#8: Orman Clark and the Business of Free

Can you give great stuff away and expect to make any money? Orman Clark does it on a daily basis through his site Premium Pixels. In this episode we dig deeper into how Orman has crafted a site full of self-created freebie graphic files and used it to drive sales of his premium WordPress themes and grow a loyal following.

Orman is an amazingly talented UK-based freelance web designer. By tuning into this episode you’ll gain insight into his creative process, where he finds inspiration, how he finds time to do what he does, and how he’s using “free” to power a successful freelance business.

Mentioned in this episode:

This episode’s soundtrack:

As mentioned in this episode, our guest is from “across the pond” so the tunes will be as well as we play a few tunes from the Travis album The Boy With No Name.

Opening clip: “Selfish Jean”
Closing track: “My Eyes”

 

 

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Transcript

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Everyone welcome to FreelanceJam, this is the show for independent professionals who build the web, it’s web developers, web designers, pixel pushers and bloggers and anything like that, but we’ve got a special episode, we’ve got Orman Clark this episode and he’s going to be talking to us about his business model, I guess, and some of the thinks he’s up to, but should be a good show. We’ll try to keep an eye on the chat as well, but...I’m joined as always by Brian Casel, and Brian is a newly married man, so sorry ladies, but he’s off the market! Brian, how was the wedding?

BRIAN CASEL: Oh, it was great, thanks Dave, and yikes, I had to be here for episode number 8, it should be a fun time, and yeah, I am married of 2 days now!

DAVE YANKOWIAK: You have a new glow about you.

BRIAN CASEL: Yes, well it could just be the window here and the fact that we’re doing this during the day time, we usually record live 8pm Eastern Time, but today, since our guest is over in the UK, we decided to start a little bit earlier today, which is kind of cool. Good change of pace.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, it’s good to maybe come on at like 2 in the morning or whatever that would have been. And also you just got married, and the honeymoon – you’re waiting like a week to go on the honeymoon, right?

BRIAN CASEL: Yep, next week we’re going away, and this week is just tying up as many loose ends as I can possibly tie up before we go away. But I mean the plan is to totally get off email for a week. I’m going dark next week for sure.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Nice.

BRIAN CASEL: I don’t even want to think about any kind of work next week.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: It’s always hard for a freelancer to take that time off and you know, totally go dark but you have to do it, otherwise you just, I don’t know, you would spend a lot of your time working when you don’t want to be working.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, totally. What’s going on over there in Minnesota, Dave?

DAVE YANKOWIAK: I’m just helping Brian Casel tie up some loose ends.

BRIAN CASEL: That’s true – you and I have been working together on a few projects lately. I have actually got even more coming down the line, so it’s – it’s been fun, yeah.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Oh, it’s fun to work together, so...and that is kind of nice if you are going to be a freelancer and take time off, it is kind of nice to have people that you can bounce stuff over to, you know, on a temporary basis. It should be fun so...I’ll be back here, you know, holding down the fort while you’re watching whales and stuff.

BRIAN CASEL: Indeed!

DAVE YANKOWIAK: So shall we get right into it with Mr Orman?

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, let’s do it!

DAVE YANKOWIAK: So our guest today is Orman Clark and Orman’s the founder of Premiumpixels.com which is a site where he, pretty much on a daily basis, is sharing graphics and icons and source files and things like that that are useful to web designers and web developers. Orman is also a highly successful theme forest, theme author, and Orman, welcome to the show.

ORMAN CLARK: Thanks, man, it’s a pleasure.

BRIAN CASEL: A lot of us in the chat, or myself and Dave were big fans of all your work, on your WordPress theme work, the Premium Pixel stuff, I mean, all of it is really, really cool. And I guess one of the big things we’ll be talking about today is the concept of free as a business model. You know, it really is kind of like an innovative way to build the design business these days, I mean obviously free has been used in many different ways on the web but when it comes to promoting WordPress themes and just web design work in general, you know, offering these free design elements and building up a high traffic website, I’m sure that kind of factors into it. So maybe you can just kind of talk a little bit about how you built your business from the beginning until now?

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah sure, so I started up Premium Pixels, or before then, or how?

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Let’s maybe find out how did you get started on web design in the first place?

ORMAN CLARK: Actually, I started in design around about ’99 but it wasn’t web design then, it was print design, and I was in the armed forces in the British army and I was a design and lithographic production technician, which basically means I was half my time in pre-press and the other half working the presses to print out (unclear 0:04:51.8) stuff like that for the armed forces. So this is where I got my hands-on illustrator and (inaudible 0:05:01.2) and that’s where I first got my first kind of taste, really, with design.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool.

ORMAN CLARK: Actually, one of my tasks when I was in the armed forces was to create an interactive CD, and it was kind of then that I got involved with HTML and kind of thought, you know, this is much better than the static nature of the maps and the stuff that I’d been doing before and the print work, I really want to get into this. And that’s how I kind of progressed from there. And from there just self-taught, really.

