Today we’re here in conversation with Charlie Livingston, founder of aThemes, serving over 250,000+ users with their awesome collection of WordPress themes and making lives easier for WordPress users around the world!
BionicWP: Charlie, thank you for joining us today! tell us a bit about yourself so our readers can acknowledge the awesomeness that you are
Charlie: No problem. My pleasure to be here. I’m Charlie, I’m originally from England but I’m writing this from a cafe in Thailand. I’ve been working online for about 5 years now, mostly focused on aThemes. When I’m not working I like to play tennis and ride my bike.
BionicWP: What was it like to launch your very first Premium theme? Do tell us about your journey with aThemes and what led you towards making an awesome theme like Sydney.
Charlie: Launching our first theme (Alizee Pro) was exciting because we had no idea whether anyone would buy it or not! This was at a time, a good few years ago now, when premium themes were not so common as they are today. Luckily though people did buy it. Not in great numbers but enough to let us know that it was at least possible to make some money from this.
I think that Sydney was a case of being in the right place at the right time. I mean, at the time we released Sydney there were very few well-designed, well-coded themes in the directory. Most of them were somewhat amateurish, you might say. But with Sydney, we gave people the chance to have a professional looking site that would work well too – and for free. And right from the start, we offered good levels of support. This helped too.
BionicWP: So we did a little digging and identified that you studied Law. What made you shift towards WordPress as a career? How has your university education helped you in your career?
Charlie: That’s right, I did study law! You did your homework. WordPress was actually an accidental shift for me. I was working in publishing when I realized that what I really wanted was to work for myself. And so I started looking for ways that I could make that happen. I got into making websites and that’s how I came across WordPress.
When I started with aThemes it was only a small site with a few themes to its name. I saw an opportunity to grow it and things went from there.
I would say that my university education hasn’t been of much direct use in my career so far but the skills I learned have been. Entrepreneurship is a lot about solving problems and taking notes. Being able to synthesize a large amount of information is something you learn while studying law, and is also something you have to do when running a business. There’s a lot going on and at one time and you have to be able to cut through the noise and see what is important.
BionicWP: What marketing strategies would you recommend a beginner to advertise in the WordPress community?
Charlie: I am a fan of releasing things for free. If you have a premium product and you want to get eyeballs on it, create a limited version of it and make it free. At the start of your journey what you need more than anything else is traffic/users. I would also consider trying to collaborate with bigger players than you. If there’s something you can do for them, maybe they will help you out.
BionicWP: Many associate the success of WordPress to its vast community. Do you agree with this comment? How do you see the future of WordPress
Charlie: Yes, I agree with that. The community is definitely one of the key elements to the success of WordPress. I feel this when I go to WordCamp Europe, for example, and meet smart and driven people from all over the world who work on WordPress every day.
The future of WordPress I think looks good. WordPress has to change and it is changing (see Gutenberg). That change might be a little slow at times, and not always in the right direction. But I believe it will only get better over time.
BionicWP: Being an entrepreneur requires serious commitment and comes with its fair share of challenges. What are some of the tips you’d want to share with aspiring entrepreneurs?
Charlie: I’m not sure I have many tips. You have to really want it. If you want it enough, you’ll find a way to make it work. Maybe my advice would be to think a little bigger and to believe it is possible, because it is. It helps to get a little validation early on, too.
BionicWP: When was the last time you cried during a movie? Also, which movie was it?
Charlie: I don’t think I’ve ever cried from watching a movie. I have from reading a book, but not a movie
BionicWP: Alright then, which book was it?
Charlie: Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks.
BionicWP: What tools are you currently using to enhance the overall productivity of the work you and your team do on the daily?
Charlie: Slack, Skype, Wunderlist, Notes (Mac), Google Docs, Trello, HelpScout.
BionicWP: If we had to ask you your preference for hosting (Shared, dedicated, managed) which one would you choose and why?
Charlie: Managed unless you want the hassle of running a server yourself. You can get decent managed hosting without breaking the bank these days. I’d only recommend shared for the smallest of sites or where performance is of no concern.
BionicWP: Anything we missed out that you’d like to share?
Charlie: I don’t think so.
BionicWP: Who’d you nominate for our next interview?
Charlie: Pavel Ciorici.
BionicWP: Last question…well, it’s more of a request. Can you please share a picture of your Work station? We’d love to see where all the inspiration comes from!
Charlie: I like to work from cafes from my laptop so I don’t really have a work station! I like to move around and work from different places. So my work station varies.
If you want to reach out to Charlie, you can follow him on Twitter, don’t forget to show some love!