Ionut at CodeinWP posted an incredible transparency report on their blog today. He shows how they spent two years getting their foundation setup, and made no money at all in 2013 from themes. Now, they are making tens of thousands of dollars per month with their themes, with big referrals from free listings on WordPress.org.
In February, they made over $32,000 and expect over $45,000 in March. Not bad when it took a year to make the first buck.
Freemium is an interesting model, and choosing what parts you'll make free versus make paid are, I'm sure, tough decisions. For Ionut, it's obviously paid off the way they've done it. Another thing I notice in the report is that their revenue per customer is also up a good bit: from ~$16 to $55 each.
I asked Ionut about the source of growth, presuming it was largely from the WordPress theme directory, and he believes that's probably close to 80% of the referrals. He also says that finding the right theme to promote and creating the “upgrade to pro” value has been really difficult, but with a couple of strategies they've been able to do a good job.
One thing that he mentioned to me really makes sense: they are taking advantage of the theme directory's poor demo data, in that they ensure that default data still makes their theme homepage look good. He thinks that helps their themes do well. Indeed, it does look nice — and ships with their own dummy default data baked in.
Freemium themes with foundations on .org seem to be a great option, perhaps because many folks are now wary of commercial-only code quality. That's a heck of a testament to the theme review team.