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Is there a business plan?


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I'm thinking about my reaction to the commission change. It seems like the final nail to me.

 

The way I'm trying to think is not about the past and what has happened but about today and the future.

 

If you were to start today would it make sense?

Can I make a business case for creating new images to licence on Alamy?

 

Using rough forum averages one sale per month per 1000-2000 images seems 'normal'. Some contributors have better ratios but then they edit much more rigorously so they generally have fewer images on sale which cost more per image to produce.

 

The average net sale is probably about $10 - is that far off your experience?

 

Creating 1000-2000 images to produce $10 x 12 = $120 per annum ( which will only decline as the library increases in size and net fees fall) does not appear to be the basis of a business. 

 

I am very interested to read the thoughts of others on the business 'sustainability' of being an Alamy contributor.

 

Or is this now a question of a hobby pastime for a bit of fun and the ego boost of playing the role? 

Edited by geogphotos
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5 minutes ago, John Morrison said:

This...

 

Have you told HMRC that you will no longer be offsetting business expenses?

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2 minutes ago, geogphotos said:

 

Have you told HMRC that you will no longer be offsetting business expenses?

Doing that a few years ago when I didn't need to cut my SEISS grants by a few hundred quid!

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Posted (edited)

I think that the only justification in terms of HMRC is to show that there is some sort of business plan in place not only to replace lost Alamy income but to actively increase it through other sales channels. I can't see that simply carrying with Alamy on as though nothing has happened makes any sense ( or would to an objective third party).

 

In a way the tax 'perks' that come with self-employment act as an indirect subsidy for Alamy.

 

Can Alamy truly rely on hobbyists to maintain the future supply of images - especially for subjects which are not necessarily all that popular for hobbyists to cover?

Edited by geogphotos
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I'm not with you- HMRC don't require a business plan. I will be "carrying on as though nothing has happened" because I will only lose about 5% of my overall income when the commission is cut- assuming static sales. No doubt there will be a blip down the line from two years with very few new images.

Edited by spacecadet
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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, spacecadet said:

I'm not with you- HMRC don't require a business plan. I will be "carrying on as though nothing has happened" because I will only lose about 5% of my overall income when the commission is cut- assuming static sales. No doubt there will be a blip down the line from two years with very few new images.

 

 

They don't require a business plan but I am thinking that having one might well be useful to justify claiming business expenses. 

 

I'd say that the commission cut comes as a time to reappraise rather than just carry on as in the past. True the situation has been gradually changing for years then there are some major bumps - such as now with 40% and less for each 'sale'. 

 

Certainly anybody applying for Working Tax Credits for self-employment has to satisfy HMRC that they can earn, or have reasonable expectation of earning, at least the minimum wage.

 

I am 66 next birthday so probably time to wind-down anyway,

Edited by geogphotos
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2 minutes ago, geogphotos said:

anybody applying for Working Tax Credits for self-employment has to satisfy HMRC

I see the point , quite right. I'm still seeing the Revenue as just that, rather than the benefits agency it now serves as..

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If you’re self-employed

Some self-employed people are not eligible for Working Tax Credit. To qualify, your self-employed work must aim to make a profit. It must also be commercial, regular and organised.

This means you may not qualify if you do not:

  • make a profit or have clear plans to make one
  • work regularly
  • keep business records, such as receipts and invoices
  • follow any regulations that apply to your work, for example having the right licence or insurance

If the average hourly profit from your self-employed work is less than the National Minimum Wage, HM Revenue and Customs may ask you to provide:

  • business records
  • your business plan - find out how to write a business plan
  • details of the day-to-day running of your business
  • evidence that you’ve promoted your business - such as advertisements or flyers
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, spacecadet said:

I see the point , quite right. I'm still seeing the Revenue as just that, rather than the benefits agency it now serves as..

 

 

I think best to see HMRC for what it is.

 

Tax Credits are likely to be a reality for many starting a new business. 

Edited by geogphotos
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4 hours ago, geogphotos said:

Can Alamy truly rely on hobbyists to maintain the future supply of images - especially for subjects which are not necessarily all that popular for hobbyists to cover?

