Elite Authors Speak: Top Tips For Success

by Natasha Postolovski. Writer, maker, traveler.

At Envato Live in Chicago we had the privilege of listening to five Elite Authors share some of their top tips across four lightning talks.

The authors covered topics like providing support, getting high ratings, mistakes you'll make as your own boss, leveraging popular plugins to create high-selling themes, and building your business.

Luckily, our video team was there to get it all on camera. We hope you enjoy the talks!

Chris Molitor (theMolitor)

Tips for Selling Things Online [7:08]

Summary

Thou shalt provide support. People read documentation less often than you'd think. Chris suggests making your documentation available online, creating video walkthroughs, restricting support to buyers only (using the Envato API to verify purchases), and charging for phone consultations and non-basic customizations. Also, if you struggle to respond to support requests within 24 hours, consider hiring help.

Thou shalt get one star ratings. Try to manage buyer expectations, get positive reviews from customers to whom you've provided support, and accept that some people just like to cause trouble.

Thou shalt be imitated. Any successful author will be imitated. The best way to counteract this is to build your own brand, for example, by having consistent and unique thumbnails across all your items. Continually improve your products to keep them fresh and current.

Thou shalt grow weary of working from home. Consider getting a desk that allows both standing up and sitting down. Allow yourself to work less hours if you need, in order to stay focused during those hours.

Thou shalt hire an accountant, invest in retirement, and spend wisely. Don't be like MC Hammer, who went bankrupt due to mismanagement of his multi-million dollar empire. Understand that sales fluctuate and are never guaranteed. Try to resist upgrading to the latest hardware and software if it isn't necessary. If you're buying a house, buy the cheapest house in a nice neighborhood.

Andy Wilkerson (Parallelus)

The Mistakes You Will Make Being Your Own Boss [11:52]

Summary

Don't put off things that you don't like doing. These are often some of the most important activities for growing your business.

Write documentation throughout your project, rather than at the end. This will save you time in the long-run, and provide a reference you can use as you go along.

Give yourself deadlines. Scope creep can derail your projects. As you work on your own projects, you'll have many ideas for features you could add. A deadline helps you draw a line in the sand. You can always add to a project after it is done.

Plan your projects in advance. We tend to start hacking on a project as soon as we're struck with the initial inspiration. This feels natural, but often leads to disorganized or wasted work. A little bit of planning time upfront can save you a heap of time further down the track. Andy says his best projects were the ones he planned well before he began to work on them: they were faster to complete, higher quality, and often sold better than those he didn't plan in advance.

Budget your resources. This includes time, money, and staff. We often get so focused on the creative process that we neglect to properly allocate resources. If you find this kind of thing boring, consider hiring someone to help.

Keep a regular schedule. This will make it easier to collaborate with other people, share ideas, get feedback and move projects forward. When you work the same times every day it's much easier to get into 'work-mode'. Don't be afraid to work at night if that suits you. When you work for yourself, you don't need to work 9 to 5. Andy says he works until late and sleeps until 10 or 11 in the morning.

Adam Pickering & Spencer Finnell (Astoundify)

Selling Themes on ThemeForest [6:39]

Summary

Don't be afraid to design themes that satisfy your own needs. Adam got into the theme design business because he couldn't find any cool band themes, and needed to create a website for a band he was touring with. He decided to make his own. If you need a certain type of theme, chances are someone else needs it too.

Your themes don't need to be all things to all people. The Astoundify team have been successful making themes for specific niches, like band themes, church themes, and crowdfunding themes. A theme with a specific purpose can be just as popular as a multi-purpose theme.

Theme and plugin combos can be a powerful. Astoundify often base their themes around a specific plugin with a big user base. The popularity of the plugin drives theme sales. However, it's important to choose plugins with a reliable team of core contributors.

Jake Caputo (designcrumbs)

How to Build Your Business [7:16]

Summary

Be persistent! Jake's first theme accepted to ThemeForest was rejected 26 times prior to making it through the review process.

Don't be white noise. It's easy to get lost in the largest categories. Some of Jake's most successful themes are in categories with less competition, like the Political and Cart66 categories.

Create a dedicated support system. You will eventually outgrow comments and email. Consider moving to a support forum: Jake calls it "the best thing he has ever done." But, as always, make sure only people who have bought your themes can receive support. Searchable forums mean you won't get asked the same questions over and over again.

Use microsites for promotion. Jake has created a microsite for his political WordPress theme and his charity WordPress theme, aimed at capturing search traffic looking for these types of themes.

Be part of the community. Use Twitter, go to WordCamps, be part of the Envato community.

Get dat money. If your theme supports Premium plugins with an affiliate program, use your affiliate link in the documentation. Be open to other opportunities to make money from your themes besides direct sales. You can also make money using affiliate programs for web hosts. Utilize incentives like item seeding and 'Most Wanted' programs on the marketplaces to make additional money. Monetize customizations rather than doing them for free, or outsource them.

Wrap Up

We hope you enjoyed these Elite author talks. You can keep up with these authors by following them on Twitter:

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