BRIAN CASEL: So what came first? Was it your work with WordPress or did you launch Premium Pixels before that?

ORMAN CLARK: WordPress came first. A couple of years after coming out of the forces I started to freelance myself and because I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel every time I picked a CMS and that CMS happened to be WordPress. Effectively I reused the same blank template I guess over and over again, kind of styled it to my needs, or the client’s needs. And that’s kind of the idea where I got – kind of where I got the idea about theming. I thought that this would be a good idea, rather than sell to clients individual designs I can get into theme design and perhaps on a larger scale. But definitely WordPress came first and then Premium Pixels came a little bit afterwards.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: And do you do any client work right now?

ORMAN CLARK: Right now, I’ve got zero clients.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: I did have a couple of clients and I decided to take one client on at a time. After a couple of years of client work I wasn’t really a huge fan of clients, it’s kind of the up and down, you know, stages of client work where it’s a busy period and then there’s a long period without you doing anything, and it wasn’t really a good fit for me personally, so I took on with the theme work to be (unclear 0:07:11.6).

DAVE YANKOWIAK: And now do you –

ORMAN CLARK: As of right now, zero clients.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: And your business is just you, right? You don’t have any partners or anything like that? It’s – you’re kind of a one man shop?

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, at the moment I’m a one man band, but I have had some other guys too, so if I – for what I’ve designed in particular feature or building or built in a particular piece of development work, then I might subcontract that out to someone else, and they (unclear 0:07:41.9).

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Okay.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool. And did you join Themeforest early on, or were you selling themes elsewhere or offering them as free downloads?

ORMAN CLARK: No, I started with Themeforest really as a test, just to test the water while I was still working at an agency, actually. So just kind of in the spare time, had a bit of down time, thought we’d put together a theme and see – and really just see what happens, and put out a couple of themes like that, and then once we engaged the response kind of thought well actually, this might have some leg. So now it’s got to a point where it really was a toss-up between the client work and the theme work, and I just personally wanted to pursue the theme work, so that’s where I went.

BRIAN CASEL: Okay, very cool.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Right now are you broadcasting from your home? Is that where you work usually, or do you have an office?

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah. So right now in this pretty empty room is my home office. I’ve just moved home, it’s a bit of a box but it does the job, I suppose, yeah.

BRIAN CASEL: Okay, very cool. And where are you? Is it London, or…?

ORMAN CLARK: Just outside of London in a little place called Redding, which is about 50 miles or so from London.

BRIAN CASEL: Okay, cool. And so tell us a little bit about the concept of Premium Pixels, how you came up with it, how it originated and that sort of thing.

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, sure. What happened is while I was at the agency – it was an agency but really it was a partnership with two of my friends, and we created the first couple of themes together. They did pretty well, and then we kind of had a fork at the road where we could go with clients or we could go with themes. And I personally wanted to go with themes and the other guys wanted to go with clients. And so at that time I effectively left the partnership and decided to go on my own. But what I thought I needed at the same time was a bit of an audience, maybe, to get more eyeballs onto my work, and me personally and what-not. So I thought I’d start a blog, and after about two posts I realized that writing is really not my thing!

BRIAN CASEL: It takes a lot of time.

ORMAN CLARK: Well, everyone else has got a blog, but I’m rubbish at writing, so I thought I need to have something else. So I then thought about tutorials and then stuff like that, and freebies, the free design numbers really caught my eye. There was one website at the time that I knew of which was 365psd.com which is still there now, and I thought that looks quite cool, because I can’t write but I can design and I can do these things like on a daily basis or something, and maybe it’ll get in some attraction, maybe it won’t. But I thought I’d give it a shot, and so I went down that road.

BRIAN CASEL: Looks like the video kind of froze up. Would you mind just turn your video off and back on again?

ORMAN CLARK: Sure.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, we had – was it Shaun Farrel last time?

BRIAN CASEL: His face was in a great pose for a long time!

ORMAN CLARK: Is mine in a great pose?

DAVE YANKOWIAK: You look perfectly fine in yours!

BRIAN CASEL: I mean, it’s still frozen but we can still kind of hear you just fine, hopefully it will pop back.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: For some reason it never clicked off on this end, I didn’t see the video go off, so maybe try it one more time.

ORMAN CLARK: Okay, two secs.

BRIAN CASEL: No, it’s still frozen.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Well, we’ll just keep talking.

ORMAN CLARK: Okay, I’ll keep fiddling and see if I can get it back.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Okay, there we go. Now it went off, let’s see if it goes now.

BRIAN CASEL: Let’s see if it comes back. Loading… but anyway – so we were talking about the launch of Premium Pixels and how – there he is! Now we’re back. So you were experimenting with writing blog posts, writing tutorials, you ultimately landed on creating these free design elements, and I mean, I’m sure for the design community, and I know obviously still today, now more than ever, it’s a huge resource. So I guess was the idea from the very beginning to release these design elements every single day, or at least every weekday?

