06 May 2007 Microstock – Passive Income or a Job?

Kicking Back, Sharon DominickThe possibility of earning money via a near-passive method was one of the first things that attracted my wife and I to selling photos on microstock websites. From the outside it seemed simple: Shoot, repair, upload, describe & keyword, bank the checks. Turns out it is exactly that simple.

Passive income is income you don’t work to create. Bank interest is the most simple example. You likely worked to get the money in the first place, but once it’s there it creates passive income in the form of interest payments. On the other side, a job is an agreement to sell your time. When you stop working your income stops too.

So is microstocking passive income or a job?

If I shoot, repair, upload, describe and keyword 100 photos that sell well, I will have income perpetually. Who knows what will happen to the industry in the future, but with what we know now, those images will continue to sell. They may earn less and less as time goes by due to increased competition from other contributors, but they may also increase their earnings as time goes by through the growth of the market. Either way, and all other things being equal, they’ll continue to generate earnings.

Simplistically, it seems that selling photos online is passive. But let’s step out of the theoretical and into the real world. A portfolio of 100 images isn’t going to continue producing worthwhile results over time, regardless of the quality of the photo. Competition is currently rising more rapidly than market demand as evidenced by the drop in earnings by microstockers who take time off from uploading, myself included.

So microstock is passive for a short time. In fact it seems more accurate to look at it as delayed payment for your work. The 20c-$2 from your first sale is not compensation for the work and nobody would do it if that was all the compensation you received. A few hundred dollars for a good quality image seems fair, and over a year or two that’s likely what you’ll receive.

I’m concluding that selling photos online in the microstock website is not passive. Instead, it is a form of earning money that is asynchronous (can be done at any time) with delayed compensation. This makes it different to most typical jobs, but in essence you’re still bargaining for money with your time, qualifying it as a job in the context of this debase. There you go.

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