Why it is important to support Indipendent Designers

Today I would like to take a bit of your time to explain why you should support indipendent designers and authors like us and buy digital resources from author’s online shops and avoid buying from big corporations like Envato or Creative Market.

To do this, I need to tell you a bit of history about these maketplaces: how they work, how they grew up and how they “exploit” author’s works.

I have been in the industry of digital resources for graphic designers since over 10 years now, and I owe companies like Envato and Creative Market the possibility to be a freelancer and an indipendent designer focused on working on the projects I like.

They allowed me to quit my daily job in underpaid design offices and for this, I will be forever gratefull.

Being able to sell my works through their platforms and receive positive feedbacks from clients helped me developing my skills as a graphic designer and offer precious resources for designers all over the world.

I initially started working for Graphicriver at the beginning of 2011, thanks to a friend who was already a member of the platform, and after understanding how to create and setup a template, in few years I slowly climbed the “rank” of the top selling authors by providing beautifully designed resources and a full assistance to clients who may have faced any sort of problem with my templates.

At the beginning, the platform allowed an author with an exclusive agreement to earn from 50% up to 70% on every sale (with an extra 30% on the first purchase if the buyer was also coming from a referral link), depending on the total income generated (70% revenue share is granted when an author reaches 75.000$ of total sales); I was able to reach the 70% revenue share in a couple of years of hard work.

After the rise of competitors platforms, like Creative Market in 2012, and the amount of authors creating digital resources, these companies started to adapt to the new market conditions and started to compete against each other to attract authors and clients:

  • Creative Market offered the possibility to open a shop and sell through them only to selected authors, without exclusive agreements and with a 70% revenue share of sales, without reviewing author’s resources (as they are hand-picked the quality is supposed to be guaranteed) trying to impose itself as a top quality provider of limited digital resources;
  • Graphicriver instead decided to focus on the amount of available resources, thus lowering the overall quality of templates available and a huge amount of copycats following the trend of the moment.

Other then these 2 major players, many other platforms arised, like Design Cuts, Template Monster, Pond5 and many many others all offering similar conditions or higher revenue % to authors but with way less traffic and engagement.

2016 was the year of a major change, unfortunately for the worst for authors: Envato annouced the creation of a new platform called “Elements” and allowed a subscription plan with unlimited downloads; Authors that decided to join it saw their revenue share dropping to 50%, without being forced to be exclusive sellers anymore (at least).

Creative Market tried to follow the example with a pilot experiment called “Certified” with a 60% revenue (10% drop for authors) but decided to not proceed in this direction as customers did not perceived the difference between standard resources and the “certified” ones.

Needless to say, the total amount of traffic and income that Graphicriver generated, shifted towards Elements, with total view numbers and sales going down month after month. As the Envato marketing team re-directed all their customers, Authors like me have been forced to move to Elements and accept the “unlimited” download plan, with unclear revenue distribution and impossibility to understand how many time templates and resources are being downloaded from customers. As an incentive to upload resources, if an author was able to upload a total number of resources within 3 months, he/she was granted a variable content bonus, depending on the total number of downloads, that boosted the earning of an author up to 10-15%.

Since sales decreased a lot, I took the decision to stop being exclusive Author for them (and give up the hardly reached 70% revenue share on every single sale) and accept the 45% revenue share for non-exclusive authors, less then 50% for my own work.

It is important to understand that like Amazon or Ebay, they just provide a platform where creatives around the world can sell their work. Their growth and appeal is mainly thanks to all the authors around the world that partecipate in the market.

Following this event, also Creative Market started to lower the revenue share for authors, dropping from 70% to 60%.

As the global economy collapsed during the Covid pandemic, in 2022 we are seeing even worsening conditions for indipendent authors: from June 2022 Creative Market lowered the revenue share to 50%, while Envato Elements will remove from September the content bonus to Authors, basically cutting another 10-15% in their income revenue.

Both companies justified this move with ridicoulous statements:

  • Creative Market stated that authors can earn up to 100% during the first month of a new product in the market (85% on the single sale + 15% if a customer is referred; but Authors know that the income is generated in the long term);
  • Envato Elements stated that the content bonus will be used to attract new customers, thus increasing authors revenue (but Authors know it won’t happen as the amount of them keep growing too).

You should be able to understand now why it is important, when possible, to support small independent authors by purchasing resources on their own online shops, while also being more convenient to customers as we can keep lower prices, since we earn almost 100% (less payment provider fees).

A single template can take up to 1 month to be completed, curated and put on sale on all the marketplaces.

We, as single independent authors, cannot compete with giants like Envato or Creative Market, and most of the time we are forced to accept their decision regarding earnings revenue, which year by year become less and less, or leave the platform. Unfortuntately they still generate almost 80-90% of my earnings.

And the future does not look brighter, as this lowering author’s income is a trend driven by greedy companies. 

I hope that, by reading this, you will understand a little better how the industry works and why it is important to support authors that create beautiful and time-saving resources for all designers or clients all over the world.

If you can, please share it and let other people know about it.

Thank you!

Andrea Balzano (The Template Temple Founder)