Lots of Fish in the Sea (and Genesis child themes in the market)

Is There a Market for Premium Genesis Themes?

Anytime I have multiple people in my network asking me the same (or similar) questions, that’s a good indicator that it’d make a good topic for a blog post.

So, what are people asking? Well, it seems that folks in the Genesis community are wondering whether there’s a market for selling Genesis themes. I’m no expert and my experience is limited to the handful of themes I’ve created/sold (the only one still living is Utility Pro), but here goes my answers to these questions:

  • Is Genesis right for commercial themes?
  • Is Genesis such a niche market that I won’t get many sales?
  • Can I make money selling Genesis themes?

Spoiler Alert (a.k.a. tl;dr)

  • Is Genesis right for commercial themes? IT DEPENDS
  • Is Genesis such a niche market that I won’t get many sales? IT DEPENDS
  • Can I make money selling Genesis themes? IT DEPENDS

Definitions

Before we dive into these questions, allow me to offer a little context:

Commercial Theme = a WordPress theme for sale. Also called Premium Theme.

Theme Framework = one of the following (per the WordPress Codex definition):

  1. A “drop-in” code library used to facilitate development of a Theme
  2. A stand-alone base/starter Theme that is intended either to be forked into another Theme
  3. A Parent Theme template

Genesis Framework = A product sold by StudioPress that matches the 3rd definition above of a Theme Framework.

Parent Theme = Just like humans, a theme isn’t a Parent Theme until some Child Theme is referring to it as such.

Child Theme = A theme that inherits the functionality and style of another theme (the Parent Theme).

Grandchild Theme = A mythological creature.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know…

Is Genesis right for commercial themes?

To answer this question, let’s take a look at the existing market for commercial Genesis themes.

First, there’s StudioPress, creators of the Genesis Framework. With 50+ themes in their marketplace and over 213K customers, they’ve managed to not only create a popular core product but an entire market around it for child themes.

We could stop here and say pretty definitively that Genesis is a good choice* for commercial themes.

Now, if you want to play devil’s advocate, you might say, “Carrie, they created Genesis so OF COURSE it’s successful for the StudioPress marketplace. What about the wider premium theme market?”

I like the way you think.

Face value is often deceiving, so let’s look beyond what StudioPress is doing.

Off the top of my head I can think of at least 15 multi-theme marketplaces catering specifically to the Genesis crowd. Andrea Whitmer manages to name 22 (that’s because she’s smarter than me).

That’s a fair number of very smart people in the WordPress community who have chosen to wrap (at least a part of) their business around creating and selling premium Genesis child themes.

*Note that I say Genesis is a good choice for commercial themes instead of right for commercial themes. “Right” implies that it’s the only and/or best way. In a market full of options, I can’t say Genesis is right, but I can certainly say it’s good – I think that’s an entirely personal choice that depends on your preferences and the customer you’re trying to serve.

Is Genesis such a niche market that I won’t get many sales?

If the previous question was “is there enough interest in Genesis child themes to legitimize it as a business opportunity,” this one is more like “is a small pond already overcrowded?”

I’m a firm believer in marketing to a niche over marketing to the masses.

Market to a niche, not to the masses. Share on X

Case in point: If you’re in the market for a brain surgeon, are you gonna go to a general practitioner?

Anytime you’re considering a business opportunity, it’s your responsibility to go do market research, understand the audience you want to serve, and decide whether there’s enough demand to make an investment of your resources.

My opinion? If you’re gonna crank out “just another theme,” odds are it’ll get lost in the crowd. Take the niche of Genesis child themes and figure out how you can niche it down further. FURTHER, CARRIE? Further.

Take the time to do that research step – understand where the market is underserved and create a theme that fills that gap. That’s what I did with Utility Pro – it’s mobile-first, meets accessibility standards, and is translation ready. There was a gap in the market (and still is – hint, hint) for accessible themes and I went for it.

There’s a wide-open market for people who’re willing to look hard, find problems, and create products that solve them.

There’s a wide-open market for people who're willing to look hard, find problems, and create products that solve them. Share on X

So, that’s what I think about Genesis as a niche market, but what about the sales part? Let’s be honest, the real question here is can you make money.

