Getting your Part 107 opens a whole new world of opportunities for you. There are so many options that you may not know where to start.
You'll find no shortage of blogs and lists with all the career paths a commercial drone pilot can choose. The problem is that, besides providing a few sentences on how drones are used in a given sector, you are left to figure out the rest on your own.
How do you start working in the field? What equipment do you need? How do you find gigs? It can be a bit overwhelming.
Before you start getting frustrated, we are here to help. Let's do a bit of a deep dive into one of the best gigs to begin your commercial drone pilot career in, real estate photography.
Why Real Estate?
First off, why is real estate a good place to start? When you are starting your own business, expenses are tight. In addition to your business's start-up costs, you will need to buy a drone and, most likely, a DSLR camera or equivalent.
If you start your career in something like LiDAR mapping, your drone and payload will run in the tens of thousands of dollars range or even break into six-figure territory. This is not the case with real estate photography. With a little effort and used equipment, you could get started in the space for less than one thousand dollars.
Other benefits of starting in real estate include the following.
Selecting the Right Equipment
There are many drones, cameras, and accessories to choose from. Rather than give recommendations on specific models, we'll list a few basic specifications for you to consider.
For this section we’ll just focus on the drone and the DSLR camera.
A portfolio is one of the best tools to show off your skills as a photographer and drone pilot. Your portfolio should include images and videos of the type of properties you would like to shoot in the future. If you are looking to shoot luxury homes, for example, don't have a portfolio that is only made up of vacant land images.
If you are just starting, you may think you need to land gigs before you can build a portfolio. This is not the case. Many people (neighbors, friends, family) would enjoy free photos of their property in exchange for letting you practice flying and filming at their location. Some business locations may also let you do this.
Including a town reel in your portfolio is always a good idea. Check out Altitude University's YouTube video on this topic to learn more about town reels.
You'll be surprised how many gigs you'll land just because of a strong portfolio.
Deciding what you want to charge for your services comes down to two things. First, what do you think your time is worth? Second, what is the market willing to pay.
When looking at your time, remember this should include fuel costs, insurance, the wear and tear on your equipment, and other operating expenses. Don't shortchange yourself. You are a professional licensed commercial drone pilot and should be compensated as such.
You'll find some people asking for drone services at rates that do not reflect your skillset. Discuss it with the client if you feel the work you are being asked to do is more than what the pay reflects. Never do work where you think you are not getting fair compensation. Other jobs will come along.
The market, of course, will have a say in what is fair compensation. If you live in a location where many drone pilots are all trying to bid on the same gigs, the market will likely pay lower rates. Keep the supply and demand of commercial drone pilots in mind.
If you are unsure what to charge, contact a few real estate agents in the area and ask what they are willing to pay for quality drone photography.
Getting your name out there can be expensive, but it doesn't need to be. You can pay for SEO, print flyers, and promote your services with posters or mailers, but these methods are not cheap.
Think of starting your marketing efforts like a grassroots political campaign. Contacting real estate agents directly is one example of this method.
Most grocery stores still keep free handouts with local real estate listings near the entrance to their store. Grab these ads and contact the agents in them. You already know they are paying to market their listings, so they need drone photography.
You can look at SEO and other more costly marketing techniques as your business grows. Repeat customers and referral customers are always the best. You'll be surprised how many additional gigs you get from a satisfied customer and referrals.
There are many places to look for work in real estate photography. Two of the ones we like the most are direct contact with real estate agents and drone pilot networks.
Hopefully, you're a little more prepared to jump into real estate photography. If you are interested in learning more, check out our 14-Day Challenge course and join our Facebook community. Happy and safe flying!
Article Written by David Daly