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Author Topic: Unhappy Istock Contributor - Advice Sought Please  (Read 14044 times)

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« on: September 21, 2011, 05:45 »
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Some Advice please.

I have been an enthusiastic, loyal and I hate to say it now but cheerleading purchaser  and member of Istock since 2003 and a contributor for 4 years (Vector Illustration only). I am exclusive and have been for 3 1/2 years.

Up until the beginning of this year, I was earning a fairly reasonable amount every month, I am a full time graphic designer/illustrator, so uploaded in my spare time, sort of like moonlighting!.

This past year I have not uploaded much for various reasons, family issues being one, but also a severe lack of motivation/inspiration, a major contributor to this being the change in treatment from the powers that be, for example: Change in royalty from canister to RC, subsequent loss in royalty %, the unfair way illustrators are treated in relation to photographers  to achieve the necessary RC credits, the logo fiasco (what a waste of bloody time, work and effort), the lack of opportunities given to Vector exclusive contributors (no exclusive +, no editorial, the removal of Vetta, the reappearance of Vetta), removal of funds from contributors account due to Fraudulent purchases that Istock allowed to happen,etc, etc.

Recently I pulled myself together, stopped sulking ,stopped looking at the forums (always bad news, always depressing) and started to upload with gusto again.

HOWEVER, This past few months my downloads have dropped off a cliff, my previously best sellers no longer appear on my most popular files list, basically Istock don't want to sell them anymore.

September which used to be the start of the busy download season for me is worse than the Summer months.

As the recently departed K.K.T. once said, "Money won't make you happy", well sorry mate with Istock now, it is no longer about love, woohays, or cuddles it is about cold hard cash and  I am no longer earning any.

SOO, I am thinking the previously unthinkable, jumping ship and becoming independent throwing off the shackles and becoming free. I was previously unwilling to do this, because I did not want to lose a large percentage of my earnings, but, now 50% of nowt is nowt, so I have nothing to lose and my best sellers that are now languishing in the dark will get the chance to sell somewhere else.

I realise that I will be too late to reap the benefit of the busy times anywhere else Sept-Dec this year so am looking to change the beginning of next year.

My portfolio is a mix of backgrounds, chrimbo stuff, cartoons, concept illustrations, arty farty painting effects and and a small amount of quirky unusual illos that don't sell much but are there for vanity really!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, on either what sites are best for Vector only illustrators, or any way to improve my downloads at Istock.

Please help. :)


« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2011, 06:32 »
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I'm exclusive illustrator only. Your text could have been written by me, because it's exactly what heappens with me. Unfortunately, i don't have answers for share.

Microbius

« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2011, 06:51 »
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It's really sad because IStock really did lead they pack by such a long way when it came to the quality of it's collection of illustrations a couple of years back. Then for some reason when Getty took over they decided vector contributors had had it too good under the old system and they should be put in their place, the worst bit was when the targets were set it was decided to count a dollar being bought in by illustrators as being worth less than a dollar bought in by a photographer.

The main site to get in on is Shutterstock, basically it's the same as those for everyone else, so just look to the right and start at the top of the list.

« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2011, 07:06 »
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Sales drop was really big. Not so long time ago, easily i have 40, 50 downloads in a good days. Now, if i have 5 by day, i'm happy. Sales drop + royalties cut = total demotivation

« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2011, 07:38 »
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Hi Chico,
Similar download drop to me.
I am trying to fight the demotivation, but my goodness it's difficult! I feel unwanted, ignored, but most of all POOR! :)

« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2011, 10:11 »
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feeling less than happy i went independent (also illustrator) and to be honest i felt robbed getting 25 cents a pop for my vectors at SS  :-\.people just go on binges and buy like 20 files at a time-it doesn't feel fair-i know some will argue that its about the totals-to each their own-i feel we should value our work..maybe people who sell photos don't feel that way because it's more of a production, but my vectors are really works of art...so i guess we are the ones to decide the value...

plus being independent felt more like a *job* and it wasn't rewarding

weird SS observation that discouraged me-my earnings were actually at their highest with the first batch uploaded (about 100 files)-then they dropped to a poor average no matter how many more hundreds of files i uploaded  :'(
my answer is to reduce my dependance on the monetary-i love nature-so consume less-enjoy the freedom to create

thats my perspective  ::)

vlad_the_imp

« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2011, 10:40 »
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Hi mbug, well your opening post could have been written by me, it's exactly how I feel ( and others I know, you're far from being the only disillusioned one, and that is a small crumb of comfort I know) I am a fairly reasonable seller at IS and have seen sales fall through the floor AND have contemplated the non-exclusive route. However, I know 3 people who have dropped exclusivity and they all had major drops in income that are yet to recover. Be warned, it's not any better ( and in some cases considerably worse) anywhere else. I have no easy answers I'm afraid, I only hope overall istock is suffering a big drop in income too and eventually the fools that run it might realise they have to get a grip and figure out what went wrong. I'm not holding my breath though.

« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2011, 11:17 »
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Yeah, it's definitely not any easier as an independent, but it's nice to have other options.

I guess I've been trying to make more decisions lately that are focused on long term rather than what makes me the most now.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2011, 11:20 by cthoman »

« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2011, 11:46 »
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I'd like to read some analysis about all this vector situation. Where is the problem? Or, what is the problem? New sites? Piracy? Prices? Lots of new artists? Best Match? Bad marketing?

There are a lot of new opportunities popping out every day outside. Tablets, cell phones, social media sites, etc... So, why our sales go down instead of growing? Thoughts?

« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2011, 11:48 »
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... However, I know 3 people who have dropped exclusivity and they all had major drops in income that are yet to recover. Be warned, it's not any better ( and in some cases considerably worse) anywhere else....

I am not primarily an illustrator (I have a small portion of my portfolio that is illustrations) but I left iStock exclusivity in June. It is absolutely true that you'll see a temporary drop in income during the transition. I think the real issue is where you think things are heading. If you believe that over time, your situation will improve at other sites, versus continue to decline at iStock, perhaps it's better to take the hit now and get started building better search position.

You have more options with other sites (JPEGs of your vectors if you don't like a particular site's vector pricing). Over time, your SS income per download will rise as you earn more. You might want to unbundle some of your more complex illustrations to sell better on sites that have a one price for all vectors policy. If you do raster illustrations, or other derivations from your vector work, you can sell those (something iStock doesn't welcome).

It's too soon for me to say better/worse on returning to independence after my 3 year stint as an exclusive, but I'm pretty close to certain that if I had stayed exclusive at iStock, my 2011 income would have been less than 2010 anyway.  

Phadrea

    This user is banned.
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2011, 13:34 »
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I agree (see post "sales have tanked") Last year I was getting at least $10-20 a day in downloads. Today I got one for 48 cents. That's utter garbage and an insult. I am dropping exclusivity. Iv'e had enough. They are not rewarding me for staying loyal. They have also demotivated me in taking photos this year because nothing gets accepted anymore so I don't bother. That's bad for me and I want to get back into it. There is more to life than Istock.

« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2011, 13:44 »
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I'd like to read some analysis about all this vector situation. Where is the problem? Or, what is the problem? New sites? Piracy? Prices? Lots of new artists? Best Match? Bad marketing?

There are a lot of new opportunities popping out every day outside. Tablets, cell phones, social media sites, etc... So, why our sales go down instead of growing? Thoughts?

I think the economy is pretty crappy and is seriously stalled with no growth and i think the US is definitely in a double dip recession.

There's more competition and buyers leaving istock due to many reasons. Another factor I believe is playing a part in vectors demise on istock is that the vectors keep losing valuable slots in the first couple of pages to new collections like agency, vetta, exclusive+, photo+, editorial... throw in audio and video... all these new collections are more money for GETTY and is surely best match for GETTY and not to the contributors. my top sellers were consistently on one of the first in 20 slots until the end of 2010. Now they can be found on page 2 or 3 of 200 images per page. My 30+ dls a month files now get me 10-20 dls.

istock clearly treats vector contributors as second class citizens. Take the slider that they introduced. Put that in the lowest/cheapest one dot setting and do a search for anything. no vector files above 8 credits show up in that search which pretty much eliminates 90% of my portfolio. Funny, i spent the last 3 years tailoring my portfolio to files priced at 15 credits and above because that was the only way to maximise earnings. My guess is anywhere from 10-25% of searches on istock are used in those settings now. Everything that has happened within the last 18 months was in no way positive for the vector contributor.

« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2011, 14:04 »
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I think the economy is pretty crappy and is seriously stalled with no growth and i think the US is definitely in a double dip recession.

