18 Feb 2008 When Do You Give Up on a Slow Microstock Agency?
I’ve decided to stop uploading new photos to CanStockPhoto. Coming to this decision involved many factors, so I’m writing them out to share and compare.
Effort vs Return
As you can see in my monthly earnings reports, CanStockPhoto generates less than 1 cent (it’s rounded up) per photo per month and is my lowest earning microstock agency. I’ve been contributing there since December 2005 and earned a total of $141.70. Last month I had 445 photos online and earned $2.50.
It’s not a great deal of extra effort uploading photos to one extra website when you have a refined workflow. CanStockPhoto makes it simpler than many by auto-categorizing images, but it still requires that each image is individually submitted. Other agencies without categories allow contributors to submit an entire batch at once, assuming all the IPTC data is complete. If CanStockPhoto’s upload process was easier, I may have elected to continue contributing.
While it’s my primary reason, the low return from CanStockPhoto isn’t enough itself to convince me to give up on them.
Each microstock agency has a distinct personality and contributors like some more than others. There are some agencies that come close to earning as little for me as CanStockPhoto, but I like their personality. If I like the website, the voice, the upload process, and generally the experience of contributing to an agency, I’m more likely to tolerate low earnings.
A contributor’s experience is entirely subjective and there is always variety. My personal experience and opinion of CanStockPhoto isn’t positive.
Growth or Decline
Future earnings are a large part of selling photos in the microstock market. If an agency shows more signs of decline than growth, you can’t expect future earnings growth.
One of the more accessible methods of observing the progress of a microstock agency is through its website traffic. While not a flawless measure, the Alexa charts provide an insight.
CanStockPhoto is in steady decline and doesn’t hold a lot of promise of future earnings. Here are the same charts for established leaders and new entrants: iStockphoto; Shutterstock; LuckyOliver; and Crestock. They all show growth.
I speak with many other microstock contributors and participate in relevant forums. I know that I am not alone in experiencing slow sales at CanStockPhoto. While top microstockers earn hundreds of dollars there each month, my portfolio isn’t sufficient quality or size to earn a sufficient return per image.
Poor Public Relations
CEOs and representatives of other microstock agencies actively engage contributors in microstock forums. It’s appreciated by the contributors, and it’s easy to see the agencies deriving direct benefits from openly engaging their suppliers. I have only seen one post from CanStockPhoto founder and CEO Duncan Enman in a forum outside his own. He wrote, “I don’t follow this site (or any other microstock discussion sites)…”.
Since beginning this blog, I’ve made direct contact with all other microstock agencies where I contribute photos. Most contacted me before I sought them, and most are CEOs, senior executives, or specifically appointed representatives. Despite numerous attempts, I haven’t ever had any response from anyone at CanStockPhoto.
Do You Leave or Remove your Photos?
I’m going to leave my photos online at CanStockPhoto. Many contributors don’t, but the agency hasn’t upset me or done anything I want to actively discourage. My online portfolio represents an investment of time spent uploading, and there’s no reason why I can’t continue to earn from that asset. I’m not leaving the agency entirely, I’m just not going to invest any more time contributing new photos.
Is there anything you use to know when to give up on a slow microstock agency that I haven’t mentioned? Have you given up on any agencies yet?