Drone to 1K Season 1 / Episode 9: Dominic Wilkerson


Reviewed By:

Last Modified:

[smart_track_player url=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/dronelaunch/D_to_1K_Ep_9-Dominic_Wilkerson.mp3″ ]

Dominic is a Tacoma, WA-based real estate photographer. He was in the Air Force for years which is where he first picked up a camera. He loved it so once he got out, he got his own camera and thought he’d do journalistic photography. After recent elections, he decied he couldn’t do politics so he got a job with a car company doing their photography. He ended up bored. Then, although he’d thought doing real estate would be boring, this is now his full-time job.  Dominic is happy to report that every day during the busy season, he has plenty of work to do.

He knew that with photography making money was going to be on the videography or real estate side. Drones were up and coming when he started in 2013, so he focused more on photography. In 2015 he found a random ad on FB asking for a real estate photographer. He went through training and the company that hired him—Cascade Pro Media—got him a drone. They have been a great alliance because they are consistently very booked and even often have to turn away work. He also has his own clients that he’s gotten from word-of-mouth, from being at the top of the SEO list for Tacoma, WA and via Instagram. He says it’s the best way to reach potential clients because agents browse Instagram when they’re sitting at an open house. Dom’s business is currently 50% what Cascade gives him and 50% what he has grown. He also now does several things—photography, videography, 3D tours and drone work. The drone has become more popular, having been added to 35 of the last 50 shoots.

Dominic does work in Tacoma but also goes west towards Gig Harbor, east towards Mt Rainier and out to Puget Sound, where properties have a five-acre minimum. The drone goes up to 300 feet and gives you so much more so with real estate photography, Dominic is making more money than he did with all his photography jobs in the past five years.

When Dominic got his license, the first drone he flew was the Phantom4 before he backed it into a tree (it can still fly but needs repair). He also used the Drone Launch Academy Part 107 prep course; he says he tells everyone about the quick and convenient set up, which is a great reminder of the military testing and also easy to get through. His second drone was a MavicPro, which fit perfectly in his bag so he could carry just the bag. Less than a week after, the MavicPro2 came out so he bought that. The MavicPro2 is now his go-to drone; the image and color quality make his images great. Dominic feels that knowing photography before he got a drone has helped his business grow. Dominic also says he grew up playing X-Box so the controls were easy (unless there was a tree behind him).

Right now, his method for finding clients is through SEO, word of mouth but also:

“Business Instagram is the best—I can specifically and strategically use hashtags. People often just need extra people when who they often use is booked up.”

He is not actively going to real estate offices or networking. He says anyone can go to offices,   but the agents can’t see your stuff and they just shove your card under a table. David asked if Dominic ever tried to offer to shoot something for free. Dominic says he didn’t need to do that. Just from the gig with Cascade ProMedia, the first two months, he made over $7000/month. He pays them a percent of what he makes. But for what he gives them, they give him ten times that in the work they give him. At first, he had to pay a 30% fee, but after he became a drone photographer, that fee decreased to 20%. With this strategic affiliation, Dominic hasn’t had the discouraging feeling of having to find his own work. They also handle technical issues and his billing.

Regarding what he’s charging in the Tacoma area, he mimicked the price sheet of the lead photographer. In Tacoma, his prices seem high, but when he goes north toward Seattle, because real estate is more expensive, they think he’s a deal. He charges $225 for photos and video; $150 for photos (interior and exterior), with a total flight time of 10-15 minutes. His full package of 25 photos (he charges by photo, rather than time) for a 3000 ft2 house is $275. Video is another $350. The drone (photo and video combination) is extra $225. Once the 3D tour (with Matterport) is added, there is a total fee of $1000 per house. He doesn’t scale for size of house; he does factor in time because a large house takes more time to take photos and to process them. His clients understand he’s standard, transparent and fair. During his busy times, he’s said his standard average monthly income during the busy summer season is $6-7 on the low end, up to $12K on the high end.

Dominic has said that he’s sticking with real estate, not diversifying right now. He says trying to build relationships with construction for roofing needs to be done in the Winter season. Mastering and crushing his niche has allowed him to build a network and become a go-to person. He would like to add some more drone mapping outdoors on bigger properties. He says no one does it in Tacoma area at all. He also doesn’t find it hard to get work. Dominic says agencies are making sure the drone photographers HAVE the 107 license. They don’t want to handle the liability and are not as credible.

“Separate yourself from other individuals. Fill the gap between older and younger generations. Understand who your client is and how to interact with them and then provide a good product. Find your own niche.” 

He worked on separating his images by taking moving photos. He learned a lot in his college journalism experience. He was also a military cop so he was OK finding crime scenes and capturing raw emotions. He says, “Your auto is not always going to help you. Drone cameras are smart but you need to shoot manually too.” His largest challenges starting this business has been understanding money—budgeting, business licenses, etc. He also felt it was challenging to go into ventures with real estate agents. He says they are either laid back OR by the book and you don’t necessarily understand which is which. Some have become his friends and some are more proper, i.e. if he doesn’t send a grammatically correct email, they won’t do business with him.

