How to Build a Serious Business Selling Images?

15 replies
Hi there! I'm thinking about selling images from my own self-hosted Wordpress website. I'm gonna order a hundred of beautiful hand-drawn digital illustrations to be created for me. Then I will upload them to my online shop. As to the pricing strategy, I plan to charge $10 per download (large sizes available). Also, I'll make a special offer for customers who need 100+ images - 50% off. So instead of paying $1,000 they can only spend $500. Later I will have 1,000 illustration for sale with the special offer to get all these images for $2,500 instead of $10,000, that's 75% off.

Here's what my friend suggests to do in order to succeed with this business project:

1) Limit the number of sales per image. The goal is to make these illustrations available for a limited number of people to avoid the same stuff published everywhere. Let's say I only sell 100 copies of a specific illustration and delete it forever (does it really make sense?)

2) Don't charge on per download basis at all, only sell illustration packages as high ticket products (to me, it's a really bad idea)

3) Connect with high ticket buyers using social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn, don't waste your time and money for paid advertising, especially at the very beginning, because it doesn't guarantee you customers with sufficient funds for expensive illustration packs. People usually search for cheap stuff in this niche (who knows)

Do you agree with these recommendations? Selling illustration packs as high ticket products sounds too good to be true. I believe most income would come from customers paying per download and I should not offer limited editions. What would be the real requirements to achieve high ticket sales with digital art?
#build #business #images #selling
  • Profile picture of the author PBSolutions4U
    You can sell anything you may want. But the question is how are you going to get people to your website?

    How are you going to get leads for people to market to?

    Have you thought about selling images on Easy or Society 6?
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    Check out vectortoons.com

    Yes, image saturation is an issue in that field, but the problem stems from designers going to the same few big graphics houses...and also the same few images topping the search results.

    I think 100 is too small a number. There are zillions of designers out there so it's going to take a long time for your images to get saturated if you stick with it.

    First they have to start knowing you exist. Then they have to visit your site. Then they have to actually buy something.

    So you're a long way from saturation.

    Now building a little scarcity in, that's not a bad idea.

    The big houses charge large for credits, and you get to pay up front much of the time (yay! what a deal! I pay now but don't get anything yet? Where do I sign up?).

    There's room for you. I would niche down and position well. Get known for images of a certain look, or situation, or topic. Don't try to stretch and be all things to all people.

    One of the great things about digital marketing is you can create the product once and sell it over and over with next to zero delivery cost. In your case, you're building an ever-increasing library of images to sell, and that is a real asset.

    As long as you don't do only time-sensitive images (like related to the news, for example, which would get stale and not be funny or impactful six months later), you should be good.

    The key is getting connected to designers and having some of the influential ones talking about your work. Maybe give the first batch away to them and let them run with it.
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    • Profile picture of the author Max Nestorson
      Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

      Check out vectortoons.com

      Yes, image saturation is an issue in that field, but the problem stems from designers going to the same few big graphics houses...and also the same few images topping the search results.

      I think 100 is too small a number. There are zillions of designers out there so it's going to take a long time for your images to get saturated if you stick with it.

      First they have to start knowing you exist. Then they have to visit your site. Then they have to actually buy something.

      So you're a long way from saturation.

      Now building a little scarcity in, that's not a bad idea.

      The big houses charge large for credits, and you get to pay up front much of the time (yay! what a deal! I pay now but don't get anything yet? Where do I sign up?).

      There's room for you. I would niche down and position well. Get known for images of a certain look, or situation, or topic. Don't try to stretch and be all things to all people.

      One of the great things about digital marketing is you can create the product once and sell it over and over with next to zero delivery cost. In your case, you're building an ever-increasing library of images to sell, and that is a real asset.

      As long as you don't do only time-sensitive images (like related to the news, for example, which would get stale and not be funny or impactful six months later), you should be good.

      The key is getting connected to designers and having some of the influential ones talking about your work. Maybe give the first batch away to them and let them run with it.
      Thanks, Jason. Very useful tips and insights.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jeff Hope
    Have you looked at Smugmug Pro plan, rather than self-hosted WP? That may give you some options that let you focus more of your time on product creation and marketing, rather than site / setup.
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  • Profile picture of the author imakeitwork
    So is it art you want to sell, or some kind of stock images?

    Just my opinion, but if you want to sell art (even digital) you better sell prints, not downloads. Downloads work very well for stock images - people buy them to use in business projects - it's sort of tool.

    Art is a bit different niche. I'd understand the bussiness if you were a creator, or had an outstanding, unique author world has never seen. And even in that way I'd go for selling prints online instead of downloads - people want to hang art on the wall, not put it in a New Folder.
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    • Profile picture of the author Max Nestorson
      Originally Posted by imakeitwork View Post

      So is it art you want to sell, or some kind of stock images?

      Just my opinion, but if you want to sell art (even digital) you better sell prints, not downloads. Downloads work very well for stock images - people buy them to use in business projects - it's sort of tool.

