Here, we come to an interesting part of my business and my life – the beginnings of business in operation. What it does for you is provide a dual perspective of how and what you can do to get going.
As we left off, the paperwork was all in order, and I was open for business, with some of my very first official clients being from the pilot networks I had signed onto.
The goal now was to generate local clients from the area, and at that time my focus was many real estate companies and private individuals.
As this was all occurring in an area that I had grown up in, it wasn’t all that bad.
I had plenty of contacts from the various other work I had done, and it was just a matter of selling them on the service.
Since I was an area auctiongoer, I had developed many good relationships with the area farmers while attending those auctions.
I continued going to auctions, and while there I would sell the Homestead Photo Package.
Many of these clients had to rely on a small, manned aircraft in the past for such services, which was in turn quite expensive.
If you’ve been following along, you would be aware that I also landed a local Coldwell Banker account.
Things were progressing, with a steady workflow beginning to take shape. It was happening, although it was happening slowly.
From the time of opening, it took around three months to finally get beyond a foot in the door with Coldwell.
After the first two Dronebase missions it was another month and a half before anything else came up from them. And there was a splattering of individual clients mixed in.
It wasn’t like there was downtime though. In that same timeframe, there was plenty to do. One of the things we haven’t touched on yet for example is insurance.
One of the reasons for this is that in order to get the proper insurance, you need some of the information from the forming of your business, such as your TIN number and Business license number.
Another thing we haven’t really discussed is what you offer as a business. Before we get there however, some more background.
I know, right? More background! Yeah, more background, as my business aspirations may not quite be your business aspirations.
Much like the eBay thing, I was only endeavoring to provide my household with a comfortable living. As for myself, I had spent a good half of my adult working life as a self-employed individual.
So that’s sort of what I had grown used to anyway.
For someone who’s never been, that can be a scary step. Life is what you put into it. Just as any Business endeavor is what you put into it.
As you learned from above or in the other parts, when I first opened D&Ds Aerial Views, I was located in the town of my birth.
By using a lifetime of connections, I was able to get things off the ground pretty quickly.
The wife and I had been looking for a new home in another state. This had been so far, a yearlong search already with no luck.
I had actually held off with the startup of D&Ds due to thinking we would be relocating soon. After a year of no luck, well I went ahead with my plans and opened.
As fate would have it, six months into opening, we found and closed on a property.
By this point, D&Ds was doing alright for itself, with a steady three to four days of flying a week and a day or so of post-editing, with that workload slowly increasing.
Fortunately, the property we purchased would need some things before we moved in, and the property we were leaving would need quite a bit to be done before we left anyway.
So, this allowed a little time before the big move.
For D&Ds it was awful, devastating, as I would have to start fresh all over again. Before we get to that, let’s revisit what I was doing in the time leading up to it.
Business – First Things
Above, I mentioned the Homestead Photo Package. This ties into some very important parts of any business, especially photography.
How do you sell yourself? How do you price your services? As well as other questions.
One of the first things any photographer needs to do is build a portfolio. Something that shows examples of your work and what you are capable of and can offer.
Right beside that is what exactly you are offering.
Ever since the days of the first photos, photographers have put together affordable packages that limit the amount of photos a client receives and gives focus to the amount of work to be done.
In those days prior to digital photography, there was a very economical reason for this. Since digital photography, the reasons above still stand.
One of the other big things I had to do was to develop a work order contract.
Another big item was developing a website, among other things.
As I hit upon above, the portfolio is a representation of your work.
For myself, I used a combination of a hard copy, actual prints in a binder of around 20 to 30 pages, as well as a digital version of the same.
It was only 2017 after all.
I was also meeting with potential clients, whether they were realtors or individuals.
Unlike the realtors though, many of the individual clients were older and not inclined to use the internet as much so a hard copy was invaluable.
Now a portfolio should not be a collection of everything you’ve ever captured. No, they need to be some of your best work and limited to a small number.
Just enough to intrigue and not enough to overwhelm. Keep that one for your coffee table. Potential clients only need some wooing.
One of the other things I do to maximize my portfolio is to make package pages, as I offer packages that usually cover a client’s needs, without the need for trying to create a shot list on the fly.
See what I did there? What a horrible pun.
The idea of photo packages is certainly not a new one. In my studio days, it’s all we offered. Packages are an excellent way to offer your services.
After all, it’s not like you’re carving them in stone and carrying them about in a gold box. You can always adjust them to fit.
What they do is make forming a shot list for a client a lot easier.
In those days, it was still a relatively new service and most needed some guidance along the way.
Today, many clients have developed their own shot list that they provide to you, making the process even easier.
I’ve mentioned the Homestead Photo Package. It consisted of what has evolved into the Standard Property Package I offer. This is a package that consists of:
- 8 Cardinal Point Shots at 350 to 400ft.
