Community Stories

Meet the Makers: 8 Creative Tips for Designers & Freelancers

To celebrate a big milestone–$1 billion in community earnings–Envato's authors share the secrets of their creative success.

Portrait for Julia Fernandez By Julia Fernandez
Posted 09 Nov 2020
Meet the Makers Creative Tips for Designers and Freelancers

As we near the end of 2020, one of the most unbelievable years in modern history, Envato and its creative community has just hit an unbelievable milestone. The global group of over 80,000 creators that make and sell their work via the Envato Marketplaces and Envato Elements, has now earned more than $1 billion USD from Envato since the company was founded in 2006.

This sum encompasses money paid out to our community all over the world, from the United States to Indonesia, including 88 creatives who have each earned more than $1 million USD. With so many creatives–known as ‘authors’–working and earning a living with Envato, we thought, who better to provide advice on how to succeed as an Envato author, how to become a designer, and how to run a creative business, than this savvy cohort of entrepreneurs?

Read on for creative tips, graphic design career advice and portfolio guidance from some of the most successful and inspirational Envato authors selling within our creative community today.

1. Focus on Quality

It may seem obvious, but when you’ve got multiple projects on the go it can be easy to forgo quality for quantity to get everything out the door on time. Siberian-based motion designer Leo, aka Motioncan, says, “I think the most important thing is quality. You need to pay attention to every little thing. Quality in absolutely every detail is the key to success.” His sentiment is seconded by design studio Graphicook, who cite modern art director master Paul Rand as their inspiration: “Always remember what Paul Rand said, ‘Don't try to be original, just try to be good’. With that said, you must also stay consistent. Never ever think how much money you’ll make, focus on how to deliver good, functional design to your clients. With all that, success will follow.”

Always remember what Paul Rand said, ‘Don't try to be original, just try to be good’.

Graphicook

Designer Bangingjoints provides a big reason why quality should always be a priority: “The world is drowning in fast food and low-quality products. I would suggest focusing on quality over quantity, and don’t forget to improve on your existing work too.” He adds, “Nothing good comes easy and nothing happens fast. Have a clear vision and be persistent with your goals.”

2. Don’t Follow the Crowd

As a new creative on the block, it can be tempting to think that you’ve got to imitate those who are already at the top to ensure your success. According to those who have made the journey before you, this is not the case. Video template creator extraordinaire Premiumilk says, “I would definitely advise that new creatives insist on their own ideas and not try to copy others. Even if their first projects get rejected, they should continue working harder and harder without feeling disappointed. Personally, three to five of my projects have been rejected over the years.”

Video duo Vlad and Tanya, aka BLAQMATRIX, tell new authors: “Don’t be intimidated by the large, successful projects you see in the market. Remember that new ideas are always a priority and help to develop the community, even if you think that everything has already been created.”

Finally, illustrator Kaleriia Tverdokhlib thinks that emerging artists need to find a niche. “Try to find and occupy your niche, no matter what the area is”, she says. “Don’t lose sight of your own style and vision in the avalanche of trends, and try to combine your own preferred work with consumer needs. Look at everything through the eyes of a buyer. And never give up!”

3. Play to Your Strengths

Following on from avoiding copycat behavior, 3D illustrator and designer Amrit Pal, who we interviewed on the Envato Blog, urges fellow creatives to tap into their existing strengths. He explains, “My advice would be to play on your strengths and stick to your natural style. If your work is cute and not provocative, focus on being as cute as you can or vice versa. Try different formats and see what works for you. It takes time; be consistent and things will eventually flow.”

4. Balance Commercial & Creative Outcomes

It’s all very well playing to your strengths, but what if your style just isn’t on trend right now? Illustrator Danilo Sanino, aka ddraw, believes it’s all about balance. Specifically for digital illustrators like himself, Danilo says, “My advice is to find a balance between the things you like to draw, and the things that the market and client ask for. And always carefully evaluate the proposal before you start working on a project. Is it too big for you? Are you interested in the work? I would ask these questions to avoid making the mistakes I made at the very beginning.”

My advice is to find a balance between the things you like to draw, and the things that the market and client ask for.

ddraw

Confirming what we’ve already mentioned around avoiding copying other people’s work, Danilo adds, Your style is a summary of knowledge, of what your mind and your body have assimilated over the years. Sure, it can be helpful to watch other artists and their personal styles. But you must have a base, and only you can build it with discipline, patience and study.”

5. Make Something Useful

Number 5 is a quickie, but it’s no less important. Rohit from Semicolonweb, a theme development shop that emerged out of a university lab in Kolkata, India, believes that everything you do you must do for your users.

Semicolonweb loves working with Envato because it gives them access to a large audience and therefore the ability to “explore and experiment”. Rohit tells aspiring web developers, “Keep working on refining your designs and stay motivated. Make something which is useful for your users, but present it in your own way.”

6. Practice, Practice, Practice!

With a huge portfolio across PhotoDune and Envato Elements, photography duo Nikola and Jozef, aka Halfpoint, understand a thing or two about hard work. They believe that the best thing that a creative can do is practice and “work as much as possible”. Nikola reveals, “More experience brings more confidence and better results. It's also important to be able to rely on other people. As a photographer, every single production has a lot of specific tasks from planning to paying attention to detail during the photoshoot. Projects can be ruined when they aren’t planned and run professionally.” 

Another sticking point for Halfpoint is building a quality portfolio–a lesson they learnt the hard way. “At the beginning we went a bit wrong because we focused on quantity instead of quality which didn’t work. Two years after, we started to focus on more professional photo productions which was a better strategy for us.”

7. Stay Connected

You may feel like other creatives are the competition, and if you’re not copying them, what’s the point in staying connected? Well, without the connectivity between the members of Envato’s creative community–authors and customers–we may not have gotten to this $1 billion USD milestone. Creatives teach each other, inspire each other and, above all, motivate each other to deliver the best work possible so that customers can get their own creative projects done. 

Stay low and connected with the other authors, so we can share useful information and share learnings as well.

Telllu

Designer Ingga Endita Nafasyah, aka the founder of Telllu, based in Yogyakarta, implores creatives to, “Stay low and connected with the other authors, so we can share useful information and share learnings as well.” Ingga and her fellow colleagues were encouraged to join Envato because of other members of our design community, which has a large presence in Indonesia. 

8. Never Stop Learning

Last but not least, one of our favorite tips! Envato has a long history in the creative education space–check out Tutsplus.com if you don’t believe us–and we’re thrilled that our creative community values education and sees it as an important part of their success with Envato.

Pixelbuddha, the brainchild of self-taught designers Nick Frost and Greg Lapin, has grown from a DIY project to a team of talented professionals who are passionate about bringing creative resources to the design community. They urge other creatives to, “Develop and broaden your skills. The market is evolving, and you should quickly adapt to the changes. Read a lot, watch a lot, and follow the leaders of the industry.”

Leo from Motioncan agrees. He encourages new motion graphic designers to, “Watch trending videos, animations and graphics every day. Follow top authors, and over time you’ll upgrade your skills”. He adds, “There are a lot of useful resources on the Internet. I use Pinterest and Behance where you can find many good designs, color combinations, animations, and trends.”
And finally, Ingga from Telllu implores, “Don't stop learning and always try something new!”

If you’re looking for more creative inspiration from the Envato community, head to our Community Stories category. It features interviews with authors, customers and creatives including their creative journey with Envato and other Envato authors inspire them to reach their potential.