15 ways to build a successful Creative Market shop

By November 1, 2018 November 2nd, 2018 Creative Market, Inspiration
My 15 key takeaways from 2 years as a Creative Market shop owner

I started selling on Creative Market exactly two years ago. There’s a lot I’ve learned since then and in this post I want to share some of my key takeaways with you.

Back when I started - and even now - I had a hard time finding blog posts about the shop owner experience on Creative Market. Other platforms, like Etsy had seller handbooks and a huge amount of bloggers were sharing their stories.

I had to limit my input on Creative Market’s own blog. It was helpful but still didn’t answered some of my key questions? Like, how much time should I invest into Creative Market? How big return of investment can I expect?

So today, I answer these questions from my own perspective and I hope it helps you if you are at the beginning of your Creative Market shop owner journey.

HOW MUCH EFFORT TO PUT INTO SELLING ON CREATIVE MARKET

Tricky question because you can invest a lot and only achieve minimal earnings. The invested efforts also depend on:

  • Do you do everything on your own or have a team, VA or contract designer?

  • What type of products do you want to sell? Creating a stock photo is less work than creating a whole family of custom fonts. Luckily you can price your product according to the complexity of your product.

  • How good are you at figuring out the current trends and needs of the Creative Market customers?

My own product development process for one social media template set takes about 24 hours of work + $50 - $100 extra when I need my design contractor friend’s help. For this post, I chose social media templates as an example because these are the products I had the most success with.

MY CREATIVE MARKET PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PROCESS IS THIS:

  1. Research (4 hours): In this phase I decide on the style, and what type of elements (fonts, photos, illustrations) to use to create the template set.

  2. Sketching (2 hours): This phase is very important. I sketch my product ideas on paper to have a clearer understanding on structure, style, consistency, features. If I skip this step, the next one become more difficult because I don’t have a map to follow.

  3. Digital design work (5 hours): I go digital, and create the templates in Illustrator in this phase.

  4. Production work (3 hours + $50 - $100): This is the phase that I can easily outsource to my designer friend. She takes the Illustrator files and turns them into other formats (Photoshop, Canva).

  5. Screenshots & sales copy (6 hours): While my friend works on the file format transfer, I can create the product screenshots and write the copy. This is a very important step and don’t worry if you spend lots of time on it. Those images are the ones that sell the product to the Creative Market customers so they need to be very good. They have to show what the set includes, and how it looks in use.

  6. Marketing (2 hours): I don’t spend much on marketing right now, but I incorporate my product into my Instagram feed and I also pin them on multiple Pinterest boards. If your product is bigger (for example a set of “100 hand lettered fonts”), it worth going the extra mile and invest in some paid ads on Facebook and Instagram.

  7. Maintenance & Customer Service (2 hours): Depending on the complexity of your product, you’ll need to spend some time on customer service (answering questions, helping in case of technical issues) and maintaining the product. My average time is 2 hours, but if you plan to add new elements to your product regularly, this can go up a lot.

Your invested efforts might be different, but the steps should be similar. I recommend you to measure the time and money needed to create your products. After a few launches you’ll have a better understanding of these investments and how to price your products.

HOW MUCH ROI (RETURN OF INVESTMENT) TO EXPECT?

At the beginning I wasn’t expecting much. I was selling premade, customizable logos on Etsy and I could only make 3 sales in 6 months.

So I was positively surprised when I made a sale 5 days after I uploaded my first product to Creative Market.

The first few months brought me many more positive surprises.

  • My product got into the handpicked section on the Creative Market home page

  • My product was featured in a blog post and a newsletter

  • My followership grew tremendously on the week when one of my product was offered for free, and I made a few hundred dollars on the same week.

However, a lot of things happened since then. I started an other shop with my watercolor artist friend and this negatively affected my existing shop. I also tried out products that didn’t bring in the expected reaction. I experimented and became inconsistent and this immediately had an effect.