 

I don't think Alamy is as concerned about individual photographers as released stock from agencies -- their blog examples tend to be these.  The agencies have economy of scale and can also negotiate minimum prices, so given that quirk of the contract, Alamy sees them as more valuable.  Look at the various lightboxes on the home page, see how many of those have released photos from agencies.  Attracting advertising agencies is probably part of Alamy's business plan.   Alamy lived for years without anyone supplying them with deaf kids using Nicaraguan sign language.  They will go back to not having those photos but then only one of those photos licensed, so shrugs from both me and Alamy.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, MizBrown said:

 

I don't think Alamy is as concerned about individual photographers as released stock from agencies -- their blog examples tend to be these.  The agencies have economy of scale and can also negotiate minimum prices, so given that quirk of the contract, Alamy sees them as more valuable.  Look at the various lightboxes on the home page, see how many of those have released photos from agencies.  Attracting advertising agencies is probably part of Alamy's business plan.   Alamy lived for years without anyone supplying them with deaf kids using Nicaraguan sign language.  They will go back to not having those photos but then only one of those photos licensed, so shrugs from both me and Alamy.

 

 

 

 

No argument with any of that. But Alamy used to pride itself on its unique encyclopaedic content - that was its USP. For that you need the 'ecosystem' of active contributors who have some motivation to go out and create the content. 

 

They are holding meetings about how to 'make money from Alamy', they are actively trying to recruit students as new contributors, but at the same time they are making it virtually impossible for anybody starting off in stock to even make a beginning ( 20% commission after Year 1).

 

Regardless of all that I just think that for myself I need to think hard about alternative and supplementary income streams. Just sharing some thoughts here, hoping to read thoughts of others. 

 

Thanks for your post. And as you say who is going to go out and shoot pictures of Nicaraguan sign language for 20%?

 

 

Edited by geogphotos
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I suppose if Alamy were your only source of income, it would not be sustainable, but I've never had all my eggs in one basket. Over the past few years especially, even submitting to a number of stock agencies, it became clear that stock alone was no longer a viable sole source of income, even for many of the most successful stock shooters of the past. I know photographers who were earning good six-figure (USD) incomes solely from stock who have left the profession completely. 

 

That said, pulling your portfolio from Alamy will do nothing to increase your income, unless you were to submit those images to an agency that earns you substantially more for exclusive content, though even then why not shoot new exclusive content and leave the older work her?  On the other hand, shooting & uploading new work for diminishing returns could take time from more lucrative photographic pursuits, so I can understand the decision to stop submitting new work in favor of more lucrative alternatives.

 

At one time, I had hoped that by building up a portfolio of stock images, I would be able to create a nest egg of recurring revenue that I could add to as I moved closer to retirement. I recognized quite some time ago, however, that that this once vibrant industry was changing and that I would need more outlets for my work than stock agencies were I to build up such a nest egg. I turn 63 this year, and I am working on a business plan to take my photography in a different direction.

 

I am fortunate that the county I live in has used federal grant money to set up a business incubator program to help those accepted into the program build new small businesses or new revenue streams within their existing businesses. Here in the US, we do not have the same social safety net that you in the UK, the EU and most other parts of the world have. Moreover, a serious illness in the US can cost you six figures a year for health care alone, even if you have insurance, wiping out a lifetime of savings. But there are also many opportunities for those who are adaptable and who are wiling to work hard. I feel very lucky to be in this program, and have already started earning some small income from my new venture though it is still in the "beta" stage. 

 

The world has changed more in the past decade or so than in the rest of my lifetime, and so I know that I must continue to adapt and change with it. The internet gave me the ability to work as a freelancer so I could spend time with my daughter when she was growing up. It gave me the chance to both license and sell prints of my images all over the globe, but it also brought competition from those in parts of the US and around the globe where the cost of living is far less than in the costly NY suburb where I live. Globalization is both a blessing and a curse - as is technology. 

 

I had not even heard of stock photography until 2008, when the barrier to entry had already been lowered thanks to technology. Could I have competed in the pre-digital days? Perhaps. But there is no point in pining for a world that no longer exists. When I started submitting to Alamy in late 2008, I thought I had many years ahead of me to slowly and surely build up my portfolio as I continued to hone my skills with assignments and workshops. I was wrong. I wish I had built up my portfolio more quickly to take advantage of the higher prices and less competition of the past. But there is no point looking back with regret.

 

All I can do now is make the best photos I can, and look for more lucrative ways to sell both my images and my photographic services. 

 

I'm not pulling my portfolio. I've worked too hard on it.  I do not intend to spend as much time shooting stock for Alamy and the few other stock sites I contribute to, when I have other outlets for my work with a better ROI but I'm not giving up entirely either.  

 

 

 

 

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I'm getting too old and lazy to think about business plans. That said, going forward, I'll be uploading fewer images to Alamy and being more selective about what types of images I do submit. I'm still doing surprisingly well here, all things considered, but who knows how long that will last. Sadly, the sustainability question seems to apply to the whole stock photography business now. The more I look around, the more depressing it gets. It's really tough to find any bright spots.