Can I make money selling Genesis child themes?

Well, we could work some janky math as an experiment. Personally, I never pass up an opportunity at janky math.

Numbers I’ve made up for illustrative purposes

StudioPress boasts 213,675 owners of the Genesis Framework.

Let’s say, on average, a customer buys 2 themes a year.

213,675 x 2 = 427,350

Let’s say StudioPress takes the lion’s share of these sales.

427,350 – 350,350 (lion’s share) = 77,000 (remaining number of theme purchases)

Now let’s make up a number of non-StudioPress Genesis child themes out there. And when I say making up a number, I’m not kidding. Let’s say there’s 400 Genesis child themes “out there” for sale.

77,000 / 500 = 154 sales per theme

Let’s say these themes sell for an average $55.

$65 x 154 = $10,010 (average annual income per theme)

Let’s say a theme (assuming it’s never updated) has a lifespan of 2 years and then it’s dead and gone.

2 x $10,010 = 20,020 (lifetime value of theme)

—-

Take* a look at that number: $20,020. That’s your revenue potential for a single theme.

* and take it with a huge grain of salt, because it’s probably wildly inaccurate. This numbers are not based on facts and are meant to be illustrative.

—-

Now, I haven’t mentioned costs. $20,020 looks glamorous, but before you go out and put that down on a Ferrari, consider the costs of developing a theme.

Roughly 500 development hours went into the Utility Pro theme. I won’t even mention the time spent researching beforehand, marketing after the fact, creating a storefront, ongoing support, etc. Let’s just stick with 500.

I’ve stopped doing hourly work (that’s a topic for another post), but my last hourly rate was $100/hr, so we’ll use that.

500 hours x $100/hr = $50,000

Even my six-year old nephew could tell you that $20,020 – $50,000 leaves you with a massive deficit.

Mentally, I have to toss out those hours and chalk it up to sweat equity (for the greater business goal of creating a recurring revenue stream), otherwise, I’d sit and cry.

I don’t know the fate of those 30 theme sellers Andrea mentions, but I’d bet some are tanking, others make just enough extra to help put the kids through school, and others are funding a healthy retirement.

What makes the difference between a wildly successful theme and a marginal one? Well, a ton of factors beyond the code – here are a handful I’ve learned, but then, I’m not in the bank roll crowd (yet), so pay attention to people who’ve had great success in this space, like Rebecca Gill and Shay Bocks.

The Verdict?

Are you utterly depressed at this point? I hope not.

Of all the “it depends” to the questions we started this article out with, I’ve obviously made a decision to take part in the premium Genesis theme space.

My goal with this post is that, if you’re considering selling themes, you go into it with as much information you can. The best way to that (after reading this post?) Do your homework. Do the research.

If you think you’ve got a great idea for a niche of a niche and can kill it, then go out there and do it.

If you think your odds of success are low, then drop the idea like a hot potato, and figure out what your best opportunities are for making money. Selling themes is just one of a million ideas of how you can grow a WordPress business. Find the idea that fits you best and then crush it.

13 thoughts on “Is There a Market for Premium Genesis Themes?”

  1. Now that’s timing – I was doing a similar research for last few months and ended up with no conclusive answer. While calculating the cost of making a theme is easy but anticipating number of sales / revenue is tough.

    I simply ignored that part and went ahead with http://www.simpleprothemes.com and launched a theme that I could identify with (Flex pro theme) in terms of design and functionality (strictly based on previous client work experiences).

    Coming to the money part – Flex theme has surpassed ‘my’ sales expectations (may be it is the honeymoon / launch period effect). As such, I was expecting sales to be good as this theme offer much more than what a standard Genesis theme would offer. Lot of layout variations, custom widgets etc.

    To summarize, if you got a unique and high quality theme – it will definitely sell. While Flex theme is still in kick-start mode, one can for sure take “Foodie Pro” theme by Shay Bocks as case study on how a quality theme can rack in big numbers.

    P.S. Anyone wanting to jump in the Genesis Themes market: do extensive research on type of theme(s) missing in the Genesis ecosystem. Also, match it with probable customer base wanting to use that type of theme. A closer match for sure will bring success.