Today I consistently make $100-$300 / month from my shop without adding new products. But the real growth comes from regular updates and new launches.

This shows in my second shop where we posted products more often. We also found a style that resonated with many customers and we could build risk free new product on this one successful style. This shop generates $500-$800 / month and it’s not even a year old.

A FEW WORDS ABOUT BUNDLES & YOUR PRICES

If you go to the Creative Market home page and check the most popular products, you’ll see that fonts and mega bundles are the ultimate sellers.

I don’t always agree on the bundles though. You devalue your work by offering all your products for $19.

Just check the most successful sellers, like Nicky Laatz who’s already made $1 million from her shop. You won’t see any bundles or underpriced elements. These top sellers know their worth and they stick to it.

You have to ask yourself: “Am I a Design dollar store?” - and I think your answer is no. So don’t offer 1000 logo elements for ten bucks or your whole shop for $29. Customers will expect you to stay on those low prices from then on. Build on those customers who value your style and professionalism.

If you still want to offer deals for customers and gain new followers, consider offering one time discounts (for example 25% off on Black Friday) or take part in short term bundles with Creative Market or DesignCuts. Those bundles are only available for 2-4 weeks so they won’t devalue your work as much. In fact a DesignCuts participation can bring in many new followers for your Creative Market shop. I did that once and it was a great experience.

I also think that your long term goal should be to gradually move to your own shop.

Use Creative Market to build a followership, to reach out to customers, try out styles and get consistent with product development.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

So finally, here comes my top 15 takeaways from the past two years. I hope they will help you open up a successful, profitable Creative Market shop that you enjoy building.

#1 - DO YOUR RESEARCH

Research is the key in order to create useful products for your customers. If you skip the research you’ll only create what’s in your mind or what might only interests you.

I made the mistake of going full experimental this year and it had a huge negative effect on my sales. If I had continued on the products that were successful and followed my own advice of doing extensive research (and not just asking 3 people’s opinion on Facebook), I’m sure my numbers would have be better. Lesson learned.

#2 - STAYING ON TREND VS FUNCTIONALITY

You had the idea that you can create whatever you want for your Creative Market shop?

Nope, my friend. You’re wrong.

You can only be successful on Creative Market if you follow the trends or your products are incredibly useful (time saving, problem solving and highly functional).

FUNCTIONALITY:

Always ask: “Is this product really going to help my customers or I’m just making it because I personally like the concept?”

This is the main difference between design and art. If you are an artist, you create for yourself first and clients buy your personality in your artwork. If you are a designer, you solve problems. Whose problems? Your customers’.

So go and figure out what problems they are facing.

TRENDS:

Creative Market also supports when you post something trendy.

Unfortunately, staying on trend means that sometimes you have to do things that you don’t agree with. I try to do this as little as possible because I don’t believe in short lived trends.

For example, I don’t think that a watercolor, hand lettered logo is the best option for any business. Hand lettered, script text is often hard to read, watercolor PNG elements are not scalable to bigger sizes. I still saw lots of shops having success with these type of products.

What can you do, if you don’t want to go with the wave of a not so superb trend? Well, educate your followers. Tell them (on your blog, in your newsletter and even in the Creative Market sales copy) why that trend won’t last long and what should they consider instead.

All in all, consider trends more for the aesthetics of your products. Base its functions on real-life problems and requests.

#3 - LISTEN TO CUSTOMER REQUESTS

Just as I said before, your customers are the greatest input in order to build a successful shop.

Start a list or spreadsheet with their questions and comments. Do you see any pattern among these? Maybe they all ask for a different file format or just one little addition to your product.

In my second shop lots of potential customers requested Canva format for social media templates instead of Photoshop. When we added this feature our sales numbers got better.

Furthermore, I found that the average Creative Market customer needs something that they can immediately apply in their business or hobbies. Most of them are not designers, they are people with sufficient knowledge of some design tools (mostly Photoshop, Canva, Microsoft tools). They are also less likely to see how many different ways they could use, combine, build with the design elements that you provide in your product.

