Theme business for free content management systems like wordpress, joomla, drupal, magento is another profitable business idea to look at. We looked at other success stories on themeforest and woothemes, this is another succeed internet business that earns more than 2 million $ per year. As in every business there are easy and hard parts to it. Easy part is you spend your energy to build a theme and then sell it several times through subscription. Every subscribed customer can use any theme that they provide and change whenever they want to new or other theme. Difficult part is to deal with client requests and address theme related problems while explaining other related issues and custom development needs.
Here are notes from interview with Andy Miller, founder of RocketThme:
- Making more than 2 million $ yearly
- 45,000 registered users/customers. Had total 80,000 users at all time.
- Forum is key part that attracts people. 600,000 posts in forum, 12 moderators free and paid ones.
- At the beginning was working 14 hours / day. Was active joomla template developer and community member. Was working after work hours for as freelance theme developer. Then noticed that it requires too many time to develop for one client. Decided to develop customizable themes that will sell many times.
- Pricing is 50$ for 3 month, 90$ per year.
- With subscription themes can be used on 2-3 live sites.
- Offers themes for Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, phpBB3 forum, Magento shopping cart CMS
- Publishing 1 theme every month. Each theme is developed in 3 weeks by 4 developers. At beginning themes were developed in 3-4 days by one person.
- Had first employee who modified and offered different colors for existing themes.
- Total 9 employees all work online from home. Located globally.
- Has GPL licensed Gantry theme framework . All themes built on this framework. It provides 960 pixel grid system, easy to position widgets in different size.
- Used name rockettheme to not stick with one platform. But has difficulty from SEO because didn’t have joomla in domain name. (I think you cannot use joomla in domain anyway, same with wordpress as well )
- Used adwords for attracting new customers, affiliate system as well.
- Generating tutorials and other related content to attract search clients from search engines.
- In theme business 5 years, then probably started in 2006.
Plus side of this business is it does not have technical scaling problems like in software as a service model. You do not have to handle file storage or database for your clients. It is mainly forum that takes a lot of time to track issues and help customers to solve their problems.
You can grow your theme development to other e commerce and content management platforms but that will require to expand your support and forum moderator team as well. For this reason some theme developers expand to different plugins within same platform. For example they add ecommerce, classifieds, job list, real estate, forum, question answer plugins and themes for them. Classipressis one of this type of business.
Update: While searching for Rockettheme related articles I came across a website mentioning Rockettheme but no visible content about it. Then in HTML I noticed hidden link to Rockettheme on top of every page on that website. It is black hat SEO tactic which is used to gain some link juice for google. Using hidden links is not advised by google and using hidden link will punish you sooner or later. This is also discussed in Joomla forums. This also may be fault of site owner for not configuring theme settings properly.
... <!-- begin top section --> <div id="top"> <a href="http://www.rockettheme.com/" title="RocketTheme Joomla Template Club" class="nounder"> <img src="/templates/rt_hivemind_j15/images/blank.gif" border="0" alt="RocketTheme Joomla Templates" id="rocket" /> </a> <div id="mod-search"> <div class="moduletable"> ...
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