100 Difficult Sales & The Duty of a Freelancer

Throughout years of being a self starting ideator, I’ve found that one of the more challenging aspects to being a self starter has been the issue of simply not knowing what to start on. During the early days of my research into the internet as a viable platform to build a business, I discovered that there were many freelancers completely shattering the convention of relying on ‘a place of employment’ in the most radical ways whilst earning multiple streams of income by doing some seemingly profound things using their creative ability as opposed to the contractual ‘spot job’ employment that I initially believed freelancers were forced to live off of. Upon further investigation into the world of all that was a digital nomad-ing, internet cowboy/girl, online money making-freelancer, It was one stream of earnings in particular that peaked my interest from what can best be described as selling creative collateral on a crowdsource platform for ongoing royalties every time someone downloaded your work.

LEARN

I can’t recall the name of the first freelancer that I saw doing this, but I found their work on the platform iStockphoto, and we’ll just refer to them as ‘User #1’ for reference purposes. User #1 was a photographer and had a portfolio of a couple hundred photos for sale in the marketplace. Just gathering intel & browsing, I clicked on the ‘featured photo’ image from their page, and was guided to a photograph of a family having a picnic on a sunny day aptly named something to the tune of ‘happy family picnic on a sunny day’. It wasn’t immediately made clear to me how this photographer was able to capture such a perfect moment of ‘someone else’s family’ and post it on a website with the intent to acquire downloads, but hungry to discover more information about what I was digesting, I continued searching for answers.

As I kept skimming through the myriad of deets on their ‘storefront’ profile, I saw that this particular picture had procured ~27,000 downloads over the course of a 3 year period — for a price of over $20.00 per download. Baffled by the novelty of my findings, I continued to browse the marketplace and would eventually discover that many photographers, illustrators, musicians, developers and creative types were employing the same exact practices by offering; a graphic, an illustration, a pre coded web element, some photos or a musical instrumental in hopes to upload it to a marketplace and garner PAID downloads for the work that they completed at some point in their lives — intent on receiving 50% to 100% of the royalty fee should their work be chosen in the sea of equally qualitative items from other creatives offering very similar creative collateral. This was mind boggling to me then, but once I delved deeper into the world of selling ‘creative stock’ I realized that this phenomenon was methodical, structured, and not completely profound as you can liken this income to that of a music artist from years past who receives royalties today for songs that they completed at some point during their respective careers.

CREATE

I would eventually join a couple of these ‘crowd stock’ sites throughout 2008–2010, but it was one site in particular that I saw the most potential with as they brought more creative disciplines under one roof in a way that I hadn’t previously discovered. Envato’s marketplaces appeared much more robust with their wide array of creative stock offerings spanning; audio, flash, code, 3D, development and photography, but during the discovery period in my creative development I didn’t have a particular niche that I was an expert at, so because I was interested in becoming a music producer at the time and had made hundreds of beats in the years leading up to this discovery, I uploaded one of my best tracks just to see what would happen. Here’s what happened…

The one beat that I finally got around to uploading in Nov 2013 (three years after I joined), was downloaded only once in the following month of Dec, and since I was more of the instant gratification type of freelancer back then, I deactivated that file to post it on iStockaudio, because I felt that Envato’s audio branch wasn’t active enough.

My 1st sale at Envato in 2013

I was three years into Fiverr, Quirky, and Envato, but I hadn’t seen the type of success and progress with Envato as I had with the former two, so I hunkered down, and vowed to soon return with more of my work to upload in hopes to finally start making headway with my creative stock portfolio. I was getting really good at graphic design thanks to the cluster trunk of orders that I would receive monthly from (literally) hundreds of various businesses from around the globe at fiverr, so I immediately decided to start 2014 off right by uploading one of my very best graphics that I’d been working on for a couple of months prior, just to see what would happen (considering that I was finally exploring what I perceived to be a much more concrete creative offering than music). Here’s what happened…

It was a long month of habitually refreshing the page throughout the days just to see if someone purchased my sole theme in the marketplace, but my ‘Clean Green Envirotech’ Keynote theme would eventually earn 3 sales in January! I wish I could tell you that I uploaded more themes that I had stored away like a mad scientist, but my fiverr workload was so strenuous that it was a common sight to catch me finally turning into bed at 4am most days only to wake at around 7am to continue working on catching up with things. I wasn’t a Top Rated Seller at fiverr in early 2014 (that happened in July 2014), but these were the days when I was building my case to become one, and unless you work on the internet of things in some global sales capacity, you simply wouldn’t believe the amount of orders that I was knocking out on a daily basis to maintain my business reputation.

My sales in all of 2014 from my 1st presentation theme

BUILD

In spite of my enthusiasm for finally turning the corner and hitting the ground running with selling stock graphics, I earned a meager 17 downloads in all of 2014 with both the August and September months not yielding me any sales at all! To be fair, I had only one active file in the marketplace, and it was the very 1st Keynote theme that I created over 10 slides, so I was definitely just testing things out to see what would happen. Here’s what I discovered after this (my 2nd) experience of underwhelming and mixed results with Envato…

I knew that in addition to being an Inventor with Quirky + GE, and Fiverr Top Rated Seller, I wanted to seriously start contributing my work in the Envato marketplace to obtain Elite author status. This is another web niche specific delegation that means you’ve earned over $75,000.00 in sales from your work, and that you more than likely earn a full-time income by just selling creative stock. I had earned 17 sales in all of 2014, but I set out a goal to earn at least 100 sales in an even shorter time frame, because I knew (based on my then 3000+ orders at fiverr) if I could sell 100 of my themes, I could sell 1,000, 10,000 and even 100,000. Please understand this… Selling creative stock ‘whatever’ is probably the most challenging feat of a freelancer, because it’s the most coveted type of earnings that people who work in this capacity are all clamoring over, because (remember) you do the work once, and it gets downloaded ad infinitum with hardly any additional energy from you, so marketplaces are saturated with high quality stock themes & things from creators spanning the globe, and competition is as fierce as any sector where there is money involved. Just to have your work approved for sale in these marketplaces can often times can take weeks as the curation process is done meticulously by editors who will most certainly educate you should your work be lackluster, so put your best foot forward!

