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How to Find a Niche on the Envato Marketplaces

How can authors become successful by finding a niche on the Marketplaces? There are now almost 2,800 authors building themes on ThemeForest. By finding a niche, you can quickly move up on the sales chart, and get in front of the largest audience of active theme buyers on the planet. In this post, five Elite authors share their stories on how they found their niche.

David Baker (dtbaker)

dtbaker

What is your niche?

If we had to pick a niche it would be “children’s websites”. There are seven templates in the children’s secton on ThemeForest, and four of them are ours.

How did you find your niche?

We saw a trend appearing in the use of our early HTML templates. Most of our buyers were creating websites that had something to do with children. Parties, toy shops, day care centers and jumping castle hire websites were very popular. It was clear to see the need for more “children’s” templates on the ThemeForest Marketplace.

We were very lucky that our early ThemeForest templates (2009!) used rather basic CSS and HTML files. These were easy for even a beginner to modify with Dreamweaver. In turn, we saw many great changes to our templates, and this allowed the “children” niche to shine through.

We also found the unique children’s styled websites were easier to get approved on the Marketplace. This certainly helped us decide which direction to travel.

What were your initial challenges in finding a niche?

It took us quite some time to build a creative theme that could cater for all the buyers in and around our “children” target. Some themes didn’t perform as we expected, some were a little too targeted on the niche, and some were just plain horrible (and were deleted). Eventually the Child Care Creative theme was born, and this seemed to cover a nice broad spectrum centered around the children’s niche.

Were you unsuccessful in finding a previous niche?

We found it very hard (and still find it hard) to create business styled websites. After many rejections, we have simply given up on building anything that is “businessy”, and prefer to focus on the creative and graphical side of things. (These are a lot more fun to create too!)

What advice would you give to someone on how to find a niche?

Get feedback from your customers. Ask buyers to send you a preview of the “end product”. See what they are using your scripts and templates for. You could even keep a spreadsheet with a link to all the websites your buyers have shared with you so you can see any trends. You may find that people are using your templates for a niche that you didn’t even knew existed!

Did anyone help you find your niche?

Our buyers helped us find our niche early on. We received great feedback on our creative websites, and less positive feedback on our “standard” websites, so we knew which direction to head.

What’s next?

For the past year and a bit we have been spending time with a child of our own. We have three new WordPress themes that are still “under construction” (and have been for soooo long). Two of these themes are aimed towards the children’s niche, and the third is an attempt to fine tune a new secret niche that we’re still experimenting with. (Stay tuned!)

Xaver (revaxarts)

revaxarts

What is your niche?

I’m working on email templates, so this isn’t a real niche, rather a big market. As a niche I see self-hosted marketing solutions like newsletter software. I’ve made a WordPress plugin called MyMail, which is pretty successful, and offers an affordable way to manage your campaigns right from your WordPress installation.

How did you find your niche?

It started with email templates in the stock market industry. Soon I realised that self-hosted newsletter systems do not (or hardly) exist. So I was thinking about a solution for about six months, collecting stuff and doing research before I started developing MyMail in early 2012. I released version 1.0 eight months later

What were your initial challenges in finding a niche?

I didn’t really have any. I was always pleased with self-hosted solutions, and since others did it wrong (in my opinion) I did my own thing.

Were you unsuccessful in finding a previous niche?

No. My first big item on ThemeForest was an admin skin. It wasn’t a niche though, but I did two self-hosted CMSs in the past (that was in 2003 and 2008), and gained a huge knowledge of what’s required and how things should be done. White Label was a huge success and is still one of the five most sold admin skins on ThemeForest.

What advice would you give to someone on how to find a niche?

It’s pretty hard to find a niche, but always focus on user’s needs. You can also do existing stuff better. Listen to your customers, demand feedback, and make the things for them.

Did anyone help you find your niche?

I was always a one man show, but learned a lot from “the big guys”. To see how they did it right, and how not to, inspired me a lot. Also the technical limitations helped to build the USP (unique selling proposition).

What’s next?

Definitely working on my niche. I get great feedback from my loyal customers, and this is how my product gets better. But who knows, maybe I’ll get bored with newsletters and marketing, and searching for new stuff is always a great challenge.

Brandon Jones (MDNW)

brandon_2

What is your niche?

