“Why don’t you use FlashDen to sell your Flash templates?” I’ve been asked that question several times since starting Warm Forest. In this post I’d like to explain why I choose to sell my products independently and show how easy it is for anyone to create their own site selling digital goods – whether it is Flash templates, WordPress themes, E-books, software, etc.
First off, I have nothing against FlashDen. I think the whole Envato collection of sites is wonderful for the creative community. I actually used to sell on FlashDen back in the day before eventually deciding to go off on my own with Warm Forest. For me it came down to having control over everything (pricing/marketing/support) and just the fact that it’s more fun for me to do things myself.
What I don’t like about FlashDen
FlashDen has 200,000+ users. That’s a huge market to pass up. But there are a couple of reasons why I choose not to sell through them…
They tend to focus on quantity over quality
Do you want to search through 1,172 Flash menus to find the right one to use in your project? Me neither. I think their logic is that the more options people have, the better. If there are 1,000+ options, then there has to be the perfect option for you, right? In reality I think people would rather see a small handful of really great options to choose from. Have a few options that are flexible and easy to customize and that’s all you need. Marketing studies have shown that having more choices of products makes consumer actually buy less. When presented with too many choices consumers feel overwhelmed and simply choose not to buy. For a great book that discusses these topics I recommend The Paradox of Choice.
It’s hard to market your files on their site
When you release a new file on FlashDen you get brief exposure on their homepage in their “Recent” section. After a few days though your file gets removed from the homepage and buried in the thousands of other files on the site to make room for the next new files. To have your highly polished, super-customizable template that you spent weeks and weeks planning and building being replaced on the homepage after a few days by an animated lobster SWF that someone threw together in 30 minutes would be frustrating. There are some very nice files on FlashDen but they tend to be mixed in with tons of products that aren’t very useful or very appealing from a design point of view.
They price their site templates too low and they take a large cut of the sale
I know, I know. The whole theory of stock sites is to sell lots of products at low prices. Having said that, getting a complete Flash website for $30 seems to me to be crazy below the market price. Any kind of professional who wants a website would probably have a budget of more than that I would hope. The max price they have for any template is $40 so no matter how nice of a template you design that is the most they will sell it for. I think customers would be willing to pay more for something that is really well designed and thought out. As far as their payment rates, you can earn from 25% up to 70% of each sale. They have expenses for running and promoting FlashDen and of course deserve to earn a profit and that’s fine. For me though, I would rather just price my products myself and get 100% of every sale.
Ok so I had a few gripes with FlashDen – how hard could it be to create my own site to sell my products?
How to sell your Flash templates or digital goods yourself
These days the barrier to entry is extremely low for any kind of web-based business. Hosting is cheap. Domains are cheap. There are all kinds of online services that will handle your shopping cart, process your payments, track your expenses, manage your advertising, etc. Everything is simple to setup and dirt cheap. There is no reason not to have an online business.
It ended up being surprisingly easy getting my own site, Warm Forest, up and running. I did a lot of research on the best way to set things up and the following is what I ended up using.
E-junkie for my shopping cart
No need to code my own shopping cart system when there are tons of ready-made services that will handle everything for me. E-junkie hosts my file downloads securely, then sends a temporary email download link to the customer after they make payment. It was super simple to integrate their shopping cart into my site. I like them because they don’t take a cut of each sale and instead just charge you a flat monthly rate depending on the number of products you have for sale.
PayPal & Google Checkout for my payment processing
Cost: Small percentage of each sale
E-junkie actually doesn’t process any payments – they just integrate with PayPal and Google Checkout. Lots of customers already have PayPal and everyone trusts Google so it makes everyone feel secure in the payment process to use something they are already familiar with.
BuySellAds.com for my advertising
Cost: varies (but generally great prices)
BSA pretty much came out of nowhere to become the default ad system for tech/creative websites and blogs. It seems everyone uses it now to setup and manage their ads. The price of ads is cheap right now due to the recession and all so it’s a great time to be promoting your site through banner ads. You get a lot of bang for your buck and it’s easy to target the exact market you are looking for.
Media Temple for my hosting
Media Temple can supposedly handle large spikes in site traffic with their grid service which is the main reason I went with them. Although I have had the occasional problems with site uptime, overall I think they are worth the money. There is cheaper hosting available but I’d rather pay a little extra to go with a well-known and respected name in the hosting business.
phpBB for my customer support
No matter how well thought out a FAQ you have for your products, customers are still going to ask you a million questions. Even if the questions are in your FAQ they will still ask them. Instead of having people email me with questions, I installed a forum on my site for them to post their questions. I check it every so often and provide answers. That way instead of having to answer the same questions over and over again by email, customers will (hopefully) just search the forum and find the answer. phpBB is simple to setup and maintain.
Basecamp for my tasks/planning
I actually use the free plan on Basecamp to manage my upcoming tasks. I know that sounds cheap but really I just use their To-Do list feature and have a bunch of to-do lists, one for each area of Warm Forest I’m working on. I wonder if I’m the only one who does this? Regardless, it seems to work really well.
Google Docs for my notes and spreadsheets
I’m a big fan of cloud computing – I like to work on different computers and in different locations. With Google Docs, my desktop, laptop, and iPhone can all access the same files from anywhere. I like to have docs for future ideas I want to implement like blog ideas, marketing ideas, ideas for new templates, etc.
Gmail for my email
Like everyone else, I love Gmail. I use their Google Apps on my domain and couldn’t be happier.
Google Analytics for my tracking
It’s crucial to know where your website visitors are coming from and how they interact with your site. Professional analytics used to be crazy expensive but with Google it’s all free. Get this setup on your new site right away.
WordPress for my blog
Getting the word out about your new site is by far the hardest thing so having a blog is a must. WordPress is pretty much the standard for blogging. There are also lots of great themes out there you can buy to get you up and running quickly.
So it’s really not that hard to do things yourself
In the end I’m pretty happy I decided to create my own site and not use FlashDen to sell my products. Admittedly, the difficult thing so far has been making people aware that my site is out there. That’s always the tough part but the site has been growing steadily. I encourage anyone considering making their own site selling digital goods to just go for it. It’s easy to start things on your own and there is no reason you have to take the established route these days. Ultimately it’s better for me if everyone created their own independent template selling site – that way people will know they can look elsewhere besides FlashDen. I think it’s good that consumers have choices. Hopefully using the above tips others will follow in my footsteps.