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Author Topic: Dilemma - should I drop iStock exclusivity  (Read 8818 times)

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« on: October 26, 2010, 09:39 »
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I'm not expecting a direct answer because I've got to choose, I know, but I've been an exclusive at iStock for 5 long years, they have mostly trated me well, income has gone up and I've had no real complaints. This is a real dilemma for me because inn January, after all the changes, I will take a pay cut  (I'm currently silver) and it's like going back to square 1.

I want to drop the crown, but I'm scared!

I've just been accepted at stockfresh, which looks so clean and new compared too iStock, and to be quite honest, I'm looking forward to starting again and having several income streams.

Any thoughts? Thanks  :)


« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2010, 09:49 »
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I was independent for nearly 4 years before becoming exclusive and I'd say that you shouldn't be scared at all about becoming an independent.

There's a learning curve - each site has slightly different inspection procedures and policies; all of them are easier to upload to than IS. It won't take long to get the hang of the rules at each site.

The IS that was has changed significantly. Other sites will sometimes yank you around too, but IMO there's no safe haven - no one ideal site. You'll want to get accepted at the other three sites of the big 4 to get your income, plus whatever other smaller sites you feel like contributing to.

Good luck.

« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2010, 09:53 »
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What scares you?  It would help to know how much you depend on your iStock income.  Is it your primary income?  A supplement?  Mad money?  The more you rely on it, the harder it'll be to pull the trigger.  On the other hand, you're looking at a significant decrease with the new year whatever you do.

If and when you take the plunge, tale the poll results seriously.  StockFresh is a waste of time at present, although it's time I'm willing and able to waste.  You won't see any sales to speak of, so think of your activity there as akin to playing the lottery, only with a much lower payout if it pays at all.  I've had one sale so far, despite uploading as much as they permit over several months.  Not gonna make you rick.

On the other hand, all the other sites in the top and middle tiers are capable of compensating for the decrease at iStock.  This month they're outperforming iStock + ThinkStock by 4:1.  Granted, that's with my full portfolio on all the sites but Veer (working on it, but with 100/week upload limit it'll take a while), and you'll have a long slog to get there, but it'll likely be worth it.

Good luck, whichever way you decide to go.

« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2010, 10:44 »
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If you already signed up at Stockfresh, it sounds like you already made up your mind.  :)

dont be afraid.  I dropped exclusivity after 6.5 years.  My 30 days was up just last week and I have absolutely no qualms about it.  I'm excited to have new avenues for my work.  iStock was a great place to learn and grow but that was then, this is now.

I am gold and just about a month away from diamond.  But come January 1, I drop down to 25% commission.  Talk about getting royally screwed!  iStock doesn't care about me, they only care about their bottom line.  In this industry you have to look out for number one (yourself) first.  Don't expect that any company will be looking out for your best interest. In the end, it is, of course, your decision based on your own numbers.  For me, going Independent was the best choice.  I may look back in a year and see things differently, but for now, I know I made the right choice for me at this point.

« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2010, 10:48 »
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I've long railed against exclusivity so I'd be the last person to urge you to stay with IS only. You're in a good position now with a large portfolio that for the most part will be accepted by the other sites. I believe that within a few months your income can exceed what you are making now if you get to work at the upload limits. Having multiple outlets at the top and middle tiers is like buying insurance against the goofiness that seems inevitable on any one site from time to time. Keep in mind that many of these good producing sites will accept images that IS rejected. So you'll immediately gain from exposure of those fresh images to the market.
Warning -- biased opinion:
Forget about any site except the first four top earners and maybe a few from the next five on the middle tier earners list. You don't need to waste time now with the so-far losers. Let the uninformed test out the wanna-bes.

traveler1116

« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2010, 11:10 »
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Definitely keep us posted on what you do and how it works for you.  Good luck either way.

« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2010, 11:23 »
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If you are able to supply a large amount of fresh stock photos, it will be a good decision. If not, you will suffer a income cut even though you put in a lot of work.

« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2010, 12:16 »
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I agree with what everyone has said.

I pondered exclusivity with IS earlier this year, and some crisis du jour made me change my mind once and for all. Now I am glad I stayed independent. IS has always been the top producer out of the 5 or 6 sites I upload to, but come January I believe that all is going to change. The last 3 months I have seen my earnings just about cut in half, so the downward slide is already happening. I believe they have crossed a line and done some real damage to their reputation. Just my opinion, of course.

Best of luck in whatever you decide to do.

« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2010, 12:23 »
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The problem being many of us will take a cut of income even in we stay exclusive with iS, and face the uncertainty of not knowing if/when the next drop of income will come. It's something I spent a lot of time thinking about, and with sadness (I've enjoyed being exclusive), and apprehension (jumping into the unknown again) my crown will be gone in 9 days.

« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2010, 12:39 »
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The problem being many of us will take a cut of income even in we stay exclusive with iS, and face the uncertainty of not knowing if/when the next drop of income will come. It's something I spent a lot of time thinking about, and with sadness (I've enjoyed being exclusive), and apprehension (jumping into the unknown again) my crown will be gone in 9 days.


Oh my - I didn't know you were switching back to independent. I have no doubt you'll do just fine, apprehension or no. I get the sadness part, but also completely get the  reasons.

Good luck with the transition.

lisafx

« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2010, 12:39 »
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Warning -- biased opinion:
Forget about any site except the first four top earners and maybe a few from the next five on the middle tier earners list. You don't need to waste time now with the so-far losers. Let the uninformed test out the wanna-bes.

I completely agree with this^^.  

Consistently, 90% of my microstock income comes from the top 4 sites.  Depending how how much time you have, those four are the ones to concentrate your energies on.  Once your portfolio is on those sites and earning for you, then you can pick and choose which of the smaller sites you want to support.

« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2010, 12:54 »
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Thanks Jo Ann!

« Reply #12 on: October 26, 2010, 14:31 »
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Thank you everyone. Very interesting replies. I've 99% made my mind up but I'm not looking forward to re-uploading! Also, I've had my nose so deep in the iStock reality distortion field for so long that I didn't even know this place existed before a couple of weeks ago.

Right then, I've got some applications to get in!

« Reply #13 on: October 26, 2010, 16:15 »
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Warning -- biased opinion:
Forget about any site except the first four top earners and maybe a few from the next five on the middle tier earners list. You don't need to waste time now with the so-far losers. Let the uninformed test out the wanna-bes.

I completely agree with this^^.  

Consistently, 90% of my microstock income comes from the top 4 sites.  Depending how how much time you have, those four are the ones to concentrate your energies on.  Once your portfolio is on those sites and earning for you, then you can pick and choose which of the smaller sites you want to support.

I totally agree - in my case, I earn 95%+ of my microstock income from the top 4 sites.  (I didn't realise this until I read Lisa's post and worked it out.  :))  Fortunately, a couple of the smaller sites are so easy to upload to, that it's worth the effort for the relatively small return.

I thank my lucky stars I didn't go exclusive with iStock some months ago - for once, my indecisiveness was a blessing.   ;D

« Reply #14 on: October 26, 2010, 16:37 »
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Just going to ditto what everyone else has said - don't be too scared to jump.   

After being exclusive since early 2006 my 30 days was up and the crown actually came of on my birthday a few weeks back. :-) 
While the initial shock of losing Vetta and E+ is indeed painful - knowing that next January I was going from 35% (and slowly getting closer to 40%) all the way back to 25% was just too much to take. 

On the bright side when those former Vetta files have sold over the last few days I look at the money I lost and realize that iStock lost even more.  Yeah, not like they'll notice - but makes me feel a little better.

Stick with hitting the other 3 of the big 4 first.   Keyworking if you didn't do it on the file will be the big challenge with a large portfolio.  But most likely once you're in you'll get a pretty good acceptance rate on everything that iStock took - although I've had a few flames and Vetta's turned down.   Just don't worry about losing a few here and their and just focus on getting the library up all over and being ready to add new stuff to all the sites. 

