How to Start a Drone Business in Real Estate

Introduction

The drone real estate photography and videography field offers an attractive business opportunity—you get to fly drones, edit cool footage, and give realtors and potential homeowners interesting and all-encompassing shots of homes and properties. And, if you love drones, photography, videography, real estate—or a combination of these things—starting an aerial photography and videography business that caters to the world of realty would be an exciting new venture. Not to mention, you could be your own boss!

To top it all off, the industry is booming: demand for drones in the real estate and construction industry is expected to reach $20.5 billion dollars by 2025.

But, every rose has its thorn… or thorns. The world of drone realty photography and videography can be more difficult to crack than many new drone pilots expect. Based on interviews with real drone pilots, we’ve created an in-depth article on some of the problems you may face in the real estate industry and ways to overcome them. We’ll cover the following obstacles that drone real estate business owners face:

  • Learning the Basics
  • Finding & Retaining Clients
  • Working with Realtors
  • Money
  • Competition

Learning the Basics

If this is the first time you are trying to fly your drone commercially, you may realize that there are a few skills you’ll need to acquire before you feel comfortable charging realtors for your services.

Flying

The first skill is probably the most obvious: flying. You’ll need to become comfortable with operating a drone around objects and buildings to minimize your chances of crashing into anything when you’re on the job and to get the shot you were looking for. Most of the commercial pilots we talked to practiced flying their drones for weeks, if not months, before they felt proficient enough to charge customers for their services. So carve out some practice time to fly before you ever get in front of a client.

Don’t be too worried though. Jeff Lewis from Special Point of View found that flying a drone isn’t as difficult as he had thought it would be: “I think learning to fly the drone is—is pretty easy. I mean, these drones are pretty darn smart.”

Getting Your License

Even if you’re already a drone-flying pro, if you are going to be flying your drone commercially, you need to obtain a remote pilot certificate (also known as a Part 107 license) from the FAA. The way to do this is by taking and passing the FAA’s exam, which is commonly known as the Part 107 test. Our FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Exam Prep Course will help teach you what you need to know to pass the exam (and there’s a money-back guarantee if you don’t pass). Once you have your remote pilot certificate, you’ll be able to legally operate your drone for commercial use.

Photography and Video

One of the most crucial aspects you need to conquer to fly your drone in the real estate industry is taking high-quality photos and videos to best aid your clients.

There are two aspects of photography and video that new drone pilots find particularly difficult: using the right camera settings when flying your drone and editing the initial photo or video after it is taken.

The whole process may sound overwhelming at first, but our Aerial Photo Pro and Aerial Video A to Z courses will show you how to use the settings on your drone and edit photos and videos that will sure to impress your clients.

There is also a lot of free editing software on the internet that you can use to get started. According to an article from Filmora, some of the best drone footage-editing software for beginners are Windows Movie Maker, GoPro Studio, and iMovie for Mac. Or, if you’re already skilled when it comes to editing, the article also includes software options for more advanced users.

You might decide, however, that it is too much work to learn how to edit on your own. In fact, a few of commercial pilots we interviewed decided to outsource the work to an independent contractor. That’s fine, too! You can decide which method works best for you.

Finding & Retaining Clients

If you’ve given serious thought to the idea of starting a business that specializes in providing drone photography and videography services to the realty industry, you’ve probably already had this daunting thought: How the heck am I going to find clients when I’m first starting out? And how do I show people that they can really benefit from my services?

Ways to Find Clients

One of our Drone to $1K podcast guests, Dominic Wilkerson, uses a few tactics:

Word-of-Mouth

Social media is a great place to start. As soon as you have a few people who are willing to vouch for your good work, encourage them to spread the word! Most people trust their friends’ recommendations, so if you can get people to tell their friends and colleagues about your business, you should be able to gain some new clients.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

In the world we live in today, most businesses need a strong online presence to thrive. You’ll need to have content on your website that will build your credibility for potential customers. But… how will you get customers to see your content over someone else’s? SEO! Search Engine Optimization basically means that you’re making sure your website and its content are easily found by search engines like Google. This is very important because it will help you to rank higher in search engine results (i.e., when someone Googles “drone realty photography in New York City), which will therefore help you to stand out among others in your area. If you want to learn more about SEO, check out the book 3 Months to No. 1, which has plenty of information to get you started!

Hashtags

If you’re familiar with social media, you’ve probably seen hashtags (#) used. Hashtags can be very helpful in allowing people—and not just anyone… people who are truly interested in what you do—to view your content. For example, if you added hashtags about real estate photography to your post (like #realestatephotography), people who aren’t following you will be able to see your post if they search for the hashtags you use.

There are a couple of ways that they would be able to see your post as a result of your use of hashtags: 1) If the person sees a post from someone they’re following that includes “#realestatephotography”, the person is able to click on that hashtag and see other posts (YOUR POST!) that contain that hashtag. 2) If the person is interested in finding content that specifically pertains to real estate photography, they can type “#realestatephotography” into the search bar of the social media platform. They’ll then be able to scroll through popular posts with that hashtag (and hopefully they’ll even see yours).

