What is Microstock?
A good way to earn extra each month and help supplement your freelance work is Microstock. So, what is it? Microstock companies are very similar to regular stock photography and illustration agencies. Artists resell their images as royalty free for a commission. The main difference between stock and microstock is the price. Microstock sites sell images at a much lower price. The philosophy is that the prices are more affordable, so you should get more sales from a broader demographic.

How Does it Work?
Microstock sites are free to join. Most of them require you to submit a few samples for initial approval as a contributor. Microstock is a mix of pros, hobbyists and amateurs, so approval isn’t too rigorous. Once approved, you can upload files for sale. You will still own all the rights to your work and the royalty free license prevents your work from being resold or used for logos or branding. Make sure you read all the fine print for each site to make sure you are comfortable with it. Other than that, it’s pretty straight forward. Once online, people download your files. You receive a royalty each time your work is downloaded. The commissions vary from site to site.

How Much Can I Earn?
Now, I’m not suggesting you’ll be able to retire by selling your vectors on a few websites, but you can make a pretty sizable chunk of change. I made about a third of my income last year from microstock, and I know there are a lot of artists that do much better than me with it. It all really depends on your skill level and the whether your images are trendy or in demand.

Another big appeal of microstock is quick results. You’ll probably earn your first dollar within days or weeks of uploading your first files. A regular stock agency has bigger payouts, but you might not see any activity for months. With all that said, here’s my list of microstock sites from an Illustrator’s perspective.

Top 2
I make about two thirds of my total microstock income from these two agencies. Each one accounts for a third.



These two agencies aren’t quite as strong as my top two, but make up close to the other third of my microstock earnings.



Honorable Mention
While this agency isn’t as strong as the rest, I still think it is worthwhile to submit to.

Big Stock Photo

The Rest of the Pack
There are dozens of other little agencies, but they might not be worth your time to upload to. Here are a few of the smaller agencies that have sales for me every month.




Last updated 4/1/2010. I’m going to update and change this entry as things change.

This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com. Content copyright 2009 Cory Thoman. This post contains affiliate links. Please read the About & Policies for more information.

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