Thriving on a Code Marketplace
Hi folks. My name is Dave; I'm currently in my mid 20's, and am living in Australia. I went straight from High School into a Bachelor of IT at University, and then worked full-time in the IT industry for four years. Over the past two years, however, I've transitioned to a freelance web developer, and am making a good portion of my income by selling code snippets and scripts: newsletters, themes, shopping carts...you name it!
CodeCanyon is like eBay for web developers.
What's neat is that, from time to time, authors will update their items with new features. Once a buyer has purchased an item, they can download all future item updates for free!
CodeCanyon is part of a very successful network of online "digital goods" marketplaces. These include:
- ThemeForest: Website themes and templates. WordPress, Static HTML, e-Commerce, Email.
- ActiveDen: Flash components, video players, Unity 3D, Games, Buttons.
- AudioJungle: Audio snippets and sound loops
- VideoHive: Video project files and useful video effects
- GraphicRiver: Icons, buttons, vector and photoshop files
- 3DOcean: Ready to use 3D models/animations for all the popular 3D authoring tools
What do I Sell?
I make my items suitable for someone with little programming knowledge.
When deciding what to develop, I created scripts that I think other coders and designers would have a hard time implementing themselves. I tried to make my items suitable for someone with little programming knowledge (eg: a web designer without a programmer on staff).
I started my marketplace portfolio with a client manager for freelancers. This is a stand alone PHP application that allows web developers to store all their client information (contact info, website passwords and project details) in one simple place. Over time, I've added more features to it such as basic invoicing and support ticket management.
My most successful item is the Simple Newsletter System. Unlike some of the email managers available around the web, you can install this simple app onto your own website and send out professional emails to your customers with ease. It sells for $15.
I have also partnered up with a website designer (because I cannot design). Together we create WordPress themes, html templates and Photoshop documents for sale over on ThemeForest.net -- one of Envato's other "digital goods" marketplaces. You can view our portfolio here.
How Much Do I Earn From Selling Code?
It varies from day to day. Mid-week is best, the time of year and public holidays play a part as well. As an example, so far today (at the time of this writing), I've made 7 sales on CodeCanyon. Here's a graph showing our total marketplace sales over the past 60 days:
The high point you see on that graph was a $550 day -- a very good Wednesday for us!
I've also found that a coding marketplace can be a great place to advertise your freelance availability. I receive numerous emails each week from people wanting paid item customizations or a quote on a custom programming job.
What's this Double-Dipping Thing all About?
If you spent 50 hours working on a PHP script, why not spend another 5 making the item suitable for another category?
Double dipping is when you can re-use your item elsewhere on the marketplace; for example: releasing my email newsletter script as a WordPress plugin, then as a Magento plugin, then as a Joomla extension.
If you spent 50 hours working on a PHP script, why not spend another 5 making the item suitable for another category? Easy money! This is the best way to increase your CodeCanyon income quickly. You could triple your income by simply re-releasing tweaked versions of your items to multiple categories.
How I Come up with Ideas
I keep a notepad next to my bed. Sometimes, I'll wake up in the middle of the night, and scribble down an idea. I also read a few forums and take note of the "Can someone please help me setup a ******* on my website?" posts. If they would make for a good item, they get added to my ideas board!
How You Can Follow in my Footsteps
The more difficult task is coming up with an item to sell!
The more difficult task is coming up with an item to sell! Once you've thought of something, and have submitted it to the marketplace, the item travels through the CodeCanyon review queue, where the marketplace staff ensures that the item does work as described, and that adequate documentation is provided. Assuming all goes well, the CodeCanyon staff will pick a price for your item (based on the complexity of the item, the quality of help documentation, etc.), and publish it to the marketplace!
If the item is really good, you might even be featured across their network!
All authors start out at a 50% commission rate. As you sell more, the commission rate increases all the way up to 70%. Envato uses their cut of your sales to advertise your items, and maintain and improve the marketplaces (and they do a very good job at it). You will be hard pressed to find a similar marketplace that is so kind to their authors
You can read more about payment commission rates here.
My Tips for New Sellers
- Rejection: Your first item may not be approved for sale. Don't give up! There are many reasons items are not approved. If your item is unique and they believe it will sell, the reviewer will give you a list of things to change (maybe the help documentation wasn't up to scratch, or some button graphics could be aesthetically improved).
- Pricing: Don't worry if your item is priced on the cheaper side. The staff are very good at picking item prices; they've had years to determine the perfect model. Highly priced items simply do not sell as well. Ask yourself, "Would I rather have a high priced item that sells 20 times, or a somewhat cheaper rate that sells 200 times?"
- Multiple Submissions: Always have two items on the go at the same time. If one of the items is rejected and requires more work, you have a backup!
My Income Goals
It didn't take long for me to realize how much money I could potentially make on CodeCanyon if I put in the proper amount of effort building quality products. Don't believe me? Have a quick look through the Top Authors listing, and you'll see what I mean.
So, how did I motivate myself? Goals! Here's a copy of the big poster we printed out and stuck on the wall:
Our goals are placed at the bottom of the poster.
- Goal 1 is $100 per day
- Goal 2 is $200 per day
- Goal 3 is $300 per day
Even more fun, before the year is out I'm going to need to update this poster with higher goals.
Marketing Tips and Tricks
- Advertise: Advertising your items on your blog is key. This doesn't cost you a penny; only your time. I do it myself!
- Freebies: Give away things for free. Why not give away a "lite" version of your script for free, and advertise the "full" or "premium" version on CodeCanyon? WordPress plugin developers do this to great success!
- Tweets: Setup a twitter account where you can release item updates and new files. Your buyers will follow you to stay up to date on new releases and item updates.
- Support: If you offer a decent level of support and a high quality of work, your buyers will become repeat-customers.
- Consistency: We've also found that our older items experience a period of increased sales when we release a new item, naturally. Consistently releasing new items is the way to go.
I can't give away all my secrets, but if you become an author and frequent the CodeCanyon forums, you'll begin discovering your own secrets in no time.
Why I Provide Support for all my Items
Authors are not required to provide support for their items. But if you do provide efficient and prompt support, you will quickly develop a large and faithful customer-base across the globe. Never, ever underestimate the importance of providing top-tier support to your customers.
The first thing I do every day when I wake up is check how many sales I have made overnight on CodeCanyon. It's quite addictive! Once you start making sales on CodeCanyon, you just can't stop.
So if you're thinking about giving up your day job as a programmer (in a dark moldy office, like I was for years) then I seriously recommend giving CodeCanyon a try. Why not even do it on the side while you're still working full time? Plenty of people do before coming over full-time.
A little celebration after achieving the "Gold Paw Badge" after one year.