Jonathan Stettler is the owner of Steady Focus Media, a business that specializes in providing photography and videography services for businesses and real estate.
Jonathan has always been into drones. The first time he saw a drone, his friend was flying one of the original DJI Mavic Pros. Jonathan thought it was cool, but he didn’t actually buy a drone until years later.
Jonathan’s background is in photography. He had tried wedding photography, but he didn’t love it. He wanted to be a photographer, but he just wasn’t sure what industry he should try to get into.
Last year, Jonathan bought a DJI Ronin gimbal so that he could put together a video for his taekwondo school. He had never tried videography, but he decided to give it a go. Once he sat down to edit the video, he was surprised at how much he enjoyed the editing process. When he showed the video to the taekwondo school, they were really impressed.
Jonathan started Steady Focus Media to create promotional videos for small businesses. Once he actually started his business, he felt like he was officially a photographer and it really helped him to take it seriously.
He ended up buying a drone, and then a few months later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. All of the small businesses (his normal clients) shut down. He wasn’t sure what to do. He had the idea that maybe he could make money with his drone. So, he looked into it and figured out that there were Part 107 regulations he’d need to learn so he could pass the exam to be able to fly his drone commercially.
He went online and found Drone Launch Academy. He enrolled in our FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Exam Prep Course and it helped him study for and pass the exam on the first try.
Then, he enrolled in our Drone to $1K program, which helped him to grow his business.
David: How’d you get your first client?
He found his first client through a local Facebook Classifieds group. He put up a post that said he was looking for a realtor that wants a free home tour. He got responses back from people asking what the catch was. He said that there were no strings attached, he was just trying to build his portfolio. He ended up getting a response from a realty team. He went out to the house that they told him about and it was a super nice, $800,000 house that had an indoor pool and a tennis court!
Although the realtor loved the video, Jonathan didn’t really hear anything back from them. He tried to use Facebook to promote his business, but he wasn’t getting any leads. After about a month, he heard back from the realtor he had worked with and they asked if he could also do another video, as well as photos for another house.
As he landed more jobs, he had more and more material that he could use for demo reels and for promotional materials for his own business.
Jonathan stresses the importance of having a portfolio of your work. He says that doing free work when you’re first starting out will help you get the content and footage you need to build your portfolio.
“It’s the thing you need to start building the ladder to get to where you need to go.”
Since Jonathan started using drones when the pandemic hit, he hasn’t shot photos and videos for a single home without wearing a mask. He realized that photography and videography is a job that you can do even during the pandemic.
“It’s still a viable business, even when everything’s going wrong.”
Jonathan’s business grew from $200 the first month, to $500 the second month, and then 3-4 jobs a week. Jonathan is now working with several local realtors.
David: How did you go from having one client to then getting booked 3 times in the same week?
Jonathan says that it all happened very organically. A realtor that he had been communicating with a month before ended up reaching out to him because she had a house that she needed photos and video for. Jonathan went out and shot photos and video of the house and sent everything over to the realtor that same night. After that, she became one of his consistent clients.
Because of the pandemic, Jonathan couldn’t physically go into realtors’ offices to introduce himself, so he decided to take a different approach. He created flyers for his business and mailed them out to local realtors’ offices. That landed him a job with one of the bigger realty companies. After that, their marketing director called him to ask if he did headshots. He took a headshot for one of their realtors and she then told the rest of the realtors about Jonathan’s business and his pricing. That led to lots of jobs for him.
Over the past 3 months, Jonathan has had at least one job per week.
David: Do you have a full-time job in addition to your drone work?
Jonathan does have a full-time job that pays well, which has helped him to be able to build his drone business. Jonathan loves that his drone work gives him the opportunity to be creative.
One thing that Jonathan stresses is that you need to be willing to put the work in if you want to succeed with your drone business.
“You absolutely have got to put the work in, because the thing is, if you think you’re just gonna stand around and, like you said earlier, the money’s just gonna come to you, it’s not gonna happen.”
Jonathan says that the initial startup costs for a drone business can be a little expensive, but once you put that money into the business, you’ll earn it back – you just have to persevere and stick with it.
David says that many times, people don’t feel like their work is good enough and they struggle to find content that they’re confident enough to post online. David says that you can post photos now, and then keep practicing and taking more photos. Once you have work that you’re happier with, just use them to replace the original photos you had posted.
Jonathan says that when he looks back at the pictures that he was impressed with 10 years ago, they are very different from the photos he’s proud of now. He says that your opinion of what looks good will change over time.
You can also work with others and help each other grow your businesses. David says it’s important to have a community of people to bounce ideas off of. He says that the drone community is usually willing to help each other out and give advice.
David says that a drone is just a tool. In order to succeed with a drone business, you need to know about the industry you’re in and you need to have business skills. Jonathan agrees that you really need to be knowledgeable about the industry that you’re working in.
“Walking into a job with confidence – that’s key.”
One way that you can get industry-specific knowledge is by offering to do free work. If you’re in the roofing industry, you could offer to do a couple of free drone roof inspections for a roofing company. If it goes well, you could build a friendship with the company and start to learn about the industry first-hand.
David: Do you want to stay in the real estate industry?
Although Jonathan didn’t initially intend to work in the real estate industry, he actually really enjoys it.
David: How are you pricing your drone services right now?
Jonathan has noticed that people don’t like complication. For photographs, Jonathan’s flat rate is $125. For video, his flat rate is $200-$250 (usually a 3 to 5-minute edited video with music). For 3D tours, Jonathan charges $200. He will do photos and video for $300. For all 3 (photos, video, and 3D tour), he charges $500.
The first question that realtors ask him is, “Do you do drone work?” Jonathan also doesn’t charge extra for drone footage.
Jonathan says that for many realtors, his pricing model is appealing because they don’t have to guess how much the photos, video, and 3D tour will add up to in the end.
In the future, Jonathan is hoping to make $100/hour. Right now, he usually makes anywhere between $80-$125/hour.
Don’t forget to enter our weekly giveaway before 2/16/21 for a chance to win one of 5 prizes (including a free 15-minute coaching call with Jonathan and David): https://dronelaunchacademy.typeform.com/to/fRpOCNNw
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Training from Drone Launch Academy
- Part 107 Exam Prep Course ($50 off)
- Aerial Photo Pro Course ($50 off)
- Aerial Video A to Z Course ($100 off)
- Aerial Roof Inspection Pro Course ($100 off)
- Drones 101 Course ($20 off)
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