Good approach for coming up with Pricing


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Hey all, I just a watched a YouTube video (based on a YouTube recommendation) that had some really thoughtful suggestions for figuring out how to establish prices as a drone operator.  This guy was as open and honest as I've seen in the industry and provided some good insight into how to come up with fair market prices based on your equipment, experience, and the risk you're taking, etc.  

His industry is in Los Angeles as a cinematographer.  He owned a video production company prior to getting into drones in 2013.  So, he has some experience in figuring out pricing and then extended that to productions that involve drones.  So, obviously, the amount of experience that you have,  the type of work you are doing, the equipment you are using, the number of crew that you need to support the job, all factor into your pricing.  Not to mention, the region where you are operating (e.g cost of living).  He also talks about the additional charges he invoices for when he has to do things like waiver submission, additional insurance limits, etc.

All in all, I thought it was a great vlog post on Dronr.   Listen to it and let me know what you think:  


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Thanks for sharing, @ScottF! Copying/pasting a lecture I was working on a while back re: the same topic and hope it adds some value to this thread:


Alright, so in this lecture we’re going to talk about MONEY MONEY.

And let’s go ahead and get one thing out of the way….pricing your aerial services is less science and more art. Not only is this kind of service brand spanking new for the majority of your prospects, but in any service-based business model, there’s a LOT of variance in the kind of work you could be doing, what end product you feel most comfortable delivering, specific client needs, etc.

So, there’s a lot that goes into determining how much your aerial photographs, videos, and data packages that you provide to clients is actually worth.

In this lecture, we’ll run through a few big concepts:

  • What factors influence your pricing?

  • Sample pricing and packaging models (hourly rates, day rates, flat-fee packages)
  • Raising your rates down the road

Let’s dive in.

What factors influence your pricing?

Here are a 10 things that'll influence what kind of prices you can charge for your aerial service work:

  • The end product. Are you selling a block of 50 photos? A 3-minute YouTube video with music? An orthographic map? Each of these command a different type of approach to pricing. If you're doing the post-processing, you've got to factor in that time.
  • Your client. Are you working with a real estate broker on a $575,000 listing? What about the CEO of a construction company bidding for an $8 million project? What about a roofing inspector? Each has a unique situation when it comes to hiring an sUAS operator and their own perceived value of the end product.
  • Your geography. Urban vs. rural, big city vs. small city, other close-by competitors vs. no competitors, etc. Service-based businesses tend to look a little different city to city.
  • Your competition. This isn't as important as you might think, but it's still a consideration. All else equal, what are your competitors charging?
  • Your track-record. This is a HUGE part of your sales process and something I really want to focus on in this lecture. There's a lot to be said for sharing your past client successes, for gathering video testimonials, for putting together an unbelievable demo reel that highlights your best work, etc.
  • Your training / certifications / licenses. If you have a Section 333 Exemption (or some other country-specific license) and are complying legally in the national airspace, you should command a higher price than a competitor who isn't flying legally. If you've gone through a training program or have some other certificate you can share, that also helps.
  • Whether or not you have insurance. Clients don't want to be held liable of something goes wrong. If you can assume that risk with your own liability policy, you're bringing more value to your client.
  • What equipment you're using. While you want to match the equipment to the client and shouldn't simply charge more for using a better system when all else is equal, if the shoot demands a more advanced sUAS, you should factor that into your pricing. Flying a DJI s1000 for a cinematographic shoot is a lot different than using a DJI Phantom 3 Professional to take photographs of a golf course or resort property.
  • Travel / shoot logistics. Do you need to drive more than a few miles to get to a shoot location? Are you flying somewhere and bringing all your equipment with you in travel-proof cases? You've got to factor in travel / your time. There are many ways to think about doing this. Check out MileIQ as an example of a tool you could use if doing a lot of driving for local client work.
  • One-time project vs. on-going work. You might want to offer a discount if there's guaranteed recurring work that'll be sent your way.

There are many more ways to think about this, but hopefully that list gets your brain juices flowing.

At the end of the day, pricing is closely related to how much trust and authenticity you can build with your prospective clients. That's the most important thing to remember.

Get into the pricing mindset

The sooner you begin to embrace that you're not just a person with a drone who takes pictures, but a licensed and insured commercial sUAS business who:

  1. operates incredibly expensive equipment;
  2. takes on the liability if anything goes wrong;
  3. handles not just the photo/video/data capture but also the post-processing (using expensive editing or mapping software);
  4. has a proven track record with other happy clients;
  5. is well versed in all local and governmental regulations and has the proper documentation;
  6. and so on...

The sooner you can embrace all of that, the more confident you'll be when standing behind your pricing, either on your website / in your marketing materials or directly speaking to clients over the phone or in person.

How should I package / sell my services?

This is where it gets fun (and creative).

The sUAS industry is still new, so your prospects will really be looking to you when it comes to what kind of deliverable it is that you're offering.

