Interview with Jeffrey Way of ThemeForest (Plus a Giveaway)

by Steven Snell

April 23, 2009 in Interviews

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+

  • nerivmacias

    Apr 23rd

    Very cool! I love theme forest and the entire envato network. Wonderful learning resource!

  • Andrew Turner

    Apr 23rd

    Username: burningstonecold

    Thanks for the great post Steven and Jeffery. Very informative – and it will help with my upcoming template for TF.

  • NCB

    Apr 23rd

    This was good information. Thanks for the tips!

    Envato username: heydynamite

  • Rafie

    Apr 23rd

    I will surely keep this article in mind when designing even it is not for ThemeForest. Two values that is worth repeated,

    1. The more value you add to your template, the better it will sell.
    2. “filling gaps”

    Cheers!

    TF id: mohdrafie
    Email: mohdrafie@hotmail.com

  • Henrik

    Apr 23rd

    Nice interview, and good luck to Envato and ThemeForest

  • robby

    Apr 23rd

    Great tips Jeffrey! Themeforest is a great site with great designers I must say. Actually the whole envato network rules! I learned so much from the Tuts sites that I might subscribe to the PlusTuts. Anyways, you guys keep up the amazing work! My Envato username is xXRobbyXx

  • Steve Robillard

    Apr 23rd

    Thanks for the great article I am thinking of selling some of my designs through envato.

    username: srpsco

  • jedrek

    Apr 23rd

    Hello!

    ThemeForest is so cool!

    Yesterday I voted for my favorite templates in the “Your Favorite Template Competition”

    These works are really great!

  • JLinden

    Apr 23rd

    Themeforest and the other Envato marketplaces is really the best and easiest way to sell templates and other stuff on.
    And Jeffrey creates the best screencasts with his enthusiasm and detailed descriptions!

    Marketplace username: JLinden

  • Samuel Yu

    Apr 23rd

    I have actually purchased a template from Themeforest and I found it to be a good deal, considering the amount of time it saved me.

  • gilbitron

    Apr 23rd

    Interesting post. Its nice to get an insight as to what things trip up developers and designers when submitting templates. Its also nice to know its not just me ;)

  • Tommy Day

    Apr 23rd

    I’m tommyday on envato.

  • gswd

    Apr 23rd

    Simple and validating are two things to always remember. Of course that also gets tailored to the client. Some want, or need, something more complex and are willing to lose out on those slower connections/computers.

    Anyway, re-tweeted it for you.

    envato id:gswd
    email: steve @ gonesurfing.ws

  • Lineker

    Apr 23rd

    I would to win :D nice interview
    envato username: lineket

  • knight

    Apr 23rd

    yes themeforest and the rest pf envato marketplaces is great.

    my username : knight

  • Jeff Mackey

    Apr 23rd

    The Envato network of sites are top on my list of daily reads. The Theme Forest is a great resource. Thanks!

    user name: jsmackey

  • Enrico

    Apr 23rd

    envato username: Sulley

    nice interview with many details about themeforest’s marketplace.
    However I’d like to see more joomla templates on there.
    Thanks.

  • Shawn K

    Apr 23rd

    Great article! Thanks.

    username: frozencanvas

  • Nikola

    Apr 23rd

    Theme Forest is a great place to visit every day! Templates are awesome! Thanks!

    user name: colaja

  • Kiki

    Apr 23rd

    Username: kikikarpus

  • Danre

    Apr 23rd

    Hello, thanks for this opportunity.

    My username on Envato: Danre

  • EmmaB

    Apr 23rd

    I like how ThemeForest has such great themes at affordable prices.

    Very in-depth interview and certainly helpful to those designers trying to find their way.

    ThemeForest user name: EmmaB

  • Michael Rice

    Apr 23rd

    Free marketplace points? Who wouldn’t want to enter!

    username: Crazymik3

  • Thomas

    Apr 23rd

    Thanks for this interview, Themeforest is a really great marketplace.

    ThemeForest user name: beal2912

  • Butch

    Apr 23rd

    ThemeForest is such a great site along with the rest of Envato sites. Jeffrey Way also puts together some great screen casts.

    Username: bpage

  • acidcloud

    Apr 23rd

    Great interview! :)

    Envato marketplace username: acidcloud

  • Nic Brownlee

    Apr 23rd

    TF username: nixgrafix

  • Soh Tanaka

    Apr 23rd

    Awesome interview. Makes me want to make some themes and submit!

  • Mary Yeager

    Apr 23rd

    This is info that is good to learn. I’ve been working on a template to try an sell on ThemeForest and having this to fall back on, is a huge help!

    TF user: meyeager

  • techietim

    Apr 23rd

    Username: techietim

  • Vasili

    Apr 23rd

    I was actually going to see if Jeffrey would do an interview for Nettuts. :(

    Username: vasilios

  • Andrew

    Apr 23rd

    Great Interview!

    username : andrew8088

    email : themeforest AT andrew8088.oib DOT com

  • Andrew

    Apr 23rd

    Well this was an interesting interview :)

    Gave me some inisight for when I do submit a template into themeforest.

    Username:Creativelyfresh

  • Rich

    Apr 23rd

    Cool stuff.

    Username: rinogo
    Email: envatog.5.rinogo at xoxy.net

    Thanks!
    -Rich

  • Ace Web Design

    Apr 24th

    themeforest and graphicriver are brilliant. Highly recommended.

    acewebsa is my username. Hope i win.

  • Stacey

    Apr 24th

    Nice interview :)

    Username: sfenton

  • DraRock

    Apr 24th

    Jeffrey Way is such a nice guy, I love all the tutorials he posts in the themeforest Blog, I have learned a lot from them , keep up the good work Jeffrey!! All the Envato network is great, keep growing.

