Kriesi: The First Author to Sell $1,000,000 Worth of Items

Kriesi is the first Envato author to reach Power Elite level! Kriesi has been a member of the Envato community for 3 years, in that time he has amassed a following of 4,088 community members and almost 32,000 sales! He is the most successful author on the Marketplaces to date and the first to reach Power Elite status. A huge congratulations to Kriesi for crossing this milestone and for leading the way for future authors. Kriesi’s amazing achievements show that it is possible to not only make money off the Envato Marketplaces but to do what you love, get paid well and enjoy it as a full time job. Read after the break for an in-depth interview with Kriesi!

Collis Ta’eed (Envato Co-Founder and CEO) is thrilled that Kriesi is our first Power Elite author; Collis said:

“No-one deserves this more than him. Not only has he been at the forefront of ThemeForest for many years, he is in fact one of our very first ThemeForest authors. Kriesi’s first theme dates back to just weeks after the ThemeForest Marketplace launched in 2008. Kriesi is responsible for breaking a lot of ground on ThemeForest, he’s responsible for numerous trends and styles that became popular in his wake, and has repeatedly demonstrated what it means to be a top author at Envato. It’s really fitting that he’s our first million dollar author. My heartfelt congratulations go out to him!”

Interview with Kriesi

As a part of the reward for reaching Power Elite status Envato celebrates a day in honour of the author, that means that today is Kriesi Day! To kick off the celebrations we’ll start with an interview with the man himself, so you can find out a little more about Envato’s most successful author and what it takes to make it to the top.

Congratulations on becoming our very first Power Elite author Kriesi, tell us about how you got here.

Well first of all thanks for having me! :) I started being a ThemeForest author back in September 2008, shortly after the closed beta ended. I was working 9-5 as front end developer in a small advertising agency, which hired me after I finished college. I had a few designs that didn’t make the cut for our clients, so I thought I could just give this strange marketplace thingy a chance and submit one of those designs. Sales during the first month were really lousy ( I made $30 for 40 hours of work) and I was nearly convinced that this whole stock template business was a big waste of time. For reasons I still can’t name, I created a second theme from scratch and submitted that as well. Guess my life would look a whole lot different if I hadn’t done that. :)

The second theme wasn’t even close to being a top seller, but it sold enough copies to show me that my first guess was completely wrong. So for the next few months I improved my Photoshop skills, learned how to code javascript, how to write php that doesn’t look like Spaghetti code and submitted new themes, hoping for a top seller. :)

When that finally happened in July 2009 it caught me completely off guard. Sales exploded, so did the earnings and I was so excited, I was hitting the browser reload button every five minutes for at least 3 days straight. For the first time in my life I was thinking about leaving the agency and becoming self employed.

It did take another 6 months of good sales for me to realize that this wasn’t just a lucky coincidence that earned me some nice pocket money, but actually the real deal, and that I don’t need to be afraid to have no income in 2 months if I quit my daytime job.

What followed were probably the best 2 years of my life. Due to the growing marketplace I was able to start my own business without any knowledge of startups, self employment, marketing or accounting. I just had to do what came natural to me: creating new themes. Thats pretty much what I did until today. :)

How does it feel to have sold over $1,000,000 of items?

Feels kinda unreal to me. I still remember one of the first presentations in college when the Professor concluded that most designers and programmers don’t do their jobs because they want to get rich, but because they love what they do. Thats pretty much the way everyone in my class felt. I never thought about becoming self employed, and I certainly never thought that I would someday sell products on a marketplace, worth 1 million dollars. Of course that’s not the money I actually get to spend, you guys at Envato get your well deserved junk for marketing and for the great infrastructure you provide, and an even bigger part is lost to taxes and exchange rate from dollar to euro, but I definitely earn more than I ever thought I would.It definitely feels good, but sometimes its hard to believe that I got that lucky. :)

What does this milestone mean for you as an author and designer?

To be honest, not that much. :) I just turned 30 this month and its a quite similar experience. Everyone is asking you how you feel, now that you are 30 years old, and everyone who has turned 30 pretty much gives the same answer: nothing has changed since yesterday, nothings different :)

I feel similar about this milestone, it’s great that I have come this far, but there is not much difference to last month or even last year. I wouldn’t consider myself a better author or designer now that I have achieved it and I certainly don’t think I am better than someone who hasn’t reached this milestone yet, so as designer this doesn’t mean that much to me.

