Tom Malyska is one of Fotolia’s very best-selling illustrators in his home country of Germany. How does he do it? Why does he do it?  We sent our top reporter, Rene Bosch, on a mission to find out…


Tom with his two year old daughter Emilia

It was still early in the morning when I met up with Tom Malyska for the first time. As usual, he’s sat in his office, eyes scrolling through news sites on the monitor, a first cup of coffee in his hand.

“Actually, the most important thing in the morning is to see what’s going on,” says Tom, his daughter on his lap, reconstructing the pieces of her Lego figure. “The world doesn’t stop spinning overnight”.

Tom (34) is one of Fotolia’s top five best selling illustrators selling in Germany. Not that long ago he decided to start working independently, in order to concentrate fully on his illustrations and images. It was a decision this trained carpenter could not have even imagined just a few years earlier.

rettung der Ersparnisse“When I started to sell images on Fotolia two years ago, I did not have a business model in mind,” he confesses modestly. “I took some photos here and there and did some Photoshop just like many others”.

But in addition to taking photos Tom soon discovered an interest in 3D rendering and design, so he taught himself how to use the 3D software Blender and started to generate his first simple models.

He sold his first image on Fotolia shortly afterwards, and quickly found himself hooked. “The first image sale was like a kick-off, and I knew that this was what I wanted to do!”

Tom began uploading a few images a week, and in the meantime built up a portfolio of almost two thousand images.

Männchen Daumen hoch SymbolHis secret is simplicity and not overloading an image. “I try to focus on one idea per image. Sure, you sometimes like to add a detail here and there, but I would rather translate this into several different images, giving customers the choice of which version is the most suitable for their situation.” Nevertheless, all his images have a clear style that is obviously popular among buyers.

Tom believes his success is down to his continuity. Early on he began producing a steady output that distinguished him from many of his competitors. “You really have to believe in what you do. If you start calculating your annual salary from the first image you sell, you’ll quickly fail due to the vast competition.”

Meanwhile, Tom sips his second cup of coffee and unveils one of the countless Blender projects he is currently working on. He sees himself as a service provider, and therefore he finds it very important to know what is going on in the world, and which images might have relevance in the near future.

Männchen auf der RaketeFor Tom, the regional relevance of Fotolia is also extremely helpful in selling his illustrations, which are mostly customized for the European market where he is most profitable. The high competition within Fotolia is, for him, more of an advantage than a disadvantage. “The more excellent images the platform provides the more likely it is that buyers will use them – which also increases the chance that they will discover mine.”

To guarantee this output day to day and week to week, Tom began 2014 by becoming self-employed, working from home together with his wife. He creates and designs the models while she takes care of the keywording, accounting, and general office organization. “If I tell people I work from home, they always think it would be a relief, less stress and fewer working hours. In reality, I now work around 12 hours a day!”, says Tom, all the while skimming over his latest rendering. “My wife sometimes says I’m the worst boss she’s ever had”, he laughs.

Nonetheless, he he clearly enjoys the perks that come with his new way of working. After uploading a batch of images, the table is set, and Tom eats lunch with his family in their own kitchen.

Thanks so much to Tom Malyska, and to Rene Bosch, our roving reporter, for interviewing him.

There are many more of Tom’s brilliant illustrations to see (and buy!) in his Fotolia portfolio.