Starting a Drone Photography Business
Starting a business in any industry can be hard; that’s why I put together this guide on starting a business in the drone photography industry. This guide will attempt to be the most comprehensive article on starting a drone photography business you can find on the internet.
We are arranging these steps in the most logical progression, that will optimize your chances of success starting your drone photography business. For example, you shouldn’t buy insurance before you passed your part 107 or even bought your drone, in fact, you can’t buy insurance before you bought your drone, what do you have to insure? Things need to be done in the proper order, and that’s what I’m going to do with this article.
Below you’ll find an overview of this guide, it’s an index of all the different subjects in order of what you should complete first.
- Study for your Part 107 license
- Study a drone photography course
- Buy a drone
- Pass your part 107
- Sign up on DroneBase and other freelance drone apps
- Register your business name
- Get drone insurance
- Build a website with a portfolio page
- Create social media pages
- Buy marketing material
- Fly in your local area and capture stunning images for your portfolio
- Register your google my business page
- Prospecting clients
- Consider other services you can implement in your drone business
Study for your Part 107 License
The first and arguably the most important thing you have to do when starting your own business is getting your part 107 sUAS drone license from the FAA. Without this license, you can’t operate commercially, and your drone business will even get off the ground.
However getting your part 107, isn’t the most natural thing in the world and you’ll probably want to invest at least a little bit of money and a training program to help prepare you to pass the test. The one I went through when I was starting my drone photography business, was Chris Newman DronePro University Part 107 BootCamp. It had a long practice exam, and he thoroughly explained each of the concepts that you will be tested on during the exam.
You’ll want to start studying for your part 107 at least a couple of months in advance if you have no experience with the aircraft world. You will be tested on things like weather, air traffic rules, airspace, and Part 107 drone laws.
You can pass the test on your own, but it’ll be far more difficult without a training boot camp like the one I linked to above.
Drone Photography Course
If you have a lot of experience with photography, you might not need this step. But if this is your first time getting into drone photography, then this is a MUST if you are serious about building a business.
Above I listed the Cinechopper Drone University BootCamp, but they have a better option if you want the whole course. The Cinechopper University Program, which I’ve personally been through, has the BootCamp and a professional course with everything you need to know about getting into the drone business.
During this course, you learn how drones are built, what settings create the most cinematic shots, how to edit videos and photos to get that stunning aerial look everyone wants.
Finally, he goes into detail on actually meeting with clients, emailing, calling, and what to do once you are on the job site. The Instructor, Chris Newman, has filmed with Subaru, Ford, Mazda, Bear Naked Granola, Devin Super Tramp, Bass Pro Shops, Corridor Digital, Mountain Dew, Monster Energy, Goal Zero, and Contour Camera. He has also recently filmed the aerials for a Robert Duvall Feature Film and for IMAX in Haiti.
This guy is the real deal when it comes to being a drone pro. Later in the process of starting your drone photography business, you will need the skills you learn in this course to stand out from the competitors. And trust me, there are a lot of competitors in this niche now.
If you do what all of them did, you can’t expect to stand out enough to make an impact on the market now. You need the advanced kind of training you get in a drone photography course because then your work will sell itself and you will have a much easier time getting your business off the ground.
Buy a Drone
I put the step third, because hopefully at this point, you’ve already spent some time going through a drone course, and you’ve become familiar with the different types of drones and cameras available. It won’t necessarily ruin your business if you buy a drone first, but if you wait to buy the drone until you’ve finished going through a training program, you will be much more educated on exactly what you need to buy for your specific use cases.
We use the Phantom series of drones. They are durable drones that can handle getting crashed every now and then, and the results they produce are simply stunning. I would recommend getting started with a phantom 3 because they are relatively cheap and give you massive results, and then move onto either the Mavic 2 or the Phantom 4 Pro. And if you have the money to spring for it, get an inspire 2 that shoots in 4k raw video. The flexibility you will get when color grading and the increase in quality will land you more prominent clients, and therefore higher-paying jobs.
You will have to register your drone before you can fly it, even recreationally, so I would recommend setting up your Part 107 test as soon as you order your drone. There are two drone registrations, one for recreational and one for commercial under part 107. If you register your drone before you get your part 107, you will have to re-register it after you get your part 107 as a commercial aircraft.
You handle all drone registrations at the FAA website https://faadronezone.faa.gov/
The cost to register and re-register a drone is currently $5 per registration.
