Wirestock is an online service that sells works of other contributors using an “umbrella” account on microstocks. They offer certain benefits like automated keywording and content upload in return for a fee from your sales.
But the surprising thing is that it is not a win-win situation for many, if not all, contributors. In fact, we found that contributors with 2 and more years of experience will be much safer by using personal accounts.
Let’s see how using Wirestock can screw your microstock career.
What is a Wirestock
Wirestock is an Armenian company that was founded in 2018. They received a $2.3 million seed investment accordingly to the Crunchbase, having startup school YCombinator among investors. They offer a cloud platform for microstock content creators that allows them to distribute the content to different microstock agencies.
Value proposition of the Wirestock
What Wirestock is selling you can be divided into 2 buckets:
- You “only take pictures” and they do the rest, including uploading to microstocks and keywording.
- Since their “umbrella” account sells higher volumes than individual, they will climb into higher stages of progressive royalties faster.
For these privileges they will pocket the
15% of the profits paid to you by the microstocks.
Sounds simple? Lets see how this is good for them and bad for you.
Reasons to avoid Wirestock
Forever fee for a one-time service
Wirestock claims the “peace of mind” for you because they will keyword and upload files for you.
Since keywording and uploading is done only once, it’s easy to see that Wirestock will be charging you forever
15% for what they will do only once! This is a very lucrative business model - for the business, of course.
Keywording and uploading can be monotonous and even boring at times, but there are many ways to make it faster. Use better tools or even pay others (once!) to do it for you.
Also note, that their
15% is a fee for your pre-tax earnings, meaning that your after-tax profits will be even smaller, depending on your tax rate. For example, if you earned
$100 on microstocks and your countrie’s tax rate is
20%, your actual earnings will be
$80 ($100 * 0.8). After Wirestock you actual earnings will be only
$68 ($100 * 0.85 * 0.8).
Higher royalty rate hardly useful
Wirestock claims you get paid more because their account is in the higher rate level.
But not all microstocks have adopted the progressive royalties schema. And from those who did, only Shutterstock resets them every year. For example, at the time of this writing, Adobe Stock has a flat-rate royalties at
33%. Of course, Adobe has a minimum royalty tiers of
$0.38, depending on the amount of sales, but it is not making any weather (
$3/month difference for each
100 sales between tiers). Not to mention that you get free access to Adobe Creative Cloud as a bonus of having a personal contributor account with 150+ downloads. On the other hand, Depositphotos accumulates you progress over years, making the effect of initial larger sales volume not so big. Approximately after 1 to 2 years most contributors who upload consistently reach decent royalty rate on the microstocks with accumulating schema.
When you are newbie, even being in the higher tier will not make a large difference for the absolute amount of your earnings. If you get
$1 without Wirestock in
20% tier and only get
$2 with Wirestock, having
40% royalties. People who just started have smaller portfolios so the absolute earnings will not make a difference for them. At the same time, if you have hundreds of files in your portfolio, then you will do good without Wirestock too! Even more, it will be quite unsafe to stay with Wirestock at this point, as you will learn below.
They will sell only some of your files
Wirestock does not promise that they will accept to their account all of your uploads, meaning that you will need to do the rest in the “old way” anyways. Yes, Wirestock also has a content moderation teams, just like the microstocks themselves.
And yes, they might reject some files that microstocks could have actually accepted. There’s no chance they can match the content selection process of all microstocks they work with. Since they are present on many microstocks, there’s a very high chance that some will accept the content while others will reject it, leaving you half way.
For you it only means you will have to do it all over yourself for the rejected part of your files. Otherwise you will not use all your works to their full potential.
You will not own the metadata of your files
Wirestock will keyword your photos, videos and vectors, but this metadata will be their intellectual property. You cannot even get it in a reasonable way back to your files for future use without paying! Not to mention if you will stop working with Wirestock, you will need to do it all over again.
It is though possible to get the metadata back if you are subscribed to their Premium plans for
$13/month which you will probably won’t be by default. Effectively they want you to pay more for the keywording.
What if they go out of business
Another question you should ask yourself: will they be around in a couple of years? Covid-19 and Russian war in Ukraine have pretty much cut off access to the future venture money for all but the most promising startups. Wirestock is certainly not the “next Facebook” and are you even sure Wirestock is default alive?