Some people would call our work “niche-less” because we generally don’t release themes for specific industries, but I like to classify our products as “Boutique Multipurpose Themes”. That’s a fancy way of saying that I like to design themes that appeal to a wide variety of industries, but that have a personalized feel to them.

The themes that usually perform the best on ThemeForest are naturally those that feel like they’ll work in a lot of different website solutions—that’s a given. But the “boutique” side of my themes is what actually drives my motivation to keep creating great stuff. I think it’s easy to design a bare bones template. It’s the personalized touch that sets one author’s work apart from another author’s.

I call our work “boutique” because pretty much everything that we release on ThemeForest originates in a real life client project, produced for a small-mid sized business, with specific content and style requirements. That boutique feel is what gives a template life and character and helps buyers to see the wide range of possibilities that they might use the template in.

I don’t usually release basic corporate themes or narrowly defined niche-specific themes (restaurants, weddings, charity sites, real estate themes, etc.). Instead, I’ve found my niche in producing templates that can be used for all of those niche’s, but that aren’t necessarily exclusive to any one of them.

The end result, in my opinion, is a library of themes that we’ve released over the last four years that covers a huge range of possible websites. You could use any one of our themes for a wide variety of websites and the customization built into each theme would allow them to look unique in each implementation.

How did you find your niche?

I found my niche in a sort of backwards way. Lots of theme authors design themes first, then hope for buyers to find uses for those themes. I’ve always approached it a little differently:

  • I find freelance clients with specific site needs (a photography site, an image collection site, a traditional blog site).
  • I build themes for their specific requirements first.
  • then once the projects are complete, I step back and try to adapt the projects to a wider audience.

The result is a theme that’s designed for real life scenarios, not abstract hypothetical situations. I think the advantage to this approach is that we’re always trying to find practical solutions to our theme user’s problems. We’re much more focused on real life uses for our themes, rather than trying to predict what the next trend or fad is.

Doing things this way helped us define the “boutique multipurpose theme” niche. Obviously, seeing high numbers of theme sales helped drive us further into this workflow, but to me, the sales are secondary to the way we approach our products.

What were your initial challenges in finding a niche?

Because all of our themes originate with real client projects, the most interesting part of our process has been trying to figure out how to “liberate” the client designs from anything too specific to their unique tastes or requirements, all while still preserving the practicality of each design.

For instance, we might design a theme for a restaurant, then try to kill off aspects of the design that are overly specific to the restaurant genre. So the end result is a template that can still be used for other restaurants, but can also be used for a church, a coffee shop, or a salon.

Ultimately, this is the sort of decision-making that combines the “boutique” nature of our client work with the “multipurpose” nature of selling themes to thousands of other designers and content creators.

Were you unsuccessful in finding a previous niche?

I have worked on a couple themes that were narrowly defined. For instance, I had a wedding a couple years back, and when ThemeForest announced a contest for “wedding themes”, I immediately decided that I wanted to submit my own original wedding theme design that I’d used for my own wedding.

It’s hard to call that theme unsuccessful (it did exactly what we set out to do with it), but from a sales perspective, it was just too narrowly defined for how powerful and flexible it really was on the backend, and as a result, people just didn’t buy it at the same rate that we’ve seen with our other more generalized products.

What advice would you give to someone on how to find a niche?

Know your strengths! If you’re outstanding at backend coding, focus on constructing a niche for yourself that revolves around easy-to-use option panels, unique backend features, and other stuff that puts your best foot forward. If you’re like me and you feel stronger at front-end design, find ways to showcase that. There’s room for lots of different styles of authors on the Marketplaces.

Finding your own niche is as easy as looking within your own skillset to find what sets you apart from everyone else.

Did anyone help you find your niche?

More than anyone, our clients probably have had the biggest impact on our own niche. We’re always the one’s that design and develop our templates, but having external input on designs and how they work in real-world applications really has helped inform and guide our mainstream themes.

What’s next?

After several years of only taking on one or two freelance projects a month, I’ve finally decided to open the floodgates and take on upwards of five or six projects at a time.

What this means for our themes is that, while we’ll still be releasing one or two themes a month, we’ll be able to be a lot more selective about what projects end up becoming themes. I think the end result with be a much more “boutique-feeling” set of themes over the next year.

What this means in layman’s terms is a set of designs that feel less “watered down for the masses”, and more “designed with unique style guidelines in mind”. Visually, that means we’ll be venturing a lot further into themes designed specifically for specific font styles, narrowly defined layouts (instead of big, drag and drop content areas), and themes that carry the same charm and personality that we deliver to our one-off client projects.