ORMAN CLARK: I certainly started that way. Before I launched the blog I’d worked on about 15 resources that would be backdated so I had a bit of a backlog. And the I decided that I’d do one every weekday, so 5 per week. And I started off that way and it’s gradually dropped down to round about an average of 3 a week, but yes, it certainly started off every day. I think I underestimated how long it actually takes to make a resource, sometimes it takes you half a day or three quarters of a day to make one of them. So I figured I should actually fit in some actual work, it’s a working day rather than just the freebies!

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, totally. I mean you could just tell just from the quality of every single one that you put up there, these are not just quick little scraps and things. I mean, these are really well thought out, well crafted pieces.

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, some of them taxed my brain a little bit so I’m (unclear 0:14:18:9) but you know, some days I might be lucky and do one in about an hour or so. Some of them have taken quite a while over a period of days to get them out.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Cool. How do you decide what graphics to put up there? Does every idea that you have become a freebie, or do you ever have any premium type graphics that you sell?

ORMAN CLARK: Everything’s a freebie. For the ideas, I’ve got a running list of ideas that I had before I launched the site and during its operation, and some recommendations from people that I asked, you know, what do you want to see or what would you like to have designed or what would you like to download today, type thing. And I’d add them to the list and I gradually worked through them. Whichever one really catches my eye that particular day when I open the list. There isn’t a schedule or anything like that.

BRIAN CASEL: Cool. Yes, I mean it’s very much like keeping a blog or regular writing schedule. Like I know I keep a list of blog post topics that just kind of come to mind and most of them I won’t even really get around to writing until months later, but it’s always good to keep like a running list of ideas somewhere.

ORMAN CLARK: There’s some ideas on my list that have been on there since before I started, that was eight months ago.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Do you see like a noticeable increase in sales of your themes due to Premium Pixels? I mean, ‘cause I’ve downloaded some of your graphics before and files and you get the little thing, alright, we’ve given you something for free now check out our themes, and you have links to each of the themes. I mean, do you see a lot of clicks on those?

ORMAN CLARK: A lot of clicks, yeah. Unfortunately the way that Themeforest works is it doesn’t really give you good enough analytics to say this click generated a sale, but obviously I track my own outbound clicks and it does give you some idea, but I would say absolutely, yes. I mean, Premium Pixels gets quite a lot of traffic these days, about 150,000 visitors a month alone. So the amount of clicks that are going out are pretty high and I would imagine that a lot of them lead to sales, yeah. Or at least I hope so.

BRIAN CASEL: I mean do you notice a correlation between like the day that you’re releasing your freebie, theme sales spike, or maybe a particular type of freebie, like the most popular one that you put out?

ORMAN CLARK: I mean, yeah, a little bit. It’s hard to say exactly, with total confidence that that is in fact true, but yeah, there’s a little bit of variation when you launch a freebie or say if I release a freebie that does well on Dribble or something and makes the front page of Dribble, then it gets a lot of downloads. There’s a lot of traffic that day, so yeah.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, it’s just amazing like how people will go nuts for free stuff and not only free stuff but I mean the quality of graphics and work that you’re putting out there, that’s available for free, I could just see how it creates traffic and creates a reputation. I mean, I see all these freebie things you’re doing then I look at your themes and I’m even more blown away by your themes, because the attention to detail is just so great and I feel like, you know, the Premium Pixels kind of sets your reputation and people get a taste for what you do, but they know what to expect with your themes, so I can see how it works but I can see how it’s a lot of work for you, too.

ORMAN CLARK: It’s certainly a lot of work, but I think it’s worth it. I don’t just do it for the sales, I mean there was another side to why I started Premium Pixels in the first place was one, I wanted to do something but I was rubbish at blogging, and in the couple of years that I’ve spent freelancing I hadn’t really got my teeth into a load of meaty projects. So all the things that I was seeing on Dribble I was thinking, you know, that looks great, I’d love to be able to design that, but no-one’s ever asked me to! So how do I get that gig? Well, actually I’ll just design for myself and so really Premium Pixels started off as really just kind of just to find a way to waste a bit of time designing elements that I’d like to.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool. Speaking of time, I think certainly myself, I think many freelancers kind of battle with this time management issue of getting inundated with work and maybe getting caught up in client phone calls, or if you’re supporting products, doing customer support, and then obviously having a life outside of work, you know, taking vacations and you know, having a family and going out with friends and things like that. So how do you actually manage your time, your daily routine, fitting in the time to create these freebies? Or maybe a weekly, monthly schedule, anything like that?

