So, you’re thinking about turning stock video footage into a side gig? That’s awesome. Congrats. Fun times! But before you get started, you should probably be aware that there is a lot of stock footage out there…and only some of it sells. So if you’re really only in this for the money—rather than the, say, noble pursuit of artistic pleasure—then you may want to brush up on these lucrative little tips first.
Pick A Niche…And Pick Wisely
Finding a niche and sticking to it is an age-old freelancer rule that will not only lead to you becoming an expert in a particular field, it’ll also result in you making muchos more money. Clients want artists that specialize in the exact themes or subject areas they’re after. And if you can prove that you do that, you’ll get ALL the gigs.*
*Okay maybe not ALL the gigs but you’ll get a decent amount of the gigs.
In order to consistently churn out footage in a particular niche, you’re going to want to select a subject that works conveniently with your surroundings and/or the resources to which you have access. Say you live near a beach? Perfect. Sunset panoramas it is. Or may you own a waterproof GoPro? Even better. Underwater nature shots here you come.
But before going all in on one niche, there’s one other thing you’re going to want to do first…
Find Out What Sells
Yessir. When it comes to stock footage, some subjects are more popular and profitable than others. And to find out which ones they are, you’re going to want to jump on a few stock footage marketplaces and cast your eyes over the ‘Top Seller’ or ‘Most Popular’ pages. Just bear in mind that trends are ever-changing so you may want to keep regular tabs on what items are doing well.
Also, don’t forget to keep an eye on your own sales analytics—a service now offered by several different marketplaces. For newbies just starting out, these numbers are especially important as they can help you decide which theme or themes to narrow in on an make your niche.
Quality Is Key
If your video footage isn’t up to scratch quality-wise, you’ll struggle to get it accepted by any stock footage agencies. And in the rare case that you do, it probably won’t sell.
To ensure your hard-earned work makes it onto a credible marketplace, there are some basic steps that even the greenest freelancer should be capable of mastering:
- Keep your resolution fixed to a minimum of 1920 x 1080
- Familiarize yourself with the basic settings on your camera. I’m talking about shutter speed, ISO, aperture, and white balance. There are a million YouTube tutorials on each of these features. Find them, watch them.
- Last but not least, shoot outdoors. Set lighting, while oftentimes essential, is a complicated craft that you don’t want to be burdening yourself with when you’re just starting out. Lucky for you newbs, it can be easily avoided by filming outdoors during the right time of day.
Don’t Include Branding
Unfortunately any stock footage containing branded imagery can fall into copyright infringement. So do your buyers and yourself a big favor by leaving it out altogether. This means ensuring your human subjects are free of any branded clothing and that any scenic shots don’t include any discernible logos, billboards, or store signs.
Do Include People
If you want to boost sales then you should seriously consider producing footage that contains your friends, family, or any wannabe actors you know who’d be willing to feature in your footage for free. Two things to remember:
- Some buyers have a preference for footage where the actors’ faces revealed, while others prefer them to be concealed. To maximize optionality always make sure you grab a combination of both.
- If you choose to upload footage where your actors’ faces are revealed, you’ll be required to provide signed release forms.
Submit That Sh*t
Now for the most tedious part of the process: uploading and submitting your video footage. Making it even more tedious is the fact that you’re probably going to have to go through this process several times for several different marketplaces. Since stock agencies typically take several days or weeks to review and accept your content, you’re going to want to spread your work thin and wide.
Just bear in mind that some marketplaces only accept exclusive content so if you do intend to shop your work around, pay careful attention to avoid these particular sites. Also be sure to read up on each agency’s payment model and make sure you’re only submitting to sites that you feel will compensate you fairly for your time and work.
For freelancers who are just starting out, one marketplace to consider is Motion Array. While Motion Array is mostly known for After Effects templates, Premiere Pro templates, and stock music, they also have a budding stock video category. Unlike most other agencies that pay contributors a percentage of their individual sales, Motion Array operates under profit-sharing model whereby each contributor receives a percentage share of the company’s profits each month based on their product’s download count.
You can sign up to be a Motion Array producer here. Shwing!
Show Off Your Chops
Once you’ve got all your agency submissions done and dusted, it’s time to start flaunting your work in the mainstream. This you can easily do by uploading your work to any video hosting site where it’s likely to garner attention. I’m talking Vimeo, YouTube, your personal website, Facebook…don’t be shy now.
Just don’t forget to include a written caption or big unsightly watermark (okay maybe don’t do this) with information of where prospective buyers can locate and purchase your goods.
Manage Your Expectations
While many videographers have managed to rake in the big bucks through stock footage, it’s important to remember that this same wonderful fate won’t end up befalling you. And if it does, it almost certainly won’t happen overnight. Starting out as a freelance videographer will be slow, frustrating, and full of setbacks. But as with many goals in life, you can’t reach the top without falling down at the bottom.
Okay, enough with the advice. It’s time to get off you heinie and start shooting!