Why not sell your images yourself?
Selling low budget images can make some money. But as microstock prices per sale are quite low you don't want to split your income. Why not sell your photos or illustrations yourself? Why do the agencies take most of the income?
When selling images on the web you want revenue as big as possible. Microstock agencies will only pay you a small part of the whole sales price of an image. In fact they often earn more from a sale than the photographer does.
Setting up your own website or web shop to sell your images seems tempting. And while creating a website is relatively easy; it is a lot more difficult to generate traffic and sell images through your own website.
What makes it almost impossible to sell images yourself?
The biggest MS agencies have over 10 to 15 mil images to choose from and they have a lot of traffic on their sites. Actually it is only a few high ranked MS agencies that can generate a relatively high income per image. Lower ranking agencies just don’t succeed to generate enough traffic to sell images in high quantities.
How do you want to compete with these big agencies by offering only a few hundred, thousand or even ten thousand images. The agencies not only have a high quantity of images to offer. They also have a reputation to supply buyers with highest quality images. The big microstock sites are successful because they are able to offer almost every kind of image through an optimized search engine, for a low price at one single site.
When people buy from the big microstock agencies, they will be sure to receive high quality images. They can be quite sure that they easily find what they need. Why should they waste their time on searching hundreds of small sites before they find what they want without even knowing what quality they buy.
Setting up a decent sales website takes a lot of time and effort. And even if you have the skills and build your own professional website, only a small part of the work is done. The most difficult part is to attract enough traffic. You don’t only need traffic but you actually need people who are interested in buying your images. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a good reputation.
Some do succeed in selling many images on their own site, but chances that you will become one of them are quite slim. You may try it and do it alongside selling images on microstock. Anyway if you are one of the lucky few that will it will take a large amount of time and effort before anyone can reach such success.
Why do agencies take high percentage of sales price?
Is it fair that the agencies take most of the sales price? Maybe this is not the right question. Selling images through these agencies seems to be the easiest way to earn money with an online portfolio. Without their platform it becomes almost impossible to earn a substantial income by selling images online.
They offer you the access to a big market, you can make use of their good reputation among buyers and next to that they put quite some effort in making your images accessible for this market. All this comes with a price that we contributors have to pay. Maybe we are paying to much, I don't know. But what I know is that this is how the microstock market works right now and that we have the choice to participate or not. And for me microstock has been a good choice.
Not all agencies claim the same percentage of the sales price. In general the top agencies tend to take a higher percentage, but they will actually generate a higher income through a higher sales numbers per image. Lower ranked agencies take a lower percentage, but their sales numbers are substantially lower resulting in a higher income per sale but an overall lower income per image. What do you prefer? Selling an image 100 times and earn 100$ or sell that same image only 10 times earning 30$ or even 1 single time for 80$? Microstock is a numbers game, and numbers add up!