“It can be scary…this morning, one shoot cancelled, but another one came in right after. Running a business has made me better with money.” Dominic never has a schedule past two weeks and some people wouldn’t be able to handle that. Because he’s been making as much money as he does, and has a military paycheck, he is able to float with it. And he’s grateful to be doing it.

Connect with Dominic

Have a Drone Business? Want to be Interviewed for Season 2?

Training from Drone Launch Academy

Other Places to Listen

Episode Transcript

00:00     Oh, we will be started. So hold on one second. Okay. Test test. That looks good. We’re good on this one. Minimize this. Okay. I think we’re good. Okay, well, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in today. We have a Dominic on the podcast. Thank you so much, Dominic, for joining us. Thanks for having me. Uh, why don’t you start, how we always start by telling us a little bit about you, uh, the name of your business, if it’s got a specific name. Uh, and just a little bit about your background. Um, yeah, so a little bit about me. Um, I was in the military for about eight years, air force to be exact. And, uh, I, uh, picked up a camera like halfway through, you know, being in the military. So, you know, I always wanted to be a photographer. So once I got out and got medically discharged, stuff like that, um, I tried to make it as a photographer and journalism and everything.

01:06     And then after the, uh, 2016 elections, I was like, ah, you know what? I can’t do this. I can’t to, uh, politics or journalism anymore, but, um, what do you call that? Uh, I got decently lucky and started working looking for a car company, car dealership, company detail company to do their, uh, marketing and photography for them. And it came out pretty well, but then I got bored of that job and then also I’m like, how do I make money, you know, as a career. And I always knew it as a photographer man to do real estate and I just always thought that it would be boring and come to find out, no, no, it’s not.

01:55     It’s, it’s always something. Awesome. So, um, so you got into doing, focusing on real estate on the photography side? Correct. Okay, cool. And is that what you’re still doing now? Yeah, it’s my full time. I’m working literally since it’s the busy season, I’m doing it every single day until the end of September and that’s when I’ll finally take a break. Oh Wow. Until the end of September and to September like, like us, like several months from now. Yeah. Yeah. No. Well, you know, there’s these random days off. Like today I have like today only thing I had scheduled was this with you. So, and you know for people listening later, I think what we’re recording this April 15th so that’s a several months worth of work for you. But that’s great, you know, great to be booked up. So, um, cool. So your, your former military kinda got into real estate. So what made you want to get into real estate?

02:49     Did you know that there was opportunity there or what, what kind of attracted you to that? I knew that he just has photography speaking. The only way you really gonna make money was either videography side or a real estate side. I always kind of knew like drones were in there but it was still up and coming whenever I kind of started, you know, focusing more on photography in like 2013 and stuff like that. Um, what do you call that? I, I’ve randomly found an ad on Facebook that was asking for a real estate photographer and I applied and it took a two month interview and they wanted to make sure that we were a right fit for the team, that I was the right fit for the team. And uh, I went through training and everything and then they’re like, oh, by the way, I see you do photos, let’s get you a drone.

03:39     I’m like, what? Okay, let’s do this. Oh, cool. So did, uh, did like a brokerage hire you full time for just doing photos? So the company that I shoot for, I’m a independent contractor with them. Um, it’s called cascade pro media and they were just looking for another photographer because their main photographer literally has to turn away three to five people a week. Gotcha. So then that’s, yeah. Booked, totally booked. Gotcha. Gotcha. Okay, cool. So do you get all of your clients through them now or do you also have your own clients outside of that? That I started picking up my own clients now because it’s like word of mouth from the people who I got from them. They also help out with my marketing. So anytime you’d Google like my local area, which is Tacoma, Washington, you’ll find me pretty much at the top of the list.

04:29     Awesome. And so realtor’s able to find me there. Yeah, it’s a good old SEO, you know? Yeah. It’s great. It’s free. Well free after a while. Yeah. I’ve found something that’s even better than that, which is Instagram. Oh yeah. You get a lot of success through Instagram. A lot of leads through Instagram because one, if the agent isn’t really doing anything, they’re sitting at a open house or something, browsing their Instagram and I’m all like, hey man, you’d like to pitch it on my house. Let’s shoot that. So then that gets me into the doors. So I would have to say my business is almost 75% I’m more 50 50 50% of what they give me and 50% what I grew in the last year. Gotcha. That’s so cool. So you joined, when did you join up with a, you know, kind of, when did you interview with that?

05:20     A cascade company to work as an independent contract? Was that you say that was 2013 or was that more recently? No, more recent. No, that was just last year. Oh, last year. Okay, cool. And then so over the last year you’ve, you’ve had them as a client, well them in their clients as clients plus getting your old clients correct. Yeah. Very cool. Well, Hey, I’m glad you’re staying busy. So are you, are you strictly focused on the photography or do you do video stuff as well? I do videos. I do, um, several things, which is photography, videography, 3d tours and drone. The drone is, I say out of the hundred and so sh well, let’s just go with like this year maybe about the past 50 shoots, about 35 of them has had drone added on and about another 15 is just straight drone. Okay. So to look a little bit more than half at least is very cool.

