Selling stock footage: 5000 euros earned in the first 20 months

Making money by publishing videos online is not easy. I know the internet is full of videos of:

  • kittens
  • idiots doing idiot things

They get millions of views and they seem to be only content that can have success on the web. What normal people don't know is that you can't make money with that kind of content.

So, unless you are the owner, or at least a shareholder, of:

  • Google
  • Facebook

or other businesses that have become billionaire companies due to user-generated content, if you want for online video to become your full-time job, you have to find another way.

First of all, you need to understand how to monetize your video content (YouTube partnership? Selling products with your videos? Producing stock footage?).

Once you understand what you need, you have to professionalize the production. Otherwise, if you don't believe me, I'm sorry to say that I think the best you can do with online business is becoming the next:

  • Foodora rider
  • Uber driver

With that job you will earn more than you would publishing the videos that typically have millions of views on YouTube.

Why the stock footage business can be an option

I know I sometimes sound arrogant, but that’s because, by publishing videos online, I earned enough to change my life. I didn't use any tricks to do it; I studied and then worked hard. That was my magic formula.

Since 2006, I have been a producer of stock footage. With that business, I have brought home more than 100 thousand euros, first by producing in my spare time and then, for a period of my life, as my main job.

The stock footage is a video clip, generally 5 to 10 seconds long, that content producers like:

  • television executives
  • webmasters
  • advertisers

buy for their projects. Once, those videos were produced by companies that invested a lot of money in the equipment they need to shoot. Now, technology has helped freelancers to become 99% of the contributors uploading footage on agencies.

As a video maker, you can record footage with your reflex or mirrorless camera, or even with your smartphone, and then sell it on websites like:

Everyone who loves to make videos can enter this business. The problem, both for beginners and for professionals who previously worked offline (especially for those who are great photographers but have never worked on the web), is that the micrsotock market has his own rules, and it's a completely different business than others related to photography and video making.

Adapting to the new scenario is difficult. That's why so many people say that making money with stock footage is impossible.

As happens with any other job, if you want to get good results, you need someone to explain what to do. Even if you started taking pictures in the 1970s, you need to be humble and start again from scratch to learn how to make money, and sometimes you have to watch beginners who make more than you do because microstock is not just photography – it is online business.

The story of a beginner who started making money with stock footage

My personal story as a stock producer is not helpful to understand how things work as I started contributing in 2006 and the microstock business is completely different today. To understand what happens nowadays, the story of a producer who started selling videos online recently is far more interesting.

Domenico Fornas is an amateur computer expert I met both because he wrote a very detailed page about computers for editing videos in 4K for my Italian blog and because he is one of the students of my course.

He signed up to agencies in September 2017. Below you will find a diary of his first results.

Daniele Carrer

6 months after signing up: the first video I sold (by contributor Domenico Fornas)

The stock footage producer Domenico Fornas in front of his computer

Just today I sold my first video on Shutterstock.

Even though it's a minor achievement, it gave me the enthusiasm I really needed. I see it as a sign that I am on the right track.

This sale came because I believed in this business and because I didn't start improvising, instead studying with the course (learn more) created by Daniele Carrer.

The video I sold cost me 2 minutes of effort. The time I needed to:

  • position lights and tripod
  • point the camera at the subject (an ice cream machine);
  • edit on my computer to create a slow-motion effect.

Now, all I have to do is work hard and continue to believe in this business.

10 months after signing up: 570 euros earned

Screenshot of the earnings of a video maker on Pond5

I'm still producing new content. It's getting better and better every day, and I'm very happy about it.

I believe in the business of making videos online and I reached almost 800 clips published. My earnings are a net 570 euros in less than a year.

Two sales I made were of 4K videos published on Pond5: $199 each!

Screenshot of the earnings of a producer on Pond5

My goal for the next year is to reach at least 2000 euros net earnings. I know it's hard to get there, but I'm confident.

I feel like I'm improving at everything, but above all I have clearer ideas about the possibility of selling a video even before shooting it.

Screenshot of the earnings of a video maker on Storyblocks

Screenshot of the earnings of a video maker on Shutterstock

13 months after signing up: 500 euros more, in just 2 months

My sales continue to increase. These last 2 months I earned 500 euros net, reaching 1000 euros total in these first 13 months.

It is a great source of satisfaction, but also a reason for motivating myself.

This is my portfolio on Pond5.

Screenshot of the earnings of a contributor on Pond5

It is almost all 4K stock footage (3840 × 2160 resolution).

I also professionalized myself in my technique. Particularly in this video:

Screenshot of Pond5 player

click on the image to watch the footage on Pond5

I made it with a Feiyu gimbal costing only 300 euros which I find great, regardless of the cheap price. It weighs little and stabilizes well. The shot I took shows how well it works.

Obviously, the DJI Ronin M gimbal works better, but it also costs a lot more.

14 months after signing up: a total of 1400 euros earned

Screenshot of the earnings of a video maker on Pond5

Screenshot of the earnings of a video maker on Storyblocks

Screenshot of the earnings of a video maker on Shutterstock

I reached €1400 net earnings (half of them in the last 2 months), so I decided to become a real freelancer and open a VAT number.

Much of this is due to the teachings of Daniele Carrer. I know my figures are still low, but seeing them continue to increase motivates me.

I know it's still very difficult, what I'm trying to do, and that's the reason why I won't stop now. I think money shouldn’t be a goal but a means. So, once I reach a good and steady income, I will think about how to invest the money to grow personally.

20 months after signing up: 5 thousand euros earned

I am pleased to share my results; in the end, much of this is due to the Italian blog of Daniele Carrer, without which, perhaps, I could not have started making money in this business. The website is a landmark for the microstock world, even now, almost two years since I subscribed to the first agencies.

I made more than 5,000 euros net earnings in about 20 months. In this second year of stock footage production I am earning an average of 400 euros net per month; there are still 4 months to the end of my second year and my average earnings are constantly rising.

Overall, I am very satisfied, but this is just an achievement on the way to reach my goal of earning at least 1000 euros monthly.

I am confident that I can do it because I have more experience than when I started. Now I can:

  1. produce many more videos than before
  2. achieve a higher quality for my content

meaning I have far greater sales potential.

Investing in equipment and courses

I bought a drone that has given me:

  1. more opportunities while shooting
  2. the first sales in a short period

I also recently bought an economic slider, which cost only 50 euros on Amazon. With it, I've done some test videos, and I've already published some:

Pond5 video player

click on the image to watch the footage on Pond5

In my opinion, if:

  • you have a slow hand
  • you practice

that a slider is enough to start producing footage (even with macro shootings), especially considering:

  • the price
  • the modest weight

I also bought a course to learn how to do advanced editing with Adobe Premiere Pro.

In a few words, I do not stop trying to improve my production in terms of both quantity and quality. I really hope to reach the figure I want, before investing that money to further improve.

(to be continued)

Domenico Fornas

This story was originally published on the Italian microstock blog of Daniele Carrer

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