ORMAN CLARK: No, I have a bit of a loose weekly schedule where say Monday, Wednesday, Friday I’ll release a freebie, and Tuesday and Thursday will be a flat out day of work for my own projects, so that will be the themes. But my day at work always starts with the theme support and the email (unclear 0:20:09:01) and then it will be the freebie. And that will probably take me up until lunchtime or just after lunch, early afternoon. And then any time after that will be spent working with themes again. So the Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days where I get most of the work done, I’d say.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool. And so talking about your theme design work, obviously there are premium themes with premium support. So how much customer support goes into your work as a theme author? How many hours per week, would you say?

ORMAN CLARK: Right now it’s quite busy. How many hours per week? That’s a good question. It’s a few hours a day I’d say. It can easily be up to three or four. I also get other help with the support as well, I have a support forum for my themes and I get outside help for the support too, so it’s not just myself there.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Now is that support forum, is that through Themeforest, or is that your own?

ORMAN CLARK: No, that’s my own.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Okay. Do you support through Themeforest at all? I mean, is that –

ORMAN CLARK: No, no. I only answer the pre-sales questions actually on Themeforest, and the rest is all done within the support forum. It’s a much better way of doing it because the comments on Themeforest, users can’t search through the previous comments, you can’t have another person to help you out, there’s no moderators, for example. So it’s a lot easier for myself to have a support forum for the support.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: You know, I love Themeforest but that’s always been my problem when I buy themes, ‘cause a lot of what I do is all Tweet themes for clients. So they’ll find something in Themeforest and then we’ll spend a few hours just tweaking it. Trying to get support through Themeforest is painful, you know.

ORMAN CLARK: Giving support through Themeforest can be painful, too!

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, I can see how that - it would be hard to keep track of what’s out there and the discussion and all that. So that’s smart, to have your own forum. And Themeforest is ok with that if you’re taking things off their site and running your own support?

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, I mean you don’t even have to offer support to be an author on Themeforest, I think they’re fairly flexible with how you offer it.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Okay.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool. And what are your thoughts on Themeforest in general in terms of the larger WordPress community? I know there’s a lot of conversation going on these days, the most recent one being on – I think it was on WP Candy talking about pricing and before that there were lots of ongoing debates about Themeforest. What are your thoughts? Are you a big fan of everything that’s going on over there?

ORMAN CLARK: I am ultimately a fan of Themeforest, otherwise I wouldn’t be selling there. I think that it gives – I mean, there’s good points about it and there’s obviously bad points about it. There’s good and bad about everything. But the main good part obviously is that it gives you the opportunity just to test the water. I mean, when I first started out I hadn’t launched anything. No-one had ever heard of me, no-one had ever seen my work apart from my clients. So there you go, there’s an audience straight away to sell to. Is your work up to scratch? You know, test the water, see if it is. And the top authors out there are earning a decent living out of it.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, totally.

ORMAN CLARK: If everyone that kind of bashes it I kind of think, well, I think if you were more involved in it maybe it could (unclear 0:24:10 to 0:24:13) selling there or doing well there, I don’t think they’d all necessarily have that (unclear 0:24:17:5). I think a lot of the authors on Themeforest could actually make a better living for themselves there than if they did setting up on their own.

BRIAN CASEL: Right.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Just because that audience is already there, the traffic’s already there?

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, yeah. I mean I’m not sure what the traffic stats are like on Themeforest, but it must be pretty huge. And so there’s already people there to sell to, you’ve got a product, you can sell, you know, give it a go.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, it’s an interesting – it’s still an ongoing interesting business model for selling products. I mean, it’s growing and growing both in traffic, I mean Invado is kind of like the king of traffic in the design community these days, but then there are just more and more authors. So I guess for – I’ve been having my own theme shop independently and I’ve always kind of debated moving over to Themeforest or Mojothemes or somewhere, and I debated that when I was starting out. It’s interesting, because I guess a lot of new theme designers are thinking, well, on the one hand you have all this traffic and on the other hand you have a lot of competition right there alongside you. But I guess the customers are also growing, so it’s – there’s just a lot of factors to weigh.

ORMAN CLARK: I guess just testing both would give you the answer, right? If you were wanting to start out selling things or something. Put one on Themeforest and maybe start your own thing as well at the same time.

BRIAN CASEL: True, yeah.

ORMAN CLARK: See how it pans out.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Now it seems like one of the big knocks on like a Themeforest type site where it’s more of a community of theme developers versus just, you know, like what Brian’s doing with Themejam, everything is his product, it has his fingerprints on it. With Themeforest, whenever I go through there and I’m looking at the themes, there’s just some amazing design that you see on a regular basis. Just some awesome designs and layouts. But I think the big knock has been you don’t know what you’re getting with the back end a lot of times. You don’t know how it’s coded and so there are those inconsistencies in the code. I guess indirectly – do you do most of your like HTML and CSS coding on your own or do you partner up for that type of thing?

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, I do most of it myself but like I said before I also have other people that help me out too. So if we’re adding a short code generator for example, then I’d get someone else to code that up and then integrate that back into the site. So I don’t do it all myself, but, you know, I do a lot of it myself.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: And are all your themes pretty consistent as far as, like the theme options and things like that? If somebody buys one of your themes and then buys a different one is it pretty consistent on the back end, or is each one pretty unique?

