From 0 to 10,000: Lessons From Launching Our Design Subscription Service

In August, we launched Envato Elements, a monthly subscription service for design assets. It was a new business model for us: a monthly fixed price for unlimited downloads from a brand-new design library. Even the subscription model we used was different from traditional sharing-economy sites – the subscriber share model, while more complex, was a fairer way to calculate revenue share for our community of independent designers.

We were excited about the launch of Elements, and with such a unique model, we anticipated that the creative community would be excited about it too. What we didn’t anticipate, however, was just quite how mega the site was going to be. We hit two 10K milestones: 10,000 paying subscribers in just over a month of launch, and more recently, 10,000 items in our design library.

That’s 10,000 high-quality graphics, fonts, templates, product mock-ups, actions, etc. from our talented global community of independent designers.


Top selling items on Envato Elements since launch include Clarkson Script fontSandstorm PhotoShop Action,Abstract Ink Background, and Landing page template (clockwise from top left). 

Through months of hard work and the input of some of the best creative minds in the business, we’ve learned a lot from the launch of Elements. Here’s five main lessons we learned:

1. Know your target customer

This point is a simple one that is much overlooked by entrepreneurs. But if you don’t know your target customers and their needs, or if you don’t have a special insight into what will add value to their lives, you can’t expect to hook their interest.

We’ve been around for a while, and in that time we’ve accrued some valuable insights into our target customer. But we didn’t feel that was enough, so we ran several interviews and surveys which gave us a strong and reliable list of our target customer needs and pain points. Without these insights, we wouldn’t have gone so far so fast, and neither will you.

2. Pay attention to the aesthetics

We’re targeting a design-savvy customer, so we knew aesthetics were essential to our credibility. We want our subscribers to not only love the work we offer on the site, but also to love the experience of using our site — to feel inspired and creative, so they’d enjoy coming back often and tell people about it. This is why we worked so hard to find the best design talent across the globe.

“We want our subscribers…  to feel inspired and creative, so they’d enjoy coming back often and tell people about it.”

So don’t ignore aesthetics, because they’re not just about looking good, but about how your customer feels when they come to your site. This can determine whether they’re inspired enough to subscribe, and then to share their experience with others.

3. Make your offer too good to refuse

When we started putting together our model, we had three to four viable models for offering the greatest value to subscribers. In the end, we chose to go with unlimited downloads. Why did we take this path? Because, quite simply, we wanted our subscribers to get the best bang for their buck, and we wanted to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.

4. Be single-minded

You need a small, dedicated team to focus purely on your new venture. Our CEO recognized this, and set up a separate team to create and launch Envato Elements.

Even so, creatives are often challenged with too many ideas rather than too little, so being single-minded can be a tough objective. Yet it is critical. The key is to focus on the absolute essentials and avoid scope creep. It’s far better to do fewer things, and do them really well. This means saying “no” or “not now” to lots of things that are good ideas and that you’d love to do… which is hard but can really affect the success or failure of your venture.

5. Get your product out there

It’s not just about having a great product: you need to get it in front of customers and convince them to buy it. Of course, established businesses have a distinct advantage over start-ups, because they already have mailing lists and customer bases in place, but we still have the challenge of building additional distribution channels that will help us scale our subscriptions to 50K or more.

If you don’t have existing distribution channels, one great way to start is to set up a ‘coming soon’ landing page as soon as possible, so you build up a list of quality prospects you can notify when you launch. It’s also worth finding other organizations with distribution channels that reach your target customers, and negotiating ways with them that you can access their channels to promote your product.

So there you have it: know your target customer, pay attention to the aesthetics, make your offer too good to refuse, be single-minded, and get your product out there.



About the Author Envato

Envato is a creative ecosystem of sites and services, including Envato Market, Envato Studio, Elements, and Tuts+. Every month millions of people use our sites to get creative and learn new skills.