Tell us a little about yourself / your team. How it all started?
My name is Tyler Cunningham and I am 28 years old. I was born and raised in Canada but have been living in the United States since 2001. I have been using computers as far back as I can remember and first started learning HTML when I was 16. To make a long story short I ended up founding a WordPress theme shop (which shall remain nameless) about four years ago but left the company in 2012 for personal reasons.
After I left I was ready for something new. I had never used Drupal before but had heard good things about it. After spending some time using it I became hooked and the rest is history.
Drupal just really clicked for me as soon as I started using it. I liked the fact that it was geared more towards developers than writers or bloggers and and Drupal API documentation is really thorough. Some things are just easier in Drupal, such as using the Views module instead of messing around with the WordPress loop. I wish I had more of an explanation but after spending significant time working with both platforms I just prefer Drupal.
Drupal jobs are (usually) more expensive than WordPress related ones. Why did you choose to create and sell themes while you could make a very decent income from Drupal related jobs?
I was completely new to Drupal when I started Refaktor, so theming was a natural first step. I also saw a great opportunity on ThemeForest. There were only a handful of themes in the Drupal category when I started my first one and there was only one other author releasing quality themes on a regular basis.
I will admit that my first theme was not very good and is not even available to buy anymore, but the more I did the more I learned and improved. It wasn’t until I released my third and fourth themes that I was able to make a livable income and could see this becoming a full time job.I have done a bit of freelance work but the majority of my income is from theme sales, although I am starting to put a bit more focus into freelance projects because of what I am able to charge hourly.
Do you think Drupal themes are harder to create than WordPress or Joomla! ones?
I have never used Joomla so I cannot attest to that but overall I would say Drupal theming is more difficult than WordPress theming. When I started my first Drupal theme I was basically in the dark. There were very few resources available to me at the time and I was left to just figure it out piece by piece. On the flip side, WordPress developers had access to options frameworks, slider and page builder plugins, and an unlimited supply of tutorials and other online training tools.
Even today there is only one Drupal slider module on CodeCanyon and no real page builder. To be a successful WordPress developer you really only need to have a decent understanding of HTML/CSS and some basic PHP skills and premium plugins will handle the rest. Drupal on the other hand is like a language in and of itself and to be able to provide the kind of ease of use experience that WordPress themes offer you need a very strong PHP/JS background.
How do you manage support? You already have more than 6,7K sales!
Support has never been an overwhelming issue for me. As I mentioned earlier, one of the things that attracted me to Drupal was the userbase. Most people that buy my themes have a solid understanding of what they are doing so I never hear from them. 90% of my support is for those that are new to Drupal and I have rules and guidelines in place so customers understand I am only going to support theme-related issues. At this point I would say I only spend about an hour a day handling support, sometimes less.
Would you establish your own marketplace / themes shop or would you rather sell on a well established themes marketplace?
After experiencing both worlds I think I much prefer the marketplace. I love that I don’t have to think about the financial side of things and can just focus on my themes and support. At the same time though, selling on a marketplace means you are subject to the rules and policies put in place by those who own the marketplace.
Envato (the owners of ThemeForest) are making a lot of changes that many of my fellow authors are not very happy about. So far these changes are not enough to make me want to leave entirely, but I am starting to focus my time and attention towards branching out and exploring new opportunities.
Is there anything you want to be changed / improved on the marketplace your are selling?
I don’t want to go into a ton of specifics but there are a couple things. The rating system is incredibly broken. When I first started there was no information about who was leaving you ratings or for what reason. They expanded on this a bit so authors can see who is leaving the rating and read the reason why if the buyer leaves a comment, but authors still have no means of directly contacting buyers. So if a customer leaves a 1 star rating there is no way for an author to get in touch with them to see if they can help rectify the situation.
I would also like the ability to be able to offer refunds to customers. It doesn’t happen very often but sometimes you get someone that is just so incredibly difficult to try and deal with it would be better to just give them their money back and walk away.
What’s your advice to those who are looking to start creating and selling themes?
To be perfectly honest, and this is in no way my attempt/desire to decrease competition, but I would advise against it. Two years ago I would encourage anyone to look into it but the theme market has changed so much and the level of competition is that much greater, even in the Drupal category. If you look at all the themes being released in all the different categories the sad reality is that most of them are not successful. Mobile is the real future so I would advise anyone that wants to get into development or programming to focus on that.
Being popular means to have a lot of themes on free download websites? How do you fight with this phenomenon?
I just don’t think about it to be honest. There isn’t a whole lot that can be done to stop it and I don’t waste time or energy trying to deal with it. My new support forum requires a purchase code to register and each code can only be used once so I do not offer support to anyone that hasn’t purchased the theme. I’ve had a few instances of customers bringing things to my attention and I just pass it along to Envato and let them deal with it.