As a private company, they do not publish their balance sheets and it’s impossible to know what is the status of their finances. And I bet it isn’t the best one during the current economic turndown. Also because of the Russian war in Ukraine, both Russian and Ukrainian microstock contributor activity has subsided significantly. This will bring Wirestock way less profits, since these were always the top-2 microstock communities by size. There were examples of similar microstock services that went out of business under more favorable economic conditions, such as IPStock.
If you rely only on them and they go out of business for whatever reason, you will loose a lot of your time. Their account with your works will be eventually deleted from microstocks. There’s a very tiny chance the process of reuploading same works by you will be smooth.
They can sell your files for years after you leave
Not many people enjoy reading Terms and Conditions, but this is something worth your time when it’s related to your earnings. Wirestock’s Terms and Conditions “Termination” section mentions that they have the right to sell your files for 3 months plus 1 month for each 100 files you uploaded.
Mind you, of course you are not allowed to sell these files in the meantime! If for whatever reasons you will decide to terminate the service agreement with them, you will be locked out. You cannot upload your files to the microstock under your own account while Wirestock account has the files with the same agency. And they will have your files till the last day allowed by the Terms and Conditions, otherwise they would not have there the “1 month for each 100 files” clause (not to mention that minimum 3 months for files removal is also way too long).
To give you a perspective, if you have
900 files with Wirestock, they have the rights to sell your files for up to 1 year after you leave them. If you have
2000 files, it will be 2 years and so on.
Getting the most out of you: Wirestock Premium
Wirestock is a venture-capital business currently having only seed investments. By definition, they were not founded to help contributors, but to increase investors' returns. Wirestock cannot change the buyer interaction, as it’s the job of the agencies themselves. The only revenue leverage they have is via the sellers.
15% fee is not enough to sustain them (or to satisfy investors). Later Wirestock introduced
Premium accounts with shorter review times, support and ability to download your metadata. Price is around
$13/month at the time of this writing.
At the seed stage of the company with venture capital, one of the main objectives that investors command is growth. Therefore you can see the referral program with
10% earnings paid up to a year. However, with the recent economic dwnturn investors pursue profits more than expansion. This might mean raising fees in some way for contributors.
In the recent (February 2023) email to contributors Wirestock announced that only contributors who have
85% approval rate (almost impossible to get) will have
300 “free” submits per month. For lower approval rates, amount of submits is lower still, decreasing all the way to
50. If you have Wirestock Premium plan, you will get
100 more “free” submits per month.
Collective punishment if something goes wrong
In December 2022 all Wirestock contributors received the following email:
This is to inform you that our account on Adobe Stock has been temporarily deactivated. We are in the process of adjusting our integration including a few technical improvements, potentially adding creator names under each image/video and etc.
The whole Wirestock account was taken down from Adobe Stock because they were not compliant with terms and conditions. Adobe, which is the first or second most-selling agency, was quick and disabled everybody’s content, effectively cutting the largest part of the income of everybody who was using Wirestock.
As of now the account was partially restored, but this story is here to teach you that even if you and Wirestock are doing everything correctly, you might get screwed by other users. You share the space with many other people, who can do stupid things, such as uploading illegal or stolen content. It’s crazy that it actually does not happen more often.
What if you do it yourself
So the question is if you can keyword and upload yourself?
The obvious drawback is that you will work a bit more and initially your earnings will be smaller. However, microstocks are not the get-rick-quick game (and never were). Taking care of keywording and uploading yourself will give you peace of mind and good earnings over the long run.
Keywording can be done with a plethora of free tools (even on the microstocks itself!). Both keywording and uploading need to be done only once. A relatively small investment of your time comparatively to the fee you will pay for it to Wirestock.
Conclusion: take the middleman out
Selling directly to the buyers would be the most beneficial but also the most cumbersome process. For that reason, we saw the raise of the marketplaces that match buyers and sellers. Marketplaces change the fees and prices to compete with each other at the expense of buyers and sellers.
Now we see the raise of a second-level middleman between sellers and buyers like Wirestock. They want to charge you forever for a one-off service you can do yourself with the right tool or for a one-time fee. And the worst is that their fee grows together with your royalties. Using Wirestock can be very risky if you want to work on microstocks on the long run.
Is Wirestock beneficial financially for you as a microstock contributor? Maybe, initially. Is it worth the risk involved? Definitely, No.
UPD. Here you can find a German translation of this blogpost. Thanks to Robert Kneschke from Alltag eines Fotoproduzenten.