Hitting the Wall with Microstock

My portfolio has grown considerably over the last year at several microstock sites, but I can’t say that my profits have increased at the same rate. Have I hit a point of diminishing returns and is it worth it to keep submitting?

This has been something that I have been thinking about recently, then I saw that other people on the Shutterstock forums were thinking the same thing. You can see their posts here. The good news is that most of the microstock sites have been raising their prices or royalties, so my income has benefitted from the increases. The bad news? That dream I had about making a full time salary with microstock may be just a dream.

This has all lead me to taking a break from microstock and experimenting with Zazzle. The experiment is still in its early stages, so I can’t say anything definitive. It looks promising though. I still have hundreds of stock illustrations just waiting to find a new profitable home. Hopefully, they will end up as products on Zazzle.

This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com. Content copyright 2008 Cory Thoman.

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  1. 08/03/30

    Hey Cory, microstock starts to pay off once you hit a certain mass. I’m only noticing this in a small way with my own earnings (my earnings rose this month without doing any uploading) but the other microstockers I talk to – who have LOTS more photos – say that when they upload new photos their sales go up disproportionately, especially at Shutterstock.

    Once such experiment from one of the top sellers found that after uploading 50 images he got over 250 extra downloads the day after they went live (that’s extra above his average for that day of the week) but only 175 of those were of the new 50 files. So that’s 75 indirect new sales from uploading. These figures are no doubt a little off as I’m going from memory, but the proportions are more or less accurate, and it demonstrates the point.

    So hang in there and keep building your portfolio. The increasing marginal returns are just around the corner!


  2. 08/03/30

    Hi! I am on shutterstock also (and many of the others, dreamstime etc etc) but also have a zazzle account…
    I figured the more places I am making money even if only small amounts the better, especially as once I have uploaded I keep making money even when I’m working on other projects!
    Some other places you might want to try out are redbubble.com and greetingcarduniverse.com 🙂

  3. Cory

    Thanks for the tips.

    I’m not giving up on stock, but there is only so much time in a day. I just wanted to focus my time on areas where I thought I could get the biggest gains. I hadn’t really noticed a huge rise in profits from 100 images to 500 images, so I found that discouraging.

    I agree with Emily’s approach of finding lots of different places to make money. I’ll have to try those suggestions. I think you get a bigger boost from finding a new place to sell your artwork than trying to squeeze a little more out of one of the places you already contribute.

    I’m sure I’ll continue to contribute to the microstock sites, but I’m not sure I want to continue at the frantic pace I was. It was a great way to improve my style though.

  4. 08/03/31

    It could always be a shift in trends, too. When a trend swings back you’ll probably net more sales from what you’ve got. If you cover a lot of bases (with a “critical mass” of work) you’ll be batting 1.000 as they say.