Making money on the Tuts+ Marketplace, being too advanced to learn Photoshop at university, “the Cintiq is just the King of Tablets”, and clicking “Refresh” on his Earnings page like a madman. This week we meet Philip Zeplin-Frederiksen (Zeplix) from the Tuts+ Marketplace and GraphicRiver.
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Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what do you do for a living?
My name is Philip Zeplin, and I’m a 26 year old Visual Communications student from Denmark, studying at the Royal Danish Art Academy.
I do freelance jobs every now and then when the opportunity arrives, and manage to sell some paintings now and then, but the majority of my monthly income actually come from what I earn on the Envato Marketplaces.
I’ve travelled a lot, especially in Japan where I have also worked, and plan to do part of my PhD in future years.
Which marketplaces do you belong to? What types of files do you sell?
I sell on Tuts+ primarily, but also have a substantial portfolio on GraphicRiver. I actually also have one single image on PhotoDune, simply because I wanted the “Beta Tester” badge on my profile, haha!
On Tuts+ I sell video tutorials on Photoshop training. Originally I uploaded only photo retouching tutorials, but slowly I sort of covered everything I felt was worth covering in that category, and went on to more advanced Photo Manipulation tutorials. Now I’ve started a training series called “Learning Photoshop – For Busy People”, which just takes everything from the basics to the advanced. I’ve been selling well though, I’m one of the only authors selling video tutorials, so I’ve had a good advantage there.
On GraphicRiver, I sell primarily Photoshop Actions, but also some brushes and textures that I make with photo’s from my 550D camera. GraphicRiver is more like a side bonus to me. It takes me far less time to make the items for GraphicRiver, but they generally also sell less, since there is much more competition on that marketplace.
How did you get started? Have you had any formal training?
It’s ironic. I actually made my first video tutorial for the Psdtuts+ site, and it got rejected. I was annoyed that I had spent all that time on it, and decided to upload it to the Tuts+ marketplace instead, hoping to get just a few bucks off it. I didn’t really expect it to sell. Now, 4 months later, I have earned over 3 times as much money on selling it on Tuts+, than I would have if it had been approved for Psdtuts+. So whoever rejected my file, Thank you!
I started GraphicRiver because of one of my tutorials. I had an effect, and thought “Hmm, I wonder if I can make this into an action too!”, and I could, and it’s become one of my best selling files!
I’ve used Photoshop since I was around 15 years old, before that I had a few years of using Paint Shop Pro. Even though I’ve had a lot of art and design related studies, gone to several schools, I’ve never had any formal training in Photoshop, simply because I’ve always been better than what was offered.
For my university, I was told I didn’t need to attend the Adobe classes, because I was to advanced for them anyway. For several exams, I’ve had my teachers and censors tell me “I have no idea how you did that…”, so I’ve always been ahead of the curve in that way.
But of course, I’ve had lots of general art and design training. I’ve gone to private classes with painter Charlotte Hoff for around 6 months, I have a BA in Visual Communication from the Royal Danish Art Academy (where I’m also currently taking my MA, and afterwards, PhD!), art classes back in high school, and so on.
In fact, I went to a Rudolf Steiner school, so I’ve been painting and making my own school books since first grade, had poster classes, blacksmithing classes, sculpture classes, and so on all my life.
Describe your home workspace.
Oh it’s a mess! But I kind of like it that way.
By far the most important thing to me, is my Wacom Cintiq. I can’t live without. Even though I do no illustration or painting on it, it is just such a massive time saver. I wouldn’t be able to do any such of decent work without a tablet, and the Cintiq is just the King of Tablets.
I do all my work on my trusty PC. I’m a bit of a computer geek, so I use it for a lot of stuff, and the raw power it puts out is a big plus for me in a lot of areas.
I rarely use natural media to sketch on, so I have no specific room set aside for that. I’m all about the digital future.
Describe your creative process. What steps do you normally follow to create your files?
It greatly depends on what files I create. But if it’s tutorials, then it’s usually something along the lines of this:
I have an idea, or an image that I already made, that I think would make a great tutorial. If I already have the picture, I go through all my layers and reacquaint myself with how I made it. If it’s a new picture, I go on and make it in Photoshop (while keeping in mind the most efficient ways to do it, and show it).
Then when I have my picture, and I’m sure how I made it, I start up Fraps and redo it again, while narrating into a microphone what I’m doing.
It can be a pain sometimes though. If you do a written tutorial, making a mistake is no problem, you just don’t write it down, but in video tutorials, I have to go back, delete, redo the footage, make it seamless, edit it, and so on. So an image I make in 30 minutes normal, takes me around 1 hour or more to make a video for.
Then I open it up in Premiere, and start editing it together, making sure everything is smooth and nice. I also make my preview video there.
While it’s rendering out, I go on and make my preview images, thumbnails, description, tags, and so on for the marketplace. And finally I upload!
What is your advice to other authors regarding how to create a successful portfolio?
Be unique, but also think “quality vs quantity”. You need to find a middle ground for it all. If your item is to unique, it may not have enough people interested in it, but if it’s too mainstream, you have too much competition.
You should also find a nice place between quality and quantity. Neither of them works by themselves. You need to end up with a good solid portfolio where there is both a decent amount of files, but also keeping them up at a good quality.
You should also think “But is this really needed? Is there a market for this?” I have some files that I personally think are amazing, but sell horribly, simply because they are to niche, and don’t have a very broad appeal.
I’ve seen authors with portfolios of over 50 files, and they are making 10 sales a month. That’s gotta be so depressing!
What do you do to market your files?
I market them every where I can!
I make sure to plug them on Facebook and Twitter, I upload my preview videos to YouTube, I advertise through the Adobe Marketplace, and generally put a link up wherever I can.
I tried doing some Google Adwords and Facebook campaigns, but the CPC vs Sales weren’t really good enough for it to be worth it.
And remember! Wherever you post your link, ALWAYS use your referral link!
What are your three favorite files, and why do you like them?
My Geisha Makeup tutorial gotta be my fave. It doesn’t sell very well, but it’s one of the most advanced tutorials that I have, and I’m really proud of it. I spent a long time on the looks, the editing, and the techniques shown in it. I think it’s definitely one of my highest quality tutorials.
My hair selection tutorial. I think I show some great techniques in it, and I think it’s useful. It took me ages to make! It doesn’t sound very glamorous, but it’s one of the only tutorials I’ve made, where I feel I actually also learned something myself from making it.
My Photograph to Sketch action! It holds a special place in my heart, just because I’m really proud of the result it can give. I definitely think it’s one of the best actions of this type out there on the internet, and I’m really happy with how I made it and the result it gives. It’s also been one of my most popular files.
Apart from yourself, who is your favorite marketplace author, and why do you like them?
Krambo has some awesome Photo Manipulation tutorials! I think it’s a shame he isn’t selling better than he is, they look great!
AlexBeltechi also has some great looking files, especially in the typography department. He’s definitely going to do well!
andrew8088. We don’t really have files in common at all, but he’s a great guy, and I admire that he does so well. You hear me Andrew?! I’m gunning for that third spot!
What do you do in your spare time?
What spare time? When I’m not making something for the marketplaces, I sit clicking “Refresh” on my Earnings page like a madman!
Hah, I really do that though…
But seriously, I do some gaming. I’m a big Battlefield fan, so I play that a lot. I also run several YouTube channels (main one is www.youtube.com/TokyoZeplin) so when I have time, I do some videos for that.
If I have money and time, I travel. I love travelling. It’s very important in my life, and I think it should be important for everyone! It really helps bring the world together.
And of course, study!