How to Get Instagram Followers Ethically

Instagram logoInstagram is a hot platform for sharing photos and for social networking. With more than 500 million active Instagram users as of June 2016 (source), you will want to have a presence there. But how do you get Instagram followers?

This post will describe several ways to get Instagram followers – ethically. The following methods will be discussed:

  • Gaining Followers Organically
  • Follow back
  • Engaging People

Ethics and Instagram Followers

First, a quick note about ethics and Instagram followers. There are many, many sites on the Internet that promise to get you thousands of Instagram followers easily. I recommend that you to avoid those, as you may get thousands of “followers” but they will either be fake accounts or people who are not engaged with your images and message.

I encourage you to get followers who are truly interested in what you have to show and say. This does take more time and effort than the “get followers quick” sites, but you will have followers that actually read your content, rather than dummy accounts with nobody behind them.

Gaining Followers Organically

If you are active on Instagram, posting images regularly, you will accumulate more followers organically. By “organically” I mean people will find you through friends, through hashtags, or through Instagram hubs. If they like what you’re posting, and like your profile, they’ll follow you to get your content.

This is very helpful but it will take a long time to accumulate a large number of followers.

Friends

You can gain followers by liking and commenting on your friends’ posts. Other people will see your comments and go view your profile and perhaps start following you as well. I don’t see this as a huge growth strategy, but you’ll be checking your friends’ posts out anyway, so it may help.

Hashtags

You should always hashtag your posts. You do this by entering one or more words prefixed with a “#”. Some examples of hashtags are #canada, #trains or #love.

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post. This might seem excessive but a lot of people search for posts by hashtag, so it is in your best interest to tag your posts with appropriate hashtags.

I usually tag my posts with the location (e.g. #winnipeg, #northdakota), a few tags related to the subject matter (#train, #night, #sunset) and then some tags related to Instagram hubs. Here’s a great post on how to use hashtags properly, and Later.com’s ultimate guide to using hashtags.

Instagram Hubs

Instagram hubs (or “feature accounts”) are accounts that feature others’ work. You tag your posts with a hashtag specific to that hub, and the people who run the hub will periodically review tagged posts and feature a photo on their hub.

For example, Pocket_Rail is a hub followed by almost 10,000 accounts that follows the hashtag #pocket_rail. If you tag your post with that, you might get featured and get your photo in front of them.

Pocket_Rail has featured several of my photos (thank you!), including this one of an NB Southern excursion train.

Photo credit @stevetraingeek •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• @pocket_family presents •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• From @pocket_rail #pocket_rail . Thank you friend for sharing your photo and tagging our @pocket_pride . •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Chosen by @alexandra.sz . We’re your family in your pocket Cc: Pocket_Family_Owners . @kristina_nicolina & @willysands . Cc: Pocket_Pride_Admin . @chefjane . . Follow your features on Twitter #Pocket_Family And Like us on FaceBook . #huntgram #trains #train #rails #railroad #railway #traintracks #transport #daily_crossing #kings_transports #train_nerds #trb_express #railways_of_our_world #railmarkable #splendid_transport #trains_worldwide #loves_vehicles #ptk_vehicles #total_vehicles #world_bestvehicles .

A photo posted by Railroad Culture (@pocket_rail) on


You can see that they prominently feature a link back to your profile and you should gain a few followers – and bragging rights! – from being featured.

Note that on Instagram, tagging a hub implicitly gives them permission to repost, so if you’re not comfortable with that, don’t tag them.

Here’s a list of 101 Instagram hubs to hashtag to get featured.

Follow Back

It is common for Instagram users to follow those who follow them. You get a notification that so-and-so has started following you, so you check out their profile, and if it interests you, you follow back.

Simple enough, right? Just start following people and they’ll follow back?

It’s not so simple. You have to find the right people to follow, and you have to offer a compelling profile that will make them want to follow you.

Who to Follow

There are a couple of ways to find the right people to follow, to increase the chances that they will follow you back. The key is to find people who are either posting in your niche or following those who post in your niche.

Suppose you write a lot about cats. Siamese cats, in particular. How do you find people on Instagram who like Siamese cats?