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2 hours ago, John Mitchell said:

I'm getting too old and lazy to think about business plans. That said, going forward, I'll be uploading fewer images to Alamy and being more selective about what types of images I do submit. I'm still doing surprisingly well here, all things considered, but who knows how long that will last. Sadly, the sustainability question seems to apply to the whole stock photography business now. The more I look around, the more depressing it gets. It's really tough to find any bright spots.

 

 

Yes, lots of us are getting old and lazy but can't see that makes much of a future plan for Alamy.

 

I think Alamy has become complacent and just assumes that there will always be a supply of images because there always has been.

 

I'll wait six months or so before uploading anything to Alamy.

 

Loss of trust, loss of interest.

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5 hours ago, geogphotos said:

Thanks for your post. And as you say who is going to go out and shoot pictures of Nicaraguan sign language for 20%?

 

 

Thanks.  For me, photography may have been a way to procrastinate on writing a novel.  I wouldn't bother to come back unless I had a couple thousand photos to create a more robust portfolio.   Photography was always a different mental gear than writing was, nice switch out from writing as a break.  As of June 30, I'm out of here unless I feel doing the work to bring my portfolio up to more professional standards and numbers, and licensing stock would be a bigger supplement to my pension than it's been.  

 

I think Alamy will always find that there are photographers who want something for using their photographs.  And some of them will be good stock photographers, but fewer of the individuals will be exclusive to Alamy, which I suspect was a beginner's default more than a thought out strategy (certainly the case with me). 

 

My percent of the one kid using sign language that did license was around US $80, so at twenty percent, it would be better than any of my sales this month at 50 percent. 

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Looking around at other agencies in hopes of "diversifying" is really driving home for me how ridiculous and unsustainable general stock photography has become. I think that the best business plan -- especially for younger people -- is probably no business plan at all -- i.e. put your energies into something else that you find fulfilling. It's totally nuts out there, so much so that it's tough to know where to begin. What, me pessimistic? 😆

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1 hour ago, David Pimborough said:

 

I can guarantee there are no tax perks for self employment.  Just like there is no holiday pay, maternity or sick pay.  If you want your state pension you have to contribute national insurance just like any employee does.

 

All the costs are yours and can be written off against your tax bill but that's just the same as any company including Amazon, Google and Facebook.

 

 

Many would regard the opportunity to offset costs against photography income as an advantage of running a business ie) a perk

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1 hour ago, geogphotos said:

 

 

Many would regard the opportunity to offset costs against photography income as an advantage of running a business ie) a perk

As David says, all business do that.

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5 minutes ago, spacecadet said:

As David says, all business do that.

 

 

Indeed they can and do. There are some tax advantages to running a business.

 

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, Sally R said:

 

I think that if starting today, making a business case for creating images for Alamy would not be, on its own, sustainable. I have considered undertaking a government supported scheme here called the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme. However, I am 99.9% sure there is no way they would back a plan based on uploading to Alamy. You have to demonstrate to them that a business plan is viable going forward. The licence fees are falling and you are on shifting ground all the time with the possibility of future commission changes. There are too many uncertainties.

 

On the other hand, submitting to Alamy could be part of an overall business plan, but not a big part of it. Even some of the best professional photographers out there often also teach and run workshops as a way of maintaining a sustainable business. Certainly you often see this with wildlife and landscape photographers who are brilliant but cannot run a sustainable business from that alone. Assignment photographers responding to specific needs in the market may have less need for additional sources of income, as their work is targeting areas of need through which they can build up clientele.

 

If you create highly stylised images for boutique stock agencies you might possibly do better, but for general stock and editorial images for Alamy it really does seem difficult to see that as a viable business strategy. If you are a very active Live News contributor providing in demand images you might do better. My average gross income per image is $16. When you look at the time and effort invested, it is not viable business-wise. I think if I were to stay with Alamy and just do that, it would be for enjoyment and therefore a hobby. I got on the boat too late. The recent commission change solidifies that reality.

 

But I do want to be more proactive with photographic opportunities and that's why I feel better making a clean break from Alamy and redirecting some of the images I have here towards other future projects. I need to at least give that a go, pending some current health issues. My small portfolio size makes this a logical move, but if I had thousands of images up I might think differently. It might be that 6 months to a year down the track I might consider coming back to Alamy with a decent-sized portfolio of images ready to upload (outside of ones I am using exclusively elsewhere). That would allow me to see what develops over time with Alamy as well and whether it would make sense doing that. I'm not at retirement age and do have to think practically and strategically about future income.