Mark

« Reply #15 on: October 26, 2010, 16:45 »
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Just a little tip if you are uploading to Veer...the first time around they rejected every single big seller I had on istock. They may have eased up a bit since the Dash for Cash promo, but try uploading fresh and new things to Veer (perfectly understandable from their point of view).

« Reply #16 on: October 26, 2010, 16:52 »
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Just a little tip if you are uploading to Veer...the first time around they rejected every single big seller I had on istock. They may have eased up a bit since the Dash for Cash promo, but try uploading fresh and new things to Veer (perfectly understandable from their point of view).

Yup, my first time around was a total strikeout with them.   Second time around I sent in more of the artsy former Vetta's and they took every single one of them. 


« Reply #17 on: October 26, 2010, 18:12 »
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I would wait until we see what effect all these announced changes have on sales before dropping the crown. I just went exclusive 3 months ago and am already making more than I was as an independent.

Istock was 25-35% of my income as an independent.

lisafx

« Reply #18 on: October 26, 2010, 18:54 »
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Completely OT:  Kyle, your avatar is completely adorable.  Cats always make me smile :D

« Reply #19 on: October 26, 2010, 20:26 »
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I think dropping exclusivity after a long period of time is a much tougher choice than becoming exclusive after being independent for a long time. The starting over at the other agencies at lower royalty levels is what concerns me the most. I know of two diamond illustrators that dropped exclusivity and then came back within a year.

I was independent for a year or so, when I wasn't serious, and had about 60 files in my port. I guess I should have stayed that way, but my income went up 3.5x when I became exclusive and I saw no point in going back. However, if my royalty drops for next year, it will be an easy decision.

« Reply #20 on: October 26, 2010, 23:50 »
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I think dropping exclusivity after a long period of time is a much tougher choice than becoming exclusive after being independent for a long time. The starting over at the other agencies at lower royalty levels is what concerns me the most. I know of two diamond illustrators that dropped exclusivity and then came back within a year.

I was independent for a year or so, when I wasn't serious, and had about 60 files in my port. I guess I should have stayed that way, but my income went up 3.5x when I became exclusive and I saw no point in going back. However, if my royalty drops for next year, it will be an easy decision.

No really - by dropping the crown you're just giving up $$ - you don't have to terminate your relationship with an agency or delete images. If the experiment doesn't work you can still quite easily go back. Your pride may be a little battered and you'll have spent a lot of time for nothing, but just you have to wait a little bit. Going back to being an independent means trying to re-establish your place in a search that has much tougher competition than when you did it the first time - it would be unrealistic to expect to earn the same as you did before from those images.

I made the decision with over 2500 images on other agencies that were well established in the search and had an income that  was covering all my daily expenses. My income needed to go up by around 3.5 times to equal the past. The decision was based on where I wanted to be in the future and despite the changes I think it was the right decision to make.

Some of the exclusives who are going to be hurt in the changes are under the impression that somehow the conditions are better with a dozen other up-and-coming agencies and that there is less competition. In reality though they're often the ones being hurt because the got to diamond in the early days and have been steadily dropping in the rankings in recent times. Unless the images that they're planning on putting elsewhere place at the top of the searches they're aiming for, the results aren't going to be any better than what's on offer at IS.

« Reply #21 on: October 27, 2010, 00:10 »
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^^ good points

Also, you really need to look at your portfolio and see which ones are the ones that earn you the majority shares of your revenue. If older images make up  a substantial portion of your revenue, I would think twice about expecting the same returns for those images. Its probably due to earlier success with less competition and its current best match position.

I feel bad for the diamonds who will drop by a lot since most of their success was in the earlier days with less competition. I would figure these exclusives are the ones thinking about dropping exclusivity but they really should weigh the pros an cons.