06:14     Now in Tacoma, Washington, like what are the properties up there? Like are there lots of land or what’s the kind of a typical, a typical, I don’t know, real estate view. Like it really depends. In Tacoma, I travel up a lot more and I go across to like Gig Harbor, which is, you know, a lot more acreage, a lot of places, um, like the rural places have at least a five acre minimum if you’re going to have a house for sells, stuff like that. And we’re pretty lucky to be surrounded by some beautiful mountains, which is to our west is the Olympics. Um, the East is marine air and the cascades. Then we’ve got the Puget sound straight down the middle. So you just bring up the drone, you know, to like 300 feet and you’re going to send every direction, every single direction. And so that’s why drone is really easy for me here.

07:00     Head on as an extra package, or if it’s just a vacant land, they call me up and then that’s whenever I sell them my drone package. And that’s awesome. Now, so, so let’s, let’s rewind a little bit. So you were doing real estate photography and then, uh, you, so you just started adding the drone, the Lester, but you’ve been doing real estate photography or just so I can clear, you started a real estate photography about a year ago or you’re doing real estate, we’re talking about you before that. And you just joined up with this company a year? No, about a year ago. It like all like fell into place and time before. And you just liked photography and were doing kind of other different types of gigs. I went from, I started working after the military. I got out in 2013 and started going to college, started working at the college newspaper for Photography and everything, becoming the lead photographer.

07:49     Cool. And then I went to an actual newspaper work there for a little bit and, but then that’s whenever I went to the marketing and everything for the automotive side. And that’s right. Using my photography for that. But yeah, for here now, I am literally making more in this real estate photography than what I did with all my other jobs combined in the past like five years. Wow. That’s awesome, man. So what’s, uh, so you said you found that, uh, that Gig through, uh, that company that you’re working for now. Are you thinking about the community of clients just from a posting they did on Facebook? Yeah, they have the, um, Facebook, uh, jobs site now, um, which is really cool because any company can throw it in. Then you can tag your friends if you have stuff like that. Like I seen a few other, uh, real estate photography companies that are hiring now too. I’m like, so you need a freelancer? I mean, I can be your guy. I can always take more work. No, seriously. That’s awesome. Now, um, so what kind of, you know, when you first started doing the drone, getting into the drone stuff, what, uh, what, what was your first drone that you started flying with? It was the, a phantom four. Okay, cool. Dan School, and I did that for about three weeks before I had an unfortunate, uh, backing into a tree.

09:06     Did you wreck it completely? Uh, yeah. Well, it can fly. It’s good. Let me say this carefully. I can fly it. The gimbal just doesn’t work. Oh. So I just need to send it in to someone to repair it. Yeah. But I got my license and the crash and everything happened. Um, all around the same time in August. [inaudible] thanks to you guys actually by the way, which does use our prep course. Yes. Oh, awesome. Good. I love that prep course. Like I keep telling everybody to go after it. I think, I mean I knew a like maps and everything from the military and weather and stuff like that from being an air force, but was just like having your setup the way that you guys had it. It reminded me of a lot of the military testing, which is cbts. Um, I forgot what CBT stands for it, but it was a lot of clicking and I was like, oh, I get this in.

10:00     Yeah. We tried it originally for it. We tried to break it down. We find people not to get into, like, you know, our prep core Stephens and were like, we tried to break down into pretty small chunks. That way people can do a little bit at a time so they’re not sitting down and then going, oh, this video is an hour long. I don’t want to sit here for an hour. You know, we try to break it up. I’m like, yeah, yeah, minute video so people can at least knock out a little bit. And when you click them complete and next you feel like you’re like getting stuff done. You know what I mean? X-ACTO. That’s why I love it so much. Yeah. Cool. Well good. I’m glad that helped. So, so you crashed your, she crashed your drone back and, and uh, so did you get a different one?

10:34     Are you still using that night? Did get a different one for about a week? Did you crash? No, no, no, no, no, no. I picked up the maverick pro. Okay. So it fit perfectly. And My, um, I have just, I just carried a flash up camera and lens and then my drone and it fit perfectly in my bag. Nice. So that I can just go from carrying, you know, a fandom and a bag into just carrying the bag. Right. But the problem was is that they released the maverick pro two less than a week after I bought this one. It was all like, you know what, this summer has been really good for me. Let me go ahead and buy this. And it is my goto drone right now. It is. So it’s, it’s a, the image quality is there. And then same with the video quality with the log am I can color grade like a champion with that thing.

11:25     That’s awesome. So do you still have the uh, [inaudible] or did you replace it? I don’t know. I definitely, I definitely sold. OK. Gotcha. Good, good. Just cause, I mean there’s like relatively brand new and then I’ll just like, okay. Here. So I sold it to another person who was getting into real estate who looks like she’s not going to, in hindsight. Oh really? No. Well, hey, at least he’s got a cool job now. So yeah, definitely. All right, well that’s awesome. So get them out it to, you’ve got your camera gear. It’s probably helpful for you too, a lot that you kind of came from the photography world and knew a lot about that. Cause I know people who are like totally fresh to drones and photography. There’s a lot for them to learn. I mean, yes, on the drone flying side, but still you’re basically just, it’s a flying camera so you still have to learn a lot of the same kind of photography principles and you know what all that stuff is and what all the settings are.

