Shaun Deardorff

Aerial Filmography Inquiry | Raleigh-Durham

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Hey all, I'm a new drone photography business owner and am happy to do some drone photos and videos for real estate agents while pursing other clients. I live in the Raleigh/Durham area and recently got my Part 107 License, so I am looking for ways to monetize the license and make money with my drone. If anyone knows of any contacts in the Triangle area who could share some contacts with me, or if anyone knows of any good drone companies, other companies, or real estate companies that would be interested in hiring a licensed pilot, please let me know! Thank you for any help given!

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Hey @Shaun Deardorff, thanks for joining the forum and congrats on getting your license.

Some quick comments, happy to flesh this out some more with you and looking forward to your response and others in this forum chiming in.

Despite a handful of full-time drone pilot job listings here and there (scroll to the bottom of the guide to see some), I'd encourage you to think about building out your own freelance business that could maybe turn into something more full-time down the road. The sooner you can get a website and portfolio up, the better. You can use something like SquareSpace to get started. Take a look at other drone pilot websites in different cities to see how they're pricing and packaging their services. Throw something up as soon as possible, it doesn't have to be perfect, but you need to have some kind of professional presence, particularly when you start reaching out for work.

Which brings me to my next point! I'd start developing a target list of companies to work with in the area. Real estate brokers, agents, firms, construction companies, property management companies, car dealerships, anyone that would benefit from high-end aerial photographs or video footage.

As an example, here's how Derrick Ward got started:

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To get his first client, Derrick called all of the realtors in his area to set up meetings, and offered each of them free shoots.

The first realtor to accept the offer was one of the biggest realtors in Utah for homes being sold in a lakeside community. They were pleased with his work, and also impressed that he had put his skills on the line by offering to work for free, and out of that one free shoot he was able to land contracts to several houses, every single park, and several shops in the community.

He used this approach with several other realtors, giving away shoots to demonstrate the value of his work and of aerial services in general, and it won him so much recurring work that people now call him to hire him, whereas he originally went door to door to get meetings.

The reason Derrick used this approach is that, for many realtors, aerial services are still a new concept, and they don’t fully understand the value aerial shots can bring to their efforts to market and sell homes. The free shoot helps familiarize them with the value, and it also gives Derrick a chance to demonstrate the quality of his work. One thing to emphasize is that Derrick had a strong sales plan in place when he offered to work for free—after the free shoot, he followed up proactively and was ready to go when the client expressed interest in hiring him.

Derrick doesn’t generally offer free flights any more because he now has a big client base, and he has a steady stream of inquiries from potential new clients coming in all the time.

 

Anyways, I hope this at least begins to answer your question. It's a new industry with lots of opportunities, but it's not a transactional kind of sale — meaning you're really going to have to hit the pavement, understand a consultative sales approach, and be OK with tweaking and improving your process along the way. Would recommend reading SPIN Selling and The Ultimate Sales Machine if you're interested in developing a best-practice outreach process.

Stay in touch and safe flying out there,

Alan

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Hi @Shaun Deardorff

Welcome to the forum and congratulations on recently becoming Part 107 Certified! I am in a similar situation as I have started to build my drone service company. I have been working overtime building out every aspect of the business so when I start to get clients (I actually just received an email from a potential client as I type this) I have all of the systems in place for a smooth customer experience. The first piece of advice I will offer you is to come up with a unique name that will stand out among your competitors. I have seen countless times where I see ten drone companies with similar names. Having a generic company name makes it very easy for a potential client to forget who you are. A great logo is also just as important as it conveys to your customers what you do and who you are. I decided to name my company Galactic Droneography and made my slogan "Out of this world Droneography" I have had many people tell me how much they loved the name and logo design. I tell you this to show the importance of standing out with creative branding. 

@Alan Perlman is correct on the importance of getting a website up as quickly as possible with a portfolio for potential clients. Even if you only have a few photos it is a start, just make sure you put up your best work. Sqaurespace is a great option for a website, I personally used Wix and have been very happy with it. I can't speak for all of the SquareSpace features but on Wix it will pull the colors from your logo and helps you set up a nice looking website that looks like your brand. Or you can do what I did and make your own design in the Wix Editor. My first version of my website was very basic and that's okay because you can always go back and revise the design and order of the pages later. I have lost count on how many times I have revised my website. Here is my website if you would like an example: https://www.galacticdroneography.com

Its important that everything you do has a similar design style. Whether it's a Facebook cover photo, website, YouTube Banner, it should all reflect your brand and be easily identifiable. As for looking for clients, always be researching and thinking about who your clients could be. Instead of targeting realtors, I have been reaching out to custom home builders. This is more of a niche portion of the market but it shows custom home builders the importance of having aerial images and videos when the showcase the homes they build. You can also offer to take progress videos or photos of home build for project management and promotional purposes. I have built out a spreadsheet in Google Sheets with all of the potential clients I would like to do work for. You do not have to limit yourself to one niche either. If you are really good at photos and videos, there are numerous applications for that. 

Sending emails explaining how you can solve a problem for them can be very effective. I try to keep the emails simple without sounding like this email has been sent to 1500 people. The worst thing that can happen is they say that they are not interested or they do not answer the email. Just figure out what works and what does not work and improve the process along the way. Posting content in local Facebook pages can also be very effective in getting the word out. Just be sure to only post once a week on those types of pages so it does not get annoying to others within the group. Facebook ads and Google Ads can also be an option and you can advertise for $1 a day on Facebook and around $2 a day to start on Google Ads. Running some ads at the start can also help get the word out with the hope that overtime you can bring in more organic traffic to offset the balance between organic and paid traffic. A word of advice on Facebook ads would be to be strategic with how many days your ad will run. If you want to start off with a dollar a day, only run that ad for seven days. Facebook will work harder to push that ad into peoples timeline compared to if you paid $1 a day over a period of 30 days.