Chris Molitor (themolitor)

themoliter

What is your niche?

I don’t have one specific niche, per se. It changes with each project, but each project is very niche.

My focus has always been to make themes that I’ve never seen before, and that have some functional purpose behind them. If I were to have a motto, I guess it would be “usefully unique”. I get bored too easily, so this ambition is more for my own well being and personal sanity than in an effort to be successful.

How did you find your niche?

At first it was just a matter of looking at the categories available on ThemeForest and choosing one that didn’t have any themes yet. As a result, I was the first author to make a theme for the events, nightlife, churches, political and charity categories. As the categories started to fill up, I continued to focus on the ones with smaller numbers.

What were your initial challenges in finding a niche?

The real challenge in finding a niche and executing it is not being able to rely on and reference existing work. At least not if you’re truly exploring new territory and working on something different. If you’re doing it right, you’re on your own.

Were you unsuccessful in finding a previous niche?

So far I’ve been able to keep a steady stream of projects flowing. After completing a project, there’s always that initial panic of “What am I going to do now?” Thankfully that doesn’t last very long, and I always find something else to do.

Did anyone help you find your niche?

One niche project I did was actually the result of an email I got from a curator at a museum. They weren’t able to find anything for what they needed, so I asked questions and learned what the needs were from the actual end user. I had a lot of fun working on it, and it’s probably my favorite niche project to this day.

What advice would you give to someone on how to find a niche?

When I was just starting out in web design, I was a member of a networking group where each week we would all take turns doing an “elevator pitch”. We would all get varying types of feedback on ways to improve our pitch.

But there was one piece of advice that kept coming up: Don’t say “anybody” can use your services – be specific.

When you’re specific, other members will be able to think of specific people in their own network to solicit your services to. Saying “everybody” makes you think of “nobody”.

That really stuck with me.

When I left client work and started making templates on ThemeForest, I simply applied that concept to theming: Don’t make a theme for “everyone” – be specific (and don’t copy).

What’s next?

I really love what I do. Designing and developing is my passion and I will continue to produce niche themes for ThemeForest as long as I’m able.

Jake Caputo (Designcrumbs)

What is your niche?

My niche is just small niches in general. I tend to steer away from the populated categories like Business, Portfolio, and WooCommerce themes, and rather fill the categories with few items in them. I’ve had great success with my political, non-profit, Cart66, and Easy Digital Downloads themes.

How did you find your niche?

I found this approach worked through trial and error. When my first theme went up in June of 2011, it was doing a solid ~20 sales a month. I figured at that rate I’d need about five themes up to make the minimum amount of money I needed to get by, and thus be able to do themes full time.

I made this my goal, hoping to reach it by end of 2012, and quit taking client work all together. Business and portfolio themes seemed popular, so I made a few themes for those categories. They just didn’t cut it, and kept getting rejected time and time again.

After that I shifted to categories that weren’t filled. I made a theme specifically for use with Cart66, and it really took off. It was selling exceptionally well.

For my third theme, I dipped into the political category and created a theme called Campaign which was released in March of 2012. It was the second theme in that category, and so there wasn’t much competition. Sales of this theme exploded for me.

That February before I took on a client project, and it turned out to be my last. After Campaign launched, I was creating commercial themes full time.

What advice would you give to someone on how to find a niche?

The best advice I received was to break from the norm. Mike McAlister and Chris Molitor were doing great work, and they were both creating items that were unlike anything on ThemeForest. They encouraged me to the do same.

That’s the advice that I would pass down to new authors as well. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Find a category on ThemeForest that is untapped and create themes for it.

There are thousands and thousands of people looking for websites for any particular niche, even if you don’t think there are. If you can build a theme that would tap into that, it’ll likely sell. Not everyone is looking for a Business or Portfolio theme.

What’s next?

I plan on continuing this trend of tapping into small niches one at a time. It keeps me on my toes and helps expand my brand into new territories.

I fear getting too comfortable in any one area and want to continue to grow my skill set. For instance, I felt my typography wasn’t very good so I created a theme that was very heavy on typography. That’s something I want to proceed doing; find untapped areas in both themes and myself.


About the Author Adrian Try

Adrian is an Aussie editor, writer, musician, dad and computer geek. Follow him on Twitter or Google.