12:14     So it’s, I’m sure it was a lot easier for you kind of coming from that side of things. Right? Yeah, definitely. And then coming from, you know, I’m 34 so I came, I grew up, you know, playing Xbox and everything. Yeah. These controllers on these things, it’s just like, oh, this is like playing battlefield three all over again with a helicopter. I’m like, I got this down, unless there’s a tree behind me. That’s funny. Yeah, no, I’ve, I have done the same thing. I was flying with the Phantom three, uh, I don’t know, several years ago when those were kind of first out and I was trying to fly down this really, really long driveway with some of these kind of canopy trees. When it gets really far away, your depth perception gets a little off. I don’t like up there’s a branch and yet I kinda it Kinda when you, I know, I know how that goes.

12:58     Um, oh cool. Well, so how, right now, do you have any method of like finding clients or really do they just all find you through SEO and word of mouth? Um, basically SEO and word of mouth, but my Instagram is my main way to pull new clients right now just because I’m able to post a photo and a nice caption with Hashtag. Strategically I strategically targeted my hashtags because there are like companies out there like different real estate companies that will like say, um, real estate gig harbor. They’ll tag that in their photos. So anytime that they click on that they can turn and look and see who’s actually targeting, not targeting but using those hashtags. Cause you know, they could find potential clients out there. But a lot of these people just need extra photographers because sometimes their photographers get booked up and that’s when they inbox me.

13:50     Hm. That’s awesome. So they’ll just shoot you a direct message on a, on Instagram and say, Hey, can we hire you? Uh, yeah, correct. And also I have a business account for my Instagram so I add in, you know, my phone number and then my email too if they want to be more professional with it. Yeah. Cool. So what, just so everybody hasn’t, what is your Instagram? Uh, account? Oh, that one would be, let me verify to make sure that I’m saying the right one cause I got cheating on my personal one. And then, so it’s real estate photos by dom, like Dominic, but dom, I just go by down most of the time. Okay, cool. Sorry I was calling you Dominic. No, no, it’s fine. I actually prefer Dominic, but everybody shortens it to oh, Gotcha. Okay. I’m just like, okay, whatever. I’ll just go with that then.

14:35     Nice. Um, all right. That’s awesome. So people find you on Instagram, which is awesome. You know, everybody’s always like social media marketing, but rarely everybody knows how to use it effectively. So that’s great that you’ve got that down. Um, and then you’re, so, you’re, you’re not out there. Are you, are you like actively going to like real estate agents offices and like tried to network with them and stuff like that or you just, it just keeps kind of spreading naturally? Um, it keeps kinda spreading naturally. I’ve learned that going to the offices really doesn’t matter because everybody can go to the office. Yeah. So like people who have a camera, they’re like, oh, I can be a real estate photographer without them. Hello? Hello. Yeah. Can you hear me? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, yeah. So No, I’m just going into the real estate offices really doesn’t work for me because everybody and their mother can go there and just be like, hi, I’m a real estate photographer without actually being, you know, not seeing a website, not seen and thing like that.

15:34     And they kind of, you know, just shove your cards onto a table. Oh really? And so I’m learning word of mouth is the best way. Really. Gotcha. Gotcha. Now, when you were first starting out, we’ve heard from other people that we’ve interviewed, uh, if they were just totally brand new to the game, they started off by just doing some offering, well not even maybe offering, but just doing free work. So let’s say they saw a nice house, they’d go pop their drone up, they’d take a couple exterior drone photos, they find those thing agent, they shoot it to them and say, Hey, I just got the, you know, shots. I noticed you didn’t have any aerials in your mls listing. I shot the story. You just as a favor. Um, you know, I do this if you’re interested in me, you know, do another listings.

16:11     But if not, you know, they’re yours to keep. Did you ever try anything like that or did you not need to I did not need to since I was basically picking up all the work that the other photographer wasn’t able to do. Um, like my first two months, um, one was only a half a month and I pulled seven gs on that one and then put 12 one the next month. Wow, that’s awesome. Yes. Just from now, is that strictly from a, that that Gig you got with that company or is that correct or is that a correct of your own efforts and there and there? No, those first two months were basically, um, just them sending me extra work. So I got extremely lucky to get with this company. Um, I have to pay them a, I guess you could say kind of a fee. So they get like 15% of whatever I make.

16:59     So it’s almost like taxes, but at the same time, that 15% that I give them, they give me 10 times that amount of work. So like real quick. So you collect 100% of the fees from that Gig and then you give them 15%? Correct. Wow. That is really good deal for you. It started out at 30 and those, those were kind of rough. But the whole thing was just like, that’s, we’ll finally get you go ahead. Not to get too much into it, but that 30% meant I was only at photographer, but when they hired me, I was a photographer, videographer. And then then we added a drone so that I was able to get me down to 20% a lot faster and then down to 15% now, you know. Gotcha. That’s great. Yeah. Cause honestly, I mean, especially at the beginning, you know, finding work, if you don’t already have an existing network, you know that’s time consuming and you’re highly discouraged in that, in that section because they think, oh, you know, nobody wants this.