Enter 2015. Things were insane at fiverr as I came into the year earning on average 3–4K per month over the course of the previous 8–10 months, so I was inundated with more work than I knew what to do with. This was great for me as I began to experience significant success whilst officially realizing that I absolutely knew what I was doing, but fiverr income is ONLY reactive, and I had to be available to working my order cue for at least 12 hours a day 7 days a week (granted, it was from the comforts of wherever I desired), but I finally made the decision to fully explore offering presentation themes in larger quantities so that I could experience better results with earning more passive income. Here’s what happened…

My sales in 2015

I had only my ‘Clean Green Envirotech’ Keynote theme active in the marketplace entering the year 2015, but I was working on my ‘Future Blueprint’ Keynote theme as it would be my 2nd, and I was also focused on offering the PowerPoint version of each as this would allow me to tap into a completely different market that I hadn’t initially considered when I 1st uploaded, because I failed to consider that EVERYONE doesn’t use a Mac, and how some people would need my theme for use in the Windows environment.

I didn’t sell anything in January, but I didn’t mind as much, because I had accepted the fact that I needed more than one theme in the marketplace to increase my margins, so I just kept my head down and continued working on my themes. I was juggling working on fiverr, completing retainer work, and carefully crafting two themes so that both a Keynote and PowerPoint version be made available to prospective buyers for their presentation needs. Here’s what happened…

One sale in all of February 2014

February came out of nowhere, and in the midst of putting the finishing touches on both themes, I had experienced yet another uninspiring month of sales with only one sale in all the month of February. I was definitely ready to get past this phase of the process, so I kept working and I would eventually get both of my themes into the marketplace before the ensuing month. March was better as I sold five themes total (considering I had two active themes in the marketplace), and April bested the former with a tally of six sales considering I had three active themes in the marketplace.

TEACH

As you can see, May 2015 was even better as I earned 19 downloads totaling $114.00 of passive income from a couple of themes that I designed from an insatiable curiosity to explore what other streams of income where out there for a freelancer. I had only four active themes in May, but I had completely grasped the concept of how it all works. I’ve been building on my portfolio throughout the year and I now have 18 very premium Keynote & PowerPoint themes in the marketplace that are earning me some extra scratch on an ongoing basis that don’t require any additional effort from me. In fact, at the time of this post (Dec 7th 2015), a buyer from ‘Mongolia’ just downloaded ‘Clean Green Envirotech’, and up until this point, I’ve earned $217.15 from the very first theme that I uploaded when I finally got around to uploading my work with Envato in the beginning of 2014, which brings my current earnings to $1327.00 over the course of my active contribution tenure at Envato.

This happened while I was writing this post!

REPEAT

I’ll spare you cliche jargon like how I wish I had someone to help me understand what to do when I 1st started out, but I didn’t have that. Many professions can reference some semblance of a mentor figure that share career visions and scopes of interests, but its extremely difficult to find someone who actually earns money in these new ways of work. So take this with you…

1. Your duty as a freelancer is to learn about what it means to be a freelancer. Things like paying taxes and how to ‘get client’s’ are very crucial to one’s success, but are fundamental topics that you must know of before venturing off into becoming a business owner. Digging deeper and finding out what it truly means to generate income based on passion & pure ability is what I’m talking about.

2. Create a brand, create products and continue to create! My creative stock portfolio is growing, and I have earned some passive income from it, but I continue to create more creative stock, more teaching products, more blog posts, and more sponsored content that all comes together to form a much larger snowball.

3. Build a brand that stays TRUE to who you actually are (not who you’re projecting to be). If you’re just starting out, be transparent and let the people know this! I like to say that, ‘your brand is your book, and a book has chapters’, so simply share YOUR entire narrative authentically.

4. Teach by sharing your REAL experience to people who know less than you. The world’s a BIG PLACE, so you’ll find hundreds of thousands of people who are interested in what you’re all about, because not everyone is at the same level as you are.

5. This is a method that is repeatable and scalable no matter what type of freelancer you are. I understand that freelancing doesn’t solely apply to graphic or web designer’s’, but this is primarily who my message is tailored to. However, If I decided to start ‘painting homes’ tomorrow, I would build a brand, website, blog and products surrounding my experience, because I understand that this is how its done.

~You must learn to learn differently as this is something very different

Quite honestly, I’m my own worst critique, and I’m pretty tough on myself as it pertains to my business matters as many people in my professional circle view me as a business owner with a profession that not many people outside of the internet of things can comprehend. I get to the ‘candy’ of my full experience as a freelancer throughout my website as this is only just a small fraction on how I go about being a full-time laptop entrepreneur’ing freelancer earning a great living doing so, but it’s extremely important that you grasp this most basic concept on how to go about learning in this dimension as this isn’t as linear as the conventional way of building a business of yore. You must learn to learn differently as this is something very different.

My total creative stock earnings with Envato as of 12.7.15