« Reply #22 on: October 27, 2010, 00:46 »
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I feel bad for the diamonds who will drop by a lot since most of their success was in the earlier days with less competition. I would figure these exclusives are the ones thinking about dropping exclusivity but they really should weigh the pros an cons.

On the other hand some of those have had a very good run. Some have made a few thousand dollars from images of some random objects - dogs, fruit, a bunch of apples, whatever - because they uploaded them in 2006 and have been selling them ever since. Its unrealistic to expect that this sort of portfolio or subject matter is going to continue to earn a huge income indefinitely into the future.

Its a competitive market and increasingly professional. To succeed in future contributors will have to take a professional approach. For the most part those who have continued to expand and improve their portfolios and techniques can still do well at IS and elsewhere.

« Reply #23 on: October 27, 2010, 01:01 »
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I'm fairly certain that at some point in the future I'll be independent again - because at some point in the future Getty will get what it wants and have everyone's royalties at 20% max.

Right now it appears that for 2011 I'll be able to get 35% (which is staying the same if you don't count the last few weeks of the year where I'll be diamond and briefly earning 40%). On that basis I'll probably put up with the many unpalatable changes at IS and stay exclusive for 2011.

My guess is that the redeemed credit totals required for 35% for 2012 will rise significantly and that without Vetta or Agency (I pulled out of Vetta once they mandated that those files go to Getty with no opt out) it'll be hard to get there. Once that happens moving back to independent becomes very likely.

One of the things that deeply irks me is splitting photos and illustrations - I don't have many illustrations and was contemplating doing more. Had also thought about branching out to video. With the current compensation scheme that becomes untenable. Why they want to discourage multi-media contributors is beyond my comprehension, but that's what they've done.

I'm hoping that perhaps in the next year there will be some changes at IS - especially if the recent craziness doesn't sit well with buyers and the geniuses who thought it up then don't make their targets. That may just be wishful thinking on my part...

« Reply #24 on: October 27, 2010, 01:08 »
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Any thoughts? Thanks  :)
Shutterstock earns me 6x more than iStock. Imagine you would fall back by 1/2 on iStock, you will still earn (much) more in total. Jump!

traveler1116

« Reply #25 on: October 27, 2010, 01:36 »
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Any thoughts? Thanks  :)
Shutterstock earns me 6x more than iStock. Imagine you would fall back by 1/2 on iStock, you will still earn (much) more in total. Jump!
Half will be automatic when the new % is started but more will be lost from E+, Vetta, best match placement, less upload slots, etc..  Not saying it's a bad idea to go independent, just that IS income may go down much more than 50% but then again it might not.  Let us know what happens.

« Reply #26 on: October 27, 2010, 04:02 »
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Shutterstock earns me 6x more than iStock. Imagine you would fall back by 1/2 on iStock, you will still earn (much) more in total. Jump!
iStock earns me 2-3x more than Shutterstock: it is difficult to conclude anything based on other's experience  :P
« Last Edit: October 27, 2010, 04:05 by araminta »


« Reply #27 on: October 27, 2010, 13:45 »
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While Istock deserves all the bashings it gets, you may soon find out that other agencies are not all democratic angels of fairness. You may also find that their subscription prices and even normal DL prices hit your bottomline even harder, unless you are able to produce a lot of high quality images in a short time.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2010, 19:25 by Freedom »

« Reply #28 on: October 27, 2010, 14:33 »
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Also keep in mind that you can always go back to being exclusive in the future if being an independent doesn't work for you

I've got my target numbers set and I'm going to be looking closely at them the next 3-6 months.  If at that time I feel my decision to ditch the crown was the wrong one I'll look at the minimum time online agreements with everyone and cease uploading to them in timeline that will allow me to close them at around a 1 year mark and become exclusive again via iStock.   

Granted year long experiment might not be the best thing for my stock income, or it might be the best thing I could have down. Either way I'll know and if I take the crown back I'll at least feel it really is the best thing for me.


 

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