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1
For years, I have reported all my agency 1099 MISC forms on my taxes, and have ignored the 1099K I get from PayPal, since reporting it would be double reporting my microstock income.

This has worked fine for years, until now. The IRS just contacted me stating that I underreported income which is now due, with a hefty penalty.

I called and talked to two different people at the IRS, who gave me two different answers on how to proceed:
1. First guy told me he sees this frequently and I should file an amended return, ignoring the 1099 MISC forms from the agencies and just report the 1099K from PayPal
2. Second guy told me I need to get letters from all the agencies stating that they actually sent the funds to PayPal and not me. I think my chances of getting these are slim to none.

I'm inclined to take the easiest route first, faxing in a letter explaining the situation, showing the 1099 MISCs alongside the 1099K, and a spreadsheet of all my PayPal transactions from the agencies which add up to the amounts on the 1099 MISC forms and the grand total on the 1099K.

How does everyone else report microstock income on taxes?  Anyone get called out by the IRS and have to correct their info?

2
Something has to change.  Or I'm out.

I used to wear rose-colored glasses.  I'd insist that people who knew what they were doing could continue to grow their microstock income into the foreseeable future.

People who've done this longer than me called me naive.  But I said I'd never hit the wall because I had a unique niche, style and workflow.

Ha.

Over the past year, the wall has come down on me.  Hard.  Overall, I'm down from last year by 25%. 

I still try to improve.  Explore new topics.  Come up with new styles.  The result?  Still down by 25%.

Increased my port size by about 20% in the past year.  Earnings down 25%.

I'm now thinking that if I'm still in microstock five years from now, I'll be earning around one third of what I earn today.

Your results aren't the same as mine?  You're probably either still new(ish) to micrsotock and have yet to hit the Wall (when your rate of portfolio growth is lower than the rate of total agency portfolio growth).  Almost every single veteran who has been in the top seller ranks for several years is singing the same tune today... earnings are down and by BIG numbers.

My family and I have become addicted to this income.  I've been desperately trying to hold on to as much as I can, thinking things will get better.  But reality is finally sinking into my thick skull.  I know I may have to give it up and move on, and the sooner the better.

I'm been trying alternatives.  Selling on my own doesn't work.  (OK, I get some sales, but a tiny fraction of what I earn from agencies.  It could never replace that income.)   Video looks to be in a similar state as photos and illustrations.  There's a price war, far smaller number of buyers, and video veterans seem to have it even worse than photogs and illustrators.

So what's the point of all this whining? 

1. Trying to talk some sense into the heads of people who think this is a place to make decent money.  Don't get fooled by your first few months of a few dollars here and there.  The glory days of microstock are long gone.  The competition is too fierce.  The laws of supply and demand will crush you.

2. A wake-up call to agencies.  Your experienced contributors are going to drop like flies if you keep playing the "my collection is bigger than yours" game with your competition.  Why would any artists with talent want to waste their time at this if there's no return?  I'm one of your top-selling contributors.  You've told me so yourself, reaching out to me for feedback on your processes and latest offerings.  And I'm thinking of throwing in the towel.  If many more of your top-sellers feel the same way, and this forum suggests that they do, that's experience that can't easily be replaced.  Yes, new contributors will continue to pour in to replace us, but it will take years for them to develop the market knowledge it takes to supply images that your customers demand.

Microstock is broken.  It's unprofitable and unsustainable for contributors.  If the agencies think they can survive with content from hobbyists, they're mistaken, but will soon have to learn that the hard way.





3
Dreamstime.com / DT waaaaaay down last few days
« on: May 31, 2013, 13:18 »
On a typical day I might see around 15-20 downloads at DT.  But the past few days, DT seems to have fallen off a cliff.  After a normal start to the week, I had ONE download yesterday and TWO so far today.

New search change?  Something else going on?  Or is it just me?

(Other sites are pretty normal all week, including today, so I won't buy a "it's the start of summer" answer.)

4
123RF / 123RF Now in Top Tier
« on: May 17, 2013, 19:39 »
Not sure if I'm the first to declare this... and the poll results at the right don't quite reflect this yet... but that might change when we vote based on our May results, so here I am to say it "real-time."

As I'm concerned, 123RF is now in the top tier.  (I know it's not a popular thing to say, given the reaction to their recent changes, but you might as well start getting used to the idea.  They're officially big time.)

For me, and I'm suspecting many others given the rise in the poll, 123 has been on a strong rise lately.  This month, they're neck and neck with FT (my #2 and falling fast), and quite a bit ahead of DT and IS. 