Start a search and start typing in Siamese. You’ll see some suggestions pop up immediately.

Siamese Cat Search

The first four results are three accounts and a hashtag. Let’s pick the hashtag #siamesecat. You’ll see a list of top posts with that hashtag, and below that, the most recent posts including that hashtag.

Open each post in a separate browser window and see who liked and/or commented on the posts.

SO. CUTE. (from @siamesecorner)

You can see that 861 people liked this. In the Instagram app, you can poke the like counter and it will show you every user that liked the post, with a convenient “Follow” button right beside them.

Instagram post followers
Instagram post followers

I do not recommend that you follow every one of them.

Have a look at each profile and see if what they post is A) interesting to you, and B) related to what you post.

You want to follow people who would be interested in your content. For my @stevetraingeek account, I look for people who have a train in their profile picture first, then look for people who post photos of trains.

Engaging

Engaging on Instagram
Don’t get frozen out!

The third way to ethically gain followers on Instagram is to engage people. Actively participate on Instagram by liking posts, and especially by commenting on photos.

Be sure you are not just spamming photos by leaving generic comments. I see a lot of accounts try to gain followers by commenting with “nice photo” or “wowzers” or similar comments on photos that are not at all related to what they post. It’s clear they are trying to get you to check their profile out.

This won’t be a problem if you follow people who post content related to what you like and post. You’ll be authentic when you comment and naturally engaged.

Be sure to show your appreciation for the post, ask a question, whatever seems natural to you. Don’t add “follow me” or “view my profile” at the end – that’s spammy. People will check you out if they want to.

Wrap Up

That’s three main methods for how to get Instagram followers ethically:

  • Gaining Followers Organically
  • Follow back
  • Engaging People

Get out there and expand your Instagram audience!

Further Reading

End of 2016 Progress Report

Prairie Grain Elevator in Winter
Prairie Grain Elevator in Winter

It’s 2017 now – happy new year! – and here’s my end of 2016 progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle.

TL;DR> Mostly failed to achieve goals.

The numbers are as of January 1, 2017.

Goal Review

I had five goals for my photography side hustle in 2016:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. 2 paid work for hire gigs
  5. Write and publish one eBook

Let’s see how we did.

Gross Income

The gross income I received was $667.76. That was barely above half my target, so a definite FAIL.

Since my October 2016 progress report, I had one Fine Art America sale come in, a couple of calendar sales from Lulu, and two Amazon Kindle eBook sales.

I only produced one calendar in 2016 and I didn’t expend much effort to promote it, so sales were poor.

My main job was on overdrive this fall and I didn’t have a lot of time to spare for my photography side hustle. Still, I’d rather earn $X/hour for working extra on my main job versus a considerably smaller amount per hour on my side hustle!

Income Sources

2016 Progress Report - Income Sources
2016 Progress Report – Income Sources

My sources of income in 2016 came from four areas:

  • Advertising, 15%
  • Image sales, 44%
  • Print sales, 4%
  • Product sales, 27%
  • Work for hire, 0%
  • Writing, 0%

Advertising was from AdSense. I haven’t gone “whole hog” on advertising on my web sites and blogs, mostly because I don’t want to be too intrusive.

I experimented with Amazon Associates advertising late in the year and it did not work out for me. I may revisit it later in 2017 but for now it’s off my sites.

I played with Commission Junction a bit but it doesn’t seem like a really good fit for me.

Image sales came from a few sources. I sold images directly to a few people for either personal or business use – always appreciated. I also had some nice stock income from Shutterstock later in the year as my stock photo efforts started to bear fruit.

Print sales were minimal this year, as you can see by their 4% contribution to my gross income. I had one Fine Art America sale and the residual from a previous Redbubble sale came in. I think prints have been on the decline in the industry for some time.

Product sales were the residuals from the 2016 calendars sold in late 2015 and early 2016, the minimal calendar sales in late 2016, and of course my eBook.

The big surprise for me from product sales was the three Amazon Kindle sales I had. I put the eBook on Amazon with zero promotion and it’s been nice to see that people found and bought it. Imagine what I could do if I actually promoted it!