ORMAN CLARK: They’re all pretty consistent, at least all the newer ones this year at least. Put together on my own (unclear 0:27:37 to 0:27:40) I’d say is more of a blank theme, so to speak, which has the back end options in and the post hypes and everything that you could want from most themes and the different functions, and then I skin that or take away or add to that what is ever needed for the particular theme. So everything should be pretty consistent over the last, say, four or five releases.

BRIAN CASEL: It seems like that’s kind of the direction that a lot of these – a lot of theme designers are taking, whether they have their own kind of framework, for lack of a better word, or even if it’s not acting as an actual WordPress framework, but you know, something to build on top of, something to use as a base. It’s always a good thing.

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah.

BRIAN CASEL: So let’s talk a little bit about your client work. What I find interesting is that you do still take on one client at a time. On Premium Pixels obviously it’s a high traffic site but you don’t have an additional site other than maybe the about page, kind of marketing your client work or marketing the fact that you are available for periodic client work. Is that something that just based on the quantity of requests that you get, you can kind of just pick and choose projects, or how does that work?

ORMAN CLARK: It’s actually because I’m not really looking to take on client work. At the moment I guess I’m fortunate enough to be able to pick and choose the client work that I might want to take on, and so I’m not really advertising at all, or going round looking for that kind of work. So I have the contact page on Premium Pixels and it says on there I’m not available for work unless you’ve got a really super awesome project! If you have, get in touch, if you think you really haven’t got a super awesome project then I’m, you know, probably not going to take it on. So I mean the reason for that is not because I hate clients or what have you, it’s more because I want to spend the amount of time that I have got to work on actual work, doing things rather than with a client. I enjoy it more and so I guess I should be doing the things I enjoy rather than the things I don’t.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Well you could probably end up spending a lot of your time just turning stuff down. Like, Brian and I have talked about this, trying to qualify the different leads you get. I like that idea. If you have a super awesome project here, you know, go ahead and (inaudible 0:30:24).

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, there’s always that progression that freelancers have, especially in the web design world, where you start out freelancing and you kind of need to take all the projects that you can get just to kind of build up a portfolio and build up a steady stream of income, and then as time goes on, you know, you raise your rates or you start to specialize in certain types of projects. It gets tougher to pick out and reject the ones, you know, to kind of craft your stream of work to make sure it’s all fitting in to what you need.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: There’s great questions in the chat right now, by the way.

BRIAN CASEL: Somebody asked Orman, are you going to be doing any tutorials at any point?

ORMAN CLARK: People ask that a lot and I do have tutorials planned, it’s just a case of finding the time. I thought that just creating the freebies took quite a while, you know, up to half a day, but I started messing around with some video tutorials, and wow! That took me ages! So yes, I plan on doing tutorials, but it’s just going to take a little bit of time I think to put them together.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Work it into the schedule!

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah! Maybe I’ll work at it Sunday or something like that.

BRIAN CASEL: Now do you do most of your graphics for Premium Pixels, is that mostly in Illustrator?

ORMAN CLARK: No, it’s all Photoshop.

BRIAN CASEL: All Photoshop? Do you use Illustrator at all?

ORMAN CLARK: Sometimes, but I’m pretty terrible at Illustrator, I’m much more comfortable in Photoshop. I should actually try and use Illustrator more often, but I just need to find the time.

BRIAN CASEL: One interesting question here in the chat. Do you ever post things that are in progress, or things that you’re working on that aren’t quite finished yet? Or do you only – thinking about Dribble and other places on Twitter where I would – or do you only post finished products?

ORMAN CLARK: Actually this came up the other day, it might be the same person asking the same question. Yes, I mean, I’m not posting finished articles for a particular reason, just because they’re finished, it’s just that happens to be – whether it’s a freebie – I don’t need that much feedback on it because it’s a freebie, and this is what I’ve come up with, and that’s kind of it. And because I don’t really take on clients or the clients I have done I’m not really at liberty to share what I’ve done for them, I guess I’ve really got nothing else to show. It’s not a case that I don’t want feedback or I don’t want to show things that are in progress, it’s just (inaudible 0:33:16) but yeah, if I do start working on other projects and what have you, then yeah, absolutely I will always put things that need some feedback up, no problem with that at all.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Did Dribble come before Premium Pixels or was Premium Pixels up before Dribble?

ORMAN CLARK: No, Dribble came before Premium Pixels.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Oh, okay. I was going to see if that had any impact, but I mean, what do you think about sites like Dribble, as far as the designer community and getting feedback?