17:54     And you know, people give up pretty easily cause they can’t, you know, they feel like the work’s not there and they can’t find it. So that’s correct. You’re able to get that. So cool. So you get, so basically you basically give them like a 15% finder’s fee and then you get the rest and then you get your own clients on the side of that. Correct. Yeah, they did. They definitely handled my marketing and any technical aspect of the website that I use to deliver my photos. So if like, you know, the agents have technical problems, they just automatically, I just give them the phone number to the technical people and they take care of and answer all my bill processing and everything too. So. Wow. That’s, that’s awesome. Um, so with your clients, what do you do? You have a system, everybody always asks about pricing, uh, in the real estate, you know, I’ve talked to him about different real estate thing.

18:41     Uh, they say, you know, I don’t know how to price it or I don’t know what to charge. Uh, you know, I know every area is different because real estate prices difference, but, but you know, just as a proxy for your area, kind of what’s, uh, what does a typical job or how do you do your pricing? So I did manage joining the company. I basically mimicked the price sheet of the lead photographer, which in comparison to the rest of the United States is high, like really high. But in western Washington, the real estate business is so booming that it can justify these prices, which is funny. Down in the two, five 30, which is Tacoma area, my prices seem a little bit high, but I go up just 20 minutes north to Seattle and I’m a deal. Well, yeah, but I go out to the key peninsula, which is right across the bridge and they’re like, um, can we discuss your price?

19:35     And I’m all like, look, I’ll help you out with, you know, some things we can do a package deal together. Like so say like for with my drones and stuff like that, um, by itself it’s a $250, you know, Gig for like 10 minutes of work if that. So that just for drone photos. Correct. Okay. And so if I throw it into a package for photos and video or whatnot, it drops it down to one 50 for them. For the photos. Correct. So what would you charge for like photos and video that goes up to two 25. Gotcha. Like the, whenever I say four videos, it’s um, I incorporate it mainly with a opening shot and maybe a shot of view of the property. So it’s, my total flight time is maybe 10 to 15 minutes. And it’s used more of to bring the package together.

20:30     Yeah. And you’re doing now what about, it’s a similar, are you an interior photos as well with like a current Hilton points, you can’t run it, so. So what would you charge for like of what’s like a full package for you? So like you’re doing interior pictures, exterior stuff for the drone, maybe some drone video. You do like interior video, like tour type stuff or, correct. Yes. And so we’ll go with a full package of say a 3000 square foot house. Um, most agents want a 25 package deal, a 25 photo package deal, which is automatically two 75. Like I kind of like charged by photo and not by time or commitment. Sure. Or Square footage really. But 25 photos is probably your main package. So you do that. Then you add the video, which is another three 50. So we’re, we’re sitting at 600 already.

21:18     Then we throw in drone, which um, goes up to two 25. Yeah. Which is a combination of the photo and the uh, um, video in which I tie in everything together. And so I’m looking at seven, $800. But if they throw in a 3d tour on that, like it’s a thing called a Matterport and you can click and zoom through everything. I’m looking over a thousand per house. Gotcha. Now the Matterport stuff for those of you don’t know, like I don’t know a ton about it, I ended up people who use it that, that that technology or equipment is pretty expensive for you to purchase. Right? It’s about $5,000. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s not like a cheap add on for you, but I guess if you use it enough times it pays for itself. But yeah, you also got to pay for it $100 a month for hosting and stuff like that.

22:04     Yeah. Cause there’s a lot of data. So cool. So, so like bare bare minimum package, you’re not going to do something for less than probably like 200 250 bucks at a house it is about 200 yeah. Yeah. And then on the high end, probably closer to a thousand correct. Gotcha. Cool. Now do you scale that at all for like the value of the home? Let’s say you’re doing like a $10 million home or you’re gonna make it more expensive or just keep it, you keep it the same pricing. I keep it about the same price. The ten million ten million dollar home is going to have a lot more square footage. So I am going to include a lot more photos and how much time that I’m going to spin there for the video and stuff like that. And empty 800 square foot house. I’m gonna, you know, give a certain feel to it in comparison to what I am going to do for that $10 million house, which I shoot in million dollar houses a lot.

22:50     And so it was all like, I try not to keep the video separated as much, but you know, most of the time those million dollar houses are staged and not just an empty room. So I can make it look a lot more cinematic. Yeah. So the price would maybe go up just because there’s a factor of there’s going to be more photos. Correct. That in processing and everything like that. And that’s what helps me keep my clients because they know that, hey, here’s $1 million listing and I’m going to make $30,000 off of this, but my photos are strolling on accustoming 700 it’s gonna hurt whenever I have a $400,000 house to where I’m only getting $10,000 and I got to pay, you know, four or $500 just a little bit more. But like they understand that I’m pretty lenient, I want to say linear, but I’m pretty like standard across the board with most of my stuff.

