared visions. The people I encountered were passionate about WordPress and very welcoming, and very much the type of people I love interacting with and growing with.

Having reflected on those encounters, I felt it would be good to share with the greater Envato and WordPress community highlights from the data we presented at Pressnomics. This data is from our marketplace, but likely applicable to all places where people are looking for WordPress themes and plugins. This goes without saying - we’d love if you applied these learnings to Envato Market as part of the Envato community, but regardless of how or where you use it, we hope it helps you earn online.

A Growing Marketplace

As part of Envato’s ecosystem, ThemeForest plays a major role, especially due to the community it builds and the traffic it receives. In September 2014, ThemeForest was the 88th most trafficked website in the world (according to Alexa.com), at the time ahead of Netflix. The traffic it receives is more than just eyeballs; these are buyers looking to purchase a theme and many are introduced to WordPress for the first time.

This immense traffic volume is partly why we now have 31 authors who have sold over $1 million through Envato Market. We have authors earning tens of thousands of dollars from our various product types, but it’s WordPress authors who currently dominate our Power Elite wall of fame by holding 30 of the 31 Power Elite spots. Together, our Power Elite authors have sold over 1 million WordPress items. Our most successful Power Elite author has sold over 100,000 copies of one theme alone.

Earning with Envato

Many in the WordPress community will have heard about millionaire WordPress theme authors who've made it big. However, I often hear people saying that these days, the barriers to entry are just too high, and that success is reserved for those who started early. The data suggests that this isn't true.

Of the 50 top-selling WordPress themes in 2014, 67% are new to the list! This means that brand-new themes have a solid chance to make it big in our marketplace. The popularity of WordPress themes are strongly affected by design and development trends, and themes at the cutting-edge are frequently rewarded with stellar sales. The game is always changing!

You can earn a healthy income just from WordPress themes. Our list of Power Elite authors recently grew from 29 to 31 and it’s still growing, but what about those who haven’t reached that million dollar milestone yet? A few stats:

  • 50% of all WordPress themes on ThemeForest have made at least $1,000 in a month.
  • 25% of all WordPress themes on ThemeForest have made at least $2,500 in a month.
  • 15% of WordPress themes have made at least $5,000 in a month.
  • 7% have made at least $7,500 in a month.
  • 5% have made at least $10,000 in a month.

Remember, this is just for one theme, in one month. Results could be multiplied across a portfolio of several themes, and of course over the lifetime of the themes.

Few forms of entrepreneurship offer such odds of success. Only 4% of WordPress themes on ThemeForest have earned less than $1,000 in their lifetime. This includes recently released themes.

Our Biggest Trend: Micro-niche Themes

While there's a great deal of debate in the community around WordPress themes that “do too much”, niche themes are quietly over-achieving. We've seen niche themes achieve massive sales by focusing on individual sectors. Below, I'll dig into three specific examples, then explain why niche themes are the overlooked powerhouse of the WordPress themes on our marketplace.

Example 1: Automotive Car Dealership Business WordPress Theme by themesuite

This theme, to many of us, probably seems ultra-niche. How many automotive car dealerships really need a WordPress theme? I'll let our data answer that question. This theme sold 300 times in its first 30 days, and has since gone on to sell 957 times.

Themesuite has done an incredible job at creating a theme with their target market firmly in mind. Notice that all of the theme's demo copy is focused on one central message: this theme will help you boost your vehicle sales.

It's also clear that Themesuite have taken the time to understand what auto dealers need. The theme includes a vehicle comparison page which makes it easy for customers to compare the price, look and value of two vehicles. This kind of niche-specific functionality is essential.

Building a great niche theme is not about pleasing everyone. Instead, you must develop a deep understanding of your niche and its needs.

Example 2: WPLMS Learning Management System by VibeThemes

This LMS theme had $20,000 in sales in its first 30 days on ThemeForest. Since then it has gone on to sell $325k+ in 12 months. The theme allows you to publish and sell online courses, a far cry from WordPress's blogging origins. We're seeing more theme authors use WordPress more like a web application framework than a blogging framework, stretching the bounds of what is possible and achieving great results.

You don't need to pack in 500 features to have a smash hit on ThemeForest. We would love to see more tightly-focused niche themes debut on our marketplace.

Example 3: BuildPress - WP Theme For Construction Business by ProteusThemes

BuildPress was a submission in our recent micro-niche Envato's Most Wanted contest, where we offer cash bounties for new items in categories where demand is outpacing supply. BuildPress had $50k in sales in its first month on ThemeForest.

Like the most successful niche themes, it includes niche-specific functionality: address, name and contact info visible at the top of each page, a simple way to request a quote, and a gallery of construction projects. Complimenting this functionality is it’s great design. Having looked for a construction company in the past, I can tell you I’ve never seen one with a site this beautiful.

Insider Information on the WordPress Economy

In my former life on Wall Street, ‘Insider Information’ was not a term you used jokingly! Here is some deeper item and search data that we have but hadn’t shared until Pressnomics 2015.

Our data shows that some features are quickly becoming seen as 'must-haves' by WordPress buyers.

  • Though 79% of themes say they’re responsive, these make up 93% of overall earnings.
  • We've found that while 25% of themes are compatible with WooCommerce, compatible themes make up over half of total earnings. The same goes for WPML.

Over 70% of ThemeForest searches are focused around niche themes. There is massive opportunity in this space. WordPress theme buyers are often characterized as wanting the highest number of features that can be crammed into a single theme. Our search data contradicts this.

On CodeCanyon, 80% of searches are focused on functionality (i.e. sliders, forms, calendars). Some advice on naming your item: when releasing a WordPress plugin: make sure you incorporate its core functionality into the item title.

What to Take Away From This

If you've always thought about one day selling a theme or plugin on Envato Market, I hope the data I've shared today will convince you to take the leap if you haven’t already.

Finally, I’d like to thank Joshua Strebel for the opportunity to present at Pressnomics and for creating an event where we could come together and exchange ideas and learnings from the previous year, as well as celebrate how far we’ve come together.

Envato are committed more than ever to using our resources to introduce more people to WordPress and increase the size of the pie for all us. I believe 2015 is going to be a stellar year for the WordPress community and I look forward to celebrating our collective success with you all at the next Pressnomics.

Ben Chan (Twitter, LinkedIn),
Director of Growth and Revenue, Envato

comments powered by Disqus