The Envato network is something you’ve probably encountered if you’ve used WordPress for any significant amount of time. It’s not so much a single site as it is a network of branded sites, each catering to a different part of the blogging and web development sphere.
From a consumer’s perspective, Envato is a potentially amazing resource. It’s full of everything you might need to complete a project, almost regardless of what that project is.
Of them all, the most prominent across the web are probably Code Canyon and Theme Forest. The others all see use, of course, but at least in the web development sphere, those two are the most used.
The Envato affiliate program is a unified program across almost all of those sites. When you sign up for it, you have the ability to refer people to each site, and you earn a commission for each item they buy.
I say almost, because Envato has two affiliate programs. One is for Envato Studio, which is where Tuts+ and their design services live. The other is the Envato Market, which is the more popular and less lucrative of the two. I’ll go into them both.
Affiliate programs are affiliate programs. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, with a few basic variations from instance to instance. So, let’s get right down to the details, shall we?
For the Envato Marketplace affiliate program, all you need to do is create an Envato account. It’s not a special publisher account; it’s just a normal Envato Marketplace account. You can go do that whenever you want, right here. Note: This is not an affiliate link, so don’t worry about that.
Once you have an account, you’re good to go. All you need to do to make an affiliate link is add ?ref=username to the end of any URL. It can be to the Envato marketplace homepage, it can be to one of the sub-site homepages, or it can be directly to the page of a specific theme, code, snippet, plugin, or whatever else you want to refer a sale to.
Note that if the URL already has a ? in it, doubling up won’t work. You will instead need to add &ref=username to the end of the URL.
There’s just one thing about it; you only get a referral for the first thing they buy. It’s 30%, which seems high, until you realize that a lot of the items for sale are pretty cheap. It also counts if they deposit money into their account without buying something, which sounds good, unless they decide to do a small $1 deposit or something as a test. That consumes your referral credit, and that’s that.
If all of this sounds strict, it is and it isn’t. Things like the keyword restrictions on ads are pretty normal as far as affiliate programs go. The three-month duration of the referral cookie is good, except Envato doesn’t allow multiple sales like Amazon, so you’ll never get large bulk orders on a referral. The fact that the oldest, not the most recent referral gets the credit is a big kick in the pants for some people, and the fact that Envato links are all over the place – and that non-referral cookies invalidate referrals – means that a huge portion of your clicks are going to be worthless.
What all this results in is that your earnings with Envato are going to be pretty darn low. Even with a high click rate and a high conversion rate, you aren’t getting paid for a lot of the people you refer. Combine this with the low prices of many of the things in the marketplace, and you can see why so many people have been moving away from Envato’s marketplace recently.
Now, what about the Envato Studio affiliate program? Is it significantly different in any way?
First of all, the Envato Studio affiliate program uses a more traditional registration method and special link that isn’t just your username tacked on the end of a link. Their offer is only 10%, compared to the market’s 30%, but that 10% is on the much higher cost of design work rather than the cost to buy a theme or a plugin.
Of course, you only get paid on a successful job. If the buyer backs out, doesn’t pay, or cancels their order, you don’t earn anything. You also only earn on the final price; if the buyer uses a discount offer, your 10% comes from the discounted price.
With Envato Studio, the referral cookie lasts for a mere 30 days, which is still plenty of time, but isn’t quite going to screw you over as much as someone clicking a link in January killing a March commission is with Market. It is also, and this is a big one, a most recent override. That means if person 1 refers the buyer to Studio, but they don’t buy, and then you refer them back and they do buy, you get the referral.
Essentially, Envato Studio is going to be a much higher paying, but much lower volume, referral program than Envato Market. That said, they both will rely on you getting a significant volume of traffic to make paydays.
With Envato Studio you might, for example, decide to refer people for logo design. A simple mid-tier logo design can range from $60 to $1,000, judging by what’s on their site right now. The lower cost designers are much more frequently commissioned, so we’ll say an average for $200. At 10% commission, that means each logo design ordered will earn you about $20. That’s not bad! Then again, how often do people need logos designed? You’ll want to diversify, and that means other things to sell. Maybe you refer them to someone who sells website copy; that’s more common, right? Well, not many people buy copy from Envato; the highest volume writer has only 35 jobs done, and each job is $30. That’s just $3 per sale, and there won’t be many.
In any case, most of the time your commissions are going to range between the absolute low end of 50 cents each to the high end of around $50 for a sale. Don’t expect many of the high ends, though.
That said, Studio is a heck of a lot better with the conversion rates and the conversion prices than the Market options. Let’s go over to the Market and look. WordPress themes are big, right? Well, themes range from $6 to $60 on average. A 30% commission on a $6 theme is only a little under $2. Still not a bad rate, but you have a lot of issues. For one thing, if someone has six sites and wants to buy six themes, that’s great! You only get a commission on the first one they buy. If they buy a $6 theme first, and then a $60 theme, you only get the commission for the $6 theme.
This means you need a lot of volume, but you can’t get it from repeat customers. Envato’s limitations on who counts and who doesn’t means a lot of the users coming through your link aren’t going to earn you anything. Even if they do, they won’t earn you much.
The numbers don’t even get much better if you go for items you think should have more value. 3D models? Nah, they’re under $10. Entire skinnable flash games? $15 and under. Sure, none of this is top of the line stuff, but it’s all a matter of supply and demand. The people supplying the products have to compete with each other on one of the biggest central markets around, and so they drive the prices lower. This is great for buyers, and great for the few sellers who have a huge amount of volume, but it really hurts affiliates. Even in 2014, people were complaining that they had fallen as low as penny clicks, which is far below anything resembling a good deal.
There are, frankly, much better ways to make money than through Envato.
Envato, either one of their affiliate programs, relies on volume. I don’t recommend the Market side, specifically because so many of your potential commissions are destroyed by someone going to check out the site through an unmarked link two months ago. I consider that almost a scam, simply because it means you’re doing a lot of advertising work and Envato is taking the credit. Still, if you happen to be selling something through Envato, it does you no harm to make every link you post into an affiliate link, for that extra bit of cash.
Envato has some tips for affiliate success. Let’s see what they are.
Really, if you want good tips for earning with affiliate programs, I have two for you. First, read this article. Maybe do a little research for others like it. Second, don’t use Envato Market. If you’re sold on Envato, use Studio. While you’re at it, use other affiliate programs with better terms, better prices, and higher volumes instead.
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