When I started my first service-based business (growth-marketing agency), I didn't have any standardized pricing. I wanted to move fast and say YES to every project, regardless of its scope. You may see where this is going. That worked out for a while (I was able to generate $100,000+ in revenue my first 12 months), but I soon burned out, and ultimately I wasn't able to scale my company. I didn't have enough processes in place. Everything was customized.

Because I didn't "productize" the kind of service I was offering, my sales process was a lot longer. Every new client relationship was different than the last. Every new prospect I'd hop with on the phone in a very consultative way and try to match my services to their particular needs.

If you're hungry for cash like I was back then, this can be a GREAT approach. Just...keep talking to the client and take whatever cash you can get for as many projects as possible.

But long-term?

Without a clear pricing / packaging model, it can be hard to really understand how your business is performing, to build more efficient processes and a stronger marketing / sales funnel, and to ultimately scale your business.

Your pricing and packaging model may always be changing...but the sooner you can commit to something standardized, the easier it'll be to communicate that to prospective clients.

Experiment with "tiered" pricing.

A tiered model lays out multiple options at different price points and empowers your prospective clients to make better, more informed decisions that feel less arbitrary.

So, you're presenting option A, option B, or option C to your prospects.

It's human psychology. We're just not wired to make absolute price and value evaluations in a vacuum. We need points of reference. A tiered model helps you to anchor your pricing and to appeal to folks that are looking for more value vs. those who want the highest-possible level of service you offer, where cost isn't as much of a concern.

Laying out options gives clients a clear way to compare, contrast and ultimately be more intentional about who they decide to award their business to and why.

Each option should have a purpose and represent a viable option for the client. You can state exactly what problems you're going to solve and what trade-offs these solutions will entail.

For example, let's say you're trying to work with a real estate broker.

Your pricing could look something like this:

  • Option A - 10 high-quality aerial photographs
  • Option B - 10 high-quality aerial photographs + a 3-minute YouTube walkthrough video
  • Option C - Package of 5 listings to be used in a 90-day period (selling Option B at a discount if the client buys a block of 5 ahead of time)

I'm over-simplifying your service offering of course, but you can see how each of these options commands a unique price.

The goal here is to creatively and conscientiously define problems right from the outset, and to empower clients to make purposeful choices about what they really want.

What are some sample pricing models?

Here's a (work-in-progress) list of aerial service companies who publish their pricing:

You'll see that it's all over the board. Some of these companies promote that they're certified and insured, while others do not. Some of these companies have incredibly designed websites with show reels, a portfolio of client work, and testimonials. Others do not.

Here are a few ways to think about pricing / packaging:

  • Charge an hourly rate. You can sell a max "block" of hours depending on the task. As an example, if your hourly rate is $150, and you're driving out to a shoot site, setting up, shooting 20-30 photos on one 15-minute battery, then going back home to do some editing and finalization for the client...that might ultimately run somewhere between 1-2 hours, so maybe you'd charge $150-$300 for that service.

  • Charge by deliverable. You'll note some of the examples above spell out specific deliverables, like "interior" vs. "exterior" capture, or literally the number of photos you'll end up receiving. I personally like how Phoenix Drone Service prices their Construction Monitoring services on a monthly retainer. You really want to think about the deliverable, and what format of end product the client ends up really needing. If they're a realtor who wants aerial videography, you're not just going to shoot a .mov file and send it to them via Dropbox. You'll want to export to the right codec and load / tag the video onto a service like YouTube, Vimeo, or even the MLS (and sites like Trulia, Zillow, etc.).
  • Charge by half-day / day. Some types of projects, particularly more cinematography-oriented ones, require a lot more on-site time and direction than others. If you do this kind of work, it might make sense to charge by the half-day or day.

Can I ask my client to pay for travel costs?

If you're charging hourly, I don't see any reason why not to include a 20-30 minute drive to and from the site into your scope of work. If you have a packaged rate, I wouldn't tack on additional travel expenses unless you're having to drive or fly more than one hour.

*Make sure to track your car/truck mileage with a tool like MileIQ or Passenger for tax purposes

How can I increase my pricing?

As the market matures, and as your own experience grows stronger, you're going to want to adapt your pricing model. Here are a few things you'll want to have on your website / in your marketing materials to help better justify a price increase:

  • A killer demo reel. You're only as good as your last video. As your skills improve, so should your demo reel.
  • Client testimonials. Don't just get quotes. Get images you can share, links to their website or LinkedIn profile to show they're real people, and video testimonials if you can.
  • ROI / case studies of how your clients actually saved (or made) money by using your services
  • Social proof. An example would be that you should probably share if you've worked with 50+ clients, or that you've flown 1000+ hours, or that you have 400 local businesses on your email list.
  • Local PR / news clippings. Share links to these stories to establish trust and professionalism.

Also, you might want to think about locking in your past clients to your old pricing model. It's 1) good for marketing and helps you re-engage past clients, 2) builds goodwill by offering a discount for being an early adopter of your company's services, and 3) puts cash in your pocket when you get folks to commit to new business at the old rates that you might not have gotten with just a simple price shift.

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