16 Jun 2008 How Much do Top Microstockers Earn?

Money, Valentin MosichevThere’s been speculation about top microstocker earnings for some time. The market’s top selling contributor, Yuri Arcurs, has twice published his earnings figures, removing the need for further speculation. While that information is impressive and inspiring (maybe for some its a little depressing) there’s more to understand about those big numbers.

How Does Knowing Help?

Like all information, these figures can be helpful for making decisions. I’m receiving more and more requests for this kind of information from established stock photographers evaluating their own potential in the microstock market.

Ambitious microstockers are also using this information for insights into the relative appeal of their own portfolio. If their Return per Image (RPI – earnings divided by portfolio size) is equal or near to that of the top earners, they know they need to build the size of their portfolio to be earning a similar amount. If not, they need to improve the commercial appeal of their photos.

Earnings In Context

Earnings is only one side of the equation. Those at the top of the microstock market all have high costs – assistants, models, locations, camera equipment, computer equipment, travel. Hobbyists say it doesn’t take money to make money in microstock, but clearly it does if you want to earn a lot. In Ron Chapple’s 12 month earnings report he notes that despite earning strong revenue his microstock business is not yet profitable.

The context is also important when you look at how earnings are skewed in microstock. It’s very likely that the 80-20 rule applies: 20% of contributors earn 80% of all earnings. Little doubt remains that the majority of microstock contributors earn very little, though very few of those are as committed to microstock as the top earners.

It’s Easier at the Top

Earnings growth accelerates at the top of the microstock market:

  • Search algorithms at most agencies favor contributors with high sales ratios
  • Dreamstime’s price tiers raise earnings for successful photos
  • Fotolia allows contributors to raise their prices as their ranking level rises
  • Shutterstock’s commission schedule pays contributors more as their lifetime earnings rise

All these factors combine to produce a sharp upturn in earnings for the most successful contributors.

How Can I Earn That Much?

The common element among top microstock earners is a smart strategy. They work hard to build their portfolios, but just working hard isn’t enough. Before the hard work comes the smart work: researching market trends; investing in equipment; and continually refining skills.

Fortunately for us, many top microstock earners provide lots of helpful information via their blogs and websites to help us be more like them.

  • Han Cheng
    Posted at 20:23h, 17 June Reply

    It is not easy being a top microstock contributor.

    I saw Yuri Arcurs portfolio. It is huge. So in order to slowly rise to the top, I guess we just keep on uploading?

  • Tom
    Posted at 21:03h, 17 June Reply

    I agree with Han Cheng… earning big bucks like Arcurs and some others do is not anyone’s task. Most will only manage to get some pocket money out of this.

  • Antonio D'Albore
    Posted at 05:28h, 18 June Reply

    I partially agree with Han and Tom, although is definitively not easy to become big guys like Yuri and Lise they are to be considered as reference, a landmark.
    This is something happen in every industry, look at Apple for the iPod: they set the market reference and the smart “followers” have somehow found their niche market.
    At the end also this followers are making money over it…

    Just my two cents..

    Antonio D’Albore

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