Wherever possible, give them templates and usage examples. Try to imagine that you are selling to your best friend who’s not in the design field. How would she be able to start using your product without obtaining a designer degree first?

#4 - PLAN ON A PRODUCT THAT ALREADY WORKS

On those days when you feel less creative but still want to work on a new product, consider building on something that worked before.

For example, lots of people asked if we can base a whole product suite on our most successful Instagram template set. This immediate gave us a lot of new options: Powerpoint templates, wedding invitation templates, website element packs, etc.

What I mean is, if you have a great product, don’t be shy to extend it.

I know sometimes it can be a bit boring to work with the same design elements over and over again. What I decided to do is to alternate new type of products and the ones based on past, popular sets. This way I have the opportunity to create something totally new, and I can also work on something on my less creative, “just give me pixels to push left or right” days.

#5 - PAPER FIRST - DIGITAL LATER

My other biggest takeaway was the importance of planning on paper.

I shared multiple times here on the blog: I believe that writing and sketching on paper helps you analyze your plan or in this case your product.

When I spent a few hours planning my template sets on grid paper, I could save multiple hours in Illustrator. On the other side, when I skipped the sketch phase, I felt less confident with the overall design.

#6 - LAUNCH CONSISTENTLY & REGULARLY

Another important lesson I’ve learned: in order to be successful on Creative Market you have to post products every month.

Just as with weight loss: you can’t lose weight by spending 8 hours in the gym one day and then skipping workout for a full month.

If you skip a longer period of time and then you come up with 3 new products, you won’t have enough momentum to make it into the Creative Market Handpicked section or their newsletter.

In fact, this is true for everything in your business: blogging, social media, newsletters. So why would it be different in your Creative Market shop?

Also, try not to overwhelm yourself at the beginning. Back to the weight loss example: if you tear your muscles on the first workout because you overestimate yourself, you more likely spend the next few months avoiding even the thought of any workout.

Go small first, post just one product per month. See if you can keep this rate and up your game later if you can.

#7 - OUTSOURCE IF POSSIBLE

In every product development process there are repeating tasks that can be easily outsourced. Don’t overlook the importance of outsourcing.

I know that starting paying for someone else is a big step but it’s a big step forward. In my own business, I don’t think I would be able to post on this blog every week if I wouldn’t outsource parts of the task (formatting, social media post scheduling, etc).

Outsourcing enables you to focus your energies on the tasks that really require you. Hint: these are the tasks that I think you would enjoy more, like coming up with the product idea.

As for me, I enjoy the process of creating preview / screenshot images for my products. It’s a really creative task, figuring out ways to showcase my product in real life situations. However, I don’t really like production work. Sure, I could do it but it sucks energy out of me. I rather ask my designer friend to help me out. She enjoys the task and I can work on the preview photos while she transfers the templates to Photoshop.

Another good reason for outsourcing is that we all have strong and weak sides. You might be great in one thing but have a hard time with another side of the product development process. Instead of struggling through these obstacles, ask someone who’s brilliant in it.

#8 - TAKE PART IN DISCUSSIONS

The Creative Market Discussions Forum is a hidden gem. Even if you are not a shop owner, you can find great value there.

For shop owners it’s a great place to:

  • Share your work / product idea and ask for feedback

  • Find Pinterest Group boards to take part in

  • Ask for help in case of technical difficulties

  • See what others are working on and get inspired

  • Proudly announce your latest products

  • Contribute to the Creative Market community

  • Build professional relationships with other shop owners

#9 - OFFER SOMETHING FOR FREE

The number of my followers grew from 50 to almost 300 hundred during the week when one of my products were offered for free on Creative Market. My sales also jumped higher and I made my first couple hundred dollars during that week because those new followers and likers found my other products too.

This was when my shop was relatively new, and I had only 3 products.

