Let’s start with a quick correction on something I wrote in the first part: It seems that content mirrored to getty won’t be removed after all. After my 4000 files had initially vanished, they mysteriously came back after a few weeks and are back online. Also, my GI income has remained roughly constant over the past months so it seems you can continue having the GI benefit even after going independent.
Now for some stats. All charts were generated on 31 May 2017 so there’s still data missing: iStock GI/PP/Subs for May, and some iStock Subs for April.
Note the missing / zero royalty for January: This month was initially roughly the same as December and February because iStock / getty didn’t adjust my royalty level from 40% to 15% (or whatever it currently is for indies) in time and paid me (almost) my full exclusive royalty in January, but then deducted the overpaid amount in May. Apparently, StockPerformer has some trouble combining the actual royalties I gained in January with this refund (or maybe the getty CSV report is messed up) and thus shows a zero month. The effective earnings in January are roughly 55% of Decemer 2016 / February 2017.
Leaving this January gap aside, you probably wouldn’t be able to guess when I dropped the crown just from looking at the royalties in the above chart. Or, to put it differently: I experienced no drop whatsoever. The bad news is: Although the other agencies have quickly compensated for what I lost in iStock sales, they have also flattened out pretty quickly:
Besides iStock-getty (which is still my best earner) it’s just Shutterstock and Fotolia who bring in the money, all the other smaller agencies are not really worth the trouble of uploading. Pond5 does earn a little bit, but these royalties are almost completely from video (I’ve been an independent videographer for a few years now).
Nonetheless I’ll continue submitting my stuff to the smaller sites simply because I already have all the data entered into StockSubmitter (sort of like DeepMeta, but for many agencies). Thus, uploading to Bigstock & co creates no extra work, albeit no considerable extra income either.
Here’s how iStock sales have evolved over the past 3 years:
You can see how everything went down (subs in particular), while getty has remained rather constant even after going independent.
I have roughly 5500 photos uploaded to each of the agencies I now submit to (with my iStock portfolio having roughly 11000 files, 4000 of which are on getty). I uploaded roughly 3000 in the first month of independence (January), roughly 1000 in each February and March and 600 in April. I’ve submitted exactly the same content to all agencies. The plan is to continue uploading roughly 500 files a month for the rest of the year and then continue at maybe 200 a month until my whole portfolio is uploaded everywhere.
Also, I have not produced anything new (or actually I have, but I’m still undecided about what to do with that content) so everything I’m uploading to Shutterstock & co is already available on iStock.
Also, I have begun uploading to 500px and Creative Market simply because they’re also supported by StockSubmitter and create no extra work to add content there. I also consider to upload some stuff to EyeEm, but their uploading system is rather different so it’s necessary to re-keyword everything, plus model releases are handled in a rather peculiar way. If you’re interested in EyeEm in particular, check out Michael’s blog post on how he earned over $1200 in four months there.
When I decided to go independent I was following 2 goals:
- First – get off the downwards slope I’ve been on for the past 4-5 years.
- Second – increase sales to a point where I’d be motivated and where it would make economic sense to produce more fresh content.
The good: While I had expected to see a considerable income drop for at least 3-6 months after becoming independent, there was no drop at all. Uploading a rather large number (~3000) of images right in the first month sure helped to quickly get some traction on other sites and compensate for iStock losses.
The bad: I had hoped that “many agencies” would imply “more money” but it seems that most agencies out there sell so little that I wouldn’t even call them low earners, but rather no earners. It’s all iStock/getty, Shutterstock and Fotolia (in order of decreasing income) with Pond5 being a good option for video. Also, I had expected sales to pick up with every month of continued uploading but – at least so far – this seems to not be true. Both SS and Fotolia flattened out after one month with the only notable increase being from January to February.
But well – it’s been only five months of independence now so it’s probably still too early to draw a definitive conclusion. If things should go off the chart (in one direction or the other), I’ll let you know.