In addition, it’s important that you compile your best work—what you’re most proud of and what looks most aesthetically pleasing—to That way, if a potential client asks to see some of your work (or even if they’re unsure if they want to choose you over another drone real estate photographer), you can have a beautiful display of photos and videos on-hand that you can use to win them over.

Types of Clients

When it comes to what types of clients you should look to work for in the industry, our interviewees touched upon a few options:

  • Photographers – Working with photographers can be beneficial. The photographer can cover the normal realty photos while you focus on aerial shots. Even better, you can both share clients as your client bases grow.
  • Realtors – Realtors are industry professionals, and they usually have a variety of properties at any given time that could benefit from your services. Just think of how many potential properties a month you could book just by partnering with a one realtor.
  • Developers – Creating a partnership with a developer may seem hard to accomplish… and maybe even a bit intimidating. Don’t worry—it may be easier than you think to impress a developer and win them over. Aerial Look’s Robert Koenekamp, another business owner that we interviewed in our podcast, has a great process for getting a foot in the door with a developer: when he sees a new development being built, he stops and takes 15 minutes to film with his drone, then goes home and takes another 15 minutes to edit it, add a logo and some music, and then he sends it over to the developer as a gift. This simple 30-minute task has gotten him tons of business. In fact, he says that he’s never had a developer that hasn’t responded to him after receiving his free video gift.
  • Your own Facebook friends – Another great way to get clients, especially when you’re first starting out, is to post your drone photos and videos on your Facebook page. Most people will wonder how you got such amazing shots, and hopefully they’ll help spread the word about your new business.

Once you find potential clients, you’ll have to convince them that you can provide value to their business. As Bill Holderby from Eagle Eye UAS told us during his interview on our podcast, “Your job is going to be more on educating than actually flying the drone. You need to become a master educator and someone who can explain whatever industry vertical market you’re going into. You need to be able to explain ‘what’s in it for me? Why do I need this technology? How is it gunna make my life better?’” Once you’re able to convey the return on investment that your services will deliver, your potential clients may be more willing to give you an opportunity to prove yourself.

Retaining Clients

Once you find clients, it is important to retain them. It is much easier to get business from an existing client than it is to go through the effort of finding a new one. In his interview on our Drones to 1K podcast, Koenekamp had some great ideas about how to truly retain customers and get them talking about your services.

Remember Koenekamp’s strategy of creating a quick video of a new development for a developer as a “gift?” Well, with that one gift, he’s able to gain the developer’s business. So, if the developer likes your video and is someone who builds multiple developments at once, you could be creating countless videos for just that one person.

Ultimately, retaining clients isn’t rocket science. As Alex Castillo of LA Aerial Image said, “If you can be 1) good at your craft, and 2) you can be easy to work with and professional, and—and just like, have a good work relationship with people, they, they’ll call you back.”

Working with Realtors

It is likely that you’ll be interacting and working with realtors in this industry. So, how do you go about doing that? Well, using the tactics we mentioned in the “finding clients” section, you should be able to introduce yourself and start working with realtors in your area.

Hopefully, once you’ve proven the quality and value of your work, you can form partnerships with realtors, where you can work with them on a regular basis. If you’re lucky, you may even develop such strong connections that a realtor will call you to photograph and/or film the majority—if not all—of their listings!

You need to keep in mind, though, that everyone is different. Depending on the personality of the realtor, you may need to adjust your approach. Wilkerson highlighted this as being one of the most challenging aspects of his job. He said that some realtors are very laid-back, and that he’s even become good friends with them. On the other hand, though, he’s found that some realtors are very “by-the-book”—for example, some will not continue working with him if his emails are not very proper and professional. Of course, your business emails should be professional, but Wilkerson explained that some realtors expect you to be very proper in all your communication, whereas others are way more easy-going.

The best way to avoid this problem is by getting to know what type of communication each realtor prefers before you assume that they are okay with informal correspondence. If you pay close attention to how each realtor communicates with you, you can probably gauge what type of communication style is most appropriate. For example, if a realtor emails you to confirm a photo shoot for a home and it’s a very friendly, informal style—it’s probably safe to assume that said realtor prefers to communicate in a more relaxed manner. On the other hand, if a realtor is very formal in every communication, you should probably mirror that formality to ensure that you are presenting yourself in the professional manner that he/she is used to.

Money

Starting your own business can be pretty unnerving—deciding to take the leap, knowing you won’t have the promise of a set monthly income is a daunting commitment.

If you don’t feel confident that you’ll be able to make enough money to support yourself or your family right off the bat, that’s okay. When you’re first starting out, it may be a good idea to stay at the job you’re currently at and focus on building your drone real estate business on the side. Then, once you’ve built a strong portfolio of your best work and you have clients who are willing to recommend your services to others, hopefully you’ll feel comfortable taking your business to the next level by committing to work full-time on building it.