I hope I was able to provide some helpful information and feel free to ask any questions. 

Best, 

- Chase 

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Thank you @Chase Flynn | UAV Coach for all of the advice! I actually already came up with a business name, Airmage, designed a pretty cool logo, made an Instagram to showcase my photos and footage, and am in the process of developing a website. I veered away with anything 'drone' in the name, as the word drone has a negative connotation, so after some thought and creativity, I came across the combination of 'Air Image,' or 'Airmage.' I will have to check out more about advertising as well. I recently applied for a drone delivery service called Zing, in my area, but have yet to hear back. Hopefully I can set up a website soon and start getting clients. So far what has been the outlook for you in terms of clientele and servicing/payment? Thank you for the feedback!

Shaun

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Hi @Shaun Deardorff,

No problem! Good choice on the name, I tried to find your Instagram but could not find it. Just wanted to look at some of your drone work. So far the outlook has been positive, I just started really pushing marketing in the last 2 weeks and have had a state park who may be interested in hiring me for promotional work in the near future. They are restoring some buildings and there is not a set completion deadline yet, but I was still able to make a contact out of it with the hopes that they will hire me. I am also talking to a custom home builder who is building a house down the road. As for servicing/payment, I have set up a Square account and this allows me to create professional looking quotes and invoices that I can send directly to the client. Square will of course take a small percentage of each transaction. However, the cost is worth it because clients are going to want a simple payment process where they can receive an invoice and pay online. With Square, the invoice can be paid right from the email that is sent to your client. I hope this helps and let me know if you have anymore questions. 

Best,

 - Chase 

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Thank you! You should be able to find it on Instagram @_airmage. I have about 8 posts from the last few months, including some pictures from a nice trip to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons (right outside of the Nat'l Parks). If you could give some tips on how to push the market in terms of servicing and marketing techniques, that would be helpful. Thank you for the recommendation for Square! I'll have to check it out and look into it! Good luck to you as well!

Shaun

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How much time, money, and effort do you want to put into this sort of business?  Do you want to sell your photography or provide it as a service?  You can do both but I think you’ll find that most photographers get paid to shoot and aspire to be a fine art photographer.  

Unfortunately people with a cell phones think they are a photographer and a lot of people with a drone and a website think they’re in the aerial photography business.  Your not a business until you have paying customers, the success of your business depends on the number of customers you have.  

I said this because you can be a successful business with one customer, has to be the right customer, but it can be done.  For that you don’t need anything but the equipment to get the job done.  To grow, you’ll need to be able to to get samples of your work in front of potential customers, obviously a website can help outreach but you don’t need it to start.  If you want to do real estate you can talk to local real estate agents directly, but don’t show them your drone or a bunch of aerial of roofs of houses, or some snapshots of interiors shot on a cell phone.  Be prepared to demonstrate to them that you thoroughly understand their business and that you are a professional architecture photographer and what you do to make it easy for them to do business with you.  

Most of the people I have seen buy a drone, take some pictures and post them on a website thinking this will attract business have failed within a year.  Their only customer was themselves and they spent the majority of their time building their website.  

The truth is ANYONE (above the age of 16 [i think] in the US) can buy a drone, get a 107 and put up a website.  If that’s all you have done then its a pretty tough ask to get paid to do this.  

DON’T GET ME WRONG, I’m not saying you can’t make a good living with a UAV but if you want to work with realtors then become a really good architectural photographer that also happens to use a UAV, in very rare instances will you become seccessful because you have a 107.  

If you want to do industrial inspection then learn what the pain points are for the niche you want to work in and figure out where you can add value.  None of this has much to do with the UAV but as you develop a solution it will become self evident to you and your customer the role the UAV plays in your solution. 

We’re always looking for 107 operators but we’re in California.  

 

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Hi @Av8Chuck,

Thanks for providing some great advice about understanding your clients business and how you can help them solve a problem instead of just showing them pictures. 

You are correct by saying that anyone over the age of 16 with a Part 107 and a drone can setup a website, but it does not mean that all drone service companies are doomed because there is a lot of competition. In reality, the drone industry is no different than other industries. Those who conduct themselves professionally, produce exceptional work, and market themselves correctly greatly increase their chance of being successful.

I think the issue with the drone industry is that because it's relatively new, people fail to draw comparisons between drone services and any other type of service (i.e. electrical, plumbing, construction, marketing, etc.). Having the proper systems in place is essential to success and its better to get everything in place so when someone does start to get clients it is a seamless process from start to finish.

I do agree that just having a Part 107 is not enough to attract potential clients to sign up for aerial services. Editing is a very important aspect, especially when it comes to aerial photography/videography. I feel like that aspect of the business is still a strong barrier to entry. Although anyone with a Part 107 certification and a drone can make a website, not everyone will take the time to learn how to edit photos and videos to make them stand out. At the end of the day it's not about the drone, it's about the final product.  

Having an online presence is also important and provides a place for potential clients to look at your work and find other important information. There was a recent study that found most people will look a company up online and go to their website before ever calling. The drone industry has seen exponential growth and it will be interesting to see what the future of this industry looks like. 

Best,

Chase 

 

 

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