      Art is a bit different niche. I'd understand the business if you were a creator, or had an outstanding, unique author world has never seen. And even in that way I'd go for selling prints online instead of downloads - people want to hang art on the wall, not put it in a New Folder.
      I can sell prints but this way I won't be able to get package sales. Who wants to buy 100 or 1000 prints at the same time? I don't think someone would like so many pictures hanging on their walls. I guess charging $500 - $2,500 per print is not realistic. Hence I've got to go with sort of stock images. I'm still not sure though whether to charge $10 per item download or sell packages only. This type of products is not to be just kept in a new folder. People need them to be published on their sites or blogs to visualize their content. As far as I see it's in high demand.
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      • Profile picture of the author PBSolutions4U
        Originally Posted by Max Nestorson View Post

        I can sell prints but this way I won't be able to get package sales. Who wants to buy 100 or 1000 prints at the same time? I don't think someone would like so many pictures hanging on their walls. I guess charging $500 - $2,500 per print is not realistic. Hence I've got to go with sort of stock images. I'm still not sure though whether to charge $10 per item download or sell packages only. This type of products is not to be just kept in a new folder. People need them to be published on their sites or blogs to visualize their content. As far as I see it's in high demand.
        $10 per item download? Thats pretty high price when lots of stock sites charge much less. And considering that you are planning on having others create the images for you, I don't see how this is going to be successful.

        First, why wouldn't those artists (if they are good enough) just go some where else that's established.

        Secondly, even if you got several artist making you images that you can resell on your site, thats such a limited number of artist contribution it would take you a very long time to saturate.

        As another poster suggested, scale down to one type of image types, then you can refine your target audience and deliver a scalable way to market the site. Once this gains traction or saturates, expand into other image niche's.

        To think that you can essentially outsource the image sources for your products and supply stock images and and essentially compete with Istock or any other stock image provider sounds like a huge amount of energy that would take a very long time to see your roi.

        There are tons of free image sites out there that you will even competing with. And if you do only target highend type image buyers this again is going to require outstanding graphic skills or photography skills and if you are not the artist yourself as you stated I am not sure how you are going to pay these artists for their work, because any highend graphics or photography person will also have premium rates for their own time and productions.

        So unless you have lots of money to invest in these costs as well and can wait on your roi for a long time while you are waiting for market saturation; or have awesome sales skills where you can convince these people to provide you graphics on the contingency of a portion of the profits that sell to your otherwise unknown image site; I just don't see how this is a good strategy.
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        • Profile picture of the author Max Nestorson
          Originally Posted by PBSolutions4U View Post

          $10 per item download? Thats pretty high price when lots of stock sites charge much less.
          In order to get images at something like $0.25 per download you actually have to purchase credit packages that cost hundreds and thousands of dollars. I used to buy images for my websites at Photodune and Dreamstime paying $8- $15 per download.

          And considering that you are planning on having others create the images for you, I don't see how this is going to be successful.
          The same way people pay writers to create them ebooks to sell. That's just outsourcing.

          First, why wouldn't those artists (if they are good enough) just go some where else that's established.
          They use a different business model. They charge for illustration drawing services. Just like writers charge per X words written without choosing to sell books instead.

          Secondly, even if you got several artist making you images that you can resell on your site, thats such a limited number artist contribution it would take you a very long time to saturate.
          I can sell what I already have to new customers. There's no need to constantly flood my shop with new images.

          As another poster suggested, scale down to one type of image types, then you can refine your target audience and deliver a scalable way to market the site. Once this gains traction or saturates, expand into other image niche's
          That was a good suggestion.

          To think that you can essentially outsource the image sources for your products and supply stock images and and essentially compete with Istock or any other stock image provider sounds like a huge amount of energy that would take a very long time to see your roi.
          I will actually market these products to my own connections in social media. I will not compete with stock image sites for the first page in Google. My connections are bloggers and business owners. When it comes to images, they have 4 choices.

          1) going to those stock image sites and buy the same images everybody else buys paying the same price for something that's been already published on a million sites.

          2) finding the same freelancers whom I hire to outsource image creation and pay them $20-$50 per image created. That's $2,000 - $5,000 per 100 images that I will sell for just $500.

          3) Creating this stuff on their own

          4) Coming to my shop

          There are tons of free image sites out there that you will even competing with.
          Many business owners and even simple bloggers don't take this option seriously.

          And if you do only target highend type image buyers this again is going to require outstanding graphic skills or photography skills and if you are not the artist yourself as you stated I am not sure how you are going to pay these artists for their work, because any highend graphics or photography person will also have premium rates for their own time and productions.
          These high end type image buyers order the same quality images from the same freelancers I will order. They already pay them $20-$100 per image created. But buying the same images for $5-$10 per image from me is way too expensive and the quality is lower for some reason.

          So unless you have lots of money to invest in these costs as well, or have awesome sales skills where you can convince these people to provide you graphics on the contingency of a portion of the profits that sell to your otherwise unknown image site; I just don't see how this is a good strategy.
          The freelancers who I want to buy images from, they don't care what I'm gonna do with their work after making a purchase. I've already talked to them about it. They need me as a client. If they said no, they would lose a repeated customer. I don't think convincing a solid business website owner to purchase an image pack requires extraordinary sales skills. When it comes to money investments, I will start with just 10 images, that's just $200 and use one of my existing websites. Sounds ridiculous, I know. But I need to finally start selling my own products and quit affiliate marketing because it's junk. Most affiliate programs are rubbish, I have to stop depending on them.
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          • Profile picture of the author webmarketer
            From your replies, it looks like your mind is made up and you're hell-bent in pursuing this.

