Happy weekend friends.
Here I am back with another weekend dose of inspiration. This is my 6th interview from BCIS (Blogging Cage Interview Series) and my readers are loving this series. Interviewing people always give me pleasure and every time I get something new to learn.
Today we have Satish Gandham with us who is the owner of SwiftThemes. This theme was downloaded more than half a million times but then he changed the name of theme and uploaded it again in WordPress repository. Again this theme has been downloaded 56,513 times from WordPress themes repository and still counting. His theme is one of the fastest loading WordPress theme and he is enjoying more than 4.5K premium users.
Let’s have talk with him.
Welcome at Blogging Cage Satish.
Thank you kulwant, it’s a honur to be interviewed on Blogging Cage. I see that your alexa under 1500 in India. Congratulations on the achievement.
Please tell us about yourself and your educational background.
I graduated from IIT Guwahati in Chemical Science and Technology.
How good you are in coding and from where you learned it?
My undergraduate curriculum was not my liking. Luckily for me within a few months into college, the html bug bite me while I was in our computer center preparing for the next days exam. On day one I read the entire html tutorial on w3schools.com and created my first web page using note pad, creating links adding images to page was exiting and gave me a feeling of achievement.
Few days later I was introduced to PHP in a web development workshop in the college. After that I read everything I can get my hands on to learn PHP and build my first Guest Book app.
I was asked to develop a Virtual Stock Market(VSM) game for our college techfest. It wasn’t used as it had some issues, but working for VSM helped me improve my PHP skills.
If I have an idea, I can carry out it. That’s how good I am at programing.
What is blogging for you?
I got into blogging to improve my english and writing skills, but writing is not my thing.
I’m 90% developer and 10% blogger. I use blogging only as a passive source of income.
How the idea of theme design came in your mind and how much time it took to makes it happen? Till now how many happy users you have?
My server was down twice in a week due to high usage, and it was due to the theme. Two other things happened during this time
- I learnt CSS a week before.
- A friend told me how much he wanted a lite weight theme.
I was tired of customizing a theme and discarding it a few days as I was not satisfied with it. That’s when I thought to design my first theme.
It took me around a week to have the first copy that I used on my blog. I spent a little more time on it added some options ( Options page were new then ) and released it on weblog tools collection.
I think there are around 25k users of the free theme. 90% of the people who come across Swift use it.
There are more than 4.5K users of the premium version.
What is special in your theme?
There are a lot of things, If I list everything, this will become a promotional post. So I will keep it short.
I do everything possible to make the theme fast, like combining JS and CSS files, including only the styles that your blog configuration requires, Delayed loading, using base 64 images to minimize http requests.
Swift is a pioneer in introducing various features like
- Google font integration.
- Delayed loading of Gravatars.
- Option to add page specific CSS.
- Using built-in WordPress functions to build thumbnails, you all know how scary timthumb was.
Though I’m not a fulltime blogger, I’m a blog admin. I know what the admins and the users want.
How you started marketing your theme and how you got your first buyer?
Swift was a free theme for the first two years, I initially published on weblogtoolscollection, it good response there. Some bloggers picked it up and showcased it on their blogs and it got all the attention it deserved.
It was later accepted into wordpress.org and there was no looking back. It was in the most popular themes section for over 5 months.
Swift was also voted as the most popular theme here, it also gave Swift good exposure.
By the time paid version of Swift was launched, it already established a niche for itself and there were some loyal users. So getting the first buyer was easy, I made 13 sales within 3 hours of launch.
What are the methods you are using for the promotion? Please tell us paid as well as free methods.
I once paid a high-profile blogger to review the theme, he did it without even using the theme. Since then I never really did any paid promotion. I put my heart and soul into Swift to make it the best, a quality product makes it way to the people automatically.
A GOOD PRODUCT MARKETS ITSELF.
How many blogs you are running and how much time you are giving to them?
Quite a few, but not all of them are active
Here is a short list
http://AskWebExpert.com ( Free support forum, a place for webmasters and newbie to help each other )
http://SatishGandham.Com ( Personal blog, not very active though )
For blog which promotion technique you use the most?
I only depend on search engines for promotion. I tried Facebook ads but they did not work well.
What are your sources of inspiration? How much time you spend you read other blogs?
These days I don’t read much as I’m more into development.
In the initial days I used to ready DailyBlogTips and ProBlogger. For design and development inspiration I read SmashingMagazine and their network sites.
Which is your monetization model?
AdSense and Direct Sales. Though I did not explore many revenue sources, I would advice the readers to try multiple ways to monetize. Never put all your eggs in one basket.
Everyone faced some obstacles. In your case what were those obstacles?
In the early days getting hosting and domain was a big obstacle because there was no other means to pay except credit cards which were not that easy to get then. I used to write on free blogging platforms with several restrictions. Luckily few months later a friend of mine got a credit card, and I used it to buy my first hosting and domain GeniusHackers.Com.
To help other bloggers with the same problem I started BuddingBloggers.Com after I earned a decent income from blogging.
In future which more ventures we are going to see from you?
I’m working on a social site which if successful would give google run for their money !!
If you would have given chance to bring some change in society with blogging then what it would be?
Blogging is a great profession, but there are few downsides to it.
- Social Life.
- Recognition & Acceptance from Anu Aunty and Rakesh uncle.
- Major number of bloggers are dependent on AdSense and Google Search for traffic who because of their monopoly, do not even think a second before taking away years of hard work, and their living.
We have regular bloggers meets, wordcamps which solve the issue to some extent. We need to have more of these. It would be good if bloggers from each region form a group and setup a common workspace and follow a strict routine.
Recognition & Acceptance from Anu Aunty and Rakesh uncle
We have to explain what we do to them in a language they understand. It’s your responsibility.
That will remove a major obstacle for those who want to pick blogging as career.
May be we should have our own logo like Doctors, Lawyers and CA’s.
Dependence on Google
Google takes all the fun away from being your own boss. I would like to see better alternates for AdSense and Google Search. We should encourage new ad platforms, and help them grow as a better alternates to Adsense.
Explore different revenue models.
Your message for my readers
Don’t be discouraged by earning reports of others if you are not earning close to them. Most of them are exaggerated. Concentrate on developing quality content and promote yourself.
If you are in school, please concentrate on your studies, go out and play. This age is to enjoy and study not work and earn.