Anewera

Getting customers on a budget - Startup Business

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I have chosen real estate because I feel it could possibly be the simplest market to get into just to gain the experience for future jobs. The film industry is the end goal.

The part that I am working on at the minute is trying to put a website together and to try come up with some kind of sales forecast for potential customers. Obviously being a start up business, high capital to gain customers isn't really beneficial, I don't suppose you guys have any tips on how to reach these customers, on a budget? I was thinking of maybe writing a blog to try get a known reputation. I have spoken to some estate agents before, I either get ignored or they don't take the service seriously (drones are not to well known here in the UK yet).

I know freebies are always a good thing to offer when you're first starting out, I just need to figure out what it is I can give away for free to make it worth my while and to gain customers from it lol Picture frames...hmmm ¬¬

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A couple of thoughts: I developed aerial real estate photography as an add on to my conventional photography business.  So I have a pre-made customer base.  I have actually done photography from a helicopter, and the cost for drone photography is an order of magnitude less.  It's also relatively easy to identify properties (a pretty small percentage) that would benefit from aerial shots.  The offer I make to new customers is "If you don't think it's worth it, don't use the pictures and you don't have to pay for them."  I have never had anyone take me up on that, but even if they did, it would add to my portfolio.  The most obvious candidates for drone work are waterfront, or near waterfront properties, large estates, big, high end homes with swimming pools or elaborate landscaping, and houses that sit on a hilltop that makes ground based photography troublesome. I follow all regulations, and I'm insured.  That helps me going after big companies that are always worried about liability but are more likely to represent high end properties.  

I find that still shots are in much greater demand for real estate than video, though that may be different in the UK.  I think the most important tool for you would be a portfolio of your work.  Go out and shoot some properties.  Nothing beats going out over the water and shooting back at a house or maybe a hotel or resort.  They eat that stuff up.  It's very important for you to talk to real estate agents to find out what they want or need even if they don't know they need it, and you've got to have something to show them.

Last, I think if I were in your shoes, it might be a good idea to identify some people already doing conventional photography for real estate.  Talk to them to see if you can piggyback your aerial work on to theirs.  Good Luck!

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On 2/6/2016 at 0:54 PM, Silk Purse said:

 The offer I make to new customers is "If you don't think it's worth it, don't use the pictures and you don't have to pay for them."  I have never had anyone take me up on that, but even if they did, it would add to my portfolio.

So many nuggets of wisdom in your response, @Silk Purse, this was my favorite :)

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How does the actual photography/video business work as far as who pays? Is it the agents, who back bill the sellers after the sale, or is it the seller of the property that pay you directly?

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The individual agents are responsible for marketing their own listings in the vast majority of cases.  On occasion it is the company the agent works for that pays the bill, and, very rarely, a property owner will want some aerial shots. That's how it works in the US. UK may be different.  

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Sorry for the delayed response, I forgot to turn on notifications lol 

I also think that's a good idea about offering the option that if they're not happy with the photos, don't use them. Takes the pressure off a bit I'm sure. 

I'll have to stick to larger properties, the problem with the UK is theres so many houses (basically on top of each other) because there's not to much land to expand onto lol which could prove difficult when sticking to the regulations of flying. Hotels and golf courses would be another good option. 

I'm going to focus hard on my portfolio, maybe make some youtube videos. Stone henge would be a cool place to film or some castles. 

I'm not to sure YawTech, someone told me it comes out of the agents commission, whether that's true or not. 

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Hi Anewera.  I'm new on the forum.  Intrigued by your post because I believe it's vital for early drone entrepreneurs to find the "early money" and get profitable as fast as possible.  So I appreciate and agree with your focus on this.

Any progress or learning you can share?  At this point, the recommendations to create a minimal portfolio and pursue the high-end niche properties sounds like good advice to me.

Thanks, Brett

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On 2/9/2016 at 6:56 AM, YawTech said:

How does the actual photography/video business work as far as who pays? Is it the agents, who back bill the sellers after the sale, or is it the seller of the property that pay you directly?

It is almost always the real estate agent that pays for the video service. Their hope is to sell the home more quickly and get their commission sooner

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16 hours ago, otteau said:

It is almost always the real estate agent that pays for the video service. Their hope is to sell the home more quickly and get their commission sooner

In my experience the residential real estate market is much more listings driven than sales driven. There is great competition among agents to secure the listing for a desirable piece of property - to get the homeowner to sign on the dotted line. By offering to do aerial photography you are giving the agent one more arrow in her/his quiver.  The agent can offer professional photography, a stand alone website, glossy brochures, and Aerial Photography!  You are providing the agent another tool to get the listing.  In point of fact, no one knows whether aerial photography will actually hasten the eventual sale or allow that stinker to be sold for a higher price.  It doesn't really matter. I hasten to add that the above is merely my opinion.  Take it for what it's worth.

