The question gets asked many ways:

Can I make money with stock video?

"Is selling stock video worth my time?"

"Is it worth the effort?"

Here's my honest answer: 

Yes, you can. But it's not easy. I have been working part-time and now full time in the stock footage marketplace for more than five years - shooting, uploading and submitting. I have been having open and back-channel conversations with struggling and successful stock video producers throughout this time about how to succeed in stock video. I like to think, I know what I'm doing. When I look back at the years I have been selling stock video I can make several statements:

It's going to take time..Unless you already have an archive of good footage, it's going to take time to accumulate one – experimenting and researching as you go to find your niche subjects. This is hard, time-consuming work. At first, your results will probably be discouraging. If you do have an footage archive, you'll need to examine it carefully shot by shot, researching what you choose to upload. Having the footage is half the battle; researching, uploading, key-wording and “tending” your online footage the other. Quick money, it is not. Most stock sellers find having a large, topically varied, well key-worded quality portfolio is key to achieving an income stream. That's going to take time - but it can be done.

You'll need to upload to multiple sales sites. Don't get stuck in any “exclusivity” contract with one site. It's bad business no matter what tempting percentage you're offered. You'll make more money submitting to multiple sites. The numbers don't lie - at least from my balance sheet. Since I began uploading to multiple sites my income has tripled. What doesn't sell at one agency, sells well on another. Some accept editorial footage, some don't. Some sites reject a particular shot, others accept it. You'll get a sharper sense of the stock video marketplace, become a more savvy seller, a better photographer and make more money selling on multiple sites. (see my list of recommended sites). Sell everywhere you can. 

Only upload what sells. Good trick you say! I wouldn't upload 80% of what I uploaded when I started. It simply does not sell. I learned the hard way. The Return On Investment of my time and money, ROI, was not worth my efforts. Now I only upload footage my research and experience tells me may sell. What sells, how to find ideas and research them will be  a longer topic post on this site. Stay tuned.  

Only upload your best. As I know from experience, second rate footage doesn't sell. (Unless it is unique and hard to get - then content is king.) If you are submitting your footage in a popular, over-saturated category, it had better be the very best duck on pond, time-lapse cloudscape, businessmen shaking hands shot you can do. Otherwise it's not going to sell. Ever. If you click on the "duck on a pond" link you'll get the idea. There are over twenty-seven hundred shots of ducks on a pond. 

Take my advice and learn from my experience - work the entire process intelligently and efficiently. Don't waste your time. Study this site. The return on investment for uploading shots which are over represented, are not unique or special, are poorly key-worded, have a dull thumbnail, or are conceptually confused is less than zero. Be brutal with yourself. Only upload your great takes and/or most commercial or unique subjects. If they sell, study them, and go back and shoot some more.

Diversify. Grow a varied portfolio. To offset this digital deluge it's best to have a varied array of subjects in your portfolio. This way you'll get more consistent sales all year long. Don't get stuck in one niche. Remember, more is not better. Think quality and demand. The quality of your work, it's niche appeal and quality of your key-wording (metadata) will determine it's financial success. 

Shoot what you know, love and are good at. If you're serious, semi-serious, you're going to be logging some long hours in front of a computer - don't waste it. These clips will stick to you like glue. 

Work with subjects you enjoy and are interested in. Concentrate on building the skills you already have. If you are highly technical, focus on the shots which will make you stand out from everyone else. 

Think locally. You have a competitive advantage in your own location or subjects you know well. It will show in your work.

Look around you with the stock footage mindset and find subjects, people and places you have access to in your city, state, country or personal life which are hard for others to replicate. 

Don't quit your day job. Candidly, if I only relied on stock footage income to bankroll my pension, I would be worried. It would have been stressful. The digital marketplace moves very fast, with pricing changes, sales sites coming and going and competition rising exponentially. Your position in the marketplace, as many stock footage sellers have found, can change slowly or quickly. I have seen my sales of particular shots grow from zero, to rewarding amounts and back to zero again. If you have the option, develop stock video sales as one of several income streams. 

I pay my bills with stock footage income. My income has risen consistently month by month, year by year, as I have become a more savvy seller of stock footage. At this point, I have reached a consistent and rising four figure income every month. It does vary, but it's a good indicator of success. I pay my rent, bills and daily expenses from stock footage royalties. I travel with the money I make to shoot new in locations. Sometimes, I don't do stock and just relax for a month. I can afford a new lens or two. You can too! It will take time, effort, talent and a significant learning curve. Read on…

Updated 02/2013

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Copyright The Stock Video Seller 2015