I did not work for hire, nor did I write for other people. Given my lifestyle and preferences, I don’t think work for hire is something I should be pursuing in the future. If it happens, great, but I’m not going to pursue it in 2017.

Score: FAILED

 

Stock Photography Income

As I mentioned above, I was pretty busy at my job in the fall so my stock photography submissions suffered. I made a big push during the Christmas break to submit some photos I had marked as “potential stock”, and most were accepted and a few have sold already, so that was worth doing.

I had a goal of $50/month for income from stock photography. How did I do?

2016 Progress Report - Stock Photography Income
2016 Progress Report – Stock Photography Income

Clearly I didn’t hit my goal. I’d say I’ve reached $20/month (USD) fairly consistently, but I’m a long way from my goal.

I still think my goal was realistic, if I had achieved my side goal of submitting a thousand images by the end of 2016. I have about 300 images online, and if you do the math and assume a proportionate amount of income/image, I would have hit $50/month if I had a thousand images for sale.

That takes us back to the same old refrain – submit more images!

Score: OKAY

Net Income

My net income was way off my target of $700 for the year. Net income was $145.31.

Where did my expenses come from? Two places:

  • Web site, 67%
  • Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop licensing, 33%

I mentioned in my February report that I pre-purchased my web site hosting expenses for 24 months at 24% off. I consider that an investment but that accounts for the majority of my web site expenses. The other web site expenses are domain renewal fees.

My Adobe costs are for the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

I think I had my expenses under control, but my gross income was not where it should have been. If I had achieved my gross income target, I would have met my net income target.

Score: FAILED

 

Work For Hire Gigs

Nothing happened on the work for hire front. I didn’t invest any time in it in the last half of 2016 and I don’t think I will have it as a goal for 2017.

Score: FAILED

Write and Publish eBook

This one was achieved!

Score: ACHIEVED

 

Summary

I feel that I didn’t meet most of my goals. However, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Not everything is going to succeed. You just have to recalibrate and move on.

I will be developing my 2017 goals soon and I’ll post them. I know “getting a gig” will not be one of them, and more eBooks is probably going to be a goal. More to come!

October Progress Report

Sunset near Reversing Falls
Sunset near Reversing Falls

Here’s my October progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle.

I’m doing these every two months for the time being.

TL;DR> Really falling behind.

The numbers are as of October 1, 2016.

Goal Review

I have five goals for my photography side hustle in 2016:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. 2 paid work for hire gigs
  5. Write and publish one eBook

Here we go.

Gross Income

The gross income I’ve received is $619.25. If you look at that as 9/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m definitely below target.

I only had income from one source, a nice payment from Shutterstock for my stock photos. Someone signed up for a yearly plan through one of my photos, so I received a nice cut of that signup bonus plus the sale of a few images.

However, that wasn’t enough to even stay on the $100/month target.

I am putting my calendars together so I expect some income from those near the end of the year, although I may not actually receive the money until 2017.

Score: FAILING

 

Stock Photography Income

As I mentioned, I received a nice payment from Shutterstock. If we disregard the anomaly of a signup bonus, I’m really trending toward USD $20/month and slowly rising.

I signed up for Adobe Stock and I’ve sold 9 images so far. I think there is a lot of promise there and the amount per image is higher than Shutterstock or iStock, so that’s nice.

My usual refrain is the same – submit more images! I didn’t submit very many in August but I submitted a fair number in mid to late September.

Score: GETTING BETTER

Net Income

My net income is slowly continuing to increase. However, it seems pretty clear that I won’t hit my goal of $700 for the year. The expenses are good but the gross income just isn’t there.

Score: FAILING

 

Work For Hire Gigs

No luck at all on the work for hire gigs. I keep my eyes open but nothing appealing has come along. I think I am going to revise or eliminate this as a goal for next year. My free time and lifestyle at the moment don’t really allow me to spend a weekend on any gigs, so it isn’t really realistic to expect anything from this.

Score: FAILING

Write and Publish eBook

I finished and submitted my third article to be published. It will come out in two parts. I intend to turn this into another book.

