Let’s cut to the chase: I have been casually selling on Creative Market for about a year and made $9,471.45. Not anywhere near something you could live off, I know. But let me explain why you should sign up for a shop anyway.
The basics of creating a shop
First off, what I mean by “casually” selling is I add files to Creative Market only when I have a spare moment—the marketplace is a very relaxed side hobby for me, not a full-time job. Depending on how much time you’re willing to contribute, your results will vary from mine.
To become a seller on Creative Market, you need to be invited (or apply through their partner page). While this barrier may deter some, it helps keep the overall market quality high and that benefits everyone, shop owners included. Now here’s the best part: once you’re accepted into the marketplace, you’re free to upload files for sale immediately and there is no review process to wait for, ever.
Another advantage to selling on Creative Market is there are no exclusivity limitations. Want to sell your files elsewhere at the same time? Go for it, that’s not a problem. You also get a 70% commission on your sales, which is a very good rate compared to other marketplaces. To top it off, you set the prices on your own files (trust me, that’s a big deal).
The cold hard truth about selling
Before you get too excited thinking you have complete freedom to sell whatever you want, let me be clear: you will not make money unless you cater to the trends. For example, vintage logos, hand-drawn fonts, and all the other typical front-page Dribbble shots are likely to sell best right now. As time goes on, trends change and so should your Creative Market files.
Another bubble-bursting truth is you will not generate a decent amount of sales until 1) you get featured or 2) your files are included in a Creative Market bundle sale. Without exposure from either of these, your files quickly get buried and forgotten.
To shed some light on the significance of being featured, I made a little over $7k in one week by being included in one of Creative Market’s bundles. Had I not made that exciting boost of income, I probably would not be recommending you join the marketplace at all.
Now, the good news is it’s fairly easy to gain the attention of the Creative Market staff, assuming your designs are good. The single best thing you can do as a seller is be involved with the community discussions. To date, I have been featured on the homepage and included in one bundle sale, both of which only happened because I found discussion threads asking for volunteers.
Providing customer support for my shop was something I expected to take more time but, frankly, it hasn’t been an issue at all. I do occasionally get the “does this file work in Microsoft Word” email questions but not nearly as often as I did on other marketplaces (GraphicRiver, I’m looking at you). My hunch is that Creative Market tends to attract higher-level designers who are familiar with the tools of the trade and therefore need less support.
Selling your design soul to the devil
Without question, my greatest reservation with selling on any marketplace is it can sometimes be viewed as lowering your design standards. True design solves a problem; it involves recognizing a need and then crafting a solution to fix the issue. Without this process, all you’re doing is creating art.
As an example, say you have a client who does computer repair and they need a website. Your goal might be to create a design that specifically reflects that client’s unique brand and solves the problem of spreading their message. Conversely, if you fire up Photoshop and start designing a website without reason or constraints, it’s really just a pretty picture in the end—it didn’t solve a problem.
If you can get past the idea that selling on a marketplace is not always seen as “real work”, there are still valid reasons for doing so. For me, it’s been a great way to practice and get paid for it. Up until this year, I have been a Photoshop-man all my life and only used Illustrator when needed. That changed when I started making logos for Creative Market. It gave me an excuse to hone my vector skills with the benefit of making a few bucks at the same time.
Perhaps the best approach to selling files on a marketplace is to create resources rather than finished products. If a designer is the carpenter, be the lumber mill that provides tools and materials. A few examples are Photoshop brushes and actions, product mockups, and fonts, all of which are very useful assets.
Despite some important considerations, I wholeheartedly recommend selling on Creative Market, especially if you could use some extra passive income (everyone self-employed should be nodding “yes” right now). The site is a pleasure to use, the community has a tight-knit feel, and the staff has been fantastic to work with.
November, 2016 update:
I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on this article and will continue to update it with new information. As of late 2016, below are more lessons and tips I’ve learned.
Fonts are king
Without question, fonts are the best-selling items in the marketplace. It’s not uncommon for trends to come and go but fonts have been popular for a long time now. Creative Market is becoming known as “the font place”, just like ThemeForest is known for WordPress themes, iStock for photos, and so on.
Fonts do take extra time to create but I recommend considering them if you’re a shop owner. The main reason I like them is they seem to have a longer shelf life. For example, if you’re going to code a website and sell it, you can expect to maintain that code and answer support questions constantly. Other typical graphics, like logo designs, don’t require as much upkeep as code but you will eventually have to include newer software versions (Adobe CC, Sketch, etc.). In contrast, fonts are great because after you export your TTF/OTF file formats, you likely won’t have to do much maintenance.
