It’s the perfect career choice for the self-starter, for the individual who’s gushing with creativity and the desire to share it, it’s an ideal fit. Drone entrepreneurship is a developing career field, with even colleges cashing in on its broad interest, with one; The University of North Dakota being called the ‘Silicon Valley of Unmanned Aircraft Systems’.
I was having this exact conversation with one of my more entrepreneurial-minded friends the other day and he couldn’t believe what opportunities were available to someone who wanted to start a business in the Drone Industry. This post was inspired because of that very conversation, if he –someone I look up to as an entrepreneur– was oblivious about drone business opportunities, then there must be so many more folks who could learn from what a Drone Entrepreneur really is.
Personality Traits of a Drone Entrepreneur
As with most Entrepreneurs, the ability to implement a creative vision and get people to ‘buy-in’ is extremely important. I guess you could call this a trait of a leader, but some leaders are good managers of people but lack the creativity to build something unique. Others, are ‘off the charts’ creative but couldn’t organize their sock drawer. As a Drone Entrepreneur, it’s best if you could have both, much like the late, great Steve Jobs or Benjamin Franklin. But, no fear, if you lack these traits, they certainly can be acquired over time.
But….Whats even more important than Vision and Leadership is, ‘Hustle’
Have you ever wondered why they use the term “Best Selling” to describe great Authors? Why don’t they just refer to them as ‘Authors’? One reason; Their Hustle! They got out of bed every day with one thing on their mind; how do I sell more books today than I did yesterday? Their lives were devoted to selling books, everyone knew them as an author, even if their content wasn’t really all that great. Dinner parties, book signings, free giveaways, word of mouth; these were their megaphones which helped them attain the title of “Best Selling”.
Here’s my friend Jeremy Rasnic with Tennessee Drone Services who illustrates how his ‘Hustle’ opened doors for him when he first started his Drone Business:
In 2016, the FAA made allowance for commercial drone operations in the US under part 107 regulation. Prior to this taking effect, I started building a website to showcase offerings. I secured social media channels for the future business. I worked on search engine optimization (SEO), I secured domain names, I created a logo for the business, business cards, and worked to get the business name as a registered trademark through the trademark and patent office of the US.
I also took the time to develop a custom format for job proposals. Rather than just responding via email with a price, I wanted to showcase the individual commitment to quality, and professionalism that goes into preparing a custom proposal.
The utilization of targeted social media has aided Tennessee Drone Services® in connecting with now current clients. I have enjoyed a great partnership with Tennessee’s Department of Tourism and Tennessee State Parks that started with our connecting on Instagram. Both have utilized Tennessee Drone Services® for marketing materials, commissioned shoots, and showcasing Tennessee’s beauty.
Now there’s this thing called the Internet:
Which enables even more scalability and an even further reach. So now, Instead of pitching their books while filling their appetizer plate with Tomato Basil Risotto Balls, Authors can do Webinars, Q&As, Online giveaways, Facebook Ads, and reach an even broader audience. As you probably know, It’s been a game-changer!
What’s the correlation between Best Selling Authors and Drone Entrepreneurs?
As a Drone Entrepreneur, you have to be “Best Selling” simply by letting everyone know what you do. Don’t be ashamed of it, wear it with pride. Tell the Drive-Thru attendant you do drone photography as she hands you your sausage, egg and cheese muffin.
Tell the cashier you do Crop Variability Monitoring while you’re standing in line at the Coop picking up your horse food. Send out flyers, emails and offer to give seminars to local building contractors on the subject of GIS Mapping. Always carry business cards, and pass them out with reckless abandonment. Let people know what you do, and be proud of it. It’s a worthwhile endeavor. And, most importantly don’t let other people’s viewpoints about what They think is best for You, stand in your way.
It takes time, but eventually, people will find you.
In fact, here is my friend Jordan Nelson of Nelson Aerial Productions on how his business is now thriving with people finding him:
I got started in March of 2013. I did a lot of snowboarding and I filmed myself with a GoPro and was looking for new ways to use that GoPro. I did a YouTube search for cool GoPro mounts and came across a video of a Phantom 1 with a GoPro mounted on it. The phantom didn’t even have a gimbal yet. I thought it might be a cool way to film my snowboarding so I decided to buy one.
I started taking pictures and videos locally and filmed a flood that we had in 2013 and that video went viral. I started getting requests to do various different jobs and through word of mouth it has taken me all over the country. 80% of my business is from word of mouth. I’d say 15% is from social media and 5% is from attending trade shows. For someone just starting out I would suggest to build a strong portfolio.
Maybe do some work for some non profits or charities that don’t have budgets to pay for work. Use that portfolio to pitch to potential clients. The key is to provide very high quality work, that will grow your business through word of mouth better than any other way. People appreciate the attention to detail.
If you want to be a Drone Entrepreneur and have ‘Hustle’ as Jordan and Jeremy do, then opportunities will find you. If you’re looking for ideas on where to focus a direction for your Drone Business here are 3 of my favorites:
#1 A Drone Content Creator
I list this one first since I would fit into this category, as I create content for this site. With the ever-evolving world of Drones, there’s no shortage of content available to be used to educate a ‘drone skeptical’ public. I feel a need to tell stories, be creative, and inform anyone who wants to learn more about the world of Unmanned Flying Systems.
As a Drone Content Creator, you could start a blog if you like to write and share your thoughts with the world. Or, perhaps you have an affinity for seeing yourself on camera, then maybe a Youtube Channel is a better fit. With so many outlets such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, getting your content in front of lots of eyeballs is easy and inexpensive.
