Are you a graphic artist looking for work? Try drawing / taking photos for microstocks – seasonal work, a second income or full-time work

I run into classified ads in which graphic artists are looking for work all the time on the internet. I would like to recommend to them one source of income thanks to which they will be independent, free, can work from the warmth of home and if it goes well for them they will also be well provided for financially. It is drawing for microstocks.

When I write this, it looks odd – drawing and microstocks? But these days they do not only sell photographs in microstocks but also illustrations (vector illustrations but even bitmaps – from Photoshop), flash (animation, components, applications, effects), videos, animations, music, sounds. Under the term illustration, you’d better not imagine cartoon characters; those are not very easy to sell. It’s better to think of various graphic elements or proposals of pages, business cards, abstract backgrounds etc.

Here are a few examples of what sells well as graphic work:

Well selling vector illustrations

But even much simpler things sell well:

Simple illustrations can also earn you money

Illustrations are even much more saleable than photographs (that is why this article focuses on graphic artists even though microstocks are still a good source of extra money also for photographers). The reason is simple – everybody has a good camera today, but only a few can manage a graphic editor and produce illustrations.

And now for a few reasons to start drawing for microstocks:

If you are looking for work, they will definitely take you immediately in a microstock!

At some microstocks, you will have to prove that your productions are worth it – upload a few illustrations for evaluation (for instance Shutterstock, iStockphoto), but at others it is not the case (Dreamstime, Fotolia). So if you have some portfolio, you can start uploading and making money already within a few hours/days.

Absolute freedom in terms of working hours, place and job description.

FreedomThere is nothing more flexible – it is up to you when and where you will create, what you will draw or photograph. Of course, it is better to create things of the best quality and upload often and regularly – in the end, your income will also reflect that. And also content (what you draw / photograph) is better aimed at more commercial – more saleable – topics and avoid art, complex compositions and complicated illustrations.

Thanks to this freedom, microstocks are a terrific way of making extra cash – you can work on them in the evenings, at work, when you have nothing to do, you can get it started on holiday when you do not have to go to school. I created things for a few years in the evenings and it paid off – today microstocks support me without difficulty; I could easily take a half year off and know that I am financially secure.

No boss, no client, no problem

No boss, no client, no problem - that's drawing for microstockIn microstocks, you do not have a boss, who would stand behind you and watch what you are doing, how you do it and when you do it. You do not have any orders with a firmly set deadline, you do not have any problematic clients who persistently interfere in your work and because of them you have to rework your terrific work to their image so that you do not include it in your portfolio? You do not have to rewrite the contents in your graphic work constantly, because the client wants to see current texts there, you do not have to, you don’t. No more changes, alterations, adjustments and change again! It is also one of the reasons I personally do not take most web design orders even though they are well paid. Thanks to microstocks, it not worth it.

No finances needed to get started

TabletIf you are a graphic artist/photograp­her, then you already have the necessary equipment and you therefore do not have to invest any money in the start-up of your microstock. Only your time. When it no longer interests you, you only lose the time invested (but an uploaded picture can make money for you even after you have stopped).

Moreover, if you have been creating graphic art for a few years already (or you have been taking photographs for a few years), then you certainly have lots of illustrations, graphic proposals, sketches that clients did not want – you can put all of that in your microstock portfolio, just like photographs (don’t hesitate to mix photographs and illustrations). Assess your previous work; do not let your creations lie unused in a drawer.

It is very easy to start

Entry do the world of microstocks is very easy – it is enough to register and start uploading your works and just watch the money come in (you can find details in this article How to start selling photographs and illustrations in microstocks).

In the future, it can be your passive income

Passive income from your illustrations or photosI think that microstocks can be placed well in the column ‘passive income’. Unfortunately, before you get to this area with your microstock income, you will have to invest some energy and really get it started – first it is necessary to build up a high-quality portfolio. Only then can you use (sometimes) your passivity.

It is natural that if you completely stop taking care of your portfolio, then that income will be lower and lower (but on the other hand 100% passive). It is not however a problem to stop adding for a month or two – you barely notice the difference in incomes, but after a longer period of inactivity the incomes are noticeably lower – hence it depends on which microstock – for instance at iStock the reaction is much slower (a number of years) than at Shutterstock (months).

