If you have a camera, a love for video, and a couple of hours to spare each week, then a sneaky little side gig in stock video creation might just be the perfect thing for you.
Not only can stock video footage earn you some seriously easy cash, it can also lead to new a career in video production (wink wink anyone looking to bail on their boring day job).
One thing to remember if you are seriously considering heading down this path is that there is a big difference between stock video footage that sells, and stock video that looks rubbish, clogs up the Internet, and doesn't ever see the light of day. To ensure your work doesn't end up doing the latter, do yourself a favor and brush up on these basics first.
1. Keep It Quality
For everyone’s sake, including your own, don’t ever submit or try to sell footage that isn’t up to standard with the videos commonly featured on leading marketplaces like Shutterstock or Videvo.
If your footage doesn’t cut the grade just yet, don’t stress. You’re far better off taking the time to hone your skills and getting your product up to a solid 10/10 before trying to push it on anyone.
Three things that’ll help you do that:
- Natural light is your best friend. Until you have a handle on how to shoot at night or light a set, keep things simple by shooting outdoors during the day.
- Always keep your resolution fixed to an HD minimum. For all you newbies out there, this means nothing lower than 1920x1080.
- Brush up on your camera’s basic settings (ISO, frame rate, aperture, white balance) and learn how to use them to your advantage. Staying in automatic mode won’t get you anywhere.
2. Pick a Niche
While you were getting acquainted with that camera of yours, you hopefully had a chance to shoot in a variety of different subjects. Well, now it’s time to pick your favorite and make a concerted effort to stick to it.
That’s right, we’re talking about finding a niche. The more specialized you are, the more skilled you become, and the more skilled you become, the more money you make.
Bonus tip: If you want to make your life extra easy, find a niche that works with your lifestyle. If you live in a big city, shoot skylines. If you own a drone, shoot aerial sweeps. If you are entirely numb to all sensations of fear, jump into a deep-sea cage and shoot sharks.
3. Include Actors
A lot of people are surprised to learn that stock footage featuring people consistently sells better than stock footage featuring inanimate objects. While working with people does complicate things (e.g., you must submit signed releases with any footage you upload for sale), it might be worth your while if the big bucks are what you’re chasing.
If you do shoot with actors, try to maximize your time and your potential buyer’s optionality by mixing it up with a combination of shots — some with your actors’ faces revealed, and some with their faces cropped or obscured.
4. Exclude Branding
As cool as that sweeping skyline panorama with the vintage Coca-Cola billboard in the background may be, one thing you need to remember is that a lot of your buyers will be companies who won’t be super psyched about the idea their video products inadvertently plugging other brands.
Simple solution? Avoid branding altogether.
This can, however, be harder than it sounds. Especially when you think of all the billboards, store signage, and branded apparel and merchandise floating around out there.
But no one’s saying you need to be perfect. Just try your best to avoid ostentatious branding and know that sometimes, in some situations, these things are going to be out of your control… *cough* Times Square *cough cough*
5. Submit Aggressively
Since a lot of stock footage agencies take weeks to get back to you, it’s a good idea to submit far and wide in the hope that at least one agency gets back to you quickly so you can start selling your goods.
The only problem with this is that there’s a small collection of agencies that impose exclusive membership restrictions, meaning they won’t accept your work if it’s featured elsewhere. But while this is something to bear in mind, you shouldn’t let it deter you from spam-submitting your work all over the place. Just pay careful attention to avoid any exclusive-membership agencies when you do.
6. Work Out Who Pays the Big Bucks
When submitting, be sure to take note of each agency’s payment structure. While most agencies remunerate their contributors with a percentage of their individual sales, there are some marketplaces where you may be more likely to get a little more buck for your bang.
For instance, Motion Array provides a profit share of their total company earnings to its members each month, based on the number of downloads the contributor’s products receive. For anyone just starting out in this industry, Motion Array makes for a very cozy first home, and even though Motion Array is known for their Premiere Pro templates, After Effects templates and stock music, they also have a quickly growing stock video category. To join in on the fun, sign up here.
7. Flaunt Your Work
Once you’ve had your footage accepted onto one or more marketplaces, it’s time to flaunt it even further. You can do this by uploading samples of your footage or a sizzler reel to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, your own personal website — literally wherever you think it’ll get the attention it deserves.
Just remember to include a caption containing all the deets on where viewers can find and purchase your goods should they feel so inclined.
8. Get Your Analytics On
OK, so data analysis isn’t for everyone, but at a bare minimum try to keep track of which of your items are selling, which ones are plateauing, and which ones are tanking like the Lusitania so next time you head out with your camera, you have a better sense of what kind of shots to narrow in on.
Fortunately, there are now some marketplaces that actually compile personal sales analytics so you don’t have to. All you need to do is learn how to use it to your advantage.
9. Dream Big — But Not Like, Too Big
Yes, it's true that there are some seriously #blessed individuals out there who are miraculously managing to rake in tens of thousands of dollars a month from stock video sales. But the chance of this being you is on the slim and trim side.
That’s not to say that it won’t ever happen. Just that if it does, it’ll probably be when your 5-plus years deep into the industry and have spent 5-plus figures on technical camera gear. Put simply, stock video creation is like any artistic passion: it requires a long, tough, and sometimes extremely frustrating slog before the fruits of your labor start to drop.