If we still think of the Top Tier as the Big 4, I could easily push DT down... at least that's what my numbers say.

What say you?

5
General Stock Discussion / DepositPhotos commission report broken?
« on: November 06, 2012, 05:33 »
Just refreshed my commission report at DP and saw most of yesterday's sales disappear and today is showing $0.  However when I look at the itemized list of sales, it shows lots of sales.  Wondering if it's just me.

6
General Stock Discussion / August off to terrible start
« on: August 04, 2012, 17:07 »
And I thought July was bad.

August 1 thru 4 have been TERRIBLE.

Today, Saturday the 4th, may end up being the worst day of the year. 

Looking back at my data, it does appear that the first half of August is typically pretty low, and things start picking up in the second half.

But for the first time ever, I'm tracking behind year-ago levels.  My July numbers ended up about 40% better than year-ago.  But for the first four days of August, I'm trailing year-ago.

Is your August terrible, too?  I'm particularly interested in hearing from people who had good sales in July (compared to 2011).

7
Something seems seriously OFF at Fotolia today.  Is it a holiday?  Has there been a new best match update?

I probably haven't seen a sales total this low at this point in the day since a few Christmases ago. 

I won't accept an answer like "some days are better than others"... my daily sales there are typically large and consistent enough to suggest that a major deviation points to something actually changing, or an unexpected holiday, or something being wrong. 

Anyone else seeing unusual sales -- high or low -- on FT today?

8
The biggest and most disturbing trend when I look at my numbers right now is that things are going along just great everywhere -- except at DT and FT, where sales are dramatically plunging.  My sales at both are about half what they were in June 2011.  Incredibly frustrating since these are my #2 and #4 agencies, and my plunging sales are NOT the result of me no longer knowing what sells or producing bad work.  No, I'm being punished because my work sells too well.

It's pretty clear that both sites are punishing top sellers because they make too much money when their best selling images sell.  DT and FT must figure they profit more when a brand new image by a newbie is bought by someone who may have otherwise bought a best seller from a top contributor.

But does this provide a better experience for the customer?  By default, any given search will bring up a dearth of brand new images, mainly from newer, unproven contributors.  No offense... some of the work will be good, some OK, and some garbage.  A real grab-bag of quality.  Before the changes, customers would have seen images that have proven to be popular... images that have served customers well in the past and would likely continue to do well if they weren't buried. 

What is better for the customer?  I am very curious to know how DT's and FT's overall revenue is these days.  I have to think that their strategy is backfiring, and customers now think the overall quality of their stuff is very scattershot, and are leaving in droves for SS and maybe some smaller players (I'm guessing BigStock or 123RF, since both those sites have posted solid gains for me in recent months.)

9
General Stock Discussion / DT way up today... Anyone else?
« on: June 06, 2012, 15:26 »
I've been very downbeat about DT lately.  They've been doing terribly for me since the recent change.  But today, there seems to have been a "faucet turning on" moment.  Sales should end up about 4x what they have been on weekdays lately.  The volumes are large enough to be statistically significant... we're not talking 2 vs 8 sales.   And the prices, sales timing, sizes, etc. suggest they are not from the same buyer.  The difference I'm seeing suggests that something has happened to cause an increase in sales.

Anyone else?

10
General Stock Discussion / Sudden drop at FT?
« on: March 22, 2012, 08:53 »
Anyone else see a sudden drop Wed night / Thurs morning in their FT downloads?

I'm thinking a best match shift happened around midnight in Europe.

For me, yesterday (Wednesday) was a great day for downloads, normal for a weekday lately.

Then at around midnight in Europe, it's like a switch was flipped.   I'm looking at around 25% of the downloads I would normally see at this time of the day.

Maybe this hit certain types of contributors more than others.  If you're an Emerald, and/or in the top few hundred in the FT rankings, did you see a drastic change overnight?

11
General Stock Discussion / StockFresh surging?
« on: February 25, 2012, 18:49 »
I haven't paid much attention to StockFresh lately.  I typically just check my sales once every few days, and see a handful of sales a week.

But today (a Saturday, no less) I had a nice surprise at SF.  Nearly $10 today alone.  Looking back over the past few weeks, it appears that the site is picking up steam.  I've seen close to $30 in earnings since Feb 15, which seems to be about where the trend begins.

Anyone else experiencing this?  I wonder if SF has been stepping up its marketing these past few weeks?

12
General Stock Discussion / Fotolia Payments
« on: December 27, 2011, 10:06 »
I may be crazy, but does this sound right?