There's more competition and buyers leaving istock due to many reasons. Another factor I believe is playing a part in vectors demise on istock is that the vectors keep losing valuable slots in the first couple of pages to new collections like agency, vetta, exclusive+, photo+, editorial... throw in audio and video... all these new collections are more money for GETTY and is surely best match for GETTY and not to the contributors. my top sellers were consistently on one of the first in 20 slots until the end of 2010. Now they can be found on page 2 or 3 of 200 images per page. My 30+ dls a month files now get me 10-20 dls.

istock clearly treats vector contributors as second class citizens. Take the slider that they introduced. Put that in the lowest/cheapest one dot setting and do a search for anything. no vector files above 8 credits show up in that search which pretty much eliminates 90% of my portfolio. Funny, i spent the last 3 years tailoring my portfolio to files priced at 15 credits and above because that was the only way to maximise earnings. My guess is anywhere from 10-25% of searches on istock are used in those settings now. Everything that has happened within the last 18 months was in no way positive for the vector contributor.

Wow, I can't disagree with any of that, especially the second class citizen bit, It is a feeling I have had for a long time. Do you think there is any light at the end of the tunnel or it is better to cut one's losses?

« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2011, 14:16 »
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Wow, I can't disagree with any of that, especially the second class citizen bit, It is a feeling I have had for a long time. Do you think there is any light at the end of the tunnel or it is better to cut one's losses?

If you think you are a second class citizen now, wait until you become independent.  ;D

I waited and wondered if things would get better, but the latest move pushing independents to the partner program answered my question. I just don't think things will get better there, so I pulled my portfolio.

« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2011, 14:33 »
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for some reason when Getty took over they decided vector contributors had had it too good under the old system and they should be put in their place, the worst bit was when the targets were set it was decided to count a dollar being bought in by illustrators as being worth less than a dollar bought in by a photographer.

That about sums up my memory of the past few years. I agree with most and also could have written the original post myself. Buyer since '05, contributor since '07 and have watch sales take a massive dive. But back to the question about going independent... I've tried it for about 9 months a few years back spreading my portfolio through the agencies with terrible results - so in turn I went right back to exclusivity. You see what happened was my application with SS get rejected for mixed color spaces, so I had to wait a month to re-up and in the meanwhile I began making portfolios at StockXpert, DT, FT, CS. To make a long story short - my iStock income dropped in half after leaving and in return with the other sites I made up an additional $150 a month which was nowhere near half my earnings I lost. Frustrated, I applied for exclusivity again. If you do decide to try the field... best wishes!

« Reply #15 on: September 21, 2011, 15:27 »
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Do you think there is any light at the end of the tunnel or it is better to cut one's losses?

Short answer is no light at the end of the tunnel. No more easy money on microstock as this industry has matured. This microstock/crowd sourcing model really favors the agencies. IMO, the only way the crowd sourcing model succeeds for the contributors is an agency from the contributors themselves. Theres tons of issues on this debate.

I can only comment on vectors. I would say it all depends on each individual and how good/talented they are relative to the current competition. Only the best/talented will do well on microstock from now on. Not only talent but knowledge of what sells. Im exclusive at istock and the competition is only getting stronger year after year. Ask yourself, can you compete and succeed in this ever growing competition? i no longer think i can retire off microstock as i used to.

Shutterstock has surprised me with all the great creative content I have been seeing lately. Im not sure exactly when the change happened, but it feels like it has been like the last year or 2. I know most people here love SS but I have never been happy with the subscription model. Im also deeply worried about the future of designers and illustrators. How can freelancers justify their $XX-XXX hr rate when you see designs that are going for pennies on sites like these. This will undoubtably have a trickle down effect where the average client in the future will be expecting less and less money going to the designer overall. Im sure one can make the argument that the very nature of microstock undercuts professional wages and such. This might be a short term gain for the contributor but the trend it is creating isn't positive as far as wages go IMO. woah, i might have gone off topic a bit. ;)

I think it really boils down to how much your check is per week. If your not getting a paycheck every week from istock, i would pull out as it isn't that much to consider. When your making a significant income, theres more to consider. every things relative.



« Reply #18 on: September 21, 2011, 17:30 »
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If you feel the conclusion to go independent is inevitable and it is only a question of when, then you are much better to jump ship sooner rather than later.