23:36     Yeah. And you know, you’ve kind of a transparent pricing structure for they know what to expect if they’re going to hire you for it, which is probably important. Correct. Cool. Now have you ever ventured out into any other types of, uh, drone services or you’re staying in just like totally locked in on real estate since that was kind of your bread and butter? It’s, I’m sticking right there with it. I know you guys are talking about having a new course coming up for like roof inspections and stuff like that. And I kind of would like to get into that, but try not to like build a relationship with construction companies and everything. Like that is something I’m going to focus in more towards the middle of the summer so I can get some winter work in. Gotcha. Because I literally have no work in the winter. Gotcha. So it’s Kinda like you’re crushing it in the summer and then it slows way down in the winter.

24:21     Oh yeah. You got to save. Gotcha. That’s good to know. Yeah, I was just curious cause you know, some people, um, you know, I, I always like to ask is, you know, one of the kind of prevailing words of wisdom or things people deal with is the decision whether to go wide or deep. You know, like, am I going to go super, super expert on this one area, which it sounds like you’ve done with the real estate photography niche and you’re like dominating it. Uh, whereas some people are tempted kind of get with the shiny object to go, Ooh, I’m going to do, you know, mapping for construction sites and real estate photos and Oh, I’m going to work for mining companies and inspect to cell towers. And you know, it’s like, and they don’t really ever dive into one area enough and the, and then never really that successful, uh, with any of them.

25:05     So I think judging from all the different people we’ve talked to, you know, kind of doing it the way you’re doing it is really good to kind of master and really crush one specific niche. That way, you build out a big network and expertise and you’re kind of the goto person and then you can kind of look to maybe add side, um, you know, supplemental areas that you can start to become proficient in. So yeah, definitely. I want to, um, I think one thing I want to add into my packaging for say real estate is kind of like a newer thing, kinda like how Matterport is for the inside of houses, the mapping for drones, drone mapping on the outside of like these bigger properties kind of almost get a little like a three d rendering of them. And so I, I feel like no one does it here, like no one at all.

25:54     And I’ve seen it before, it’s still, you know, in its infantry, I’m trying to like, you have a high enough quality for a house, like if he had just had land, you know, it would be totally fine. But for a house, they look like paper dolls right now, so, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Cause then, you know, when it all gets stitched together it’s like the same. So, um, well that’s awesome. Um, so, so right now you said, you know, when you’re starting out early on, you know, your, you said you do like seven and then you know, a little over 10. It’s like during the busy months, if you don’t mind sharing, like what would be like a typical, you know, a revenue range for you that you’re, that you’re doing kind of in those summer, busy months? Yeah. Let me pull up my accounting real quick. Oh Man. Getting the, the real inside scoop here. Um, I am almost at two. Oh wait, I’ve got a spreadsheet for this sort of, that’s one thing about starting your own business. You gotta learn how to do spreadsheets. Oh, dude. Yeah. You gotta do it all. Huh? You have your own accounting. You’re your own scheduler.

27:04     Oh, of course. I couldn’t find that. Okay. Okay. So I can’t really pull that up right now. That’s about, let’s go with this. Uh, June was six to seven. Uh, July was 10 to 12. August dropped down just a little bit. Nine September was about six. October was better, which was seven. And then December, no, November for like $400. Okay. Yeah. Like the other, the other ones were like 7,000, 6,000 years. Correct. Yeah. And so, yeah, so you’re, you’re fluctuating around $10,000 a month, maybe a little less, and then the winter just totally dies down, completely dies down. Luckily I had some weddings that helped me cover during the winter. I don’t do weddings. I hate doing weddings just because I am so scared to actually miss the shot that the bride is wanting. And so it’s just my nerves. I’m just saying, Nah, no, you know what?

28:07     It’s okay. I’m not gonna do that, but I keep getting hired for them and I’m not turning down, you know, a few grand to do that. Well, especially if you’ve got nothing, nothing else in the pipeline at that time. So. Correct. Yeah. Cool. Um, awesome. Well, hey, thanks so much for sharing that. I know, I know that, uh, people always appreciate kind of hearing kind of behind the curtain and, and what people are doing. Cause, um, you know, there’s a lot of people’s opinions out there on what’s possible, what’s not possible. So it’s nice to hear that, uh, what, what people are actually doing. Um, and I don’t know if you see this online, you know, I talk to this talk about this with other guests, but there’s a lot of people that I see that complain and they say, Oh, there’s too many part one of seven pilots and the market is totally saturated and you’ll never get any work and Yada, Yada, Yada.

28:55     I mean, do you find that to be the case or where do you, what are your thoughts on that? Um, no, I’m not finding that the case I’m finding that agencies are making and are now making sure that they’re photographers have the part one oh seven, because I’ve been picking up gigs for the whole photo video and drone shoots because they found out that their pilot has been shooting without it. So that’s what I came and got you. They’re like, we’re not one handling what this liability and two, we don’t even know what will happen. Is He, you know, if he’s doing this, is he even insured? You know? Yeah. Yeah. It just, it instantly decreases your professional. Just kind of, uh, I dunno what the word I’m looking for. Your professional credibility to be correct. I’ll have itself. Um, okay, so I have a question for you.