I requested payment of over $1,000 in early December.  I just got an email that the money has arrived via PayPal.

You typically can't request a payment until your most recently requested one has cleared, so I went in to request a new payment.  My current balance was well over $1,000 again.  I clicked Convert Credits to begin the process and my balance fell to just over $100.  A conversion request had not yet happened.  It asked the amount I'd like to convert, so I guess it will only allow me to convert the amount showing at the top, just over $100.  Seems like I just witnessed $1,000 disappearing. 

I suppose the answer could be that the "disappeared" amount was included in the payment I just received, but that's not how it works, right?  My payment received today was the amount I requested in early December, right?  The amount I am able to request today should be everything earned since the request I put through in early December, correct?

Either I'm losing it or there's a bug.  Anyone else notice anything strange?

13
General Stock Discussion / EL Rush at SS - Is it Over?
« on: December 04, 2011, 21:44 »
I would really like to figure this out.

I typically average 1 or 2 ELs a month at SS.

From late Sept to late Nov, I averaged 1 or 2 ELs a day at SS.  There were many days during this period that I saw several a day, with the rush peaking at 7 ELs in one day.  It was a glorious time.

But it seems to have come to a crashing halt in late November, with just one EL since then. 

I know others here also experienced a crazy rush of ELs.  Did anyone figure out the cause for them?  If you also had the unexplained EL rush, did it end or slow way down in late November for you as well?

14
General Stock Discussion / Exciting Things at GL!
« on: November 07, 2011, 07:49 »
I was pleased today to see that GL is finally ready to start taking uploads again.  What has it been, a few weeks of uploads being suspended.

Then I checked my downloads at GL and was amazed to see that I've had seven already this morning.  At $3.12 each, those are some wonderful sales, a great way to start a Monday morning!

Not sure what those wonderful folks at GL are up to today (it's widely known that their revamped and renamed site is coming soon... but did they do something special in the last 24 hours?)  Whatever it is, keep it up, gang!

15
General Stock Discussion / Big increase in ELs at Shutterstock?
« on: September 26, 2011, 18:33 »
I normally get two ELs at SS a month.

However, starting last week, the EL floodgates opened.  I have received a dozen and counting in just four days and change.  Several of those came over the weekend, which is really baffling.

Image subject matter is all over the place, so I don't think it's the same buyer.

And I don't think it's due to the end of the Summer Slump, because my SS sales started picking up right around Sept 1 and have been steady since then.  The EL rush started in the last few days.

Anyone else seeing a rise in these?  Something must be triggering the increase.  Could SS be promoting ELs more heavily?  Should I be concerned that these aren't legitimate sales (bad credit cards, etc?)

16
I've made a conscious effort all year to not request payments too frequently to try to keep my total payouts under 200 for the year and avoid triggering the PayPal W9.  I have to admit I wasn't tracking the number of my requests, and it appears to have burned me... I just downloaded a report of my PayPal activity for the year and I'm almost at 200 payments from the agencies already.  Even if I don't request any more payments this year, the agencies that automatically send payments will push me over 200.

Theoretically, I shouldn't worry since I'm paying taxes on all the money I make at the agencies and the PayPal tax reporting is just duplicating those records, not calling for additional tax payments.  But I worry about the flags it could set off within the IRS and maybe trigger an audit. 

Assuming you're making over $20,000 this year, what are YOU doing about this?  Requesting fewer payouts?  Do you care?

17
General Stock Discussion / July 2011 Earnings
« on: August 01, 2011, 10:16 »
Surprised we're halfway through August 1 and no one has started a thread on this yet.  So I guess I'll start off.

Anticipated a terrible month, so looking at it that way, I was pleased.

Total earnings:
July was down about 5% from June
July 2011 was up about 90% from July 2010

RPI:
July was down about 10% from June
July 2011 was up about 15% from July 2010

(I should point out, I've been at this for roughly three years)

As for my top earning sites, no big shake-ups here... pretty much the same order for the past several months:

1. SS
2. FT
3. ISP
4. DT

5. CanStockPhoto
6. BigStock
7. 123RF
8. DP

9. GL
10. SF
11. VEER
12. CRE

18
Wow... rarely do you see such a high profile case of someone placing a watermarked image on the front page of a highly viewed website...

I hate Matt Drudge, but I must admit I check out his right-wing diatribe of a website to see how he's spinning the daily news. 

This morning, he has a pretty clearly watermarked image he lifted from Dreamstime.com... 