    1. Hey Davinder,
      You make a great point:

      match it with probable customer base wanting to use that type of theme

      With Utility Pro, I definitely hit on something that was missing, but whether there’s much of a customer base that wants that is still TBD. I wouldn’t do UP differently if I could, but you have wise advice to make sure the market gap has market demand.

      Congrats with the Simple Pro launch! You may or may not see it referred to in one of my upcoming Lynda.com courses. 😉

  2. Hey super Carrie…

    Thanks for the aspiring post, you have only made me stronger. I have been working on my first theme for launch this past 500 hours 🙂 and will keep working till my eyes bleed if i have to.

  3. I have one, but I might need your help. Seriously. My theme would be centered around a DIY business model for a niche. I am trying to figure out if it should be a Genesis Child theme or something else or an option therein. I am very interested in adding the tl;dr function as I think it will be a selling point.

    I got some research and study to do.

    Good thoughts Carrie, as always!

    1. If people are re-selling StudioPress’s themes (or anyone else’s theme the seller did not author), I think that’s ethically wrong. While the code is licensed under GPL and that practice is not legally prohibited, doing that would put the seller in poor standing with the user community (seller may not care) and leave any of their buyers out in the cold when it comes to ability to access StudioPress support (again, seller may not care). It’s a short-term game that could make someone money, but not any sort of long-term strategy for building revenue.

      Now if you’re talking about people selling themes they’ve created via Fiverr, etc, there’s nothing wrong with that (although I’d suggest just offering a theme for free as a gift to the community at that point versus devaluing your work with such a low pricetag).

  4. I personally use a Genesis child theme for main commercial blog. And I think it suits the type of site pretty cool. The themes are also very user-friendly and can be modified without limits.

    Me without being a WordPress developer of any sort, was able to create a whole new child theme which is just for my personal blog. And I was pretty surprised by the results.

    Thanks for the aspiring post! Keep up the good work, mate.

  5. Hi Carrie. Great article…I wish you would write it again. 🙂 Looking at this market in 2017, it’s tough sledding to get this kind of info. They are certainly way more Genesis users now. Would you say this market/opportunity has increased substantially since you wrote this?

    1. Hi Pat,

      I’m asking myself this same question again as I’m dumping a lot more time into a significant revamp of Utility Pro theme. Setting revenue aside for a moment, the other question I’m asking myself is how does this theme complement (or fit into) my overall business offering? Does it make sense in light of my business focus (which has shifted since I wrote the article) or is it this weird “product dingleberry” randomly attached to my business? I’m in the process of some soul searching and analysis.

      That’s all I can tell you for now, although I did update the real number of StudioPress customers and ran than that through my imaginary calculator. 🙂

      Carrie

  6. Great post Carrie!

    I recently started offering themes on my site (https://whiteleydesigns.com/premium-wordpress-themes/). One catered to restaurants, one for gyms, and one more flexible theme for freelancers. Sales aren’t great, but they are trickling in. I haven’t done much in the way of marketing them, but so far it’s book OK.

    One thing that is also hard to quantify is additional revenue from theme sale clients. While sales may be relatively low, I have had roughly 20% of people who purchased the themes so far pay for additional work, or refer other clients after they were happy using my themes. A few of the projects turned out to be relatively large, so even though the themes themselves may not “pay” for the development time, the incremental income from the referral work generated through the sales can easily make up for that.

    I also personally follow-up with each client after purchase offering my other services and offering any assistance they may need with setup. It has also helped lead to some hosting and maintenance clients. Also, I think clients like to know there is a real person behind the product.

    Anywho, great post!

    Cheers,

    Matt

    1. Hey Matt,
      Great insight about using the themes as a sales funnel to your additional services! Are you following up via email manually or do you have some sort of an automated sequence that introduces the buyer to who you are?

  7. Hey! Great to read this article but what are the trends in 2019. Is this still doable. Hope you will update this article soon. or put a blogpost “Genesis in 2019”
    Cheers

    1. Hi Mubeen, it’s still doable although the theme marketplace has definitely shifted with the proliferation of page builder tools and the introduction of the block editor (Gutenberg).

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