- 8 Cardinal Point Shots at 250 to 300ft.
- 8 Cardinal Point Shots at 150 to 200ft.
- 1 Birdseye Shot / Properties up to 10 acres.
- 6 Sub-150ft. Shots
- 6 to 8 Ground Shots.
I also now have a Standard Property Video Package. The point is that offering your services as packages will help to keep your shoots more organized.
They also work well to help you keep the perspective of the work to be done.
Another added benefit is it allows you to have your pricing pre-determined with no squabbling.
A good example is the comparison of the Standard Video Package which provides:
- 1 Orbit
- 1 Dolly
- 1 R to L Truck
- 1 L to R Truck
- 1 Rise and Away
- 1 Descend and In
As a package, there is a set price for the capture of the above 6 clips which range in 30 to 40 secs. to 2 to 4 minutes in length.
From there you can build onto the capture portion as you know the price per clip. This pricing of course is just the capture of the footage.
A capture and turn over to client unedited price.
Post-editing can be more time-consuming depending on the project, so it’s best to bill this out separately. D&Ds does this at an hourly rate for post-editing.
As we are talking about the time frame between 2016 and 2017, my first venture into drone insurance was quite the story.
First, like anyone would, I went searching the internet.
I spent many hours poring over this or that website only to come back with empty hands. So, I ended up in front of my agent who provided the house and car insurance.
After all, there’s nothing wrong with delegating a task to someone with more knowledge.
I ended up with an all-in-one coverage. Business liability and Hull insurance from an actual aviation insurance provider.
You know, the ones that covered manned aircraft. At that time, there just wasn’t anyone else covering drones. It was costly, too.
These days, there are a few providers, and they even offer coverage by the hour through their app. Some changes aren’t so bad.
Now I have the same yearly coverage at a much lower cost and on occasion supplement it with additional hourly coverage. It really depends on what the project is.
How to Move a Business
As it came to pass, D&Ds in Illinois closed its doors on Dec 31, 2018, in good standing and had by that time built up a fair bit of word-of-mouth business.
D&Ds in Tennessee opened its doors on Jan 1st, 2019. Had I known the future, I may have held back on the move altogether, as I opened my business in Tennessee on the eve of the pandemic.
» MORE: Drone Laws in Tennessee
I had also gone from something that was working out quite well, to starting all over again. By moving, I had gone from someplace where I knew nearly everyone to a place where I knew absolutely no one.
There wasn’t going to be any easy path for D&Ds this time.
Now, for perspective, the wife and I had achieved our dream. We wanted a home out in the country with some acreage.
There were some tradeoffs, but there always are. What I found was that many of the connections I thought I was making when looking for a home in our new area had dried up by the time we got there.
It was square one all over.
As I said, D&Ds had relocated and, as such, was in trouble. Much like where I came from, I started going around with my portfolio. The problem was, no one was there.
We had entered the pandemic, and most realtors were working strictly from their homes. The offices were closed.
Turns out getting their emails was a bit of a task, and then talking to the right person, well it was a good luck scenario.
In the 2 years of operating in Illinois, I had developed some broker clients who were out of the area and handled land property deals across the country.
» MORE: Drone Laws in Illinois
These clients came in handy, as they connected me to brokers who worked in the area I was in now. I also turned more to the pilot networks, as more and more were popping up.
This led to minimal success but was at least good for a few jobs a month. As I wasn’t able to get to my local realtors, I found people I could reach.
For construction site managers, much like anything in droneland at the time, this was a relatively new service. Today it’s become common in many places.
At that time, I heard a whole lot of noes over yeses. But I did hear some yeses. This helped D&Ds situation out.
Job site monitoring is one of the most reliable workloads you can hope to get, with it usually running the length of the project.
They do, however, require a commitment that can be hard to hold to sometimes.
Another place I made sure my name was known was to the area insurance adjusters, not the agents, the adjusters.
Shortly after moving to the area I live in, Tennessee had a very bad tornado come through the area nearby. The amount of damage was devastating.
Even today, some of the rebuilding is going on. That has led to getting on the radar for some claim work when it pops up.
Another place I hadn’t really reached out to, but by word of mouth, news of my services had somehow reached some Tower Inspection Companies.
This led to one of the best contracts D&Ds has had to date. That was a large job, consisting of 70 towers all over western Tennessee. A mix, with some being FM or AM and Cellular.
The tallest one, and oh, was I nervous, was 2300 ft in height. The whole time I was just wondering if the battery would hold out or if I had bitten off more than the pour old Phantom 4 Pro could handle.
I could never even imagine climbing that thing.
The highlight was that D&Ds was okay, business-wise. Not quite steady yet, but hanging in there at least.
Fly Safe, Fly Aways, Always Fly Safe!