Interview with Andrii Shekhirev, ThemeForest Elite Author

Andrii Shekhirev, a WordPress theme developer from Latvia, is here with us at WP.Style. Andrii has reached the level of an elite author at the world-famous premium theme marketplace, ThemeForest. We met when Andrii asked to publish information about the free WordPress theme he is working on. I could not resist asking Andrii about his creative path, and ThemeForest in particular.

Now, what difficulties are faced by a premium theme developer, is it worth to start developing premium WordPress themes now, as well as many other questions are coming up next in this interview!

Can you tell us how Satori Studio appeared? Does the project involve one person or is it a team?

Satori Studio is currently a team of one. I do it all on my own — from planning and design to development, support, and promotion. It all started in the spring of 2013. My business partner at another business project told me about a conversation he had overheard about themes for this CMS. I did not know much about programming at the time (my major was finance), but I became interested in this, and after a couple of months, I decided to try to make my own theme.

What pushed you to publish your themes on ThemeForest?

In those days, ThemeForest was almost the only platform where you could sell your own themes, and certainly the largest one. I did not have any money to promote my creative stuff, so the decision to start from ThemeForest was quite obvious to me.

What difficulties did you face when working with ThemeForest?

I would not say that I faced too many difficulties in the literal sense of the word, but if we talk about the most challenging moments, then of course, the processes of getting new themes approved and providing customer support are the most challenging ones. For example, I had to make 8 iterations with my first theme, and some of these can be called fairly large-scale adaptations required to pass the review process to be published on ThemeForest. It should, however, be taken into account that it allowed me to improve the quality of the theme greatly. When I look back, I can objectively say that the first iterations were of a really poor quality. As for providing customer support, there are two ways here: either hire a third party or do everything yourself. After thinking about all the “pros” and “cons”, I chose the latter, because I knew that the quality of support is virtually the only major differentiator in such a competitive market. However, at certain moments, the number of the requests I received made me look for bugs and write emails until late at night.

What do you feel when you reached the level of an elite author on ThemeForest?

Certain pleasant feelings, of course, are related with this (pride, for instance), but financially or practically, it made little difference, except for the fact that I had a new badge and the ability to sign as an “Envato Elite Author”:) Everything else — my work on improving my products, creating new ones — goes on as before.

What did you like when working with this marketplace?

As I mentioned above, the greatest advantage of ThemeForest, from my point of view, is a ready-to-use marketing: when creating a new theme, an author can do without any active promotion. Just make a really high-quality product, and millions of ThemeForest users will notice it. It happened many times before at this marketplace. I would also call the strict process of selection and validation of each new theme a good thing because it creates a filter that sorts out low-quality products which, in turn, gives a kind of a “seal of quality” to everyone who managed to get on ThemeForest.

Why did you decide to leave ThemeForest? Are you planning to come back there?

It is not correct to say that I completely left ThemeForest. My templates are still available to everyone, I rather stopped to actively create new ones and moved on to other priorities. I am not planning to come back to developing new premium themes because I think that ThemeForest is supersaturated and I see more opportunities for growth in other areas.

If you were starting from scratch now, would you add your theme to ThemeForest or would you focus on the development of your own website to sell your themes?

If I were starting now, that is in 2016, I would think hard over whether it is worth making themes for WordPress at all. The market is full of competitors and quite high-quality products. If I had my current background but back in 2013, I would most probably developed my own site; it is more difficult, but it also provides more flexibility in making decisions.

What was the most valuable lesson that you received during the years you spent designing and selling WordPress themes?

There have been (and there still are) a lot of lessons, and the importance of persistence is probably the most valuable one. After starting from scratch and learning how to create and sell high-quality WordPress themes, I can understand that the greatest mistake at any time would be to give up after the first or second attempt… or the seventh attempt if you wish…

What are the Satori Studio’s tasks and objectives for the coming years? How often do you plan to release new themes, free and paid ones?

At the moment, I am completely focused on Bento, my latest free theme, and I am not planning to create new ones, which lets me spend all my free time to develop Bento and turn it into the most high-quality and powerful multi-purpose WordPress theme among all the free ones out there.

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