29:44     If you were, if you were totally starting out fresh, let’s say you’re, you’re fresh out of the military again, but you don’t really know a lot about photography, right? You’re just like, alright, I gotta find something to do. Or maybe you have a job and you’re like, I want to get a side Gig. Drones are cool. Um, and you’re gonna start from scratch, learning about photography, drones, all that stuff. I guess, where would you start and how would you go about getting clients for the first time? Um, hmm. Sorry to put you on the spot with that question. I didn’t know. No, it’s totally fine. It’s, it’s a multi-headed, you know? Okay. Monster though. Yeah. Well let’s, let’s do this. Let’s say you did know about photography and you knew how to fly a drone, let’s just focus on clients. How would you go out, uh, to get it?

30:29     Finding your first client, um, separate yourself from the other individuals. All right, thank you. You have to come up with something towards all, like a lot of the people up here, um, uh, some are mainly college students, which, you know, that’s a good college, you know, job to have to push through college and everything and um, they don’t really fill the gap between like the older and younger generations. So understanding one who your client is and how to interact with them and then providing a good product is your best way to do it. And you just need to find basically your own, um, niche, I guess you could say. Gotcha. Cool. Now for you, how did you learn about, for like you said, you’re into photography previously, but did you just kind of teach yourself and tinker around or how did you, how did you become good at photography?

31:22     Uh, it was more of, um, while I was in Iraq at the time. And I just wanted to take, you know, document it while I was there so I couldn’t really document everything cause it took my memory card afterwards. They’re like, you can’t do this thing. They’re like, oh, cool thing. The cool thing was to, I got to actually interact with a lot of the drones that the military had. Oh, there’s little drums like the ravens and stuff like that. I was pretty good at capturing them once they crashed, uh, about a, what do you call that? Um, and car shows. I liked really wanting to get into car shows and there was a few photographers that I looked up to. Um, I started with point and shoots and then I was like, dude, I want to get better and better and better. And I did get better a lot better and trying to capture a moving vehicle or even car shows to try to separate my images from Joe Schmo with a, you know, cell phone [inaudible] that helped me become a better photographer.

32:20     But then the whole journalism thing really helped me become a photographer. Now, were there people there at the, at the news agency that were like giving training you or is it just a lot of trial and error on your part? A lot of it was, I learned a lot in my college newspaper. Hmm. Okay. Because I was an older individual was 28, 29 at the time and the college was, you know, younger, um, [inaudible] but I was, I was a military cop so I’m willing to go to like crime scenes. I’m willing to go to, you know, stuff like that around town protests and I felt totally fine with it. And so I’m learning how to capture the raw emotion and this cause you needed to have your settings perfectly. You’re shooting on auto was not going to handle, you know, your auto isn’t always going to help you, which is one thing about drone photography.

33:09     Auto is not going to help you all the time. Even though these are smart little cameras, you need a shoot in manual. And that really helped me a lot. So you just have a lot of experience and a lot of time that you’ve put in behind the camera, whether it’s, yeah, they can’t run the grounds. Yeah, you’d have a lot of hours behind it and know how to, how to work in what looks over over 10 years. You know, I think of actually working, oh, I even worked at a camera store. I went in there, went in there all cocky and everything. I was like, yeah, I know everything about it. First question knew absolutely nothing about what they were asking. I was all like, what? So that was a very humbling experience because I mean like in, in the whole college thing, I was winning awards and I have to write for my photography and then go to a camera store and I knew absolutely nothing besides my little Nikon that I had.

33:56     Yeah. Hey, it’s good lesson, good lesson in humility. So No. Yes. That’s awesome. Um, so what, when you started your business, say, let’s say within the last year, I mean, it sounds like you, I mean, you already had a lot of skill and that I’m sure helped a lot when you’re kind of already master of your craft and then you had this good opportunity with this, uh, photography company. So, but if you were to pick out some challenges, what would you say, uh, were May, was maybe your biggest challenge in the last year with starting this business? Understanding money, understanding money. You want to elaborate a little bit more? Um, you got certain fees, you got certain taxes and you gotta be like, look, I got this, you know, 10 grand in my bank account. I don’t need that new car right now. Yeah. And so a good budgeting and actually understanding business license, the licenses, taxes and everything like that.

34:46     Yeah. Would have been very beneficial if I would’ve went into there first. Like if would I actually got a degree in business that would’ve helped me a lot better with what I’m doing now. I got an understanding, speaking of which today’s tax day, happy tax day. April. Yeah, Nina, finish that up today. Yeah. I just need to press into pain, man. I’m like, no, I don’t want to. Um, but that and maybe understanding the, what I was going into, like the type of people who I was, I’ve never really interacted with a real estate agent besides the one that bought and sold my house. [inaudible] and do you have any advice there with interacting with real estate agents?