 

I can see for you Ian that you have invested almost 2 decades into your Alamy portfolio of 73K+ images. It would have been a viable business plan when you started out. I can see why you are questioning the business viability of the situation now. Given the size of your portfolio it would make sense to leave it here in that you would still get a regular income even if returns are diminishing, but it also makes sense that you may not want to put in the same effort going forward. I think your plan to wait six months is a good strategy in terms of seeing how Alamy develops and how worthwhile putting in continued effort is.

 

 

Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and detailed comment and all the very best with your future plans.

 

Yes, although I feel quite tempted too slam the door on the way out it would be stupid and rash. I too am going to explore new avenues.

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, Marianne said:

I suppose if Alamy were your only source of income, it would not be sustainable, but I've never had all my eggs in one basket. Over the past few years especially, even submitting to a number of stock agencies, it became clear that stock alone was no longer a viable sole source of income, even for many of the most successful stock shooters of the past. I know photographers who were earning good six-figure (USD) incomes solely from stock who have left the profession completely. 

 

That said, pulling your portfolio from Alamy will do nothing to increase your income, unless you were to submit those images to an agency that earns you substantially more for exclusive content, though even then why not shoot new exclusive content and leave the older work her?  On the other hand, shooting & uploading new work for diminishing returns could take time from more lucrative photographic pursuits, so I can understand the decision to stop submitting new work in favor of more lucrative alternatives.

 

At one time, I had hoped that by building up a portfolio of stock images, I would be able to create a nest egg of recurring revenue that I could add to as I moved closer to retirement. I recognized quite some time ago, however, that that this once vibrant industry was changing and that I would need more outlets for my work than stock agencies were I to build up such a nest egg. I turn 63 this year, and I am working on a business plan to take my photography in a different direction.

 

I am fortunate that the county I live in has used federal grant money to set up a business incubator program to help those accepted into the program build new small businesses or new revenue streams within their existing businesses. Here in the US, we do not have the same social safety net that you in the UK, the EU and most other parts of the world have. Moreover, a serious illness in the US can cost you six figures a year for health care alone, even if you have insurance, wiping out a lifetime of savings. But there are also many opportunities for those who are adaptable and who are wiling to work hard. I feel very lucky to be in this program, and have already started earning some small income from my new venture though it is still in the "beta" stage. 

 

The world has changed more in the past decade or so than in the rest of my lifetime, and so I know that I must continue to adapt and change with it. The internet gave me the ability to work as a freelancer so I could spend time with my daughter when she was growing up. It gave me the chance to both license and sell prints of my images all over the globe, but it also brought competition from those in parts of the US and around the globe where the cost of living is far less than in the costly NY suburb where I live. Globalization is both a blessing and a curse - as is technology. 

 

I had not even heard of stock photography until 2008, when the barrier to entry had already been lowered thanks to technology. Could I have competed in the pre-digital days? Perhaps. But there is no point in pining for a world that no longer exists. When I started submitting to Alamy in late 2008, I thought I had many years ahead of me to slowly and surely build up my portfolio as I continued to hone my skills with assignments and workshops. I was wrong. I wish I had built up my portfolio more quickly to take advantage of the higher prices and less competition of the past. But there is no point looking back with regret.

 

All I can do now is make the best photos I can, and look for more lucrative ways to sell both my images and my photographic services. 

 

I'm not pulling my portfolio. I've worked too hard on it.  I do not intend to spend as much time shooting stock for Alamy and the few other stock sites I contribute to, when I have other outlets for my work with a better ROI but I'm not giving up entirely either.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Marianne and I am in total agreement with what you say.

 

It is helpful to know what others are thinking and deciding to do for the future. 

 

I don't think that we have any other choice really but to explore other options. Even for the few earning $25k it is not a huge sum of money especially for exclusive content. It probably works out to be an hourly rate below the minimum wage even for that tiny group of most successful Alamy contributors. 

Edited by geogphotos
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50 minutes ago, Ed Rooney said:

 

But . . . getting old and lazy is something I'm good at. A business plan? I'm trying to come up with a plan for lunch.

Thanks, Ed. I'm a bit seized up after some drain cleaning so "old and lazy" is close to the mark and I needed the larf.

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My business plan.......I will be exterminated from here come the contract change !

 

Not just the contract, but the 40% share for us, for ever decreasing paltry fees, I won't accept anymore.

So my exclusive Alamy images will be sorted out and edited again. Have a couple of places under consideration.

 

It doesn't have to be like this. Other work I have on a 50/50 RM exclusive contract has done very well financially for me over the years.

 

I don't feel making new images for upload here makes much of a business sense, unless you are a library company placing large amounts of images in to Alamy, or are placing already commissioned work in to here, or are absolutely amazing, or just enjoy it as a hobby.

 

As one door closes, another one opens.....

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