    Username: drarock

  • Michael Arnaldo

    Apr 24th

    Awesome stuff

    username is pixeltodesign

  • Jeremy

    Apr 24th

    Nice interview, gotta say I’m a big fan of Jeffrey Way, have loved his screencasts and such.

    Username: Jer2665

  • redwall_hp

    Apr 24th

    Username: redwall_hp

    Great interview. I recently had a theme rejected, and I was more than a little disappointed. That said, it definitely wasn’t my best work. I’m a bit tired of the concept now, but I will probably try again with a better-planned theme sometime in the future.

  • globusinternet

    Apr 24th

    Great, I am a big fan of ThemeForest. A inspiration in itself.

    user : globusinternet
    email : karan(at)globusinternet(dot)com

  • Matt

    Apr 24th

    I love the Tut+ sites and themeforest. Jeff is a very nice guy. Hopefully I can have this tutorial from @nettuts finished this weekend!

    Usernamen: micrbrewmedia (NetTuts)

  • THE MOLITOR

    Apr 24th

    I’m proud to be an exclusive Theme Forest author! Go Envato!

  • Benjamin Alijagić

    Apr 24th

    Great post!

    Username: BenjaminCreative

  • Kevin Côté

    Apr 24th

    Nice interview. Jeffrey Way is such a really nice guy.

    Username : Siempre

  • Jay

    Apr 24th

    Great interview, really usefull ;)

    Username: jayjdk

  • raffav

    Apr 24th

    a good design borns when the developer meets the designer

  • Adel

    Apr 24th

    My Emvanto Username: adel_raouti

    Thank you!

  • jose roberto (vevni)

    Apr 24th

    jojoj coool, themeforest…

    vevni133
    vevni133[at][dot]gmail[dot]com

  • WEBBOgrafico

    Apr 24th

    my nickname: webbografico

  • Diana moon

    Apr 24th

    Loved how you interspersed the interview with choice templates from themeforest. This was very informative, thanks! ^_^

    username: dianamoon

  • Matt Owens

    Apr 24th

    I love themeforest!

    ID: wapattaw

  • DAniel

    Apr 24th

    Great article!

    Envato Marketplace USername: dwpers

  • Dan Harper

    Apr 24th

    My username is: danharper

    :)

  • boxcarracer

    Apr 24th

    my username is boxcarracer

    thanks!

  • Phil Havens

    Apr 24th

    Username: Hackbook
    E-Mail: hackbook@me.com

  • NextMemory

    Apr 24th

    /\ Username

    Great interview. Jeffrey Way is awesome, I just finished watching the jQuery beginner series.

  • Alex Denning

    Apr 24th

    Nice to have an insight into ThemeForest. Cheers :D

    Username – Nometet

  • Cody

    Apr 24th

    Username: Kr3wsk8a

    I love all the Evnato Marketplaces. Nettuts and Themeforest are my Favorite!

  • James Ballard

    Apr 24th

    I’m almost there with going for my first submission. Probably a PSD file as my CSS is still shaky.

    JBallard (tfun)

  • Alex L.

    Apr 24th

    Username: TheDeathOfHell

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  • Chhansen

    Apr 24th

    This is really neat :)

    Username: Chhansen
    Email: hansenchang112(at}yahoo{dot]com

  • Ryan Bickett

    Apr 25th

    I have yet to develop a theme to sell, however, I am planning to do so soon. I have been very inspired by many of the designs on your sites!

    Username: rbickett

  • Jordan

    Apr 25th

    Free credits rock.

    Username: Cupcakes

  • mchiaviello

    Apr 25th

    The Envato Network is a great model to follow. BIg fan! I have purchased great themes and am working on becoming an author! Wish me luck!

  • Kyle Wiebalk

    Apr 25th

    I’m actually looking for a WordPress redesign of my portfolio/blog so I’m already looking through ThemeForest, and I’d love some credit!

    My username is kwwphoto.

  • Sell Art Online

    Apr 25th

    Cool interview I love theme forest I have probably bought half a dozen themes from them already. I hope they keep adding more great designs.

  • Marek Macak

    Apr 25th

    username: arieseye

  • gavin

    Apr 25th

    The fact that a designer earned $250000 is proof enough that these are top designs and that they are of a high quality.

    I would love to get some more credit to buy a few more :)

    Username:godonholiday

  • Cody Robertson

    Apr 25th

    Username: kr3wsk8a

    I love themeforest. I recently bought a .PSD Remplate there and I am coding it now.

  • Nate

    Apr 25th

    I’m NiNiro

  • Andrew Turner

    Apr 25th

    Steven and Jeffery – Thanks a lot for giving me some TF credit. I will be sure to put it to good use!

  • JLinden

    Apr 25th

    Thanks alot! Finally I will have credit to buy some amazing stuff from there.

  • Andrew

    Apr 26th

    Well many thanks to Steven and Jeffrey, since they are giving me some Themeforest credit :)

  • Robby

    May 21st

    Nice interview with some great tips about getting your item to sell on ThemeForest.

    I especially agree with the statement:
    “Embrace social-media. Without being obnoxious, use sites like Twitter to promote your templates.”
    Too many people use twitter to sell, sell, sell and wonder why it’s only the spammers and friends who follow them; it’s said that only 1 in 5 of your tweets should be a direct ‘call to action’ yet so many Twitter users bore people with their constant sales-talk and yawnsville ‘I’m the greatest’ attitude.

    Jeffrey is an inspiration to us all, great interview.
    Thanks.

  • Danny Dyson

    Jun 1st

    Love themeforest..

  • lv

    Aug 10th

    I am planning to do so soon. I have been very inspired by many of the designs on your sites!

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