Two (of mine) articles back I wrote about the importance of being unique
. Lately I've been realizing that I missed one very crucial point, which (imho) is much of the answer to the question why some will make it and some won't (in microstock, at least)... I read contributor's postings on the net, look at how portfolios develop and the unifying term which first springs to mind is puberty
. It's not a perfect analogy but since we've all experienced that (some more recently than others) I want to stick with it.
To me microstock isn't in its child years anymore. The industry has made a strong enough impact so we know it's here to stay. By now there is also a pretty large number of "old" contributors - two or more years into uploading. But there's also a certain identity crisis within this group. Just as teenagers want the benefits of adult life but without its "negative" responsibilities, so we want the cash but don't really want to invest. Yes, I know that many are here just for the fun of it, yada, yada, yada... But look at the longest threads on any microstock forum - the vast majority of them discuss... well, money - prices, taxes, subscriptions. :) Certainly not by accident.
Those of you who are here for the fun - you're inclined to accept a couple of payments per year. The rest seriously want a growing income. Have you, however, considered the investment you're making to achieve this? I don't mean just the camera, lens, flash or carton box with bed sheet over it which you've acquired recently. I mean how much of a better photographer you've become in the past, say - one year?
Let's bring it up a notch - how much of a better businessman have you become for that period? This includes the money you've invested, the time to learn and the time to practice. Add also the time to analyze what's happening on the market in general - quality and quantity-wise. Not to mention "planning the future moves".
I've been reviewing images for well over 3 and 1/2 years now and in my mind there's three types of users: those who come prepared (in all aspects, ie. the "pros") and immediately succeed; those who come with zero experience but over time progress; those who come with "some" experience but never move forward. It's the latter two groups which are of particular interest and where you most likely fit. I'm in there, as well.
Microstock was a bit like a loving and spoiling grandma in the beginning - making you sweet pancakes with honey and butter just because you made your bed yesterday (or did this actually win you an ice-cream as well?). Three-four years ago you only had to upload something decent and the cash slapped you on the face the next day... pretty much. Today... Today is not yesterday. Today you need to sweat and bend backward to make a payment.
Why is it so hard?
Based only on my observations - because a very large number of contributors are still only making their bed. But grandma knows you're older now, so she wants you to do your homework as well... and clean half of the house next to that. In other words, many people have only been improving quantity-wise (if even that) and frankly, collecting mold when it comes to quality/creativity.
Not meaning to offend anyone - I'm speaking to myself as well. ;) But I like to be honest. Yes, your latest uploads are somewhat better than your first files (that's if you even had the guts to not disable them from your portfolio yet), but are they better than the better ones overall?
Moreover, is your portfolio exposure
(shall I mention "database exposure" at all?) any higher today?
Here's another issue to ponder about - are you doing this anywhere near part-time?
Full-time - few are blessed with this, so I won't even discuss it. But how many hours in total do you actually put into microstock per week? I'm talking specifically into microstock. The walk-along-the-river-shoot-all-the-ducks-and-fallen-leaves doesn't count. (sorry) Still a very large amount of uploaded images aren't really prepared or produced with the word "commercial" in mind. Some would probably have been accepted in the past and this makes people demand that they be accepted today as well. We want images accepted, this is how money are made... provided that the images sell. And a lot of these which I'm talking about don't. While you were adding inches up the door frame, the buyers grew up as well. They require higher quality today because (just imagine that:) their competition is using your images from two years ago.
How much (of quality work!) you put into it will determine what you get out of it. Plain and simple.
Alright, probably you're getting to the bottom of your coffee mug, so let's wrap this up. You're happy with where you are? - Great. You want to cash out more in six months? - You'll need to work harder for six months. (sorry)
Here's a quick quiz to get you started:
1) What are your expectations
from your microstock involvement?
2) Are you ready to invest
to meet these expectations (presuming you haven't met them yet)?
3) What are your realistic options
for investment (ie. equipment, shooting time, sole training, all of the above)?
4) Are you willing to look at this as a business - with its good and bad sides?
And lastly, let me reveal what appears to be a super top secret piece of information - it takes time and perseverance to make money (by means that won't get you in prison, at least). Yes, yesterday you only had to make your bed to get the pancakes. Today... Today is not yesterday. But would you just imagine how much better tomorrow could be! ;)