Just to be complete, the next time you prefer to nod your head to a client on another order, think about it – you certainly get a good reward by work for him, but he pays you once and it never increases. Whereas if you devote the work for that same time to your microstock portfolio, you get a much smaller reward at that moment but also solid promise of future earnings that won’t cost you anything again. And to fill in the picture, one example: My most sold illustration (which made in about 15 minutes) made about three dollars the first week – not much, but it has been in a microstock for two years already and over that period it had made in total a respectable $1,600 – in one microstock site! And I have more of those illustrations and I’m submitting to more sites.


The moment you have a larger portfolio (hundreds – or better at least a thousand – images) you get a stable income from the microbanks essentially without greater fluctuations. Thanks to which, you will become at least partially independent and you can then choose your orders and customers – you will have certainty that you will have some income (especially if you upload to more microstocks).

How much will i make?

This probably interests every beginner. You can check the results of 2011 Microstock Industry Survey

Broaden your horizons, keep up with current trends

If you are active in microstocks, it will force you to pay attention to what has sold well recently – you will hence keep up with current styles, you will try new tutorials. That will force you to learn something new; you simply won’t atrophy and you will keep up with the latest trends, which also counts.

Get access to other offers

Recently, I have been getting offers for cooperation / orders from abroad through microstocks (which is essentially what most unemployed graphic artists dream of). Mostly, the users of microstocks like my style and wanted me to adjust one of my illustrations to their needs, create a logo, website etc. Thanks to the fact that they are foreign clients, the pay was relatively interesting, the work basically easy (I mainly mean here those adjustments of my own illustrations) and no problem with them paying on time. If you are interested in such orders, I recommend you complete your profile as best you can at the individual microstocks and add there also a link to your portfolio and list of skills.

It does not depend on education, your history, the quality of your resume and previous employment

Simply nobody cares about it in microstocks. What is important is whether you can draw (photograph) a saleable illustration, or take good pictures. Nobody checks if you have studied at university or have experience in the field. I myself have no graphic schooling or experience. I taught myself to be an illustrator only thanks to microstocks actually. It does not even depend on your graphic talent; often it is more important whether you really try, whether you keep up with what sells and adjust according to that.

Why start right now?

When to start with microstock?Because it will never be so easy again. Not that it would be the simplest now, that is not the case. It was easier eight years ago when microstock photobanks first started. Since then, competition in the form of the number of photographers and graphic artists has constantly increased just like the size of the databases of the individual microstocks. Essentially, the later you start the greater competition you will have and the harder it will be to make it. But it is still very easy (particularly with graphic artists, where the competition is still not as great as with photographers). Well then, don’t wait and just start.

So how do i start?

It is easy, I describe it in several articles at this website, so I first recommend you study this website a bit (but preferably thoroughly).

I would include these among the most important articles that will help you get started:

Where to register first?

  • At Dreamstime or at Fotolia or Depositphotos, because of the simple registration (you do not have to send images to be evaluated), but do not be discouraged by the low number of sales, it takes longer at these microstocks.
  • At Shutterstock, because it is the most profitable microstock, you will have the first sale already in a few hours after the acceptance of your images. However, the registration and mainly the acceptance of new photographers and graphic artists is much more difficult there (luckily you can try several times each month) – more info in another article: 10 tips for photographers in order to get accepted by ShutterStock.

I wish you lots of success. If you have a question even after studying the web, do not hesitate to write it in the commentaries.


  1. I have been trying to get some vectors uploaded to DREAMSTIME but they always get rejected because the files are not big enough. I tried to figure out how to make them atleast 3 mega-pixels but nothing has worked. Can you tell me what is the best way to create vectors the propper size and if I can resize my old vectors too?
    Thank you.

  2. hi Orson ! I am new to illustrations and I have prepared some illustrations entirely in illustrator cc with the help of included shapes icon and brushes etc. I wanted to know can i sell those illustrations on stock sites or am i supposed to create every shape or icon etc at my own? would there be any copyright problem?

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