35:27     They are very either laid back or very by the book and whenever I say by the book, they’re very proper. And so it’s very for you to try to understand which one’s which, because several of these agents who I shoot for now have basically became, my friends were like, we’ll play video games together and we’ll go out to our bar or something now. Yeah. But then there’s other ones, if I don’t have a proper email sent to them, like good morning so-and-so and proper punctuations and everything [inaudible] they won’t shoot with me anymore. Huh. They did. And so it’s a balance. Yeah. Yeah. Got Professionalism. I guess you could say. Sure, sure. Um, no, I think that’s a good point. Especially the first one you made about, um, you know, knowing the ins and outs of business. Cause there’s the skill where you’re making your money, right? Knowing how to take good real estate photos and deliver a good product.

36:20     But then there’s all the other stuff that comes with having your own business. That’s all the admin and knowing how to set up your entity, legal entity and your banking and your bookkeeping and making sure that you’re setting aside for tax. And then for you, you know, like you said, you’re busy seasons in the summer. So, you know, having the discipline to budget for the full year rather than just the, you know, spending the money as a continent. So I think that’s a good point that a lot of people don’t think about. They just think, oh cool, I made this, you know, it’s not like when you’re getting a W2 and your employer is kindly or you know, mandatory actually taking your social security, your Medicare, your, your, you know, uh, federal and state income tax and they’re setting it and paying it for you. Now, you know, that’s all on you.

37:01     So yeah, definitely. Um, it is kind of scary sometimes. I know work is going to come to me. Like this morning I booked out six shoots in this next two weeks. Just this morning I woke up, I was like, yeah, I’d seen one text saying, hey, you need to cancel it for Wednesday. An email. Right after that there was like, hey, can I schedule it for the Wednesday? I’m like, wow, this works out perfect. Sure. But honestly, I don’t have my schedule past two weeks. And you know, for some that could be scary. Yeah. Um, the military broke me a bit, a lot of it. Uh, so I have a disability check that comes into them. Okay. And so that helps cover some things like if needed, but you know, it is kind of freaking a normal nine to five job, you know, you’re gonna get, you know, a check every two weeks. But I think making as much as I do allows me to have some leniency and savings. Sure. Yeah. It just, you know, as long as you have the discipline to, uh, save. Yeah, I’m horrible with money, but owning a business has made me way better with money. Yeah. I was gonna say you got to go through a couple of dips and then, then when those good times come again, you’ll remember, maybe I shouldn’t have bad times. You should hang on to some of this. Yeah. Those top ramen days, you know?

38:24     That’s awesome. Um, all right, well, hey listen. Um, you know, that’s really all the questions I had. Uh, this conversation has gone by super fast. I really enjoyed talking to you and just hearing your story. I know everybody is gonna love all the advice you have. You’re really successful with what you’re doing. And I, and I really admire your discipline on just becoming like a super expert in your area and be, and what you said about like making sure you’re different than other people and that’s, you know, a way to stand out and get people to choose you. So, um, yeah, I just really, really love the whole thing. Um, and just thanks again for agreeing to do this. Um, cause I know this will bring value to a lot of people. Um, but before we sign off, um, is there a, you gave your Instagram account earlier.

39:11     Is there a website you have or if someone else wanted to Kinda check out more of your work or maybe get in touch with you, what, where would they be able to find you? Well, most of my stuff is basically working off of Instagram right now. Um, so pro, uh, uh, social media, so it’s either that or dom photog, um, for my personal account, which has a lot more drone stuff that she’s more cinematic. That’s how I pass my free time is doing that or on Youtube. Same with that. Uh, dom photog I do have a blog on there. Okay, cool. So if someone wanted to give you shout up, probably Instagram is the best way to go. Yeah, definitely. Cool. Awesome. Well, Dominic, thank you so much for coming on. Super appreciate it. And uh, I will catch you another time. Yeah. Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to kind of like share my story and try to help out any newer people who might be thinking about doing drone stuff. It do it, man. If that’s the only last bit of advice I can say, and he’s like, do it. Understand your drone, understand the photography, get the proper credentials with your one oh seven and learn how to fly safely. It, this business is just gonna keep going bigger and bigger, like it’s already grown. Yeah, no. Awesome advice. And that’s, that’s great to hear, man. So thanks again. All right. Take care. All right.


Article By:

Drone Launch Academy has helped over 40,000 drone pilots learn how to fly drones, pass the Part 107 Exam, and learn the skills they need to start making money with drones.

Share this post

Related Posts

Drone to $1K Podcast | Drone Launch Academy | Lakeland, FL | Get Licensed To Fly Drones Commercially | Launch Your Drone Business!

https://youtu.be/STQv1CcWhQg This week’s guest is Curtis Kloc from Inspections Over Coffee. Inspections Over Coffee is an inspection company that uses drones to help inspect roofs. The company also...

Our guest this week is Pedro Silva from Drone by Dro. Since getting his Part 107 license, Pedro has worked on a variety of drone photography and videography...

This week’s guest is Chris Francescani from Sunset Beach Films. Chris was a journalist and reporter for 25 years. Now, he uses drones to create marketing and promotional...

Close Menu