Pass your Part 107 License
Okay by this point, you’ve got a drone, and you spent plenty of time studying for your part 107 test. What you’re going to do next is go to http://www.catstest.com/ and call the number on their website. You will speak with a representative who will help you find out the nearest testing center and take your payment for the test over the phone. At the time of writing this article, it will cost you roughly $150 to take the test and another $150 to retake the test if you fail.
and call the number on their website. You will speak with a representative who will help you find out the nearest testing center and take your payment for the test over the phone. At the time of writing this article, it will cost you roughly $150 to take the test and another $150 to retake the test if you fail.
You will need to get at least a 70% on your test to pass and get your FAA Part 107 License. Make sure to make good use of the nervous motivation you will get while you are waiting for your test to study. I spent the entire 2 days before I finally took my test studying like a madman, going over my practice test over and over again. It did help significantly.
Usually, you’ll end up taking your practice test at a nearby airport, take this opportunity to meet the staff there. Learn about how they would like you to operate in their airspace with your drone. Ask them if they are set up with LAANC and see if they have any special air space changes.
Some airports will even change from class D to class G airspace when the tower is closed. This can be very useful because it can take up to 90 days to get a waiver from the FAA if you want to fly in Class D airspace if the airport does not have LAANC setup yet.
If you have a real estate job near an airport that opens at 8 AM, for example, you can use the hours from 6 AM until 7:59 AM to get your drone up in the air taking pictures. But make sure to check with local airports and airspace maps to get this information.
After you’re taking into the testing center, you will have about 2 hours to complete the test. But at the end of that 2 hours, you’ll know if you passed or not. After that, you’ll need to go get your drone test associated with the Airman Registry which can be found here. https://iacra.faa.gov
It can take up to 4 days for your test to show in the Airman registry, and sometimes even longer. But keep checking it, and eventually, you’ll be able to associate your test and finish your airman registry application.
After that, you will get approved for your temporary license, which will simply have “PENDING” on your certificate number. You will have to wait about 20 days until you actually get your real certificate number. But in the meantime, you can operate under the certificate number “Pending.”
Then, after 30 days, you should receive your real-life drone pilots license in the mail. Congratulations! You will have to go in and retake the test every 2 years to renew your license, but it should be much quicker now that you are officially part of the airman registry.
This is a crucial step in the process of starting your drone photography business, and it can be challenging. But if you follow the advice up until this point, and have made it through the part 107 Bootcamp, you WILL be able to make it through this step.
Now we get to the fun part, making money and actually setting up your drone business.
Set up accounts on freelance drone apps
Do some research to see what freelance drone apps are available in your local area, the first one you’re going to want to sign up for is probably DroneBase. DroneBase is an app that allows clients to connect with local Pilots who are FAA certified.
Also, sign up with websites like Thumbtack Pro, and think about offering drone flying experiences on Airbnb. Many people make hundreds of dollars a day utilizing apps like this to fill in the gaps in their schedules.
Register your business name
Now you need a business name. Hopefully, you’ve already thought of something that is pretty catchy. You don’t need to spend a massive amount of time on this, but definitely take a few hours to figure out a good name.
Here are a few tips for coming up with a great drone photography business name.
Ask your friends and family members for thoughtful ideas, take a notepad, and write all of these ideas that you come up with down.
Do a Google Business search for other drone businesses. Examine how they’ve Incorporated creative elements into their names. DroneView KC, for example, incorporates a local aspect into the name that lets potential customers know where I’m located.
Once you have a laundry list of names on your notepad for other companies, take out a separate Notepad, and hide your notebook of names further companies. You will have a lot of different elements cooking in your brain, so start writing them down. It can be a lot of fun to make a game of this. Set up a rapid-fire brainstorm session with a couple of friends or family members, set a timer for 3 minutes and then spend the three minutes going clockwise, throwing out names back and forth. Have a scribe to write down all the good ones. The person whose turn it is when the clock goes off is eliminated from the circle. Do this until there’s only one player left standing.
At the end of this activity, you should have a vast list of names to choose from. Pick the top 15 or 20, and see which ones are already taken. During this process, you will probably find a couple of names that really resonate with the type of business you’re trying to create. Hopefully, no one is taking them, and you’ll have your business name ready to go.
Once you have your business name, check out a company like LegalZoom, or hire a lawyer to help you get it set up correctly with your local state laws. Generally, it’ll cost a few hundred dollars, but depending on where you live, it can go up to hundreds or thousands to register an LLC.
Consult with a lawyer to find out which options are best for you and what types of businesses will fit your needs the most.
At this point, you should get a logo designed, and think about trademarking it so that no one else can take your name or logo once your business gets promoted to the internet.
You should also start looking at getting drone insurance. Many apps allow you to buy insurance right before your flight. This is what I would recommend beginning with because it’ll be slow going for your first couple of months as you are picking up jobs and building your reputation as a local drone photographer.
