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Part 6: Is Owning My Own Drone Business Worth It?

The fog has dissipated and the electrical charge that filled the air has discharged into the aethereal gasses that make up our atmosphere.

Is Owning My Own Drone Business Worth It?
K. Davis

In our saga, we have returned from our look to the long, long time ago and find ourselves solidly placed back into the present, left to wonder if it was all a dream.

Nah! Just messing with you.

We have been taking a look at my personal journey of starting and maintaining/operating my own small drone services business.

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The Journey

It has been quite the journey so far, and in reality, the only wonder is what the future will bring.

One thing is for certain: things are always ever-changing and evolving with many uncertainties ahead, not just for myself, but for the whole industry and every one of us.

When I was in grade school, think it was third or maybe fourth grade, we were asked to write about what we wanted most in the future. I wanted a flying car. Imagine that, right?!

As time passed, the actual difficulty of producing such a type of vehicle, became known to me. I really thought, never in my lifetime.

Now here we are, with such vehicles at least in the planning stage, if not already being tested, with actual plans in the near future for Flying Taxis.

Crazy right? Who would have thought? The future is wide open, and one thing we know is drones and drone pilots will play a part in the future from here on out.

As it is currently, many of the delivery and air taxi concepts are mainly AI-based. There will still need to be a knowledgeable drone pilot though, somewhere in that mix.

Of course, that’s all much, much bigger than I am, or you probably would be. It’s just an example of how much potential there can be in the future.

For myself and most likely yourself, working commercially will consist of some other type of drone service.

Many of us will start out in Real Estate, and that is where many of us will remain.

Some of us will sign on to work as full-time pilots for some company. There are many lucrative jobs to be had as a UAS pilot.

There are always many avenues a drone pilot can explore. Mapping is a great skill to acquire.

Worksite monitoring is not only a great repeatable revenue option but also fun. You get to watch an empty space be built and filled with structures and document that change and transformation.

There are much faster-paced videography options, shooting with a crew for some type of production. One could always look to documentary work or breaking news.

The simple fact is there’s something for everyone and their interest. So, is owning a drone business worth it?

For Myself

In this crazy thing we call life, we all find ourselves in unique situations.

It wouldn’t be life any other way, now would it. All of us make differing decisions and find ourselves all being in different places and having differing origins.

Yes, every one of us is unique. So, no one out there will find themself in the same position as I find myself, although many may have similar tales to tell.

Much like we are, each and every business is like that as well. Although many may offer the same or similar, each one is unique to itself and is a reflection of those who create it.

Operating a Business

K. Davis

For myself, when I first started out, it was with the ambition to do it properly, an ambition I still hold to today.

I aim to provide excellent customer service from first client contact to receiving payment.

Some of the places I had worked for in the past had left me dismayed at the poor quality of the customer service the company wanted us to exhibit to customers on occasion.

I found this in a few places, so as an independent contractor and company, I promised that as a professional, I would work towards being the type that always provided the very best customer experience possible.

In that, I have succeeded mostly, with only one account of an unhappy client, which was a large multiple-day and location shoot. It wasn’t the work – they loved that.

It was the cost.

I could have prevented this by explaining the pricing breakdown better initially.

This was early on and since then, I have learned to go through the individual rates on large projects with clients, so they fully understand and grasp the reason for a charge and are knowledgeable about why it is charged.

Needless to say, I have worked with that same client since that first shoot with them and we’ve only had a good working relationship since.

So, perhaps not an unhappy customer per se; one that I learned a valuable lesson through, however, and it’s a lesson that stuck.

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I am an individual that needs flexibility in my schedule.

Many days in any given month require that I be at such and such an appointment with my wife who is currently going through some serious rehabilitation from health issues.

Having the ability to schedule work around such appointments is not something I would find in a 9-to-5 sort of gig.

Having this freedom of one’s schedule though is a double-edged sword, and if you’re not careful, you will get cut.

It’s really easy to get lax in filling that schedule up and keeping it full. One can fall into a there’s always tomorrow mentality.

I like to tell my wife on occasion that I have to stay hungry, or you will be hungry. All that really means is that I have to push every day so that there’s something there to be done tomorrow.

