How This Mom Makes Six Figures Selling Lightroom Presets

By on May 2, 2016 in Shop Tips & Tricks
How This Mom Makes Six Figures Selling Lightroom Presets

The following interview with Rachael Towne is a guest post from Angelina Sereno and originally appeared on her site, Skybox Creative.

Onto Something Big

I recently started selling design assets on Creative Market as well as a few other shops and can’t help but feel that I’m on to something big. Not only have my products started selling with very little promotion or effort, but my creativity is soaring with the sudden realization that I can do anything I want without client interference (a designer’s dream!).

What I love about Creative Market is they allow you to set your own prices and earn 70% of your sales, which is a lot higher than some of the other digital product communities.

One of the other great things is the community aspect. Right away, I could sense that I was in the company of some really great people who were interested in helping each other succeed. Through the community forums I was able to research and learn a lot about what made other shops successful.

One story in particular, from Rachael Towne, resonated with me so much that I reached out to get the full story.

Since moving forward on this path, I’ve had numerous conversations with friends and peers about what I’m up to. Some people don’t quite get it and many have expressed that they don’t think it’s a viable way to earn a living. Regardless, I’ve never let other people’s ideas influence me much. I’ve had an intuitive sense all along that this path can lead to a more affluent life than many traditional jobs.

When I heard that Rachael was supporting herself, her kids and husband, all while working from home in her PJ’s, I had to learn more.

From Rachael: “When my income really started picking up, I actually begged my husband to quit his construction job and go back to school. He is an artist and has been a very frustrated one. At age 43, he is working on his dream of being an accomplished painter with a large body of work to approach galleries with. I’m proud of him and happy for him. I’m also very happy that I played a part in making this happen for him.”

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Q: Tell us a little bit about your background? How did you initially get started in Photography?

My very first camera was a Polaroid Instamatic way back in the early 80s. I took as many photos with it as my parents could afford, which ended up not being a lot. Sadly, it was stolen on a family trip and I didn’t own a camera again until I was 27 years old!

As an older kid and young adult, I thought that I wanted to be a painter.

However, my life was so challenging during those years that I just didn’t have the time, money or internal motivation to go anywhere with painting. I did try, but there were simply too many obstacles in my path at the time. I had a baby when I was only 18 and being fresh out of high school did not have a lot of job skills. For some years life was largely about working very hard at a few manufacturing type jobs in order to properly care for my son.

I was given a simple digital camera as a gift at age 27 and my world exploded! It was truly a terrible camera in retrospect, but I did not know any better at first. I took it with me everywhere and took photos of everything.

I started taking film photography classes at the community college, with a used Canon SLR. For several years I shot only with film, both color and B&W, as I could not afford a DSLR and wanted the manual control. After getting a great job at a studio hand-painting wine bottles in 2007, I was able to purchase my first DSLR. In 2009 I started selling some stock photos through various micro stock sites. However, I grew tired of taking photos to please inspectors and decided to continue to pursue photography as a passion. To this day, I have no desire to go pro.

Q: What were you doing for work before you started selling digital products and presets?

After I had my daughter in 2009, I quit my job painting wine bottles to stay home with my new baby daughter. I had initially planned to go back to work after my maternity leave was over. I was actually carrying twins but they were born way too early. One of my daughters died at only 7 days old and the other spent 3 months in the NICU. It was the most horrific time of my life and by the time I was able to bring my daughter home I knew that I was done with work. My daughter would not be going into daycare.

I tried various things to earn money online, such as blogging. My first attempts were fruitless, but one thing led to another and I was hired by a very popular photography site to write articles. This was a wonderful experience and I earned some decent supplemental income. One day I was asked by the site admin if I would be willing to make a few sets of Lightroom presets, for pay. I did so, and realized that I could turn it into a business. After sales started picking up of my products, I didn’t have time to write anymore, so I quit.

Q: How long have you been selling digital products?

About 2 years.

Q: How many hours on average a week do you work?

It varies. It depends on how creative I feel, as well as what is going on with my family. Some weeks I put in the equivalent of a full time job. Other weeks I only keep up with customer support and don’t work on my business. Customer support only takes perhaps 5-20 minutes in any given day.

Q: How important do you think it is to establish a niche in the industry?

I think it’s important to have a unique identity and to try and stand out among your competitors. Since I started this only 2 years ago, I’ve seen quite a few new sellers of Lightroom presets. I’ve rebranded myself a few times since starting and I am always in the process of improving my products and how they are displayed.

Below is one of Rachael’s best sellers:

Q: What is your typical day like (paint us a picture… do you work in various coffee shops or at home in your pajamas)?

