*2004 Photographer’s Market Excerpt
There’s more than one way to run a stock agency, but the following are solid suggestions that anyone going into the stock business should contemplate.
1. Start Locally. Selling locally automatically gives you three advantages: You’re more likely to have a wealth of local shots, which don’t require travel to get; buyers often want a local photographer, who is available for specialty shoots and quick-turnaround assignments; and you’re better able to develop a personal relationship with clients and learn their photo needs. Depending on your niche, national competition is heated, and the promotion necessary to keep your name in front of people can be pricey.
2. Embrace the Technology. Many companies do not want to deal with film anymore. Buyers just don’t want to pay for delivery, or wait overnight for FedEx package. Going all-digital improves customer service and helps keep costs down by eliminating the need for numerous dupes, offering cheap promotional opportunities and cutting out expensive print materials like catalogs.
3. Sell the Service. The only way to hack it in microstock is to treat the business as a service. “We offer free searches, free delivery and free scanning,” says Mitch Kezar, owner of Windigo Images. “Some people would say that’s stupid. I prefer to call it service-oriented.” Photo buyers can find photographs anywhere, but when an art director needs to fill a whole, it’s the fast, painless buying experience that will bring her back.
4. Know Your Market. Not as easy as it sounds. With online searches and royalty-free CDs, you don’t necessarily know what a buyer is using, or when he’s passing you up. “It used to be that a buyer would call you if they couldn’t find that great mountain shot in summer on your site,” says John Kieffer, owner of Kieffer Nature Stock. “Now people will just pass you by.” Keep your ear to the ground, and question your buyers when you get the chance. You don’t have to have a huge collection, just the images your buyers want.
5. Expand Judiciously Into Other Markets. Expanding your scope means new competition. Before you choose to take up a new category, consider the time involved in finding photographers to supply those images, establishing a critical mass of files and promoting yourself in that area. Don’t let a handful of vocal prospects distract you from your core business.