Liam is a Photographer/Videographer and Owner with Bentley Studios
Liam specializes in photography and video, mostly in the wedding industry, averaging about 40 weddings a year, and incorporating the drone. He also takes photos of the transitions of projects for roofing companies.
David: Let’s go back, let us know how your business started from the beginning…
Liam has been an entrepreneur since he was 15. He started in the iPhone repair business, doing that for three years, repairing over 300 iPhones and saving $10,000 to fund his photography business. He got his first camera was when he was 13. He became the school photographer in High School, when a teacher asked if he would have any interest in filming her wedding. At 16, Liam sweated through five shirts filming his first wedding. He also realized he loved being a part of someone’s special day, giving them their video or photos and seeing them tear up. After that, he started doing social media videos. He’d call local businesses and say, “I’m starting a business and want to try to get into social media. I see you guys are lacking in that area and I would love to help.” He got a lot of practice doing video production this way.
David: What kind of reception did you get when you’d reach out?
Some turned Liam down, saying they had their own thing, or they didn’t want to dabble in that. Some said they appreciated that he wanted to do it for free and would give him the opportunity to do so. Liam valued that as a networking opportunity. He got turned down a lot and found out he’d get a better attitude and could find a way to not offend anyone and help people out.
David: How did the transition happen from dabbling with free stuff and reaching out to businesses to progressing into your first paying client?
Toward the end of high school, Liam did a lot of senior photos which led to more paying opportunities. Every once in a while, he’d try to reach out and get opportunities to film a wedding. As he started to have more work to show people, he started to get booked more. Liam owes a lot of his success to word of mouth. He loves to go out and talk to people and create those friendships.
David: When did you start first dabbling in drones?
Around the end of his senior year, Liam bought a Phantom 4pro and fell in love with it. At that time, not many local people had any drones, so there was a lot of good opportunity in front of him.
David: A lot of people get a drone, then want to know how to start getting clients and paying gigs. So, did your free work just turn into paying gigs or did you have a strategy to start making money?
Liam had a gradual increase since he’d started out pretty cheap. Over time, as he had more experience, and his portfolio got larger, he gradually increased his prices because of his experience and equipment. Also, people would see his work on Instagram and message him. Liam says,
“It was like a large spider web that expanded, but it was a lot of networking that led to those opportunities.”
David: What do you do for your social media? Do you have a system, every time you shoot something, you put it on Instagram or Facebook?
Liam has a system. After every shoot, Liam always puts a nice grid on Instagram. He says the first thing people look at when they go onto your page is your grid. The “grid” is some type of theme on your whole feed. Liam says if people see your page and it’s too eclectic, they will bypass it.
David: What were you charging for a wedding when you first started out?
Liam would charge $500 for a wedding, giving clients an 8-15 min highlight video. He wanted the experience and was young at the time so to make $500 on a Saturday was great. Now, his videos showcase the whole day and the client has total control over what’s in the video. The average price for that is $3000. For photos, he charges an hourly rate of $300 and then there’s no minimum or maximum on the hours. An entire wedding runs about $4500-$5000.
David: When did you start breaking out into other areas?
At the end of high school, Liam got more into the drone. Where he lives—in Youngstown, OH—there are tons of realtors. He’d see on social media that a lot of them were just using their iPhone to take photos, so he offered to do houses for free, saying he wanted to learn. At that time, he was trying to incorporate more of the drone to become the go-to drone pilot in the area. That’s when he fell in love with the drone. Liam still has seven realtors that he messaged on Instagram when in High School that he still does houses for. After he did one house for free, he’d offer to sit down and see what kind of price they wanted to pay. Typically, he’d charge $250 for a full photography package and using the drone would be another $100 on top of that.
David: How much of your business is with real estate agents? It sounds like you might be more focused on weddings.
Liam is more focused on the weddings, which is where the money is. He has four employees, so he’ll double book weekends. He says people LOVE drones at weddings—they think it’s the coolest thing. He also does a decent number of aerial photos for roofing companies. And, sometimes, walkthrough real estate tours for $150.
Weddings have led to different opportunities, including meeting an owner of a roofing company locally that specializes in schools and large commercial properties. He asked Liam to film the progress of projects to display to potential clients. Liam goes out once every two weeks to take about 15-20 photos and a 360-degree video of the building. A typical roofing project on a commercial property is 8-10 weeks. He charges a flat rate of $300 per shoot which includes video editing. At the end, he puts together a 1-2 minute video of a time lapse of the whole project.
David: When you started with that one roofing company, did you see what they wanted and you reached out to other roofing companies, or how did that work?
These companies don’t like anyone to share their drone stuff but they will share it with other roofing companies or partners. Liam has gotten contacted from partners or other connections within the contracting industry of his first roofing client.
David: Let’s look at a snapshot of your week. How many drone or video productions jobs, including weddings, would you say you’re going out to each week?
The week prior to the interview, Liam had three drone shoots for the roofing company and then two promotional videos for local businesses—which are “about me” stories that they can put on social media or their website. With Covid preventing people from going to their businesses now, a lot of them want to provide opportunities for people to watch what they offer online. He also had a wedding on Saturday. His average week is about 5-6 jobs.
David: Can you let us know your average revenue in a great month and a slow month?
In summer, Liam averages between four and five weddings a month, then usually three projects during the week. In a good month, he averages $10-12,000. In a slow month in the winter, he can make $3000-$5000.
David: What advice do you have for me on how to get started and get and get going? What would you say?
Liam says the Mavic Mini is a great starting point…mess around with it for a while. Then, after some time, he says to jump up to Mavic Air. Go take some photos and get experience to feel comfortable. Liam also watched a ton of YouTube tutorials on how to get good drone footage.
David: When someone then says, “I’m ready to get my first client. How do I do that?” What would you say?
Liam says social media is a great platform to use, since everyone’s on it. Jump in with the realtors. “They don’t pay very well, but starting out, you’re not going to make very much anywhere. The more jobs you get under your belt, the better you look.”
Then start to DM a bunch of real estate agents. They love their social media stuff. Have a good grid that showcases what you do. When the agents click on your profile, you want them to see you have cool stuff and it’s organized.
Connect with Liam
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