Microstock is getting more competitive ever week, as we all know. Success on all sites is largely dependent on your images achieving good default sort-order position and of course doing so is getting progressively harder. The sooner you start the easier it will be. Leave it for another 3-6 months and it will be more difficult than it is now __ simple as that.

We are (hopefully) just about entering the busiest part of the year for downloads so this is the time that your images will have the best opportunity for picking up those critical early sales. The downside is that you'll also be losing more money on Istock in those busy months. Maybe the optimum time would be to go independent at the beginning of December and use that month to get as much of your port up at other sites ready for the New Year and the lead up to March?

Like it or or not my data very strongly suggests that SS will emerge as 'the big one' in microstock (if it hasn't already). I feel Istock has lost it's way over the last year or so due to pressure from Getty/H&F for immediate growth/profits which has overridden the better judgement of the good guys that used to run Istock. With an 'outsider' having been drafted in to head-up Istock (apparently just as a part-time job!) it is difficult see the situation improving, at least for us contributors, any time soon.

Good luck with whatever you decide is best for you and your portfolio.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2011, 17:40 by gostwyck »

« Reply #19 on: September 21, 2011, 23:29 »
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Sorry, no new thoughts.  Just commiserating.

I'm an exclusive vector contributor, too.  Like most of you, the royalty cut left me completely demotivated and I'm not contributing much anymore.  I had high hopes that Vetta vectors would spark some interest in me again .... but no dice.

I've taken on a lot more freelance work to make up the difference and I'm working on some new personal projects, so there's not much time left for stock.   I really enjoyed contributing to istock, so I'm pretty disappointed at how things turned out.

lagereek

« Reply #20 on: September 22, 2011, 02:01 »
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Agreeing with gotswyck on this one. Micro has matured, there are no easy rides, freebies anymore, competition is neckbreaking and quality isnt enough, quantity is equally important.
Rather sooner then later, I agree with that. Take a long good look at the IS, best match, what they like to promote, etc, its looking more and more like TS for every day and TS, is regarded by many as the ultimate dumping ground. After this merger with TS, I see very little reason to stay unless like some of us, you have already built an extensive port,  or you will find yourself spending more time in forums, asking, discussing, what . is going on.

« Reply #21 on: September 22, 2011, 02:07 »
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I am one of those people who as a buyer abandoned istock a few years ago for the other sites when it came to buying photos - there was nothing available at istock that I could not get on d-time or SS (rarely purchased from fotolia) and istock had priced us out of their market - we purchase between 200 and 500 images a month depending on our project workload - with those numbers we could not afford istock especially as they were far from being the only store in town.

The one area where istock had a huge jump on all the other sites was in the quality of their illustration work - hands down istock's vector artists were the best and the selection was really terrific. Too expensive for us by and large to buy with abandon but every once in a while if the project called for it ... where istock was/is especially strong is with their conceptual illutrations - some great stuff.

So - 2 points, I have no idea why istock is killing off the one thing that kept them ahead of the competition - that's nuts to me as a buyer  - and second, if you exclusives go independent, "they will come" ... your return on d-time for example is pretty darn good on eps files - if you don't like the idea of vector work going cheaply as subs, then upload them as jpg files ...

I encourage everyone to drop that silly crown - really - I mean istock's sales are falling while the other sites's sales are growing - I don't see what the argument is for trying to hold that silly crown on your head ...

« Reply #22 on: September 22, 2011, 04:29 »
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^^^ Interesting post. Take a Heart!

« Reply #23 on: September 22, 2011, 04:42 »
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I'm not sure there is a lot to take heart from in that post.

Quote
I don't see what the argument is for trying to hold that silly crown on your head

The argument is that a number of people have tried it and  found it harder than expected.

« Reply #24 on: September 22, 2011, 04:58 »
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I would think that switching to non-exclusive would be a nightmare.  There are other options for photographers, like concentrating on RM sites until the loss while going non-exclusive doesn't hurt so much.  I presume vectors don't sell as well as RM?

I think if I was in this situation, I would seriously think about other ways to diversify and get back my motivation.  Selling product with sites like zazzle might be one option but there's very mixed opinions on the earnings potential.

I really don't think sites that take away our motivation to produce new images are going to increase their profits in the long term.  I still hope that istock takes a big drop in earnings, is sold off and new owners are more contributor friendly.  Probably a million to one shot but stranger things have happened.


 

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