Inside the Mind of ThemeForest's Top Selling Author
Kriesi is ThemeForest's top selling author; he, last month, broke the record of most sales in a single month, across all of the Envato marketplaces! It's even more shocking when we consider the fact that he's only 27 years old!
In this interview, we'll dive into his work process, and hopefully steal some tips and inspiration!
How long have you been in the web design business?
About five years ago, I started the Multimedia and Web Design Course at SAE Vienna in my home country, Austria. Back then, I did mostly Flash stuff (almost every piece of work was REALLY horrible to tell the truth) and I also had some interest in html coding (I loved table design back then :P ). With every course I took, I lost a little interest in Flash and got more curious about HTML and CSS. When they handed me my Bachelor Degree a few years later, I was pretty decent with HTML and CSS whereas my Flash skills were lousy at best.
I did some small projects for an event agency during that time and as soon as I finished College, they offered me a full time Job as a Front-end Developer, which I gladly accepted. I'm still working at this Agency :)
When/How did you first come across the Envato marketplaces - specifically ThemeForest?
I was a regular reader of the TUTS-PLUS Websites and therefore was aware that there is a marketplace called ActiveDen, where people sell all this neat Flash stuff; but since I was only a Front-end Developer with HTML, CSS, and some PHP Skills at that time, I didn't really bother.
When Envato announced the opening of ThemeForest, I thought I could give it a try, and uploaded my first WordPress theme. The theme flopped really hard and only earned me 30 Bucks during the first month. Out of pure boredom, I created a second theme. :)
The second one did a little better, really just a little, but it was enough that I became curious if I could do better with each theme. =)
You've been particularly successful when it comes to WordPress theme sales. When developing a new item, do you try to plan for PSD, Site Template, and WordPress submissions? Or do you prefer to focus only on one category per design?
When I started creating templates, I almost always only planned for the WordPress version. I was thinking that the HTML Templates are far to cheap to earn a good amount of money, which is actually not true.
I did this until I invested countless hours into a Wordpress theme which underperformed to a point where I had worked for about 3$/hour for a whole week. Since then, I usually create a HTML template as well, to test if customers like what I have designed.
I still usually don‘t do a PSD version. Unlike other people, I only design to a certain point in Photoshop; many of the small improvements and details that customers see in the final HTML version are added while I code the HTML and CSS.
Though encouraged, we do not require that authors provide support for their items. Do you? Considering how well your items sell, how do you manage to provide quality support to so many different buyers? Any tricks/short-cuts?
It is indeed really hard sometimes to support all customers, especially those not familiar with WordPress, but I try to answer all questions. I think it's crucial if you want customers to return and buy your themes again. The big problem I guess is providing "Quality Support". I simply don‘t have the time to do more than 90 minutes of theme support each day, so if I see tons of requests on my Author Dashboard, answers usually (and unfortunately) get a little more generic :/
There are several "tricks" that worked out pretty good for me:
- I am trying to encourage all customers to use the item dashboard and not the mail contact form. That way, other customers benefit from the answers as well and I only have to check one place for requests.
- Updating the documentation file that comes with the download regularly helps a lot as well. I also save answers that I have given more than 2 or 3 times into a text document for copy/pasting on demand.
- Overall I can only suggest to find your own method of streamlining support; the best way to cut down support time of course is to create themes and documentation that are so easy to use, that support requests drop to a minimum.
Do you or have you considered selling on the different Envato marketplaces as well?
Yes. I have tried to upload a flash file once last Christmas, since I had a pretty neat Santa animation. Those who have checked my portfolio might have already guessed it... it seems it wasn't that neat. ;D
Many successful authors have noted that the biggest advantage to selling their designs through us is that it takes the client completely out of the design process, and instead allows the author full control. Would you agree? Any other advantages?
I agree, it is indeed great to be in full control of all decisions. I have worked with too many clients over the past years who thought just because they can use MS Paint they are great designers But you should never underestimate the positive impact of a second opinion when creating your themes. Therefore I almost always ask some of my colleagues at the agency to make suggestions on my designs before I release them.
I also love the fact that I don't have any deadlines here and can try new stuff with every theme I release :)
Do you take advantage of our referral program, or promote your items in any additional ways to increase sales?
Only a little; I promote my themes on my blog and on Twitter when I release them. But since I make postings rarely on my blog, the impact on my sales ain't that big. ;D I will try to post more often in the future when my sites redesign is finally done, but to tell the truth I am not a very persistent writer.
Without giving away any of your key techniques, if you could only make one choice, what would be the most important thing to keep in mind when selling on ThemeForest?
Study and improve. There are very few authors here that did a great job from the beginning. Almost everyone who is selling a lot nowadays has heavily improved over previous months. I am no exception, I can't believe how much I have learned about web design and coding during the last year, and I think that's the best weapon we have. Learn from your mistakes, listen to reviewers and customers and improve with every file you release.
A new member signs up with ThemeForest and is hoping to upload his or her first item. Any advice?
Use the help of the community to get your items uploaded and to improve yourself. Authors, customers, reviewers, almost everyone here is very helpful; so don‘t hesitate and ask :) Don‘t give up if an item gets rejected several times, it happened to almost all of us!
Final question. What's next for you? Any special items planned before the end of the year?
I will try to invest more time into my themes, which basically means more themes, hopefully better themes, more updates and better support. I am already in the process of designing the next two items, but it's been a very busy month at the agency so I haven't been able to release anything new for a while now.
Last but not least, I wanted to take the chance and thank everyone who purchased one of my themes! I appreciate it more than you probably can imagine. Earning money here is great of course, but its equally amazing to be part of such a great community!
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