Done! Finished! Uploaded!

Todd does Getty
It sucked my soul, but I did it. It eroded my spirit, but I finished it. It added lines to my face and took 18 months of my life, but I was grimly determined to upload all of my digitized car films to Getty Images.

Mission: accomplished.


Eighteen hours of public domain car commercials, industrial shorts, promotional films and raw footage are now available through Getty.

Fourteen years of shooting concept cars and production vehicles at the Detroit Auto Show (2000-2013) have been carefully curated, edited, and uploaded for your licensing pleasure.

When I started, I had 153 clips available. Now I have 1,213.

Check it out here: Search - Getty Images : curious cumulus

So what’s the point?

There are several, dear reader. Bear with me.

Point 1: It’s all about the passive income.

Friends, I have a confession. I did it for the money. I believe you would, too.

Imagine if you had shelves full of old car films that were in the public domain. Imagine that you had spent time and money over the years digitizing about 10% of that collection. Imagine knowing that those digitized films could be making you money right here, right now. And tomorrow and next month and next year.

And what if you you knew that you only had to spend some time up front in order to reap the rewards for years afterward with little additional investment? Would you do it? (I decided that I was a fool for NOT doing it up til now.)

That’s the idea behind passive income. Do all the work now. Reap the rewards later, and spend almost no time doing it. I think it’s a better way to live, because it’s not completely dependent upon your time. You don’t always have to be on the clock in order to make money.

I can now sit back and collect cash from this effort for years.

Point 2: I wanted to accomplish something big.

I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t accomplishing any yearly goals. (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals is what Jim Collins calls them.)

So I started 2012 with this goal at the top of my list. As I continued to work on the project, I realized that the other goals had to fall away for a while. This one would require all of my time.

And it did. After I finished uploading all of my Detroit Auto Show clips, I was grimly determined to tackle the vintage car films.

By breaking the goal into smaller chunks, I was able to keep moving forward. When I finished, I would celebrate in some small way and then move on to the next chunk of films.

By June 2013, it was over, done, finished. I had proven to myself that I could stay focused and dedicated to a task even if it was not the most soul-satisfying job. That was extremely important to me, because I proved to myself that I could be persistent. And I believe persistence is a major requirement for success.

Point 3: It don’t mean nothin’ if you can’t track it.

I used the stopwatch on my iPod touch to keep track of the time I spent working on this project. I divided the hours according to time spent on Detroit Auto Show clips and time spent on vintage films. Here’s the breakdown:

Time spent editing/uploading Detroit Auto Show clips (2000-2013): 400 hours, 56 minutes
Time spent editing/uploading vintage car film clips: 201 hours, 23 minutes

Was it time well spent? It’s too early to tell. Get back to me in about three years. I’ll have a better answer for you.

What I’ve learned so far

1) It always takes more time to do than the time you estimated. I went so far down the rabbit hole on this project that I passed through Earth’s iron-nickel core and emerged somewhere in a Chinese iPhone factory. That’s why I had to drop my other projects. I realized this one would suck up all my time.

2) The vintage clips will make more money. My rep at Getty Images told me this. And she’s right. When I examined the clips that producers have licensed from me over the past 12 months, the vast majority have been from my vintage car films.

But the auto show clips have not been complete duds. They have sold more in the past 3 or 4 months than they did all of last year, and I’m happy to see it. I started videotaping the Detroit Auto Show just for fun every year. Then I made a conscious decision to record it for money. And it’s starting to pay off.

It may never make as much money as the vintage clips, but I’m glad that the footage is available. (This leads to my next lesson.)

3) You never know what clients will want nor when they want it. I stopped trying to predict producers’ needs. I was wrong every time I tried (except for Mitt Romney. I was right when I guessed that his campaign would want some of my American Motors clips, because his father George Romney was the president of AMC. But that’s lottery-winning rare.)

4) Focus on a niche. I decided early on that I would provide car footage. All of my vintage films were car, gas, and oil films. The vast majority of footage I had shot in 13 years was auto show footage. Why do a backflip and suddenly start shooting footage for the health care industry? It didn’t make any sense for me to chase trends, so I stuck with automobiles.

In the long run, I believe this will help me, because I will become known as a car expert at Getty Images. When my rep is looking for car footage for a client, she’ll contact me. I’d rather be known as a specialist at something rather than a generalist. (For the record, it’s the generalists who think that Getty Images doesn’t have enough time lapse sunsets.)

5) It’s not enough money to make a living. This pill was difficult to swallow. On average, my efforts have made 400-500 dollars a month. I can’t pay the rent, but I can definitely pay a few bills with this cash. The only thing that kept me moving forward with my goal was the knowledge that it wouldn’t require more time. And the money would keep coming in.

I’ve estimated that I would need about 3,000 clips on Getty to earn decent money each month. I have fewer than half that. If I could create 3 or 4 more revenue streams like this, I could make a living.

And it’s not like I’m done uploading clips. As I make a few bucks here and there, I’ll invest some of it in digitizing more car films. Then I’ll upload those film clips to Getty and build my offerings even more.

So what’s next?

Some creative work. ANY creative work.

More Gone Autos podcasts. Some video work. (Stay tuned for an upcoming blog entry about a video I just produced for my brother’s software company.) Maybe some classic car YouTube videos.

What’s in this for you?

If you’re one of my friends, now you’re all caught up with why I haven’t returned your calls. Now you know why I’m so pasty and flabby. I’ve been in a friggin’ basement at the computer for 18 months! I’m coughing up a lung just trying to get up the stairs!

But if you’re interested in stock footage, I hope this blog entry serves as both encouragement and as a cautionary tale. You can create a sustained income stream with stock footage, but you have to be smart about what you offer and how much effort you’re willing to give it.

Last little ingot of platinum: I’ve been collecting car films since 1998. I’ve kept a ledger of all my purchases, investments in digitizing, and my royalty checks. It’s been about $25,000. I’ve made all my money back and them some. There’s gold in stock footage if you know how to mine it.

Stock Footage: I’m DONE with you! (But you know I can’t quit you.)
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