I’m starting to collect blog posts into eBooks to sell. I’m going to do one or two just to see how well they are received and decide if they are worth the effort.

Score: ACHIEVED

 

Summary

I feel that I am definitely failing at my goals. I am going to have to reevaluate my goals for 2017 and decide if A) I want to buckle down and get more serious about this side hustle, or B) revise my goals to be more aligned with the amount of effort I am willing to put into this.

Steps For The Rest of The Year

  • Submit more stock photos
  • Offer calendars for sale

August Progress Report

White Lighthouse at Cape Spear Newfoundland
White Lighthouse at Cape Spear Newfoundland

Here’s my August progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle. I skipped the July report as there wasn’t a lot to say.

TL;DR> Definitely falling behind.

The numbers are as of August 1, 2016.

Goal Review

I have five goals for my photography side hustle in 2016:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. 2 paid work for hire gigs
  5. Write and publish one eBook

Here we go.

Gross Income

The gross income I’ve received is $543.38. If you look at that as 7/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m definitely below target.

I did have income from several sources, which was good…

  1. I sold several images for use in railway training manuals. I was contacted out of the blue for a couple of images, and after some conversation I found a few more photos in my catalogue that they could also use. I’m never quite certain what to charge for images like this. In the past I have been contacted for images and apparently quoted too much, because they disappeared without buying; here I may have priced them too low.
  2. Big news, I received my first stock photo payment! Shutterstock sales were strong and I received USD $39.14 as my first income from stock photography.
  3. I sold another eBook and that put me over the threshold to get another payment from Gumroad.
  4. Redbubble changed their payment terms to eliminate the minimum payment amount, so I received the $1.46 that was sitting in my account. Big money!

Score: FALLING BEHIND

 

Stock Photography Income

June was my best month ever (USD $23.29), mostly due to Shutterstock, and July was good too at USD $17.91, although Shutterstock really slumped. As I said above, Shutterstock paid me!

iStock income is improving as they review more images.

I submitted a lot more stock photos in this period so I hope that translates into higher income in the months ahead. I was on vacation in July and that resulted in some good stock photos that were accepted.

Score: GETTING BETTER

Net Income

My net income is continuing to increase. I’m not sure if it will hit my goal of $700 for the year yet.

Score: ON TRACK

 

Work For Hire Gigs

No luck on the work for hire gigs. I applied for a gig last month and received no reply at all, which was disappointing. I’ll keep at it.

Score: FAILING

Write and Publish eBook

I’m working hard on my third article to be published. I do think this could be turned into another book, especially since a friend wants to co-write it with me!

Score: ACHIEVED

 

Summary

I feel that I am definitely falling behind  – I am failing at a couple, fair for one, on track for one, and one goal has been achieved.

Steps For The Rest of August

  • Update portfolio – I keep saying this, and I need to get on it!
  • Submit more stock photos
  • Look for paid gigs more aggressively

eBook Feedback

eBook Feedback
eBook Feedback

Recently I asked for feedback on my first eBook, Diesels on Prince Edward Island. I used SurveyMonkey to write the survey and collect the responses, and I’d like to share the eBook feedback responses here. At the bottom of this post, I’ll share the link to the survey results so you can look at them in detail if you wish.

As an aside, I really like SurveyMonkey and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to gather feedback or issue a survey. It’s super easy to use and its free version is enough for my current needs.

I took the list of emails that Gumroad collected from everyone who bought the book, and pasted that into SurveyMonkey for the survey invitation emails. I received 15 responses, which is a 58% response rate. Great!

I asked seven questions. I didn’t want to ask too many, to respect everyone’s time, but I did have a few things I wanted to cover.

1. How’d you like the book?

  • It was great! – 8 / 53.33%
  • I liked it – 6 / 40%
  • It wasn’t as good as I had hoped – 1 / 6.67%

Good feedback. I’m glad most people either really liked it or liked it.

2. How was the purchase/download experience from Gumroad?

  • Quick and easy – 14 / 93.33%
  • It was OK – 1 / 6.67%
  • Annoying / troublesome – 0

Well, that was great! I’m glad Gumroad worked well for everyone.