Having your own business may even help your bank account grow in a way you may not have thought of—when you’re constantly being pushed to make decisions to grow your business, you’ll obviously want to make choices that will make the most sense, both for the betterment of your business and your bank account. When you learn how to make the most financially-conscious business decisions, that will translate over into your everyday life. You may find yourself asking, “Okay, do I really need this?” and you may learn to think through the pros and cons of purchases, instead of impulsively buying things. One of our Drone to $1K podcast guests, Dominic Wilkerson, admitted that being an entrepreneur has really helped him: “I’m horrible with money, but running a business has made me way better with money.”

Competition

So, we’ve already established that the aerial photography and videography business for realty is booming. In fact, one of the reasons that the industry is growing so rapidly is that it is an easy market to break into.

Even though the industry’s rapid growth has contributed massively to its success, that’s also one of real estate drone business’ biggest downfalls. Because there are a lot of people out there who agree that this business opportunity is just too good to pass up, the world of real estate drone business is competitive.

While it does, of course, indicate that your specialty is in high demand, it also means that you’re going to be competing for jobs among other drone photographers and videographers. Unless you’re extremely competitive, having to vie for business—which your livelihood depends upon—may not sound so fun, huh?

Even though the competition will complicate your ability to capture leads, we’ve got a solution: differentiation. Differentiation is your secret weapon. If you can find a way to stand out from other drone realty businesses, you will be way ahead of the game when it comes to closing the deal with potential clients.

How to Differentiate Your Drone Business in Real Estate Industry

Okay, yeah, we know what you’re thinking: You’re making it seem like a simple task… but how can I actually differentiate my business?

Good question. There are many ways to differentiate your business:

  • One way to differentiate yourself is by offering the highest quality photos and videos in your area. By accomplishing this feat, you’ll become known in the community as the drone business to work with for amazing real estate footage.To become the best, you’ll need to focus on two things: education and research.Becoming educated will allow you to prove that you know what you’re doing. By honing your drone skills and learning how to edit like a pro, your photos and videos will speak volumes.As far as research goes, you’ll need to make sure you’re staying up to date with the newest drone technology and editing software so that you can stay ahead of your competition.If you can offer your clients the newest technology, coupled with the greatest drone and editing skills, you’ll stand out in no time.
  • Another way to differentiate your work from that of your competition is by specializing in a niche market and offering services that no one else in your area offers.If you can become the only business in your area that is capable of providing such niche services, you will automatically become the “go-to” for people that are looking for those specific services.For example, if you can get in with high-end realtors in your area and break into that market, you’ll become known as the business who shoots million-dollar homes. And, if you can become that business, people who are trying to sell their million-dollar homes will specifically ask their realtors for your services because they know that you are the best of the best.

Consider A More Specialized Industry

And if you find that there truly is too much competition in your area, the drone realty industry isn’t the only place to be. As many of the business owners interviewed on our Drone to 1K podcast agree, getting into the business of drone realty photography and videography is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door to even greater opportunities. That means that once you get experience and build a portfolio with your realty customers, you can expand your horizons and get into different drone industries—you could use your aerial photo and video skills to get into filming weddings and events, or even try working in the film industry. If you’re ready to do something besides photo and video, though, you could even learn new skills and try something like drone roof inspections or volumetrics.

What’s Next?

Think you’re ready to overcome these difficulties and succeed in the drone real estate business?!

If you’ve given serious thought to starting a drone realty photography and videography business and you’re feeling overwhelmed about all the difficulties you may face (hopefully not too overwhelmed, though, after all that helpful advice from successful drone business owners!), you’ve got this! If you put the time and effort into building a quality business, you’ll do well.

Our founder, David Young, is actually starting a whole new business from scratch at the moment. After interviewing all of the awesome drone entrepreneurs on the Drone to $1K podcast, he was inspired to create a brand new drone business and see if he, too, could get his new business to a $1,000 monthly profit. He’s even documenting his journey on Facebook, so make sure to join the group to watch him build his business from the ground up (and maybe even gain some helpful insight about starting your own business)!

And if you’re ready to start investing into the success of your future business, we have courses that will be helpful to you.

If you don’t have your remote pilot license yet, make sure to check out our FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot License Exam Prep Course, which will teach you everything you need to know to pass the FAA’s knowledge exam. We’ll even give you $50 off the course (since you’re getting ready to start an exciting new business 😉).

Once you have your remote pilot certificate, you should try our more advanced courses. Our Aerial Photo Pro and Aerial Video A to Z courses will walk you through the entire process of creating stunning drone images and videos that you can use to woo your potential customers!

Pilots We Interviewed

We also want to say a big “thank you” to all of our awesome Drone to $1K podcast interviewees! Make sure to check out their businesses:

Alex Castillo from LA Aerial Image: http://losangelesaerialimage.com/

Jeff Lewis from Special Point of View: https://specialpointofview.com/

Bill Holderby from Eagle Eyes UAS: https://eagleeyesuas.com/

Robert Koenekamp from Aerial Look: https://www.aeriallook.com/

Bill Pendley from Billy Productions: https://www.billyproductions.com/

Dominic Wilkerson: https://www.youtube.com/user/Domphotog

Audrey Snow-Brine

Audrey Snow-Brine

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