Personally I think the coolest part of the milestone is that Envato decided to reward elite authors with fancy goodies and badges, something I was really missing before the Elite program opened its doors. :)
I was always a great fan of games like Diablo and World of Warcraft (probably even “a little” addicted) and the quest for new items and achievements was always something that got me hooked.
Cant wait to get the “Envato-Power-Elite-Ring” , my first real life item. ;D

The Power Elite Ring!

So long story short: I am super exited on a personal level but apart from this one day promotion it wont help me selling themes. I still have to work hard to compete; no change, nothings different. :)

You have 40 items currently on the Marketplaces. How many hours have you spent on designs for the Envato Marketplace?

Thats hard to tell since I usually don’t design the whole template in Photoshop before starting to code. I create a rough layout in Photoshop and add details on the go while coding the HTML or WordPress version. The average time per project that I am really working in Photoshop is probably 2-3 days. The average time for a WordPress theme from start to finish about 3 weeks…

Have you had any designs rejected and what did you do about it?

Yes, I can remember that I submitted work to both, ThemeForest and ActiveDen, that was rejected. In the case of ActiveDen I didn’t really bother, since I was submitting leftovers from the agency. I can’t really remember exactly why the ThemeForest item was rejected but I did what most of us do: I was pissed first, then calmed down, listened to the reviewers suggestion, fixed the problems, resubmitted the item, and had to acknowledge that the reviewer was totally right and that the final work was far better than the first version. :)

What words of encouragement do you have to any budding authors who want to make Power Elite level?

Collis once gave a presentation about Iteration at Ignite Melbourne, that pretty much sums up how I was able to reach the Power Elite level.

I was not, and am not the most talented designer or coder on ThemeForest and I certainly didn’t land a “hole in one” with my first themes. But with every new release I was able to learn something new, about my code, about the underlying technology, about the people that buy my stuff and also why they buy my stuff. I basically iterated to success and thats pretty much the best advice I can give:

Take the time to improve yourself, to improve your work, and become a better designer/programmer with every new release. You will eventually come up with something that people love. :)

What is your office space like?

Similar to most of my themes: lots of whitespace, very white, very clean (some would say sterile). I don’t like a lot of clutter on my virtual desktop and I certainly don’t want it on my real one. ;D
I also have two beanbag chairs in my office, located bellow a small palm tree. If I cant focus on work I usually sit down there and read a little bit. There are days though when I simply need a break from my own office and need to get out, need to see other human beings. Then I usually head to one of the many cafes in Vienna and work there. :) I consider those places my “extended office”…

How do you get inspiration for your designs?

I guess I am not that different to fellow designers here. I love Dribbble andTwitter, I admire the work of a few fellow authors which keep inspiring me and when thats not enough there are always those well known “top 100 of XY-design” lists as well as CSS galleries to get my creative juices flowing. :)

But these days its mostly Dribbble and Twitter.

What is the best thing about your job?

Being able to do what I like, always having the possibility to take a day off, being my own boss, working with great people from around the world, and being part of such a great competitive community that pushes WordPress theming like only a few others do. :)

If you could choose any space in the world and create a design for it, where would it be and what would you make?

Thats a tough one. I think I would want to design an all glass building in the Alps of Austria that holds a super fancy shared office were I and others can work and go on the slopes whenever we feel the need for a timeout :) Video Games, Cinema, Party Lounge etc included. And I would hope for someone to build a similar building somewhere in Egypt. Snowboarding the whole year could get boring, would like to spice it up with some Kitesurfing. :)

Please help us settle a long running internal debate. How do you pronounce your username?

Haha, didn’t know that there is a debate about my name :D. Kriesi derives from the Austrian short version of Christian (Chrisi) I just had to come up with a different spelling for my first online account since Chrisi was of course already taken since its quite common here. Since I would feel rather silly uploading an mp3 where I pronounce the name: open google translate ( ), select: from Hindi to English and enter Kriesi. Now press the Listen button ;).

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Only that the last few years were a blast, that I am happy to be part of this community and  I am waiting with a red carpet for the next person to join me in the Power Elite Club :) Good luck everyone!

Kriesi looking gangsta with his Power Elite ring!

A huge congratulations to Kriesi for reaching 1,000,000 worth of sales! We are extremely proud to have such a motivated author as a leader in our community. We only hope that the rest of you as inspired as we are! Happy Kriesi Day everyone!

View Kriesi’s portfolio of work on the Marketplaces.
Check out Kriesi’s blog.
Follow Kriesi on Twitter