3. On a scale of 1 to 5, please rate the book on a few attributes

  • Photo quality – 4.21/5
  • Photo uniqueness/interest – 4.50/5
  • Text quality/readability – 4.57/5

The photo uniqueness/interest really stood out for me as 9/15 rated it a “5”. I’m glad they liked the photo selection and I was glad to get some great photographers to send me their photos.

4. How was the length of the book?

  • Too short – would have preferred more photos and more detail – 8 / 53.33%
  • Just right – 7 / 46.67%
  • Too long – needed some editing – 0

Good feedback here, too. Half of the readers felt it was a bit short. One of the comments here was helpful:

Perhaps just a bit more detail on the various branches

Good to know for the next book!

5. How was the value of the book for the cost of it?

  • Great value – you should have charged more! – 5 / 33.33%
  • Good value for its length – 8 / 53.33%
  • A fair price – 2 / 13.33%
  • A little overpriced – 0
  • A ripoff – 0

Looks like the price point is where I want it to be. I want people to believe they received good value for their money and the survey says the price was right.

6. How did you like it as an eBook?

  • I like the eBook / PDF format – 10 / 66.67%
  • It didn’t matter to me – 1 / 6.67%
  • I prefer a printed book – 4 / 26.67%

The full question was actually “How did you like it as an eBook versus a print book, considering that eBooks are cheaper to buy but possibly harder to read?”

I’m glad two-thirds liked the eBook format. One of the responders commented with a note that really reflects my own opinion on railway books:

the lower cost of eBooks, IMO, is a real advantage. I do not need any more hard cover books, BUT I am always interested in more information.

Sing it!

It is interesting that a full quarter prefer a printed book. I may consider offering the next book on Blurb or another print-on-demand service.

7. What should be the topic of my next eBook?

  • The New Brunswick East Coast Railway – 4 / 30.77%
  • The New Brunswick Southern Railway – 3 / 23.08%
  • New Brunswick shortline railways – 5 / 38.46%
  • Manitoba shortline railways – 3 / 23.08%
  • Manitoba grain elevators – 3 / 23.08%

I allowed multiple responses here so the percentages don’t add up to 100%. There was a wide spread here, which was unfortunate for me as I wanted a clearer direction! I am writing an article for Branchline magazine about the New Brunswick East Coast Railway right now, so I was planning on turning that into an eBook at some point. The feedback seems to indicate that I should write a book about all of New Brunswick’s short lines rather than one on each railway.

Someone suggested in the comments that they’d like information on VIA Rail operations in Winnipeg. I think that might be more appropriate for a blog post series, but it’s a great idea!

A few of the commenters were really enthusiastic about shortline railways. Good to know!

Summary

The response to my eBook was generally very positive, both in this survey and in messages and emails to me. I’m glad people liked it and it encourages me to write more eBooks.

The link to the SurveyMonkey analysis is here.

Thanks to everyone who did the survey!

Feel free to check out the eBook.

 

June Progress Report

Here’s my June progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle. I skipped the May report as there wasn’t a lot to say.

TL;DR> Falling behind.

The numbers are as of June 1, 2016.

Goal Review

I have five goals for my photography side hustle in 2016:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. 2 paid work for hire gigs
  5. Write and publish one eBook

Here we go.

Gross Income

The gross income I’ve received is $426.31. If you look at that as 5/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m below target.

I really only had one source of income for the period covered by this report, but it was a good one – I released my eBook!

I had some strong sales of the book, mostly at a discounted price. I’ll write another post about the eBook process but I’ll sum up by saying that I was pleased by the response. I’m encouraged and ready to start on another one.

I’ll talk about stock photography below, but suffice it to say that I should see a payout in a couple of months at the current rate.

Score: FALLING BEHIND

 

Stock Photography Income

April was pretty flat but May was strong with USD $17.51 in sales, my best month ever. Shutterstock was the strong agency, responsible for more than half of that. For most of the month I was selling at least one image a day through them!

I’m still way behind on submitting stock photos.

Score: GETTING BETTER

Net Income

My net income is growing positive, so it’s looking pretty good!

