two years ago I traveled to Japan for one month. I didn’t ask anyone for permission. The only people I informed were my family, my friends and some pals in japan whom I intended to visit. For one month I was whoopie-dooing in the other side of the world and the best part was – my income on that month happened to be one of my highest at the time.
This was possible thanks to a chain of events in my life, that eventually led me to a comfortable little island somewhere in the ocean of the internet. the island’s strange name was “microstock photography”. that is, in case you are not familiar, sites that keep stocks of photographs and illustrations for buyers to purchase.
The kingdom of freedom
the first thing that motivated me to become a microstock image contributor was that I was a freedom junkie. Ever since I was a kid, I couldn’t stand having other people trying to control my free time. School activities outside of regular hours were out of the question. School itself was something I hated so much that even today I have nightmares of being a student again. Yep, it was this bad.
And yet, I was a good student. No one had to remind me to do my homework. I would teach myself about things I found interesting, and knew precisely what I wanted to do when I grow up: whatever I feel like.
I did well in my finals because I had a very clear goal of never-ever doing something school related again.
the fact that I loved independence, and functioned well in it, made the microstock contribution idea very appealing to me.
How did I begin?
My experience with stock images started a few years ago, while I was working in a children’s magazine. As a deputy editor, it was my job to search for stock images for our designer. at some point the company subscribed for Shutterstock, and I learnt that the contributors were artists from all over the world, who applied through the internet. Hey, I had internet!
At that time I knew nothing about digital illustrations. I loved drawing manually, but I saw that digital images, especially vectors, were most popular. So I started learning.
Every time I worked with our graphic designer, I would pay attention to the tools she was using and ask her questions. I found tutorials online, ordered magazines and books and created my very first digital illustrations. They were HORRIBLE.
Eventually, after many shames, I was able to make content that somehow made it into Shutterstock.
I continued by creating things I knew were needed for Israeli buyers. I uploaded images for Jewish holidays. if i couldn’t find the images i needed for an article in our magazine, i created them myself. Then I came to the office, put on my editor hat, and purchased them.
later on i started uploading to Dreamstime, then IstockPhoto, Fotolia, 123RF, DepositPhotos, VectorStock, Bigstock, Can Stock Photos, StockFresh, Toon Vector and GraphicLeftovers.
Goodbye, safe zone
As long as I had my job as at the magazine, it didn’t really matter how much I earned from microstock images. But I kept reading about all those magical beings that actually made a living out of microstock, and I secretly dared to think that maybe (don’t tell anyone or they will laugh!) I can also do it one day.
Then, KABOOM! our magazine closed down. I was no longer a deputy editor. I no longer had a monthly payment.
I kept drawing and uploading stock images, but I knew that I had to find a stable source of income. I offered to create a weekly comics story for another magazine, and they said yes.
I was doing my comics for about one year, and then received other news: this magazine is also closing down.
Still, I was lucky
At that point my monthly revenue from microstock sites was about 300$. It barely covered my share of the rent.
But if I got from 0$ to 300$, maybe I could reach 600$? And then 900$?
That’s when I decided to drop the job searches and focus on stock images.
I was pretty lucky so far, but then I got luckier: my boyfriend and I move in to my parent’s separated unit.
With no rent to pay and only a cat to feed, I could concentrate on build up my portfolios. The income grew little by little, and I had time to try out other things.
I recently started selling printed products and working on a new book.
True, I don’t make a fortune. But I do make enough for my personal needs, which means I don’t have to do any job that I don’t like, or to be bound to specific places or people.
You will hear different opinions about selling artistic products through microstock sites. Since every person has his or her own considerations, they would all be correct.
To me personally, given my own preferences and specific lifestyle, the advantages are greater than the disadvantages.
I have so much gratitude to the microstock sites that accepted me as their contributor. they gave me freedom. they forced me to learn. they made me create.
Being a contributor gave me a base to grow from into the freelancer I am now. I plan to keep improving and do more exciting things with my skills.
So that’s my microstock experience.
If you have your own story, or some tips, or question or anything else, i would really love to hear!