ORMAN CLARK: I think it’s what you make it. I think all of them are what you make it, really. I think Dribble is – it can be good, I mean, I don’t think that you get a huge amount of feedback from Dribble, but just maybe the odd word here or something to make you think about that you hadn’t, you know, noticed before, just like we might be missing this or just something like that. Just tidbits of feedback from Dribble, I think. There are other sites – forest – I haven’t posted there for quite a while but from what I gather, I think you get a better feedback for your projects from forest than you would Dribble.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah I would agree with that. I’ve been on both and lately I’ve been actually posting a lot more to Forest than Dribble, only because I do find that feedback is a little bit more helpful on Forest. I also like just posting questions and you know, like I’ve posted questions about business and things before and giving answers about that. I like that about Forest, how it’s kind of everything not just design screenshots. But Dribble is interesting too, you know, I’m finding that Dribble is actually becoming kind of a mini portfolio, or sometimes the only portfolio for a lot of designers. I’ve seen a lot of great designers just saying well, I’m too busy to have an actual website but here’s the link to my Dribble to kind of show you what I’ve been working on. So it’s been interesting, and I’ve been looking for designers that way too, you know.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Why is that, I mean, why is Forest so much more interactive than Dribble? It’s just crazy ‘cause I notice the same thing, like if I ask questions or like I was working on my logo one time and I put a couple of shots up there, and I got a ton of feedback on Forest, and people were very helpful, gave some friendly suggestions. Why do you think Forest is so much more interactive than Dribble?

ORMAN CLARK: I couldn’t honestly say, I think each community has the capacity to go whichever way and I think that’s just the way that Forest has gone, and I’m sure that Kyle and the rest of them have steered it purposefully in that way, and I think they’ve probably done a great job doing it. But other than that I couldn’t really say.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, I think they have been taking …

ORMAN CLARK: I think either could have gone the same way, at least I think.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, I think the guys at Forest have been taking lots of steps to kind of tweak their rules and their system to kind of point things in that direction. I think it could also just be a numbers issue, I have a feeling that Dribble has been around longer and has probably just more users on the site, which kind of creates that more of like a crowd effect. Whereas I feel like Forest, even though it’s kind of big now it’s still growing, so there’s still kind of this sense of smaller community. A lot of good questions coming in here on the chat. One of them for Orman was what do you see moving forward on your presence on Themeforest? Do you plan to release all of your future themes on Themeforest? Ever think about going off on your own, or changing any of that?

ORMAN CLARK: I’ve pondered on that decision many a night, but for now I think Themeforest is really quite a good fit for me, personally. I may not stay there forever but for the foreseeable future I think I will be on Themeforest for now. I think it jus – which is another good point – as far as that it gives me the flexibility to release a theme and the next month not have to if I’m (unclear 0:37:47) on a client or if I want to go on a break or something. I see it as a way to release themes without all the commitment, so to speak, of having your own site. I mean, I’ve thought about doing my own theme shop a number of times and I kind of think well, as soon as I go down that road, like I want to go out (unclear 0:38:14) release theme after theme after theme, but, you know, making sure they’re good, but have that consistency of releasing them, and until I’m ready to commit to that fully, then I think I’d be doing it an injustice really, just I, myself.

BRIAN CASEL: Right. And any tips for new designers coming out of Themeforest or tips specific to Themeforest – the way to get your name out there in the beginning?

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, make something new! There’s a lot of people on Themeforest that pick up on trends and just follow them or re-skin something that’s been popular before, or something like that. And it does make a quick buck for them, but I don’t think it really does anything for their reputation or their future, really, on Themeforest. I think the way to get anywhere on Themeforest is to start the trend yourself. Make something new, basically like you would for any other design job. Start to wow people in different ways, or start playing with different things that others haven’t done yet. Make the trends and don’t really follow them too much.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, absolutely.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Now, how about the pricing on Themeforest, ‘cause I know you’re one of the Invado elite authors now, and part of that is being able to scale your prices, correct?

ORMAN CLARK: That’s right, yeah.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: So do you think you’ll do that, or do you think you’ll kind of stick with the $35 right now?

ORMAN CLARK: It’s $35 right now and I think you can scale within a certain percentage of that base price. So I think you can go up to about $46, if I’m right there.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Okay.

ORMAN CLARK: But the way in which it works is that it doesn’t really lend itself to testing out these things, so you have to apply to have your prices changed a week in advance and then it changes on the first of the month and then if you want it to change back you have to wait the entire month and then apply again to get that price changed again. So it’s five week’s wait really, at the moment. I think they’re addressing that, but I think five weeks or four weeks is quite a long time to test out different price points, I mean, I currently test that every week or two and that’s (unclear 0:40:48).

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, I guess that kind of makes sense because if you’re kind of changing it on a regular basis people might not want to pull the trigger and that, but as far as the authors it’s probably like who’s going to be the first to do this and raise the rates? ‘Cause you’re sitting there with everybody at the same priced themes.