Since I have two small children, I work from home. During the day I check in a few times to make sure that I answer any customer support emails quickly. At night after my kids go to bed I get to work. Sometimes I stay up until 2 am working! This type of schedule starts to take a toll on me sometimes, so I step back until I feel caught up on sleep and revitalized from time to time. So, I do in-fact often work in my pajamas.

Q: Is your income comparable to what a full time graphic designer working at an agency makes ($45-75k) or does it far exceed this?

Amazingly, my income exceeds this amount. In the past year I’ve earned about $110,000 selling downloads. I think this year is going to be slightly better. I’m working on a brand new project now, so I anticipate doubling my income within 2 years once the new project is well underway.

Q: Do you focus on Creative Market primarily or do you have your products in multiple shops? If so, which ones?

I sell from 4 different sites, one of which is my own. The others are Creative Market, Etsy and Adobe Addons. These days, Etsy is my lowest earner but it is still a significant source of income. I don’t believe in putting all of my eggs in one basket. If one source goes away, the others will still be there.

Q: How much of your time is spent on creating products and how much is focused on marketing?

Most of my time is spent on creating products. I don’t do a lot of marketing. I did a lot more in the beginning to get myself out there. It is my goal to start building more traffic to my website, so I’ve been thinking about strategies to do that lately. Marketing is probably my weakest link, as I am not very confident with it, but I want to overcome my shyness around it.

Q: Do you use the Google Keyword Tool or research trending products before you start creating or do you just go with your gut?

In the beginning I did a ton of research with the Google keyword tool. I also closely scrutinized what my competitors were doing, to see what worked and didn’t. Doing all of that was valuable and I learned a lot. These days I prefer to just go with my gut. Since I already have a successful brand, I figure I have some creative leeway. If I end up making a product that doesn’t sell well, it’s not that big of a deal. Back to the drawing board!

Q: Do you invest in PPC advertising on Facebook, Google or ?

I don’t like PPC as it is so complex and I mostly lost money on it. I do pay for Facebook ads for a few days when I release a new product, but only then.

Q: How much time do you invest in social media, sharing and getting followers? Do you focus on certain platforms over others?

While I have a various social media accounts for my website, I typically only spend any time promoting on Facebook. I like people and connecting with them. Facebook is the only platform where I’ve had real interpersonal interaction. A few customers have uploaded photos processed with my presets, which makes me very happy to see.

Q: What are your goals for 2015?

I’m working on creating a big bundle of Photoshop actions. I’m also in the practice phase of making templates in Photoshop for photographers to display their work. I love the challenge of learning something new and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with it.

Thanks Rachael!

Thank you Rachael for spending some time letting us get to know more about you and your business, we are truly grateful!

Have any advice or questions on this topic? Leave us a comment below.

Angelina Sereno is Owner and Creative Director of Skybox Creative. Founded in 2006, Skybox is a creative collective specializing in Brand Strategy, Web Design and Digital Design Products on Creative Market.

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16 Comments

  1. Amazing to hear that you selling digital goods online gave your husband the freedom to pursue his dream, what a lovely outcome. Congrats on the success and thanks for sharing your story!

  2. Really amazing to hear about your success Rachael, and it was great to meet you at our open house last night.

  3. Cool read and congrats. I'm curious as to why you chose the lightroom presets route vs photoshop actions?

  4. Hi Derek. I just stumbled upon this article again and saw your comment. I can't give you a definitive answer to that really other than the fact that I use Lightroom to process my own photos the vast majority of the time. I do use Photoshop for lots of things and I have made some sets of actions. I do plan to make more in the future.

  5. I have to agree with everyone, this is very inspiring. I am just beginning to work with the Adobe Creative Cloud software, and I have a lot to learn. Do you have any advice for someone who is starting out, new to these applications, but unable to attend school? I spend a lot of time taking as many free online courses as possible, as well as watching tutorials etc., but I feel like I'm not learning as quickly as I would like to. I have been disabled since 2008 and I believe that if I could learn to be proficient and confident with these applications, it could not only open paths for me to be able to care for myself and my family, but also give me back some self esteem, as I have felt like a failure for many years now. I have always been independent, but since I have been unable to work, I have to depend on the help of others just for my son and I to get by. I would really appreciate any advice on how to get going and be successful with something like this! Thank you very much for sharing your story!

  6. Thank you for the motivation, and i have to sit and do work, instead of spending more time in Instagram.
    XOXO

  7. Is there anyone that knows someone who would create my perfect Instagram preset I know exactly what I want and I’m willing to pay of coarse !

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