Don’t expect high sales from photos
When the Photo category first launched, I was invited to be an early contributor and added a handful of images. I think had a couple sales but it never picked up and I finally removed all of my photos. Since then, I gave the category a second chance by creating a separate Creative Market shop and uploaded my best photos. This generated a total of 11 sales in the last year. To give you an idea of how poor that is, my main graphics related shop has 1100+ sales.
I also reached out to other shop owners in the discussion forums to see if anyone had luck with selling photos and the majority agreed that graphics sell much better on Creative Market.
Furthermore, I have been asking the Creative Market team for a Video category to be added to the marketplace but I’m not sure if or when that will happen. Currently, a lot of shop owners (myself included) sell their videos through the photos category but it would be ideal to have a dedicated video category in the marketplace.
Best time to launch a product
In my experience, the best day to release a new product is early in the week (Monday or Tuesday). The reason is because it seems to increase your chance of being included in the “New Products” Newsletter that goes out every Wednesday, which could give you added exposure. The worst days to release a new product are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday because most consumers have already checked out for the weekend and site traffic is low.
I also try to promote my new products around 10am EST to target the working crowd on the east coast of the United States and the early risers on the west coast. Please bear in mind, this has been my experience only — you might find different days or times that work better for you.
Since I last wrote about Creative Market, they’ve improved the shop owner dashboard with new charts and other data. You can read about the release here. It’s certainly an improvement and I give the whole Creative Market team a lot of credit for continually making the site better.
However, shop owners still do not have a way to see referral analytics. I can imagine it’s difficult to implement, or maybe there are legal issues preventing them from giving users that kind of data, but it sure would help shop owners understand which methods of promoting work best.
You’ll (likely) only be in one bundle sale
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, I was included in one of the official Creative Market bundle sales and generated over $7k in a week. It was an awesome surprise, to say the least, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it. I haven’t been in another bundle and when I asked other shop owners, they too said they had been in one bundle.
After following Creative Market closely for years now, I think it’s safe to conclude that bundles are intended to be a one-time boost that help newer shops get off the ground. While I obviously wish I could be included in more bundles, I do think this is a smart tactic on Creative Market’s part because it helps encourage new shop growth.
Again, I couldn’t confirm directly from Creative Market if this is all true but it does appear to be the case.
The Homepage needs to be reworked
Unfortunately, I do have to talk about some of the negative aspects of Creative Market or this wouldn’t be an honest review. One of the areas most criticized by shop owners is the “Popular” section on the Homepage.
The popular items very rarely change, which means you’ll see the same files week after week and it quickly gets stale. On the one hand, it’s good incentive for shops to create great content because they’ll get a lot of exposure if they reach the Homepage. Unfortunately, most shops get there by offering crazy discounts that devalue the entire marketplace.
When Creative Market first launched, I remember the file quality felt very high and that was a huge difference compared to most other marketplaces. You could purchase a design that was actually good and shops could earn a decent amount. As the community grew, so did the competition and shops started slashing prices via bundle deals to gain popularity. I’m talking about insane discounts, like 95% off.
Thankfully, the “Handpicked” section was added back to the Homepage, although there’s still room for improvement. If the Homepage did a better job of showing popular items and new/upcoming items, I think we’d have a fresher marketplace with higher quality items.
As expected with any large business, there will be occasional bumps in the road. The biggest debacle shops dealt with earlier this year was a new tax process. The main issue was the tax form reported on the gross income amount, not net income. Here’s what that means:
When I make a sale, Creative Market keeps 30%. For the sake of easy math, let’s say I make a $100 in sales, that means $70 is the total amount I see in my account and can withdraw to my bank account — I never actually have the full $100 in my hand, only the $70. What Creative Market did on the tax form was claim that I made the full 100% and then required me to file their 30% commission as a business deduction.
That’s such an odd and confusing way to handles taxes. No other marketplace that I know of does it this way. To add insult to injury, I never received my 1099 to begin with and had to request it multiple times. When it finally arrived at my doorstep, it was April 12!
All that being said, I’m hopeful this year’s tax season will go much smoother. Creative Market has always been very good at listening to feedback and improving where possible.
Is it still worth opening a shop?
Yes, absolutely. I’m not getting rich, by any means, but it helps me support my family by having some passive income. The sales have always been surprisingly consistent and I very rarely have support questions to answer. Overall, Creative Market is still the best digital marketplace that I’ve found.