How Long Does It Take For Stock Footage to Sell?
At What Point Do You Start Making Money Selling Stock Footage?
Once you’ve shot, edited, and uploaded a curated portfolio of stock footage to various websites, how long will you have to wait until your footage actually begins to sell?
There are many variables that play into this equation, so it’s not the easiest or most straight forward question to answer. The fact is that nothing you upload is guaranteed to sell. It could take a month for one video to sell while it takes a year for another.
However, I did some research among other stock contributors and also studied my own experience to come up with my best estimation to this burning question that many of you have.
In this post, I’m breaking down exactly how long it can typically take for footage to sell once it’s uploaded across various sites, specifically Shutterstock, Pond5, and Adobe Stock.
My first sale
I began my stock photography and video journey back in December of 2016. If you want to read the full story of my journey into stock and how much money I made the first few months, you can check all that out here.
I began with about 100 photos at the beginning of December. My very first photo sale happened on the evening on December 30th, for a whopping 25 cents. See the photo below.
So it took about 30 days for my first sale.
I sold 14 by month 2.
By month 3, I was selling double that amount.
So for a short answer you can see that if you upload 100 quality files, you should begin to see a few sales picking up starting in about a month.
However, if you continue to upload, you will not only see an increase in your sales month over month from your new uploads, you will also find that the files that have already been downloaded should continue to be downloaded, sometimes exponentially so.
The snowball effect
I’m going to term this incredible phenomenon the snowball effect.
See, what happens is that once your footage is noticed by a buyer and then downloaded, the stock website then bumps your footage higher in the search results because the site’s algorithm deems it ‘good’ and ‘relevant’.
So the next time someone searches for those keywords, your footage is more likely to be seen by the buyer. If it continues to be downloaded, you will quickly find your footage rise to the very top of the search results.
When this happens, you will start to see this footage downloaded more and more frequently, often resulting in multiple sales per month.
Here is an example of one that just continues to get more and more frequent downloads as the months go by for me. As you can see it was added just over a year ago and started getting frequent downloads about 6 months ago.
It Depends on demand
I would say the most critical factor in how quickly your footage or photos will sell is based upon the genre of clips you are submitting.
If you submit something in the nature category - a field of flowers for example - it could take much longer for your footage to be noticed. You are competing against a very large pool of gifted photographers and filmmakers and it will take more time for your work to rise to the top (even if it’s excellent).
If you submit something that is in higher demand - a doctor administering a medical test, for example - your footage will be sold way quicker. For more examples of what’s in high demand, check out this post on the latest stock footage trends that stock companies are asking for.
From the research I’ve done among myself and other stock contributors, if you submit high quality work in a genre that is in high demand, your footage will take about a month on average to get it’s first sale.
If you continue uploading, you may see a snowball affect begin to take place within the first six months of uploading, increasing over the next year or two as you continue uploading.
Here is a screen shot of the monthly growth I have seen on Shutterstock over the past 12 months. And note that I haven’t added any additional footage for the past three months. (So much travel over the summer has me behind schedule, but I do plan to get back on track with more uploads soon.)
Factors that matter
You can’t just throw footage or photos online and expect them to sell (within any certain timeframe) if you haven’t practiced a few other key strategies with your media.
For a complete breakdown of exactly how I get my media noticed and sold quickly, be sure to check out this post dedicated to my top 5 key strategies here.
But briefly, you need to make sure that you are:
shooting footage that’s in demand but not overly saturated
using the best keywords possible to get your footage noticed and ranking (check out how to best use the Shutterstock keyword tool here)
uploading enough footage to break through the crowd (I recommend at least 50-100 to start with)