StudioPress – how to sell WordPress Themes

This is story about journalist Brain Gardner, who made magazine like worpdress themes and sold them. StudioPress has roughly 40.000 paid customers. This is story about how he started and grew this business working on regular day job.

  • While working he was interested in building a magazine like website and installed wordpress to his own host.
  • Started to tweak wordpress design. Then he wanted to provide free theme and get his name out and see what happens. There was inspiration from other guys who were providing free themes and reaching big audiences.
  • Initial idea was create online presence and then people will ask for extra features, Brain would make note of them and charge 25$ per hour to make them after work hours at home.
  • Then there was one client who asked for real estate website, Brain made big theme with lots of features but client declined it settling with custom blog design. Then he asked his blog audience if anybody will pay for this custom theme? Using their response he created and started selling it on there.
  • It took 6 month from starting this freelance job for real estate client to when he started to make more money from theme sale than his day job. That is when he decided to quit his job.
  • His blog had 2000-3000 subscribers most coming from links on free themes.  Daily blog had 2000 regular visitors.
  • First month when he announced this premium theme sales were 10,000$, and then it doubled every month.
  • Then he started to look for forum to support all customers. Initially installed phpBB3 then switched to vBulletin when he had couple hundred thousand posts.
  • Initially he started to sell using PayLoadz, and then switched to e-junke. Theme was selling for 79.95$
  • Now they offer all themes and future releases for 350$
  • Initial theme was more like a website rather than a blog with lots of areas on homepage pouring content from different categories. Initial version can be viewed on site (this site is not active any more).
  • Name Revolution was just initial name that is signified movement, then after year and half company from UK with same name trademarked send letter to him, at which point he renamed his company to StudioPress.
  • Then people started to ask for magazine like theme, newspaper like theme. is using “Revolution Magazine” theme.
  • Revolution Magazine and proMedia theme were most successful themes.
  • In last 2 years competition is very high, it was much easier to earn before.
  • More than 50% sales come from affiliates. They didn’t promote affiliate sales just put a page about t and that was it.  Affiliate share on sale is 40-35%.
  • Super affiliate can make 5,000-10,000$ per month.
  • They started in August 2007 then switched to studio press in February 2009.
  • They also developer AgentPress, theme for property agencies. Then they merged it with StudioPress converting to a child theme for genesis framework.
  • Genesis framework came as a need to update all 27 themes if new feature added or some code changes done. So instead of making that change to every theme they wanted to change make that change in framework and every child theme will be updated. Also Thesis came out just before that time.
  • Child themes just change visual appearance of theme by overriding main theme code. Genesis is main theme framework and all designs are all child themes of Genesis.
  • StudioPress later merged with Copyblogger Media, company providing SEO services. For StudioPress it was opportunity to offload marketing and accounting tasks to them and promote theme to their customer base. Copyblogger previously was promoting DIY themes.
  • Copyblogger added their marketing knowledge for promoting StudioPress. One thing they added relevant content to themes, so instead of dummy “lorem ispum” now themes have real content which is more appealing to customers.

This are notes from interview that is published on mixergy, you can view full interview here. Also check other theme related business stories: RocketTheme, WooThemes, Envato

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