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Hi all, David here. Like most I have chatted with relatively new to the dronefest of opportunities. I started a company some time ago working on training and marketing which requires photo and video capability. So with some thought about my future goals I decided to also expand into the drone side as well. It adds fun to a busy day so glad I did. Still have not gotten the bugs worked out or gotten certified yet, but will in the near future so I can recoup my investment. All the best to you, happy flying.

David

www.visionstrides.com

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Hi everyone I am wanting to start an aerial photography buisness and was wanting to know what the biggest costs are for getting started? I'm in the process of building a website and a portfolio, and going to start handing out fliers and buisness cards.  I would love to hear any suggestions about getting started. Thanks for any help!

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3 hours ago, Flip said:

Hi everyone I am wanting to start an aerial photography buisness and was wanting to know what the biggest costs are for getting started? I'm in the process of building a website and a portfolio, and going to start handing out fliers and buisness cards.  I would love to hear any suggestions about getting started. Thanks for any help!

Biggest cost in a service-based business is your TIME. Fliers and business cards won't get you far. Developing relationships, having in-depth phone calls. Showing up at networking events and community meetings. That's far more of a "cost" than anything else when you're getting started.

The big costs in this business are your equipment. Legal costs would likely be second (business entities, photo/video licensing agreements, contracts, etc.).

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One thing we highly suggest here in the US is for photographers to join the local board of realtors as an affiliate member and attend networking events. The same thing with our Chamber of Commerce and home builders associations. There is nothing more effective than getting out there and shaking hands. 

I would agree with Alan the biggest cost is time. If you have a good website and a decent budget you could put some money into search advertising (Google Adwords) or social media advertising. You can target people who are actively looking for what you are offering with search advertising, and those whose interests make them likely candidates to be your clients on social media.

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Business is about money, so learn how you can make money for potential clients.

What I mean is, don't waste time handing out business cards, perfecting your website, paying for AdWords, etc. These could all work, but they're not immediately focused on giving potential customers something that benefits them. It's one step away from spam.

I built my photo business (on the ground, now expanding into drone photography) by:

1: Identify recently constructed or soon-to-be-finished buildings in your neighborhood/city

2: Research online - who is the architect, construction company, owner, developer, etc. Do they have great photos of their work yet? If they do, do they have aerial shots yet?

THEIR BUSINESS DEPENDS ON SHOWING OFF THEIR COMPLETED WORK - if you can shoot aerial photos of their work, they will pay you for it because it makes them look good. Even small buildings can be worth $1m+, any 5+ story commercial property is likely worth $10m+. Architects want to look good for future clients, building managers need to lease space ($100k+ per year rent), owners want to show their investors their beautiful valuable properties (not show crappy cell-phone shots of what they spent millions of dollars on), etc.

3: Shoot a building as if you were hired. Pick a building that doesn't yet have aerial shots (if they existed, they'd be online, because every party wants to show off their best shots of their work). Retouch it and make it look as good as possible, again as if you've been hired to do it.

4: Send a nice email directly to the person in charge. Find the principal within the architecture firm who designed the building (you can find this if you dig around deep enough online), or at least the marketing department. Hi - here's some aerial photos I shot of one of your buildings. If you think these images would be helpful in your marketing efforts we can discuss licensing options. If you have any future projects finishing up soon I'd be thrilled to provide aerial photos to help your company look its best."

So, you've put time into this (perhaps 2-5 hours), and there's no guarantee of a paycheck. Worst case scenario you have some great photos for your portfolio (don't shoot buildings that look bad, or in bad weather, or otherwise won't be portfolio-worthy at this stage). What you've done is send a business an opportunity to pay you to make them look better.

Often the email I get back is "Fantastic! We hadn't even thought of shooting this project aerially, but these look great and help tell the story of the building. What are your licensing fees? By the way, we have five other projects in town that would benefit from this type of photo - can you come into the office and speak with us this week?"

Sometimes no email comes back, sometimes they politely decline. But often a positive response with a desire to pay you money comes back. Also, if you've done your research, you know there's at least 3, maybe as many at 10 companies involved with the project you shot, so chances are very good at least one of them will want the images.

Some parties are thrilled to pay $400+ per image. They have expensive websites, get paid well for their work, and depend on beautiful photos to sell themselves. Other parties (e.g. window installers, structural engineers, etc) may have rudimentary websites but would still be happy to pay $100 for a few nice shots.

I'm an architectural photographer on the East Coast and I can confirm that all of my clients would love aerial shots of their projects, whether by me or someone else. The more beautiful and professional your photos the more opportunity you'll get, but for now any aerials are novel to many clients.

Hope that helps! There's a million ways to get into this business, and this is simply the way that has worked for me. I wish you the best of luck!

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