The site will change in a moment, but check it out right now... http://drudgereport.com/

Here's the image he has lifted... http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-dollar-flow-in-black-hole-image6797566

Hey, mike_kiev, if you're on this forum, I'd be pretty miffed about this.

19
We discussed this a few times recently.  We see a healthy mix of credit based and sub sales at DT, then it's like someone turns off the faucet, and we only get sub sales for a while.  Then after a half or full day or so, the faucet is turned again and we see a lot of bigger priced credit sales.   It's maddening, but we get used to the pattern and know the big credit sales will return.

But now, is it just me or have the credit sales been pretty dry for many days in a row?  I still get some, but instead of seeing about 60% credit and 40% subs like what used to be a normal day, I'm now seeing about 20% credit and 80% subs.  I keep waiting for the pattern to break, but I think it's going on a week now.   

(I do a pretty decent volume at DT -- around 20-30 downloads a weekday -- so it's a sizable enough sample to draw some conclusions... and I'm not liking those conclusions at the moment.)

20
I've known about PantherMedia for a while, but until now I figured they would be such a low earner that I wouldn't spend the time to upload there.  In my mind, they lingered in the basement with Yay, Crestock, etc.

I don't know if it's me being asleep at the wheel, but it seems that they are now considered middle-tier.  The poll results on the right say so (ok, maybe the numbers are being spammed).  But I'm also seeing the earning breakdowns of a number of people who say Panther earns them as much as BigStock and 123RF, if not more.  If that's the case, then I definitely need to get on the ball and get my whole port over there pronto.  

Is PantherMedia bringing you the same amount of money every month as BigStock and 123, or are they still a bottom dweller?  I need more info before I dedicate a significant amount of time to upload/keyword/categorize my pics there (wish they were like other sites where additional work wasn't needed... it would be a no-brainer).

21
Hi gang,

I have to write some big checks to the IRS and my state this year, so I've held off until I really had to do it.

Now that I'm trying to wrap it all up, I realize that I'm missing some info...

I moved late in 2010, and I might not have changed my address at all the microstock sites to get them to send the 1099s to my new address.  I know what I made in 2010, so I am fine in filling in the amounts, but I think I need an EIN (Employer Identification Number) for each of the agencies.  I did get my 1099s for some of them, but I'm missing a bunch...

Anyone know the EINs for:

iStock
CanStockPhoto
123RF
HAAP/StockXpert/Thinkstock

Regarding iStock... I read somewhere that they don't send 1099s.  Is that correct? 

22
Anyone else seeing a sudden, noticeable string of good sales on BigStock this week?  Since Sunday, my daily sales are at least double what they've been lately, and February was a good month to start with.  As a point of reference, most weekdays I do about $10 at BigStock but for the past three days I've seen more than $20 a day.  Something going on there?  Whatever it is, let's keep it up!

23
I'm used to seeing a wide range of earnings for Dreamstime, but one I got just a moment ago made me wonder...

Just got a .25 earning for an extrasmall download, using 1 credit (2010).

Moments earlier I got a .30 earning for an extrasmall dowload, using 1 credit (2010).  Different pic, but everything else seems the same.

Both pics are at the same image level.

What's up with that?  Am I missing something?

24
General Stock Discussion / PayPal and the new IRS tax law
« on: February 15, 2011, 10:12 »
So is anyone else concerned enough to be thinking of a strategy on dealing with the new tax code affecting PayPal payments?  Just as a refresher:

Under the new legislation, PayPal will be required to report to the IRS the total payment volume received by PayPal customers in the US who:

    *   Receive more than $20,000 in gross payment volume from sales of goods or services in a single year, AND
    *   Receive over 200 payments in a single year.


PayPal's information page here:
https://cms.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/marketingweb?cmd=_render-content&content_ID=marketing_us%2FIRS6050W

So what's the big deal?  We get 1099s from the agencies already, so we're not having to pay additional taxes, right?  I think I'd rather not have to deal with yet another 1099.

I'm already requesting fewer payouts in 2011, not because I'm making less but to stay under the 200-payment trigger point.  If I just request payouts twice a month from the big agencies (of course, SS and 123RF will only send once a month), and just one payout a month from the smaller agencies, I should stay under the 200-payment threshold and not have to worry about triggering 1099s from PayPal. 

Anyone else thinking this way?

25
Is it just me, or are no Dreamstime sales showing up today?

The day is almost half over and I'm showing zero sales for today.  My weekday sales are typically very strong, so half a day with zero sales suggests a real problem.

I didn't see any notices on the Dreamstime forums, but I don't normally hang out there so I wouldn't really know where to look.

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