You can create tutorials about how to take exceptional pictures with drones, or how to maximize the efficiency of the drone’s camera, by using ND filters, long exposures, or panoramas. You could also create a niche blog dedicated to the world’s largest consumer drone company-DJI by providing their latest news and press releases, all by leveraging their Twitter Account. The goal of a Drone Content Creator is about building a community where your followers see you as the go-to person for the subject you provide content for.
#2 A Drone Photographer/Cinematographer
This one should be a Drone Entrepreneur’s first choice if you’re looking for a career with a low barrier of entry, and plenty of job opportunities. It appears realtors are upping their game with listings and using aerial photography to show a unique vantage point. In fact, According to a study conducted by soldbyair.com 83% of home sellers would prefer to work with an agent using drones for their listing.
With 5,250,000 homes on the market in 2019 and 83% of those homeowners preferring to use a realtor with a drone, this means there is considerable demand! According to my math, that’s 4,357,500 opportunities for new clients.
‘Huge’ is the best way to describe Drone Photography and Cimetography opportunities.
When I made my video of the Paris Landing Renovation Project, I had a business owner contact me to see if I would be interested in making a video for their event center. This is by doing nothing except post my video, so imagine if I actually marketed my services! I truly believe I could have jobs lined up for the next month, just letting people know my services are for hire. But, this is not where I’m looking to go with my business, so I didn’t take the opportunity. But, this means someone else had a great opportunity to show their creativity and earn a little money.
But, before you can start taking any jobs as a Drone Photographer/Cinematographer you must get your Part 107 certificate. According to the FAA, you must be a commercial drone operator to take any remuneration for your services. You must have a part 107 to sell your images. Even if you’re making money on Youtube with your Drone, you need a part 107.
So, don’t risk to the possibility of fines or incarceration; Instead, follow these guidelines;
- Take a preparation course as I did, I used Remotepilot101.com
- Pass the Knowledge Test
- Obtain your Part 107 certificate
- Register your drone with the FAA
- Purchase Drone Insurance from a reputable company, like AIG.
Following these rules, you’re bound to stay on the right side of the law!
#3 Start A Drone Consulting Business
As the demand for Drone Applications grows, so too will the difficulty with implementing them. More and more companies will want to start using drones for everything from warehouse management to property inspections, and content creation for marketing programs. The implementation of these applications will require a broad set of credentials related to the drone industry. If you have experience or abilities in any of these Drone related subsets, your marketability as a Drone Consultant skyrockets.
Pilot Development and Management
Companies will want to have an expert pilot come in and teach their employees about; drone orientation, proper use of remote controls, flight safety, and FAA rules and regulations. If companies don’t have this person internally, they may want to hire a consultant. As a Drone Entrepreneur, Pilot Development and Management could be a service you offer.
Drone Equipment Advice
For the technical junky who craves the latest and greatest drone on the market, this is right up you’re alley. You can offer your expertise on which drones would be the best fit for their specific application. Is the quality of the drone’s optics their most important requirement, or is it portability. Is your client interested in landing a 7-pound grouper and snatch it from the swells of the Atlantic Ocean? Or, are they looking for the best Drone for a lifeguard to use to deliver a floatable bouy to a swimmer in need? As a Drone Consultant, you can help them by offering your advice on which equipment would be best in certain situations.
Facilitation of FAA Waivers
So, you’re doing a movie shoot and the scene calls for a drone flight in complete darkness. But, nighttime flights are prohibited by the FAA. Hmmm, what do I do now? As a Drone Consultant, you could help your client or at least advise them, on how to apply for a waiver from the FAA. As commercial drone usage grows, so too will the number of drone accidents and complaints about drones. And, so as a knee-jerk reaction, the FAA will invoke more onerous regulations…You know; as a means of protecting us from our ‘neanderthal’ selves. So, a Drone Consultant with regulatory knowledge and the ability to navigate the FAA’s requirements would have no shortage of work.
Standard Operating Procedures Manuals
I know, it sounds boring and probably is. However, as regulations ramp-up and the drone industry catches the attention of more of our “friends in empty suits” in Washington DC, the need for written internal protocols will increase. And, you can bet, If ever an accident should occur when a company is using a drone, the insurance company is sure to question whether or not the company’s Standard Operating Procedures were followed. So, from a liability perspective, Standard Operating Procedures become the utmost importance.
So, if you excel at putting words on paper and others can make sense of them, perhaps one of the services your Drone Consulting Business could offer is writing Standard Operating Procedures for companies who seek your services.
The future for drone entrepreneurs looks exceptionally bright. There are so many career paths to meander down, and as luck would have it, many of them cross-reference one-another. Be like Jordan and Jeremy and build your own Drone Photography and Cinematography business, or like me and just start writing and flying, writing and flying. Either way, if you do it long enough people will start to take notice.
And don’t forget to Be Different:
Most people quit too early! And, some do so right before their ‘big break’ when all they had to do is give it a little more time. Remember ‘The Hustle’ and if you give it enough effort and time eventually you too can become “Best Selling” at your craft. Drone Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It’s for those who want to work independently and be different.
Lastly, please know that Tennessee Drone Services® is looking to expand its pilot base across the state of Tennessee. If you have a background in photography and videography, thinking of taking the part 107 or are already current, and have sample work you are willing to share, please reach out. Our standards are high, but when marketing matters, a high standard matters all the more!