Interview with Jeffrey Way of ThemeForest (Plus a Giveaway)

by Steven Snell

on April 23, 2009

in Interviews

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Many designers and developers are looking to earn an income from several different sources, and theme/template sales are an increasingly popular option. Within the past year ThemeForest has quickly become one the leaders in the industry, both in terms of providing designers with a place to sell their work, and also by providing buyers with great selection and prices.

With the potential to make a significant amount of money by selling themes, many designers are faced with the decision of selling through a marketplace like ThemeForest, or trying to do everything on their own. With theme sales being a competitive industry, I thought it would be helpful to many readers to get some insight and advice from ThemeForest Site Manager Jeffrey Way. Jeffrey was kind enough to share some valuable tips that I hope will be helpful to readers who are interested in selling themes and templates.

Also, in addition to the interview, ThemeForest is offering free credits to 10 DesignM.ag readers! See the end of this post for details and instructions for entering.

What percentage of submissions get approved for sale at ThemeForest?

It really depends. Generally, we accept around 40% of all submitted templates. Though this figure might seem low at first, it’s actually quite reasonable when compared to our competitors. Unfortunately, if we approved every template that came through the door, our marketplace would fail. Having said that, many authors use their rejection letters as fuel to dramatically increase the quality of their submissions. Often, their templates are accepted after the second attempt.

Path Template

Path Template

What types of issues commonly cause submissions to be rejected?

When reviewing templates, we have a list of areas to review. Does the item validate? Is it aesthetically pleasing? Will it appeal to a mass audience? Was it coded with the latest standards? Has the author included an extensive help file for the purchaser?

More than any other, we often reject templates because of aesthetic reasons. Over the last six months, I’ve found myself consistently recommending to the author that they focus on their lines, padding, and color. These three components seem to be the most lacking, among newer designers/devs.

We also find that many authors seem to be “in a hurry” to list with ThemeForest. We’re a marketplace for premium templates. Unfortunately, all too often, we receive submissions that appear as if they were completed in a few hours. To these authors, I encourage them to offer as much value to the buyer as possible.

- Don’t just submit a single page template. Add as many pages as necessary.
- Buyers like variety. Considering this, it might be a good idea to offer multiple color schemes.

The more value you add to your template, the better it will sell.

Platino Template

Platino Template

What characteristics have you noticed from themes that make a lot of sales?

Ironically, the authors of our best selling templates use perfect coloring and padding. At least on ThemeForest, simplicity sells! Though an elaborate grunge theme definitely has its place, we typically find that the best selling themes solve problems. A high majority of our buyers are purchasing templates for their clients. More often than not, these clients tend to prefer simple and clean designs that convey their goals perfectly.

One of my favorite designers on ThemeForest is MAXIMUS. I typically urge new designers on ThemeForest to review his designs before submitting. They’re exquisitely crafted, yet still retain a simplistic feel – or at least the illusion of it!

Briefcase Portfolio Theme

Briefcase Portfolio Theme

With such a large marketplace, how should designers help theirs to stand out and get noticed?

This is the $100,000 question. How can you stand out among the rest, when many of them are of equal, or exceeding ability? My best advice would be to think about “filling gaps” as you ready your template. Browse through our marketplace and examine which templates sell, and which ones do not. In the case of the latter, why didn’t it sell well? Research your market before beginning. That’s half the battle.

Fashion, Health & Beauty Template

Fashion, Health & Beauty Template

Some themes that have a lot of sales are made for a specific purpose, such as Collis’ Real Estate Theme. Have you noticed a difference in the marketability of specialty themes as compared to general themes?

This adds more weight to what I was talking about before. Other than the fact that Collis is a fantastic designer with a great eye, he filled a gap. As a result, that particular template has gone on to enjoy fantastic sales. Sometimes, a great exercise is to ask yourself what kinds of websites you most often find yourself building for clients? In the same way that the most popular web apps available today filled gaps, the same holds true for site templates.

Real Estate Theme

Real Estate Theme

How do you recommend that designers help to market their own themes?

Marketing your theme is easily as important as designing it! We have several authors that go above and beyond what’s required. To their benefits, these methods work!

  • When filling out a description, don’t simply type one sentence. Doing so only advertises the fact that you’re not invested in your template. Provide all of the details which are necessary. Offering five different color schemes? Promote it!
  • With each new template, don’t forget to promote your other items, via the description tab. Traffic is key, so seek it at every point.
  • “Brand” your templates. Each templates comes with a tiny thumbnail which is used on the home page of our site. Many authors have learned to “connect” each of their templates by creating some sort of logo, initials, or design. Once you develop a name for yourself, people will learn to search for templates, most notably the ones which contain your personal branding.
  • Embrace social-media. Without being obnoxious, use sites like Twitter to promote your templates.
  • Many of our authors enjoy an extra income boost by using their unique referral urls when linking to ThemeForest. As a result, they earn 30% of the first deposit. Easy money!
World Traveler Theme

World Traveler Theme

Why would you recommend that a designer/developer sell through ThemeForest rather than on their own?

Over the last couple of years, Envato has easily become one of the most respected companies in our industry. The fact that the marketplaces, as a whole, have amassed over 150,000 members is an achievement that should not be left unnoticed. With such a staggering number of members, plenty of our authors work full-time designing for ThemeForest. In fact, our CEO, Collis Ta’eed, recently had to create a new $250k badge for one of the marketplace authors.

On the other hand, if you’d like to work part-time and submit a handful of high-quality templates each year, you can expect to enjoy several extra hundred dollars in income each month. To sum things up, ThemeForest can be whatever you want it to be. So the question is: “Why wouldn’t you be interested?”

Smartages Template

Smartages Template

Win $15 in Free Credit from ThemeForest!

When I approached Jeffrey about this interview he suggested giving away some credit to readers as well! Ten readers will be given $15 in credit to be used towards a theme or template from ThemeForest. If you’re interested in getting something for free, please leave a comment with your Envato marketplace username and a valid email address where you can be reached. On Saturday, April 25 ten random winners will be selected. At that time, this post will be updated to list the winners and you will be contacted by email.

UPDATE: The contest is now closed. Congrats to the winners listed below. You will be contacted by email:

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About Steven Snell

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design. Connect with Stephen on google+