2017 Stock Footage Sales Report
(I have rounded some numbers and provided some approximations in this post, as certain stock footage sites don’t allow for the sharing of detailed sales data. The overall earnings are still representative.)
Income: From November 2016 to the end of December of 2017, I grossed approximately $6,675.
I started listing footage in earnest in late 2016. I cleared $5,000 in less than twelve months and since then I have averaged roughly $550 in earnings per month.
Portfolios at Different Agencies
Almost all of my earnings have come from Shutterstock, Pond5, and Storyblocks (formerly Videoblocks).
Up until about two months ago, I had roughly 300 clips at each of the three major agencies. I have been able to almost double that in the last two months, so I’m looking forward to seeing if that translates into correlating sales in 2018.
For now, here are my portfolios. (I added a weighted average based on the average number of clips that existed per month on each agency, which was roughly 300)
Labor: I believe it took roughly 200 hours of labor to create and upload the clips in my portfolio.
While I haven’t tracked my labor down to the minute. I know how much quality work I have put in, which doesn’t include work with Game of Thrones playing in the background…
Costs: The cost to produce these is hard to calculate, as half of them were the product of other shoots, the other half cost around $1,000 to produce.
Many of the initial clips I uploaded were the product of small commercial video shoots. It is hard for me to approximate the costs of these clips as there was a lot that went into these shoots that didn’t have to do with direct production, like figuring out branding and messaging, which isn’t something that you have to do in the same way for stock footage shoots.
I did end the year by creating new footage specifically for the purposed of making passive income through stock footage when I had free time. I am going to be more rigorous in 2018 tracking my spending and time when producing footage so that I can become more efficient going forward.
To give these numbers a bit more context, here is some more detail from 2016 and 2017:
- My Best Month Ever was $1,227 in June.
- My Best Sales Day Ever earned me $495.
- My best selling clip has earned me a little over $700. Find it here:
7 Initial Takeaways
What does all of this actually mean?
While I am still in the early stages, I think these point to a few positive things.
- Selling stock footage seems more than viable at the rate my portfolio is earning and growing and how much time and cost have gone into it. Since this is a business where passive income is generated off of older assets, I believe making roughly $25 / hour of time invested in the first year alone is a good sign for things to come.
- There are two clear frontrunner agencies in terms of sales. Many people already seem to agree on this, but for me Shutterstock and Pond5 are the tops by far, and worth the most time. When I started listing footage I wanted to try to invest the most time in the most promising agencies, so I conducted an informal test; I listed between 25-30 video clips on each of the sites that I had read produced the greatest returns. I left these clips on the agencies for several months and saw which might perform best. Within the first few months I had received sales on Shutterstock, Pond5, and Videoblocks, but to date I have not received a sale at Adobe Stock and have only had one sale at Dissolve, which didn’t arrive until I had already earned a considerable amount from the other agencies. Once I had this proof of concept, I began dedicating all of my time to the best performing agencies, commensurate with how well they were performing. This means that rather than take the time to keep uploading old clips to Dissolve and Adobe, I shot new clips and uploaded them to my best selling agencies. I think this paid off, as the smaller agencies still haven’t really passed the initial test. I think based on the amount that Adobe is spending on marketing however since they purchased Fotolia, that I am going to try to populate it as well. I’m going to move forward populating my Dissolve.com portfolio as well, mostly for testing purposes going forward.
- There are some clear elements that set top selling clips apart from low selling clips. The biggest is people, particularly faces. Almost all of my earnings have come from clips that have models with signed releases in them. This includes drone footage, as evidenced by my best-selling clip. Based off of my sales, and the extra time and investment it can take to shoot with people (depending on whether you need to hire models or can shoot with friends and family, or integrate stock footage into other video shoots) I believe it is well worth the extra time and investment to make sure that people are included in your shots. The payoffs are clearly worth it. Footage with people has sold in my library more than ten times as often as footage without people, yet it has not taken ten times longer, or cost ten times more, to shoot than footage without models.
- Quality and quantity both matter. Having tried to research this question extensively through forums and other contributors available earnings data, I think that both quantity and quality matter. Some of the shots that are clearly aesthetically inferior, but from the same shoot, will end up selling on one site, while a slightly altered version or angle will also sell on the same site, or another site. I think diversity in shots is clearly important, as it increases the odds that your footage will show up in a search based on just more keywords. At the same time, many clips that I originally thought of keeping off of my sites, since I didn’t necessarily think were the best, have ended up earning me hundreds of dollars. Sites don’t make their algorithms available to contributors, so it’s impossible to really answer this question. I think the best way to move forward is to submit similar clips in batches and let the agencies determine what might be too similar or not. SOme agencies like Shutterstock are more judicious, but the still largely except many clips from the same shoot as long as they are shot from a slightly different angle, or feature a different action.
- I’ve only sold about 10% of what I’ve posted, but some of my best content hasn’t sold at all, so it is important to have great content, but you also need a lot of it. I think this relates to the above. Some seamingly dead clips that have not gotten a single sale or view for many months will suddenly get several. But I think anticipating that roughly 10% of your portfolio will sell is a safe bet. I don’t think this is necessarily as a problem, and may be further proof that you need a large body of clips in your portfolio.
- Gear can be expensive, but it can also be affordable. My best selling clip was shot with a $500 DJI drone setup, while some of the footage I shot on a RED Epic has performed poorly. I think the most important thing is the all of the footage looks “cinematic” – a term and style that I hope to explore and dissect further in the future. I will say that shooting a high quantity of cinematic footage with a high quality camera, like a RED, is easier, meaning more can be gathered more quickly. Luckily, the cost of the cameras that can produce an extremely high quality of footage has plummeted over the last few years. If you know what to gear to use, what is current, and have some skills with how to improvise DIY solutions as well, you can shoot a lot of stock footage that sells
- It takes some time and patience. While I have heard of many photographers that sell stock images the same day they are accepted by the agencies, I have never had this occur for any of my footage. Based on my own experience, and information from other contributors, there seems to be a consensus that there is a delay of several months between when you list footage and when it sells. In my experience, it usually takes two to three months for footage to start selling. Some footage from a particular shoot has taken a full year to sell. Overall though, I seem to have sold at least one clips from each set-up I do within a shoot.
Improving Earnings Next Year
What Comes next?
Over the next year I am going to try to be much more detailed when it comes to numbers, so that I, and hopefully all of us, can become more efficient and profitable contributors. In the following posts I’ll try to lay out more detail and information about how I was able to make what I did last year, my plans for the future, and the actual amounts of time and money I think you and I stand to gain by selling stock footage. I’m very excited to keep exploring these trends and data based on my own portfolios through this site, and hope that others may want to contribute as well.
What questions do you want answered?
Beyond, “how much money can you make selling stock footage?” Please share other questions you might have about selling stock footage with me. As I share how much I made, when, which clips were selling, how much time I was putting into shooting, processing and tagging clips, how many hours this was all taking, and what the gear cost, I will hopefully be able to answer other questions you might have that I haven’t even thought of.
If there are other topics that you think would be interesting for me to cover, or if you would like to contribute to the blog based on your own experience, let me know in the comments if anything comes to mind!
At the very least, I hope that my numbers will give some confidence to filmmakers, independent videographers, and freelancers who decide to get started.