Score: ON TRACK

 

Work For Hire Gigs

No luck on the work for hire gigs yet but I’m not going to call it a failure yet.

Score: POOR

Write and Publish eBook

This one is done and done. You can buy it here!

I was very pleased by the response. I didn’t do a lot of lead-up advertising but when I released it, I had several people very excited and eager to purchase it and also to share the link to their friends. Sales were strong through Gumroad and I only had one return. Who returns an eBook? (shrug)

Related to writing, I had a second article published in a Canadian rail magazine! My photo was on the cover of the magazine again and I think it looked great. I haven’t started on a third one but I have the topic in hand.

Score: ACHIEVED

 

Summary

I feel that I am falling behind  – I am failing at a couple, fair for one, on track for one, and one goal has been achieved. I’m starting to get concerned. I think next month will turn the tide for the better… I have a good feeling.

Steps For The Rest of April

  • Update portfolio
  • Submit more stock photos
  • Look for paid gigs more aggressively

April Progress Report

April Progress Report
April Progress Report

Here’s my April progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle.

TL;DR> Staying the course.

The numbers are as of April 1, 2016.

Goal Review

I have five goals for my photography side hustle in 2016:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. 2 paid work for hire gigs
  5. Write and publish one eBook

Here we go.

Gross Income

The gross income I’ve received is $337.17. If you look at that as 3/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m on target.

Two things brought my income right on target.

One, I received an AdSense payment! AdSense is not a large income earner for me by any means. My AdSense income has been pretty small and it takes several months before I get a payment. If you look at my 2015 income, AdSense represented less than 30% of my side hustle income.  It is currently about the same percentage for this year, but I expect that to drop because I’ll probably only receive one more ~$100 payment before the end of 2016. Good thing it’s in US dollars!

My second slug of income for March was an image sale that came from Instagram! I was very surprised to get any income from that route. One of my Instagram followers liked my photos and contacted me to ask if any were for sale. We messaged back and forth and we agreed on a price for 5 digital images. Once the payment went through, I sent her the full size, edited images and she printed them and framed them, and sent me a nice photo of her photo wall. I’m glad she and her husband (who both work for a railway) like them.

I have some stock photography money in the pipeline, but until I add a lot more photos to generate greater income, I won’t be seeing any payouts for many months.

I have a Gumroad video sale in the pipeline that should be paid out in April. It’s been a long time since I sold a copy of my Chaleur train video, so it was nice to see a sale this month. True passive income!

This was a good month for income.

Score: ON TRACK

 

Stock Photography Income

My stock income stayed pretty flat – I accumulated USD $9.73 in March 2016. I’m a little disappointed.

I’m still way behind on submitting stock photos.

Score: FAILING

Net Income

My net income is barely negative as of the end of March, so it’s looking pretty good!

Score: ON TRACK

 

Work For Hire Gigs

No luck on the work for hire gigs yet but I’m not going to call it a failure yet.

Score: FAIR

Write and Publish eBook

I’ve finished my first eBook. I’ve had a few people look at it and they like it. I am just waiting for one or two more images from a friend, and then I will click “publish”. I’ll be starting the marketing process in a week or so.

I had my first article published in a Canadian rail magazine! I’m very excited and happy with its reception. The second article is finished and submitted; I don’t know when it will be published. I have the topic for the third one but I haven’t started writing and I don’t expect to start for a few more weeks. I hope to take that article research and expand it into a second eBook.

Hopefully by next month’s report, I’ll have income to report from my eBook!

Score: ON TRACK

 

Summary

So far, staying the course – failing at 1, fair for 1, and on track for 3 of my goals. I’m not too concerned yet but I need to work a bit harder, especially on the stock photography.

Steps For The Rest of April

  • Update portfolio
  • Submit more stock photos
  • Publish the first eBook
  • Look for paid gigs more aggressively

Stock Photography Review Times

Review times
Review time!

One of the steps of your stock photography workflow may require a lot of patience from you. I’m talking about the wait after you submit photos to the stock photo agency. The review times can vary widely!

 

Why Review?