What I would change now is to wait a bit more, have at least 6 products and then going forward with offering one of them for free. Creative Market prefers to include those shop in the weekly freebie section who have never attended it before. So be strategic with the timing.

#10 - GET INTO THE HANDPICKED SECTION / NEWSLETTER

The Handpicked section is on the Creative Market home page right under the most popular products so it’s a big deal to get in. It’s a great, free advertisement and traffic generator to your shop page.

Here’s an article on the Creative Market Blog, telling you how to get into the Handpicked Section. 

The newsletter is even bigger deal, because they only highlight the best fresh products there. Follow the guideline from the above article and if your product is truly unique, or has a very great first reaction from customers, you’ll have a chance to be featured.

#11 - EDUCATE & EMPOWER

As I said at #3, most of the customers on Creative Market are not designers. You can decide to just simply create great products for them and then let them figure out how to use it. Or you can go the extra mile and make supporting videos, support pages and PDF guides to help them bring the best out of your products.

This is something that not many shop owners do, so it’s a great way to stand out even if you are new.

#12 - USE THE FAQ

Another section that many shop owners disregard is the FAQ for their sales pages. On each product sales page you create, you can add an FAQ and address questions that were regularly asked or what you think customers might ask in the future.

This will save a lot of time for you because you won’t need to answer so many comments and direct messages.

#13 - TAKE THE EXTRA STEP

You want your shop to stand out?

Always think of ways to provide something extra. Some ideas I have after these two years:

  • Offer a small sample of your product for free so undecided buyers can see the quality of your work

  • Reach out to previous customers and ask them what could have made your product more useful

  • Give them links to your blog posts, tutorials and favorite resources (hint: this can be a great traffic to your site and even lead to opt-ins if you offer a useful freebie)

  • Add videos to the preview shots. Not many shops utilize that you can add videos beside the images. Present the product, the inspiration behind it. Tell a story.

  • Ask Creative Market if you can guest blog on their site or if you can be part of their next monthly bundle

  • If you love another shop, let them know. DM them and ask them about their experiences. How are they doing with their products, what would be their advice for you. Most of the sellers on CM are just as awesome and open-minded as you so don’t hesitate to reach out

Be super quick and resourceful whenever you have to answer a direct message from a existing or potential customer. Ask yourself: “What additional value can I give that helps this person bring the best out of that product / decide whether that product is for her?”

#14 - REVIEW YOUR SHOP STATS REGULARLY

Creative Market provides a great and easy to overview stats dashboard for your shop. Analyze the hell out of it!

Check for days when you had great sales and figure out the reason. Did you get handpicked? Was it because of a great deal, or pricing tactic? Was it because of the holidays or simply because it was Friday?

Sum up your ideas and build on them.

To see the main features of the shop owners’ dashboard, check out this article on the Creative Market Blog.

#15 - TAKE PART IN THE PARTNER PROGRAM

Finally, my last takeaway is about the Creative Market partnership program. I’m an affiliate for Creative Market, which means that when I share a product from their site and someone signs up through that link, I get 10% from her purchases for one year. 

You can take part in this partner program even if you don’t have a shop. Application is very similar to the shop application: tell the Creative Market Team, why you want to become a partner and how do you plan to promote other shops.

This partnership won’t generate as much income as selling your products but it’s a great addition.

However, branding wise I advice you to promote those products that you wouldn’t sell in your own shop. In my case these are fonts and mockup / photography packs. I’m not a font designer, nor a photographer but I know that you, my reader can benefit from these products. I try to not advertise products that are in competition with mines. If you want to stand for your business, you must focus your marketing resources on your products first.

SO, ARE YOU FIRED UP TO BUILD YOUR CREATIVE MARKET SHOP?

Huh, this was a long list… I really appreciate that you read through and I hope I could help you a bit on your Creative Market Shop Owner Journey.

Is there something else you’d like to know about Creative Market? Let me know ‘cause it might be in my next post. 😉

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.