Get All the Stock Images You Want & Make Money Doing It

By: Wes McDowell | November 3rd, 2011 | no comments

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While we would almost always prefer to use custom photography and illustration, it’s not a perfect world. Some clients simply do not have the budget for such extravagances. Stock images are a great compromise. An inexpensive way to add visual interest to any Home" href="[page_link id=6]">web design or graphic design project. I know what many of you are thinking, but trust me, stock images have indeed come along way, baby. Don’t get me wrong, there are still many of those over-used corporate shots floating around out there. The close-up handshake. Group of businesspeople. And my favorite: Lone man laughing with fruit salad (yes, its a thing.) Still, if you look, you can find many unique images that will serve your purpose.

If you have enough clients to the point that you have a need to purchase an average of 10 stock photos per month, you can essentially have access to as many stock photos as you can handle for free. Any additional images used beyond 10 per month can equate to pure profit for you. It does require a little upfront investment, but if you have the client base to support it, here’s how it works:

Step 1 - Buy a one year subscription to a stock photo site. ThinkStock is my image source of choice, and I am basing all my calculations on their yearly membership. ($2,388, which comes out to $199 per month.) And we are not just talking photos here. You can find icon sets, patterns, textures, you name it. They have many stock image companies’ inventory under their umbrella, so it truly is one-stop shopping for me. These plans are usually not unlimited in the true sense, since they do have a set number of daily downloads. ThinkStock’s limit is 25 images per day, and I have never even come close to reaching that.

Step 2 - Include a clause in your contract that states you will charge your client $20 per image sourced. This is what we call a markup, and it is completely above the board and common practice. $20 is what I charge, and that price is the basis for my calculations in this article, but what you charge is completely up to you.

So to recap, you make the initial investment of $2388, then charge a set amount to your client for every photo used. Assuming you charge $20 per photo, as long as you can charge for 10 photos per month, you have completely made up for the entire cost of the subscription. Thus any additional photos you charge for are icing on the cake.

If you have the client base to support this model, it works very well for 2 reasons:

  • You can make extra profit
  • You aren’t on such a short leash when it comes to choosing and downloading images. That freedom can help you to work more efficiently, and best of all, you won’t have to show your client comps with watermarks on them.

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