I’ve had some reflections on premium blog themes, and also stated that they’re in for a rough ride, with the open source community’s free offerings getting better and better. In a way, I think serious theme releases like Cutline and Plaintxt paved the way, and I’m sure we’ll see more supported free themes.
However, doing something for free usually means that it’s limited to your free time. And free time is always limited, right?
If you charge for something, that usually means you can afford spend more time on it.
That’s the key for premium themes, the one way they can add value that free theme releases will have a hard time matching. Sure, you can make a kickass design, but so can a theme designer offering it for free – and sure, you can offer the PSDs for easy editing of header files and whatnot, but there’s nothing that stops the free theme designer to do the same.
However, offering support on the theme is where you can excel. If you’re making money, you can add more value to buyers with more tutorials on how to use the theme, offer special snippets for optional listings, design and functionality, and so on.
And most importantly: You can take the time to answer support questions, solve problems that your buyers might have, and so on. Might even do limited customizations, just to keep the positive marketing going.
Premium theme designers need to find other ways to entice the buy incentive, rather than just rely on great design. That is the most important thing, of course, but adding additional value will be the key to a lot of sales in the future, and the reason why a potential customer might go with the premium theme, rather than an open source solution.
Premium themes are here to stay. The question is, will they be a profitable affair and a growing sub-industry, or just extra cash for the happy designer?