Build a website with a portfolio page for your drone business
The next step is setting yourself up with a website, that can illustrate your portfolio to potential customers. Marketing is a crucial aspect of any business, and especially a drone photography business. You need to get your workout in front of your potential customers so that you can impress them.
A website is your engine for turning internet visitors into customers. All of your marketing efforts will drive traffic to your website, and it should have a beautiful collection of your work to impress visitors.
You may want to consider hiring someone to build your website, although setting up a website with Squarespace is relatively easy and you could probably get away with that for the first year to while you’re starting up your drone photography business.
Here’s a helpful list of things you will want to include on your website.
- Your Business Name
- Your Business Logo
- Your Business Phone Number
- Examples of Your Work
- Your Pricing
- Your FAA License Number
- Contact Forms (Request a Quote, Request a Project, etc.)
- Your Demo Reel
- An about page
- Services pages for the different services you want to offer.
Create social media pages
Next, you’ll need to create your social media accounts, we would recommend Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. Start taking pictures of your local area, and do a couple of free jobs just to grow your portfolio. Post these pictures all over the internet, remember to watermark them as appropriate and you’ll be surprised how much visibility you’ll get if you do a good job. Remember, every view is a person who might be connected with someone who needs your services.
Properly optimizing your social media pages will also help you rank on Google. SEO is crucial to starting your drone photography because that’s where most people will go to look for a photographer.
Consider setting up a Google Adwords Express, by spending a few hundred dollars a month you might be able to land some big gigs that’ll pay you a lot of money and connect you with more potential customers, as well as get you referrals.
I would recommend posting on your social media accounts at least once every 2 days, keep a detailed record of all the projects you work on, and make some behind the scenes videos. Post those on youtube, and Instagram to get more exposure to your business.
Buy marketing material
You will need to buy marketing material, I’m talking about business cards, shirts, hats, pens, binders, and anything else that you can use during your meetings to impress your potential client. Make sure that they know your professional and serious about your drone business.
Hand out magnets, cards, pins, and whatever else you think would be fun to give away. The more of your branding you get in your client’s offices, the more often they will think of your business. That’s just free advertising impressions from thereon.
Jump for spending a little bit more in your marketing materials, get stuff that feels solid and worth some money, otherwise, people will likely just throw it away.
Register your Google My Business page
One of the next big things that you really need is to register a Google my business page. This is by far the easiest way to get exposure in your local area quickly. Spend some time learning how to rank on Google my business, or invest and having a company like Beknown Marketing Solutions help you rank on google my business.
You will get a lot of work from this platform when you’ve got your business showing up in the top 5 to 3 results. The snack pack gets almost 40% of clicks from potential customers, so you need to make sure you are the one getting that exposure because that exposure is coming from people who want to hire a drone photographer NOW. Which means money for you and your drone business.
Things you can do to help optimize your Google my business page include setting up a Yelp page, setting up Yellow Pages page, and using Moz local to find out what other things you could do to optimize your consistency across the. Google My Business heavily relies upon NAP (Name, Address, Phone ) consistency, across all directory pages. So make sure your business shows up correctly on all of those.
To register your Google My Business page, you will need to visit https://www.google.com/business/ and follow the steps they have listed there. After your business is registered, they will send you a postcard that will usually arrive within 5 days. Remember to continually post images and create posts for your google business page. This will help you to rank higher and thereby get more drone photography business.
Make sure to check local laws before you start prospecting for clients, but it is useful to send emails and even just call local real estate agents. Let them know that you’re starting a drone business and that you’re hoping to get some work for your portfolio. Let them know that you would like to do the work for free. This gives you an opportunity to meet the realtor and get a bunch of portfolio work, which makes you look more impressive and reputable.
After your free video, the realtor will probably want to come back for more if you’re good at what you do, and oftentimes they will introduce you to their friends which leads to even more drone business. That one free video can generate thousands of dollars for your drone photography business.
You might also want to send Zillow messages on specific properties you would like to do videos for your portfolio.
Sometimes the best strategy is just sending a lot of emails to all the realtors in your local area. Only expect to hear back from a few of them, but the others will come along after they see the quality of work that you do and how it helps sell homes in your area.
Contact construction companies, and ask them if they need a drone pilot. When prospecting for clients, the key to success is numbers. All you need to do is get your first couple of jobs, and the referrals will take off from there.
Figuring out what other services you can offer
Ultimately drone photography is probably the cheapest service you can provide with a drone. You should consider doing drone videos, agricultural plant health maps, inspections, 3D mapping, and potentially getting a thermal certificate. With these extra Services under your belt, your drone business can become even more successful and make more money for you.
I hope this guide to starting a drone photography business has been helpful, feel free to comment or quote anything from this article, just please link back to it so more people can read the information contained here.