ORMAN CLARK: I don’t think anyone has changed. I mean, there was such a fuss, I think you mentioned that earlier, the WP Candy post about the prices and then they got the pricing functionality and no-one’s used it. I think from the other authors that I’ve spoken to, it’s more the process that is the hindrance at this point, not that they don’t want it, it’s just that this five weeks of change is just a little bit too long.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, it’s kind of hard to like AB test, you know, one week at one price and then the second week at something else, so.

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, that’s right.

BRIAN CASEL: So I think a lot of us have the same question here. Where do you get inspiration these days for a new WordPress theme? I guess both from a stylistics standpoint and also functional, so how do you decide to do a portfolio theme versus a business theme versus something else?

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, I mean, I’ve got a list of ideas that I’ve come up with over I’d say the last year. And on that list is different types of things, so I’ve got a few sketches on paper where I say, you know, this is a magazine theme that I’ve thought about, you know, four months ago after seeing a couple of sites that I liked, and so on. Just today, I put out a poll and asked, you know, what theme would you like me to release next? And so I get a bit of feedback from the customers I guess there, what they want to see. In terms of the actual style, I think it’s more an amalgamation of everything that you’ve ever come across. Like I say, if we take an example for a magazine theme then, I’ve still got ideas from sites that I probably saw about four months ago or six months ago. I’ve just got them jotted down and I want to get to one day, and I’m sure I will, and I just leave it there.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Now I was going to ask too, and I’ve seen this – I feel like your themes are new, they look fresh, like, they don’t look copied, but I’ve seen this and I actually saw you Tweet about this I think last week and I’m sure this happens all the time, but people stealing your ideas. And especially like, I think somebody took something like your light box style, your pop up email sign up form off Premium Pixels and they had a blatant copy of that thing. How do you feel about that when you hear you’re giving all this stuff away for free and yet people are, you know, stealing stuff that’s distinctly you. How do you feel about that, how do you handle that type of thing? 

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, when I first started out with Premium Pixels and Themeforest and I would see people that were copying it, and particularly like in that example where they just take it in all the exact one for one code. I’d get pretty annoyed about it and I’d then thing, you know, look, I’ve got to try and stop it, and I contact them, I Tweet them and do all sorts to try and get them to stop. But I think now I just – I think it’s a bit insignificant really. When you really think about it. I think – I mean, I Tweeted that the other day which was, you know, just my take on it now which is like if you copy someone, or you copy an idea, and you’re really only strengthening the position of the originator of that idea. I mean, it’s the same for copying the ideas on Themeforest and stuff like that. I mean, you might make a quick buck but, you know, people are going to know where maybe the original idea co- or where you got your inspiration from, and it doesn’t really do you any favors. But certainly the one for one code copies – they’re pretty frustrating, but I don’t think they’re really much to worry about, to be honest.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: It would probably be nice to at least get some sort of link back or something.

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, yeah.

BRIAN CASEL: It seems like they’re always in it for the quick buck, but I mean that model of just taking a blatant copy and putting it out there, I mean, that’s not the recipe for long term success, as you’ve seen with Premium Pixels. I mean, that’s something that’s really building a brand, building a foundation for something long term. I think that’s really where it’s at.

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Of course I’ve stolen Brian’s code quite a few times!

BRIAN CASEL: And I’ve stolen yours as well, Dave! So – gotcha!

DAVE YANKOWIAK: It works….!

BRIAN CASEL: A lot of people are asking here, what is your theme design process? How does it start out, what steps do you take, what comes first? Do you start with sketching, do you start with wire framing or do you go right into code?

ORMAN CLARK: I start with sketching. It’s always pen and paper, really rough kind of layout, it’s not really going into the detail too much, and just get the overall layout, really. And I kind of get an idea in my mind where I want certain features, so whether this would be wigitized or what have you, or this could be a menu here, a menu there, etc. So I’ve got in my mind at least an idea of how it will be developed later on. And then once I’ve got the rough sketches down, maybe just for a couple of pages too, so maybe just the home page or maybe the home page and the blog if really necessary, but normally just a home page, then I jump straight into Photoshop and try and make it look a bit pretty, and then code it up onto the blank theme that I’ve put together over the years, yeah.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool. And somebody was asking do you plan to release your blank theme or some kind of Orman Clark framework in the future?

ORMAN CLARK: It’s an idea I’ve got. I wouldn’t release what I have now because it’s pretty rough, it’s just really for me at the moment. But yeah, I think with a bit of tweaking and a bit of extending it could be quite a nice sort of blank canvas type theme or something like that. I think, yeah, that’s a good idea.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Have you ever had any other theme authors or theme creators approach you with the possibility of like partnering up as far as creating a new – like, instead of using a Themeforest creating a new business or a new site, just kind of joining forces? Do you ever have anybody contact you about that?

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, yeah. I’ve had a couple of theme sites ask me to design for them, but I think a few other designers asked me to join forces, create a partnership and make our own theme shop and what not, yeah. I’ve had a few offers like that. I’m not against them 100% but for now I’m just taking it one step at a time and see where I can get to on my own, really. I’ll see what happens in the future regards that way.