            Considering the varied and wide selection of images offered by established stock image sites, it would be interesting to find out what niches you choose to go into. Would you specialize or will you go scattershot with the niches? Will you go head-to-head against these sites and cover everything with new, but few, outsourced images?

            I'm just thinking out loud and you don't necessarily have to answer. Although the latter option demands a huge investment, even with fewer created images. Of course, for your sake, I hope they sell.



            Originally Posted by Max Nestorson View Post

            In order to get images at something like $0.25 per download you actually have to purchase credit packages that cost hundreds and thousands of dollars. I used to buy images for my websites at Photodune and Dreamstime paying $8- $15 per download.



            The same way people pay writers to create them ebooks to sell. That's just outsourcing.



            They use a different business model. They charge for illustration drawing services. Just like writers charge per X words written without choosing to sell books instead.



            I can sell what I already have to new customers. There's no need to constantly flood my shop with new images.



            That was a good suggestion.



            I will actually market these products to my own connections in social media. I will not compete with stock image sites for the first page in Google. My connections are bloggers and business owners. When it comes to images, they have 4 choices.

            1) going to those stock image sites and buy the same images everybody else buys paying the same price for something that's been already published on a million sites.

            2) finding the same freelancers whom I hire to outsource image creation and pay them $20-$50 per image created. That's $2,000 - $5,000 per 100 images that I will sell for just $500.

            3) Creating this stuff on their own

            4) Coming to my shop



            Many business owners and even simple bloggers don't take this option seriously.



            These high end type image buyers order the same quality images from the same freelancers I will order. They already pay them $20-$100 per image created. But buying the same images for $5-$10 per image from me is way too expensive and the quality is lower for some reason.



            The freelancers who I want to buy images from, they don't care what I'm gonna do with their work after making a purchase. I've already talked to them about it. They need me as a client. If they said no, they would lose a repeated customer. I don't think convincing a solid business website owner to purchase an image pack requires extraordinary sales skills. When it comes to money investments, I will start with just 10 images, that's just $200 and use one of my existing websites. Sounds ridiculous, I know. But I need to finally start selling my own products and quit affiliate marketing because it's junk. Most affiliate programs are rubbish, I have to stop depending on them.
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  • Profile picture of the author deekay
    Hello Max Nestorson

    To build a high profile and gain high rating online. You can create blog, facebook account, or even online job sites.

    Put all your experience and history there, so that people can see what they get from you. If you have past works you can ask your clients to give you ratings and even testimonial from them about your work.

    That's the best way to create and established a great name online. Hope this help, thanks.
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    • Profile picture of the author Max Nestorson
      Originally Posted by deekay View Post

      Hello Max Nestorson

      To build a high profile and gain high rating online. You can create blog, facebook account, or even online job sites.

      Put all your experience and history there, so that people can see what they get from you. If you have past works you can ask your clients to give you ratings and even testimonial from them about your work.

      That's the best way to create and established a great name online. Hope this help, thanks.
      Hey, thanks for the reply. I'm not a product creator myself. I'm going to buy image creation services from another guy. Also, as soon as sales go well, I will hire him to create products for my company on the regular basis.
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  • Profile picture of the author mcjohn
    Very good strategy, you need only a little of experience in SEO
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  • Profile picture of the author Chris Chicas
    Like any online business in any niche, a business in graphics takes time to develop in order to monetize.

    The reason why I started an online graphics and animation website is simply because of the pieces of the puzzle came together for me. My friends are great graphic designers/animation artists and I had an "in" on getting some great valuable content to sell.

    Also the group of people that are within my network, and my list, also love graphics. And on top of that, I got all the tools necessary to build the site, hosting and everything else. So, in other words, it came together naturally.

    But was this enough? No.

    Ultimately you'll run into roadblocks, like in any business. Overcoming these roadblocks is what will either make or break your business.

    Getting traffic, and leads that convert through your sales funnel is usually one of the main challenges. You can have an amazing sales funnel but if you don't have converting traffic then you are dead in the water. And good traffic is expensive.

    It's certainly doable but it takes time.

    For me, I"m in it for the long run, so I am not in a hurry to make a big profit. The way that I am building my graphics and animation business is that I am cross promoting with my main website in which I am a video marketing consultant. This way I can connect both as they are somewhat related.

    This helps me because I don't view my graphics and animation site as a "business" but more of a product. This gives me the flexibility to launch the product when I want to, put it in the back burner when I want to, and completely scale up or scale down when the timing is right.

    I know that the competition is fierce, but I always buy my time and look for small openings where I can just go in and make it happen, then come back out and wait it out until the next loop hole where I can active this product/business again.

    I hope this makes sense. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

    All the best.
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