Note: This post hasn't been updated in over 2 years.
Congratulations to Tolga (stmcan) for reaching Power Elite status after selling an amazing one million dollars worth of items. He joined the Envato Marketplaces in April 2009, and since then has amassed over 30,000 sales and a thousand followers while avoiding peak hour traffic, and working where and when he likes. Incredible!
Happy stmcan Day!
We asked Tolga a few questions about the journey to the $1,000,000 milestone. Read on to learn how he came to make the brave decision to become a Marketplace author full time, how he hired a support team, and how it feels to reach a million dollars worth of sales!
Congratulations on becoming a Power Elite author! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got here.
Thank you, I am really honoured to join the Power Elite group. My name is Tolga, and I’m a web developer based in Ankara, Turkey. I’ve been in the business for over 14 years, and started my career as a freelancer while studying business administration at the university. I founded a boutique web design agency right after my graduation.
Those were really tough years in terms of finding customers. Convincing a customer of the advantages of a website for their business was harder work than actually developing the site. Until four years ago, I was involved in hundreds of corporate projects for different sectors, which has given me a considerable amount of experience seeing the business owner’s perspective, helping me to understand their expectations of a website.
As the years passed by, the demand for websites has rapidly increased, as has the customers’ eagerness to get involved in the projects. The hard work shifted more towards trying to explain what can or cannot be done with the current technology, and what should or should not be done. I wasn’t always successful. Sometimes I ended up making websites with designs I did not approve of. In the end, making project-based websites lost its charm.
My job requires a computer, internet access, and an understanding of the customer’s needs, so I always thought wrestling with the rest seemed like waste of precious time. I tried to find a way to minimize (or even demolish) home-office-home travel during rush hours, endless meetings and phone conversations, lengthy presentations for each job, and unnecessary paperwork.
I was already looking for ways to sell website templates online, and thankfully I found Themeforest. Six months after publishing my first product, I made what I call “a brave decision”, ending my partnership with the agency, and started working from my home office.
I currently work alone on development, and have a small team for after-sales support, which functions really well. I have to thank Neo for running this team, as well as the rest of the team for being really good at providing support.
I use a room of my house as my office. I have computers and a few project testing devices on the desk, and other than that my office is full of photos. Sometimes, I jump out to my back garden, or go to a coffee shop to reply my emails.
I don’t have a daily routine for work. I usually start my day replying emails, and then I work on updates to published themes, and develop new theme projects later in the day.
It takes that initial leap of faith to make the jump! How does it feel now, to have hit the $1,000,000 total sales mark?
Really great! More than anything else, this figure is strong evidence that I made the right decision. At the same time, it means that tens of thousands of people around the world appreciate my work. The pleasure and the responsibility of this is hard to explain.
I’ve worked very hard to reach this level. It is true happiness to see and experience the results of my hard work. I enjoy working this way, and will continue for years, if keep working hard. The milestone gives me motivation to constantly work harder on my new projects, and improve the quality.
I am able to work for many hours without losing my concentration. I usually work for about 16 hours or more a day for about two months straight, before publishing a new theme. Once everything is on track with the theme, I try to reduce this below 12 hours a day in effort to spend more time with my family.
Hard work is a common theme amongst Elites. Have you had designs rejected before, and how do you overcome that?
Of course! When I submitted my first HTML template, I was very sure that it was going to be accepted with a thank you message, but Jarel from the review team rejected it. I owe him a huge thank you though, because he was very kind, and guided me in the right direction.
After a couple of rejections I figured out how the system worked. I never thought to stop trying, because the reviewer and the entire team convinced me that I am working with a serious company.
I guess everyone must be aware of the importance of creating something new, something of high quality, and providing great support. It’s also important that the product you create must solve the problems of the potential clients.
If you don’t have an answer to the question, “Why would people want to have this product?” then you must keep working harder until you have that answer. Envato is an incredibly big marketplace, and creating the right product within this environment will definitely result in lots of sales.
How do most of your designs begin?
As a first step, I decide on a target sector, and then I develop ideas and work on them. Sometimes I follow an idea into the night,, and come up with a design. However, I’m usually not impatient, and continue to work on the design until I really like what I see on the screen.
Even while choosing a stock image for the demo website, I sometimes come up with a bag full of new ideas. In my opinion, if you are in a good mood, anything might give you the inspiration you need to visualize the ideas that you brainstorm about. At least that’s true for me.
I discuss my designs with the support team, and they contribute to the new theme also by dropping their invaluable thoughts and ideas on the table.
And what keeps you motivated?
Planning our baby’s future motivates me adequately. Also, I keep receiving messages from my customers such as, “When will your next theme be published?” This keeps my motivation at an even higher level. In fact, if you visit ThemeForest every day, you’ll come across plenty of work that could inspire and motivate you.
You sound very passionate about your work! What do you love the most about your job?
My job requires creativity and self-devotion. It’s the best job in the world if you are totally free, but could be the worst job if you had someone constantly directing you.
That’s why the best thing about my job is being able to work on my own projects when I want and where I want. Plus, I am able to spend time with our newborn baby, and play ball with my dog during my breaks.
Okay, so what about the hard stuff – any blockers?
In my opinion, the hardest thing about my job is being organized. In a matter of seconds I might call it a day, or I might end up working non-stop for days, with only a couple of hours of sleep. One week I might work during the daytime, and the next work at night. There’s no maths to it.
And sometimes I miss being able to have a nice chit chat with a colleague working at the next desk, and just talk about regular stuff.
Our remote staff would no doubt agree with you! Have you ever dreamt of designing for any one thing, or maybe a place in particular?
I think I would create designs that involve animals. One example would be a design for a zoo.
Lots of animal fans at Envato too! Any message for your fans?
I couldn’t be happier to be part of this outstanding community, and am really grateful to my customers for making all this happen for me. I’d like to thank the amazing Envato team for developing this great Marketplace, the other authors for establishing such a great competitive environment by producing fantastic products, and my wife for her everlasting support.
I can’t wait to share my new items with you. Thanks, everyone!