BRIAN CASEL: So do you have any immediate plans for things coming up, things you’re working on this year and then further down the road, where do you see your design business going?

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, I think for the foreseeable future I think themes on Themeforest and I mean, I’ve always toyed with the idea of building a map, and something for the designers and developers out there, much like yourself. Yeah, I’ve toyed with it, I’ve started looking at a few ideas and a few sketches and a few mock-ups and stuff like that, but I haven’t really pulled the trigger on that just yet, you know, so I think for now it’s themes, ‘cause that’s where I’m having the most fun at the moment, and also get a bit more knowledge and a bit more savvy – savviness about the business side, maybe an application next year or something like that.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Speaking of the business side, obviously you’re on your own, you’re freelancing, you’re kind of generating your own income. Now, do you have a family, are you supporting a family on your income or is it just you?

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, I have a family, 8 month old son and my fiancée here, it’s not just me. So I do depend on that income.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool. So I think that kind of wraps up everything that we’ve had in our list here.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: There’s a great chat – I don’t know if Orman is watching the chat, but there’s a great chat going this episode.

ORMAN CLARK: I was trying to (inaudible 0:50:25) chat, but...

DAVE YANKOWIAK: I feel like we’re interviewing a rock star! People are pretty active in this one. Somebody asked what do you eat for breakfast? So those are the kinds of questions you ask rock stars, you don’t ask web designers that, so...

BRIAN CASEL: Well, you know, hopefully we can kind of continue this conversation in the comments or the blog posts, it’ll be up in the next day or two.

ORMAN CLARK: Yeah, I tried to keep up with the chat but it’s moving a bit too quick. I think (unclear 0:51:04.8) I get I’ll answer them either on the blog, or whatever, yeah.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Great. So, our guest today was Orman Clark, and Orman is from Premiumpixels.com, so (unclear 0:51:15) your Premiumpixels.com and if you download his stuff be sure to check out his themes on Themeforest as well, and follow him on Dribble and on Twitter. Twitter it’s just ormonclark. But Orman, thanks for joining us, you’re our first international guest on FreelanceJam and it’s been great chatting with you.

ORMAN CLARK: Thank you.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, great to have you on, Orman.

ORMAN CLARK: Cheers, thank you.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: And in honor of our guest being from across the pond, I chose today’s music from across the pond. So it’s the band Travis. Travis is one of my favorite bands and it’s from an album a few years ago, The Boy With No Name. The opening quip is going to be Selfish Jean, and closing track is My Eyes. So, it’s Travis: The Boy With No Name. And thanks to Orman Clark, and Brian congrats again on the marriage.

BRIAN CASEL: Thank you, sir!

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Alright, we’ll see everybody in two weeks.

BRIAN CASEL: Alright, see you guys!

(Music)

20 Comments

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  1. Very nice one! :) Well done Orman, Dave and Brian too! :)

  2. It’s amazing to see Orman doing so well.
    First time I heard of him was in 2009 on a UK web design forum, and he was asking for feedback on his Portfolio:
    http://me.lt/6j0rk

    It’s crazy how much he’s achieved in 2 years. Well done mate and keep it up.

    • That’s a cool bit of Orman history. I wish the mockup link in his post still worked. That would be interesting to see.

      Thanks for tuning in!

  3. Yesterday’s @FreelanceJam # 8: @ormanclark and the Business of "Free" – WATCH: http://t.co/Gzfwo4P

  4. Great interview! I love all the Orman does. Keep you the good work!

  5. Great interview guys. I’ve really been digging the show and awesome guests. Your last two, Sean and Orman, have been my favorites so far – two designers that are really leading the pack right now.

  6. I bet that was OrmanClark.com, the predecessor to what is there today. It got a lot of play on portfolio showcases, and I’m sure you can google it. It was quite nice, almost as nice as the current one : )

    • Brian

      Thanks for watching! Very cool, didn’t know about Orman’s (outdated?) portfolio site… amazing work indeed.

  7. Excellent interview Sir, very inspirational.

  8. In case you missed it, great episode this week with Orman Clark – video posted -> http://t.co/Gzfwo4P

  9. Sal

    Hi, another awesome episode. I even write a little post about it on my blog http://perezfigueroa.com Hope you like it! :)

    One question, I watched on your website with my iPad without problems, but when I try to watched with my iPad on my blog, it doesn’t show.

    This is because the embedded code that generate the video (with the share button) is using flash… So is it possible to change the code I’m using to see the video with the iPad on my Blog.

    Thanks!

  10. Premium Pixels has grown massively. Orman’s work is fantastic and I can say that because I’ve recently purchased one of his WordPress Themes to power my own blog – and I’m a designer so I knew what I was getting.

    Offering free stuff is great, plus it’s about giving things back as well. I think alot of the buyers are designers too so it’s good to get to know the quality you’re getting.

    Thanks Orman!!

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