Getting your name out there as a freelancer


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I'm about to enter the work force, but I would like to do freelance drone work for my community in addition to my daily career. What tips do you have for getting your name out there, attracting employers or branding yourself as a responsible drone operator? Thanks!

Edited by Travis Meier
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The percentage of unhappy commercial customers is way too high.  Most people have a negative perception of working with commercial drone operators.  

If you can set customers expectations correctly for whatever service your providing and then just meet those expectations you'll have happy customers and the word will get out there.  Peoples expectations about drones are all over the map if you try to meet those expectations you'll leave a bad taste in your customer's mouth.

Drones are a great example of everyone knows how to use them but hardly anyone's actually done anything with them.  

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Hey @Travis Meier, some thoughts, and happy to elaborate on any of this:

  • Build a portfolio website that speaks to your target market and addresses any big objections / questions your potential clients might have (how you price your services, what it means to be FAA-certified, how liability insurance works, what gear you have, what end results you can promise, etc.). Don't spent $2,500 on a website, but don't build something that sucks either.
  • Develop a list of target companies in your local market. Real estate companies. Construction companies. Property marketing firms. Hotels. Golf courses. Event planners. Wedding planners. There is no easy money out there, but this is a young industry with an opportunity to educate, consult, and to go out there and win yourself some business and to make a different in different industries.
  • Set goals, really specific goals. There's a HUGE difference between a freelancer who does 3 jobs every 6 months and just makes enough money to justify flying drones as a hobby, and a freelancer who's actively working to build a business, developing a pipeline of leads, a brand, and going out there to put a stake in this industry. Setting goals prevents stagnation and can help you push your business forward.
  • Say yes to every project. I might get pushback here from the community, but I'm a big fan of giving away work for free or at an extremely discounted rate to 1) build client experience; 2) test out flight operations management processes; and 3) get footage for the website / portfolio. It's not sustainable and ultimately you should fight to get paid sooner rather than later, but it can be a good way to start building a network.

Hope this helps!

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As I stated a couple months ago a free sample does alot to get you started, look at it this way your out flying taking videos and photos, editing, practicing with the drone, your spending your time, who is paying you?  Now go out do the same thing for a few people, apply your skill. Someone likes your work you may even get lunch out of it, they tell someone and so on, and the next thing you know people are calling you.

As a real estate agent I have alot of  "free"  time even when I'm working very hard for people, I only get paid when a property sells, the more I give away the more I get back, in referrals.  

I drone shoot my listings and other agents see what I do and they want to offer their clients the same service, until they find out what's involved getting the license, insurance the FAA and the equipment costs, so they give me a call, now it's no longer  "free"  time.

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I say this a lot, context is important when taking advice.  @David Corcoran appers to earn a living as a realtor, anything that he does that saves him money, photography, aerial, video etc is a windfall profit, that is a very different thing to making a living with a drone.

It's next to impossible to build a profitable business by giving your services away for free.  Where do you go from there?  I think David would think I'm on drugs when I say we wont even take on a real estate gig for less than $1000.  Again take my advice with a grain of salt as well because I don't make a living doing real estate, however we do a fair amount of it.  

We didn't get into the position of being able to charge so much by producing at a discount and raising our prices.  We offer interior and exterior stills, video, aerial and charge what we felt is a reasonable price based on the amount of investment in time and equipment.  Its not up to us to determine the worth of our services, that's up to the realtor and home owner, but it is up to us to know how much we need to make to be profitable.  If realtors or anyone else doesn't agree with our value proposition then they don't hire us.

Make it easy, provide high quality and do what you say your going to do and you'll do well. 

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Well said @Av8Chuck.  Where I live, there are quite a few homes in the area that are listed and sell for quite a few millions.  And MANY in the range of a million and in fact, this past year's HGTV give a way home is about 1 mile from where I live (now the Russians will find me). But as Chuck said, his firm would not even entertain a gig for less than a grand, these folks here would laugh at that.  I believe and think that SMART real estate agents, men and women that see the big picture and are very professional in their marketing activities, understand the real value of well executed PROFESSIONAL real estate photography.  It's not just about drones - that can be construed as a gimmick - but instead it's the whole package.  We have a guy here whose interior shots are beyond compare - it's about lighting.  Oh yeah, he can do drone shots since he got his 107 - the rest just do it regardless!

 

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1 minute ago, Ed O'Grady said:

It's not just about drones - that can be construed as a gimmick - but instead it's the whole package.  We have a guy here whose interior shots are beyond compare - it's about lighting.

Amen. That's what I learned from the guys over at @BlueLaVa...that it's not just aerial shots, but this greater ecosystem of real estate marketing services. Interior shots. Virtual tours. Getting listed in Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, etc. People have entire businesses around this already and have been doing it for years. That seems to be true when it comes to most drone pilot job opportunities, whether it's real estate or construction, surveying, inspecting, etc. You have to know the whole ecosystem, not just what you and your drone can do.

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  • 2 months later...

Most  UAV pilots have no experience in salesmanship. Therefore, a course or book on cold calling  selling, is highly recommended. Unless you have a inside connection to an industry, salesmanship skills is the only way to increase your business.  There are too many individuals in the UAV profession that claim to have these skills yet ask them if they cold call businesses and what is the closing ratio. Few , can answer this question.

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I would say this industry is full of people who buy a Phantom and all they have is cold call selling ability.  Which is why the vast majority of them fail.

The drone industry is the ultimate millennial “fake-it-till-you-make-it” business where operators claim to know everything but actually don’t have any real experience at much of anything.  There’s really not much skill required to fly a drone so the barrier to entry is so low that people seem to think you buy a drone with a camera, get your Part107 certificate, hang out a shingle and your in business.  

Then they wonder why they don’t make any money.  It’s becuase your not worth anything no matter how good a sales person you are.  

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Very good points and advice from all. 

Travis, what are your existing, non-drone, experiences and expertise? Integrate drone work into that to build a business. As Chuck rightly says, flying is the easy part. The drone is just a platform for delivery of whatever - film, photography, sensing, inspection, etc. 

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