Join me in congratulating team Sara_p, who have reached Power Elite status by selling an amazing one million dollars worth of items. Since joining ThemeForest in January 2009 they have amassed over 25,000 sales and 1,514 followers. They achieved this recognising ThemeForest as a great business opportunity, learning from feedback, and rising above distractions. Awesome work!
Happy Sara_p Day!
We asked the Sara_p team a few questions about the journey to the $1,000,000 milestone. Read on to find out where they find their design inspiration, what it’s like working with a baby in the house, and how it feels to reach a million dollars worth of sales!
Congratulations on becoming Power Elite authors. Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Sara_p?
Thanks, it’s a real honor for us to have reached this milestone. In just a few years we’ve been able to become the first Italians among the top sellers of ThemeForest, and obviously this makes us really proud.
We would like to introduce ourselves. We’re Nando Pappalardo and Sara Presenti, partners at work and in life, parents of Noemi (a small pest of nine months), web designers, and founders of Your Inspiration Web, a blog/community for many Italian web designers.
We started this adventure just for fun. We landed on ThemeForest by clicking on a banner and smelling a good business opportunity. We decided to make the big jump. We had no idea where to begin, and we had never worked with WordPress before. But we said, “Why not?”
In early 2011 we transformed our blog theme development activity into a company, Your Inspiration. Things have been changing ever since. We’ve grown a lot in two years. We hired and trained new collaborators to help us with the activities necessary to further improve the quality of our work, from the development phase to after-sale support.
In June 2012 we signed for a partnership with an international company that now manages all the commercial/marketing aspects of the company. We want to avoid this kind of management ourselves—it would get in the way of our growth as designers and developers.
How does it feel to have sold over $1,000,000 of items?
OMG! A milion dollars? How come we haven’t moved to a tropical island yet?
Seriously, we feel blessed. With the global economic crisis of recent years—and we live in a country deeply affected by the crisis—only a few have the privilege of achieving numbers like this. Ours is not a job, it’s a visceral passion, a way of life. And when you can earn more than you could ever imagine by doing something that you deeply love, it makes you proud of what you’ve achieved.
What does this milestone mean for you as authors and designers?
It’s an incredible milestone, and we’re extremely grateful for all those small “coincidences” that led us to where we are today. We often like to quote the words of a book that has, for many reasons, changed our lives:
Nothing happens by chance. Everyone is the reverberation of the other in the flow of the universe.
We strongly believe that we should thank someone, or something, that has made all this possible, giving us the right intuition, and guiding us along the path.
How many hours do you spend on the themes that you sell on the Envato Marketplaces?
As we said, we started this adventure just for fun. But when we realized the volume of business possible to generate with ThemeForest, we decided to roll up our sleeve and improve ourselves in terms of graphics and aesthetics.
We’re two perfectionists. We like things done well, so it’s wasn’t hard to figure out how to create a striking design, offer advanced features, and provide our clients with a good support service.
We studied our competitors’ themes, and analyzed common and advanced features. We read books on usability, observed trends and most-used graphic styles, and designed thousands of layouts searching for inspiration. It’s impossible for us to quantify how many hours we spent on this process—neither of us wear watches, and we’re reluctant to use schedules and log hours. But we can assure you that it took a lot of hours before we felt we were finally ready to “be serious”.
We believe that the quality of our work and the success of many of our themes is an example of what you can achieve when you’re really motivated and willing to do well.
Have you had any designs rejected?
In the beginning, all of our themes were systematically rejected, for reasons we often didn’t understand. The rejection emails we received made us want to take up Voodoo.
When our themes were finally approved, the number of sales was still low—our best theme peaked at 240 sales. That’s a long way from the number of sales that our themes generate today.
It was easy to lose motivation during that period. In fact, we stopped for a while, and turned our attention elsewhere, convinced that it wasn’t worth it. It felt like we were getting hurt for nothing.
Then we returned, stronger and more motivated than before. We’re stubborn as well as perfectionists! We made the most of the feedback we received, and fixed all the errors.
We created our own design style, looked for inspiration, and engaged with others on the ThemeForest forum. We wanted to understand what other users thought of our themes. Then we started to expand our team, because it was impossible for us to continue to do things by ourselves.
With hindsight, we should thank all the reviewers—in particular Ivor, who always gave us good advice. It was because of their feedback that we came to understand how to improve our projects.
What words of encouragement do you have to any budding authors who want to make Power Elite level?
We recommend everyone to be open to criticism—even to when it is difficult. Start from the assumption that things can be improved, even when you’re convinced that it is impossible to do better.
We notice that many authors react with arrogance when their themes are first rejected. They don’t have the slightest doubt in the quality of their work. We believe that a bit of irony and self-criticism are great qualities for a designer, because thanks to the criticism of others you can grow professionally.
What is your office space like?
Like many other authors, until a few months ago, we were both working from home, in a small office created in a corner of our apartment, telecommuting with our developers. Now we have a real office, with modern black and white furniture, 10 workstations, a conference table, a sitting area, a coffee maker, and all the rest. Well, we’re doing things seriously now.
We realized that working altogether in the same place allows us to be more productive. It limits distractions, and helps us to be more motivated.
In the end, our work is teamwork, and our team is a small family. Growing and working side by side one another on every project is really exciting.
How do you get inspiration for your designs?
Our slogan is:
Inspiration is all around us.
All designers have good days and bad days. On bad days, you’re better off shutting down the whole shebang and going fishing. On good days, everything is source of inspiration: a billboard spotted on the street, an ad, a website you’ve recently visited.
Mayashop and Bazar were designed in two good days: an instant idea, a quick sketch, and after half an hour the homepage was ready. If you follow the right intuition, the design process becomes easier and more enjoyable. Somehow you “feel” that you’re on the right track, and you know that what you’re doing today will have a positive response tomorrow.
What is the best thing about your job?
The most pleasant aspect of a creative job is that it’s practically impossible to get bored. Every project is unique, every phase is an end in itself, and every day is different.
This is true during the design phase, when trying to find the right color, visual harmony, a particular font. It’s also true during the development phase, where forgetting a small point can make a big difference, and you can watch what was once a fixed image come to life.
The great thing about not having a “boss” is obvious… freedom. For example, no office hours—you can work at night, on Sundays, and have Monday off. It can also motivate us to do more, and to give one’s best because, as we say in Italy, “The master’s eye fattens the horse.”
What is the hardest part about your job?
Working from home is a dream for many web designers. But it’s almost impossible with a baby girl of nine months, who rightfully demands our attention.
Interruptions and distractions are practically endless, and maintaining concentration with the theme song of a cartoon in your ears all day is quite a challenge. Not to mention emails, social networks, phone calls. Sometimes it seems as if the entire universe is conspiring against you, so that you can’t design a good theme.
Moreover, our work is in constant evolution. When you think you’ve read the latest news on responsive design and you’re ready to put it into practice, it’s already time to review it; otherwise you risk becoming obsolete. Shortcodes manager, layout builder, retina ready, there’s always something new to learn. But if you slow down the pace and don’t update frequently, you risk being left behind.
Is there anything else you would like to say or add?
Remember, “nothing happens by chance.” If you’re reading this interview, there must be a reason. It’s up to you to figure out what it is, and how to treasure it.