To recap, when you submit the photos, they are reviewed by a person or people before they are made public. The agencies do this for a variety of good reasons:

  1. to ensure the photos are of sufficient quality (sharpness, composition, etc.);
  2. to ensure the photos do not infringe on anyone’s rights;
  3. to ensure you have supplied the appropriate model or property releases where applicable; and
  4. to ensure the photos are suitable for selling as stock.

You can see why this takes manual intervention. With today’s technology, no machine can run all of these checks.

The problem is that these reviews can take a lot of time.

 

My Review Times

The following are my experiences with review times at six stock agencies.

  • 123rf: well over 7 days
  • BigStockPhoto: about 1 day
  • CanStockPhoto: within a day
  • Dreamstime: about 7 days
  • iStock: well over 7 days
  • ShutterStock: within a day

 

Observations

I have a few observations about this:

  • The review time seems to have nothing to do with how “picky” an agency is.
  • Your images go into a queue, so you may have several batches in the queue that will get reviewed in a “first come, first served” order. Don’t expect them to be reviewed in one batch unless you submitted them that way.
  • Some times of the day seem to get even faster response from the faster agencies.

 

What Can You Do?

Well, nothing.

You may get preferential treatment if your images are marked as exclusive for that agency. I don’t know – I am not exclusive with any agency.

Just keep taking photos and submitting them… they will get reviewed eventually. The agencies get thousands and thousands of images daily so it does take time for them to review them, and since they don’t get paid until the image goes live and is purchased, they have a good incentive to review as quickly as they can.

Good luck!

 

7 Reasons Why You Need a Mailing List

Need a Mailing List?
Need a Mailing List?

Most Internet entrepreneurs know that having a mailing list is very important to your business. You can use social networks to reach out to potential customers, but you need a mailing list to maximize your reach.

Seven Reasons Why You Need a Mailing List

  1. Email doesn’t come and go.
  2. It’s yours, forever.
  3. List members are more committed.
  4. It’s easy to automate.
  5. It converts well.
  6. It drives traffic to your site(s).
  7. Email is everywhere.

Email Doesn’t Come and Go

Today social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and WhatsApp are popular. But do you remember Myspace? Friendster? Digg? What’s next?

Building your marketing solely on a social network is dangerous, because today’s hot network may become tomorrow’s Myspace. Also, someone else makes the rules, so what works today on Facebook might not work tomorrow. It’s happened already – Facebook used to show all your posts to people who “liked” your page, but now only a small fraction of your posts ever get seen, unless you pay to boost your posts.

In contrast, email has been around for as long as the Internet has, and it isn’t owned by any one company. Which means…

 

Your Email List is Yours

Your email list is yours – not Facebook’s, not LinkedIn’s – yours. So you can send to it when you like, you can change email providers, and your list can come with you. Nobody can change the rules and take that away from you.

Of course, you need to use your mailing list responsibly. People have given you their trust by signing up for your list, so you must respect that and treat them well, or they’re going to unsubscribe.

But since they’ve signed up…

 

List Members are More Committed

By opting into your mailing list (probably through double opt-in), your list members have made a commitment to you and your business. People protect their email addresses and give them out a lot less frequently than they click “like” on a Facebook page. Naturally, your mailing list is filled with people who want to be on that list and want to hear from you.

 

Email Is Easy to Automate

There are several services – free or paid – to automate your mailouts. I use MailChimp; there’s also AWeber and Constant Contact among others. Right now I use the free version of MailChimp but as my list grows, I will switch to a paid version.

All of these services maintain your list of emails, but it’s your list and you can download the list and transfer it to a different service if you like. You can schedule emails to send whenever you like, so a good practice is to queue up some emails so you always have some “in the pipe”… especially for times when you go on vacation or are otherwise engaged.

With paid services, you can automate “drip campaigns” to send sequences of email messages to new subscribers or for sales campaigns. You set up a series of emails, determine the interval between emails, and the service does the rest. In many cases you can even put some decision making into the sequence; imagine asking a question in one of your emails with two links, and having the sequence change depending on which link they click.

