So you’re ready to make money online with your photos and videos. Way to go! One of your first steps will be to choose and join one or more microstock agencies (aka microstock ‘sites’).
You may be asking “but why sign up with an agency, what will they do for me?“ In this article, we’ll see that it’s a lot more than just displaying a gallery of your media.
At first glance, it’s easy to confuse a microstock agency site with a photo or video sharing site. You may already be using a photo sharing site like Flickr or Instagram to showcase your photos, share them with others, and get supportive feedback. Or you may be sharing videos clips on YouTube, Vimeo, or Wistia.
Yes, your microstock site is providing a similar way for buyers to search through millions of items to find just the right photos, videos, and other media for their projects. But on closer look, you’ll find that a microstock agency is providing much, much more.
Benefits Provided by Agencies
Aside from the actual taking of photos and videos, your agency is providing the entire infrastructure you need to turn your photos and videos into a no-risk, no-hassle business that generates ongoing passive income.
Whether you are a photographer, videographer, graphic artist or audio artist, there are many things that an agency will do for you. Here are just some of those things, a microstock site:
- Allows you to upload media an metadata from anywhere 24/7
- Generates multiple formats/quality/price points from a single upload
- Markets your media 24/7 to their established global marketplace of buyers
- Provides an online ecommerce site translated into multiple languages
- Manages transactions and payments in multiple currencies
- Handles all downloads, customer service issues, rights contracts, etc.
- Provides legal protection and support for both seller and buyer
In short, you upload your media, keep it relevant by managing the metadata, and your agency sends you an electronic payment or check each month for the commissions from your sales.
Find Your Fit – Every Microstock Agency Is Different!
There are many different microstock agencies out there – over 50 at our last count! And more are cropping up all the time. You may have heard of some of them – Shutterstock, iStockphoto, Dreamstime, Pond5, and Videoblocks to name just a few.
This proliferation of agencies is an indication that microstock is a big industry, and a growing market. For the smaller and newer agencies, they will carve out their industry niche by catering to specific buyers.
Every agency specializes in providing one or more types of artistic media, including photos, videos, motion graphics, illustrations, audio, and more. See our Microstock Agency Media Chart for an up-to-date comprehensive list of microstock agencies and the different types of artistic media they specialize in.
There is no Risk – Microstock Sites are Free to Join
The best part? There is no cost to join an agency. That’s right, you don’t pay a thing to get started. Your agency only makes money when they sell your media.
When you do make a sale, the agency will pay you a percentage of the sale, and they keep a percentage of the sale. The actual percentage differs by agency – new artists typically start out by earning between 20%-50% or more of the sale price.
Choosing Your Agency
Agencies vary in the types and quality of media they offer and the types of buyers they attract. Larger agencies like Shutterstock and Fotolia may have tougher acceptance criteria (see below), but they also attract more buyers. Small or mid-size agencies like BigStock Photo, 123RF, and Pond5 might be a bit easier to get into, but may generate fewer sales.
Review the websites of some of the agencies on our Microstock Agency Media Chart to get an idea of the quality of the media they sell and their overall look and feel. Then select one or two that feel like the best match for your overall quality of work and your level of experience.
If you create more than one type of media, you may want to look for a site that sells all of your media types.
Applying to an Agency
Most agencies will screen potential contributors to make sure they meet their acceptance criteria. That means that you’ll be submitting an application to be accepted by an agency.
The application process usually includes their reviewing some samples of your artwork to confirm that the technical and artistic quality of your work meets their guidelines. In addition, there is often a quiz administered to make sure you understand your obligations and rights as a contributor.
During the application process, it’s important to send examples of your best commercial work to increase your chances of getting accepted. If you get rejected the first time or two, don’t worry, this happens all the time. You can usually re-apply to the same agency with more/better examples of your work, or you can apply to a different agency.
Applying to an agency can feel a bit intimidating, but there are several resources at here at EverythingMicrostock.com to help prepare you – and we also offer individual coaching to help reduce your anxiety and guide you through the process.
You’re In! Now, How To Build Your Microstock Portfolio?
Once you get accepted to an agency, it’s time to start building your online microstock portfolio. To assure the quality of their catalog, most agencies will require that each piece you upload will need to pass an inspection process before it can be added to your online portfolio with them.
As with the application process, some of your artwork will be rejected and some will be approved. This is just the nature of submitting to microstock. Our overall advice for building a robust portfolio is to submit regularly and often, but always keep your quality high so buyers will choose your media over others.
Remember, every item you get approved and displayed online increases the earning power of your portfolio.