Drone to 1K Season 2 / Episode 4: Alex Harris from AZ Corporate Video & Drone Launch Academy


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Alex is drone photographer and videographer. He is also the author of two of our Drone Launch Academy courses—Aerial Video A to Z and Aerial Photo Pro.

David: “Let’s start with you giving us your background.”

Alex already had a videography service. When he’d show up to film a corporate event, he said, it nagged at him that he needed to get a drone and a license to fly it. “I could see how much it helped to diversify between camera work and photography,” he said, “it’s easier to sell and rates go up way, way more if I’m adding photography and drones to the package.” Alex’s first drone was a Phantom 3 standard which hooked him. Although at first like a toy, he came to realize it wasn’t as easy as it looked. Once Alex upgraded to the Mavic pro, he felt it really started to work for him.

David: “You mentioned you’d worked in film in Hollywood—tell us about that.”

Alex worked on short films and for ESPN, Discovery Health and HGTV, as a camera operator. When he moved back to Phoenix and began doing corporate work, he says that because standards were lower and the budgets higher, he felt more in control of the work. He had creative freedom and client appreciation. From learning so much so fast in LA, which was a sink or swim environment, Phoenix’s high-stress environment felt like a cake walk—which helped him stand out.

David: “That’s probably about the time you and I met right? I stumbled across one of your YouTube videos when I was developing the Part 107 course. I took it, bought all the equipment that you had, filmed everything and asked if I could pay you to edit it.”

“You were my only fan up to that point. I’d filmed a couple of times with someone else’s Inspire, but I didn’t own a drone yet.” After purchasing Alex’s course for $20, David and Alex started making plans to create a cinematography course. Quite suddenly, Alex found out he had a brain tumor and had to have surgery. Six months later, Alex and David re-convened to begin creating the course. Alex began focusing for 30 minutes and would have to sleep 12 hours; a week later, he could do an hour, a week later he could do 1 ½ hrs, etc. They put out that one course, got great feedback and ultimately scrapped and re-did it.

David: “Let’s talk a little about your actual drone business. During this time, you’re still editing and flying drones for people. You have experience doing a lot of drone photography for clients. How did you get your first corporate video clients?”

Alex says it was such a powerful upsell right away to say he could film corporate events from the sky. He knew better angles and how to change settings to make it way more cinematic and because of that, he stood out. A two-day conference cost $2,500 to provide an edited a 4-minute compilation and photos. Alex went to popular conference places in Scottsdale and Phoenix and would film a ton of footage in all those places. So, prospects were confident he knew about drone filming, so he got hired for that even if he didn’t get hired for a full event. He charged $200/hour, which Alex says was easy to do to scare off the value-focused people who want to pay $50/hour, then ask for more time and revisions. Alex says,

“When dealing with bigger clients and companies, what they’re mainly concerned about is quality—they want to make sure they get it right and don’t look silly in their video. Also, when you quote a higher rate, they think you must be really serious and legitimate.”

David: “Did they ask to see a demo reel? How else did you justify charging that much?”

Once Alex got his Maverick Pro, he got a huge reel together by going around town filming. He also knew about SEO because he ranked number one in his city by making multiple smaller videos that were specific to what people were searching for.  And, Alex says,

“When they then go to hire a guy to film there, I’m the one with my name in the title, so they’re immediately going to click on it. That simple step, and I’m already halfway there.”

David: “So your marketing strategy, was to go out, have fun, shoot as much stuff as you can, make it really good and put it on YouTube/Instagram? Or did you knock door to door asking people to pay you to film video? What are your recommendations to a new businessperson about how to start marketing?”

Alex says when he started filming different parts of the city and putting it on Vimeo and YouTube, some got used, some didn’t. He’d filmed Scottsdale in a lot of different conditions—the waterfront, a thunderhead, during a sunset, sunrise or rainbow, which made him stand out. When he started compiling them, the reel just got better and better. Alex says,

“That footage doesn’t have many views, yet I’ve been contacted by people who were going to hire a drone operator, but since I already had the footage, they wanted to buy it. It’s EASY for them to pay you $150-300 because you have exactly what they want. Sometimes, also, they need help with other things.”

Another thing he became aware of was that people who are moving to town would look at his videos, giving him more views and his footage rose in search results.

David: “Do you want to give a quick rundown on the courses that you have with us–what they are about and what people learn in each one?”

Alex agrees to talk about the courses and the timing is right because he added business and marketing sections which are important for those starting a drone business. Aerial Photo Pro is an intro to beginner to expert course on how to get great photos with your drone. It’s hop-on/off the bus whenever you want…you won’t learn it all and make an award-winning photo in one day. It goes into the things he is doing differently with simple stuff. It teaches how to take a raw photo, load it into Adobe Lightroom, and use brushes to make things look more “soft and fluffy” or really sharp. Alex says,

“From a business perspective, I’ll always take a photography job. It’s almost leisure, I still make $200 an hour and I can do 20 photos quickly. Whether for a construction site, a real estate developer or agent, it’s relaxing because you have so many chances to get the same thing.”

Aerial Video A to Z helps people understand filming. Alex says video people make many mistakes in many places across too many things—and there’s a lot of bad advice out there. With video, there are many who don’t understands what they’re filming so there’s confusion—it’s like putting all this data through a teeny little straw and then taking a sliver out of the back end. This course is very in-depth and if you follow the steps in it, you can get very very good. You just have to be willing to go out, practice and go back and forth.

“Once you do nail it, you feel like Steven Spielberg and you send it to everybody. You send these teeny little :30 clips to your mom and she’s so proud of you. It’s the best feeling ever.”

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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.

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