Although there is something for being able to decide to just binge-watch a show on a Wednesday for no other reason than you decided that’s what you’re doing today.

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Always Changing

I never really did well in a structured work environment, with the same hum-drum routine in and out every day.

If you’ve been following this series, my work history reflects that. Having and operating one’s own drone services business means it’s never the same. Every day brings new challenges, places, and clients. It’s an entire cornucopia of what’s coming next.

One day, I may just be in the office working on bids, following leads, or planning flights. The next, I could easily be in the field all day, flying and doing data collection for clients.

Each and every flight is unique to itself as well, much like we are, or any business we may form.

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For myself, one of the most valuable parts about doing what I do is the people I meet and work with.

As with any type of business, you’re going to make contacts with those in that field. Those contacts will help you grow not only as a business but as a pilot and person as well.

I have yet to have a client who’s given me the riot act for just doing my job, which is not something I can say for some other positions I’ve held.

Generally speaking, my clients are always very pleased with the services I provide.

They show this occasionally by leaving glowing reviews; more importantly, they tend to be repeat customers.

Don’t get me wrong, reviews are nice, and they provide insight into whether you’re doing things right or wrong.

Having a client bump you up on their call list, though, is invaluable.

But it’s not just clients that you’ll meet and make contact with. There are your fellow pilots and other small business owners.

It may be hard to believe, but the only reason that Ken Heron and I have become friends is because I wanted to meet him as a fan.

Don’t ask me how or why, but we’ve now grown to be good friends and workmates. For five years now we get together regularly and fly and record content.

For someone like me who is not able to say that they have many close friends, that friendship is priceless all in itself.

That’s not to say I’m friendless. Ok, maybe I am. No, I enjoy many good friendships.

Like many of us out here, I know quite a few people and enjoy time with them, but there are only a few I would confide in. Whatever, you know what I mean.

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The Nitty-Gritty

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it. There’s inherent value in everything in life. So not everything can be gauged by a monetary value.

But we are discussing a business, so let’s talk about the money!

The personal contact aspect I discussed above has more value than it appears. By making the right contacts, you can increase your revenue.

One of the considerations we have to account for is location, as this can have a direct impact on what you are able to bill your services for.

Now, I know you’re probably chomping at the bit for this. What do I charge?

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D&Ds Pricing

When it comes to establishing the pricing, it can be tough to not undervalue or overvalue your services.

Oh, don’t forget you also have to decide on what those services may be. One of the first things you want to learn is the pricing others offer in the same area.

This will lead you to the market value of the services in your area. Some areas will bill out higher than others.

When I conducted this small study in my own area the answer came back with $100 to $200 an hour. Not wanting to be the lowest or the highest, I firmly went with the middle ground of $150 an hour.

In a previous article, I discussed offering packages, which is generally how I operate, with packages as low as $100 and going up from there, all keeping in mind that most shoots are typically just under an hour and that hourly rate we established.

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Pilot Networks

In earlier articles, I also discussed the benefits and drawbacks of the pilot networks, which tend to undervalue the pilot. We’re not going to rehash all that again. I’m just going to look at the hard numbers.

On average, a pilot network job can range anywhere from as low as $40 to $140, with the average being between $80 and $100, for a standard mission.

This price is the rate offered to a multitude of pilots, and it’s a first come, first served old west sort of deal.

Instead of an OK Corral, it’s how fast you are on the draw and how good and fast your internet services are.

The other downside of these types of jobs is they can be very infrequent with them being weeks or months apart from one another.

They will not be a source of reliable income for a consistent workload.

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Is It Worth It?

For myself, yes, it is.

I love what I do and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It took some down-in-the-dirt work and some time.

I am, however, able and glad to say, D&Ds Aerial Views LLC became profitable last year for the first time.

I was surprised, too! By building up a client list and providing quality professional services, I was able to take a dream and a hobby and have now built something that I am proud my name is behind.

It shows in the overall numbers and seems to be trending in the right direction. What does the future hold?

I don’t know, much like the last few years. It’s one day, one week, one month at a time.

What I will leave you with is D&Ds future is wide open, just like yours is. There’s plenty of sky for all of us. Hope to see you up there.

Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!

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