You can also “segment” your list so you can send emails to only a particular portion of the list. In my list I have a segment that has signed up for weekly photography emails, so I can send most emails to the whole list but only send the “photo blasts” to the segment.

 

Email Converts Well

Compared to paid advertising, email converts well.

A “conversion” is an action taken – in general it means the user clicks on a link.

Email conversion rates in “house” mailing lists (that people signed up for) tend to have open rates (person opens the email) around 20-30% with conversion rates from 2-5%, whereas online ads tend to have conversion rates more in the 1-1.5% range (source 1, source 2).

A lot depends on the quality and size of the mailing list. You can basically buy a large mailing list by spending money on ads to get people to join your list, but you won’t get users who are as engaged as those who joined because they believed your list would provide value to them.

My list currently has an open rate of about 50% with a click rate around 35%, but it’s a small list. I expect both of those to drop as the list increases in size.

 

Email Drives Traffic To Your Site

Through your drip campaigns and other automated emails, you can toss links in to various pages on your sites. For example, my “photo blast” emails often include links to blog posts that tell more about the particular images I am sharing. People do click on them, so that’s more visitors to your sites and potentially more sales.

 

Email is Everywhere

With the advent of smartphones, you can get email everywhere, any time and it’s easy to engage with it on the spot. If you’re like me at all, you can’t stand that little envelope icon with the number on it – you have to click it!

 

Go Get Started

It’s time to get started. Go sign up with MailChimp, AWeber or Constant Contact. Start collecting emails with the forms included with your membership, then start helping your members!

March Progress Report

March Progress Report
March Progress Report

Here’s my March progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle.

TL;DR> So far, so good.

The numbers are as of March 1, 2016.

Goal Review

I have five goals for my photography side hustle in 2016:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. 2 paid work for hire gigs
  5. Write and publish one eBook

Here we go.

Gross Income

The gross income I’ve received is $185.82. If you look at that as 2/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m pretty close.

I finally received my payment from 500px for selling an image there (this one) after filling out my W8 form. If you’re a Canadian you’ll find that you have to fill one of these out for pretty much any kind of online income now. They declare that you’re not a US citizen and therefore generally not subject to withholding tax.

I also received the last of my calendar sales from Lulu. That’s done until the fall!

Finally, a friend asked me to help him with his web site, so I am hosting it on the same hosting platform (Pair Networks – affiliate link) as my own sites and charging him a low rate. We all benefit!

I have some stock photography money in the pipeline, nowhere near the minimum payouts yet; I sold some images in early March that will be on next month’s payout; and there are a few other pending things that will hopefully land soon.

So, doing well this month.

Score: ON TRACK

 

Stock Photography Income

My stock income improved – I accumulated USD $10.53 in February 2016. It started out very strong and continued to do pretty well through the month. I’m satisfied with that progress.

I’m still behind on submitting stock photos. I have been trickling some through but not at the rate that I would like. I need to work on that.

Score: ON TRACK

Net Income

My net income is still negative but I hope to hit positive numbers by the end of this month or maybe April.

Score: FAILING

Work For Hire Gigs

No luck on the work for hire gigs yet but I’m not going to call it a failure yet.

Score: ON TRACK

Write and Publish eBook

I’ve done a lot of work on my first eBook. I still have a bit of fact checking to do and select some photos and then I can click “publish”. I’m considering this one to be a trial run so I am not putting a lot of income hopes on it… it’s more to learn the ropes and gain some experience.

I was a bit distracted this month because I was writing an article for a Canadian rail magazine. I’ve already submitted one that I hope will come out this month and the second one (just submitted a couple of days ago) will hopefully come out later this year. I’m not getting paid for either one but I think it will be good exposure and look good on my resume / web site.

Since I haven’t actually published the eBook yet, I’ll call this:

Score: TOO CLOSE TO CALL

Summary

So far, improving – failing at 1, fair for 1, and on track for 3 of my goals. I’m not too concerned yet but I need to work a bit harder.

Steps For March

  • Update portfolio
  • Submit more stock photos
  • Finish the first eBook
  • Poll followers for eBook topics
  • Look for paid gigs more aggressively