If you’ve got a Mavic, Mavic 2, or really any drone with a decent 4K camera, I’m here to share an insider trick to a fast and easy way to make some fairly passive income. A little bit of work upfront, and you can start making an easy couple hundred bucks or more every few months.
The fastest way to make money with your Mavic is to make a town reel. It should be 2 minutes long, featuring 5-6 famous attractions in one city. Then put your town reel online (YouTube and/or your own website), not on a stock footage site.
This is not a get-rich-quick scheme, and you’re probably not going to get rich with this trick, but it will put a comfortable $100 to possibly up to $1000 (with some luck) in your pocket every month or two. That’s not bad for a simple reel that will take just a few hours to shoot and edit.
Credit where credit is due: the inspiration for this insider trick comes from Alex Harris’ YouTube channel and is used with permission. See the video farther down the post. You can also check out his courses with Drone Launch Academy on our resources page.
How Does a Town Reel Make You Money?
There are lots of people looking for video footage of your city. Some of these interested parties are real estate agents or developers, local government, construction companies, news stations, weddings, events coming to town, conferences, waterfront businesses or restaurants, etc.
So why would they pay you for your footage, instead of using something from a stock footage site? If someone has a project due with the deadline looming, it’s much faster to do a quick google or YouTube search and find a video that’s ranking well, than to sift through tons of stock footage. They’ll be happy to pay you privately for quality footage.
The footage on a stock site might be out of date, or low quality. And they can’t talk to the pilot of something they found on a stock footage site to find out if there’s more, maybe something a little closer, for example, that will give them the exact shot they’re looking for.
Also, with stock footage, you get a one-time use license. If they want to be able to use the footage again for another project, they would have to pay again. If they buy from you, they can pay $200 for a 30-second clip for unlimited use.
Sometimes buyers will want to own the footage completely (as in, they get exclusive use, and you can’t sell it to anyone else). In that case, you can charge somewhere around $1000 or more for 45 seconds.
How to Make a Town Reel
In your city, choose the popular locations, the iconic spots that your city is famous for, and where you can legally fly your drone. Aim for at least five popular spots to feature in your town reel.
Do a little bit of research on Google, Pinterest, and Instagram on your city’s famous features. There you can find out what the top locations in your city are, and also what type of editing, angles, or lighting conditions are popular. Are the top search results for sunsets on the waterfront? Or morning sun breaking over the city skyline? Use these results to help you plan where you want to shoot, as well as how to edit your footage.
Go to each location to get a few takes from a few different angles. If you’re not satisfied with what you were able to get in the first take, go back – to each spot if necessary – and make improvements. Things to consider that you may want to improve upon might be lighting, angles, height, etc. The important thing is to learn from your first take to have specific things that you want to correct or work on. Don’t be satisfied with the first go, if it’s not sale-worthy.
Don’t forget to take some still photos at each location while you’re out there. Interested buyers will often ask if you have any stills to go along with the footage that they want.
Tips for Editing your Town Reel:
1. Get to the action right away
You want to validate yourself and your skill level right away. You also want to capture the viewer’s interest and hold it long enough to convince them to keep watching. One thing that works really well to start off your reel is a hyperlapse. Two reasons – they’re difficult to do well so you validate yourself, and they’re satisfying to watch and hold the viewer’s attention.
Another effective method to start out your reel is with a fast compilation of 6 of your best shots. Roll quickly, like ⅓ of a second each, through the shots. It’s just long enough to be a teaser, and if an image or two in particular catches the watcher’s eye, they’ll stick around to see what it was later on the video.
2. Put your best footage at the front of the video
Same reason as above, you want to wow your watcher with your skills. If they see a couple really great shots right at the beginning, they’ll keep watching to see more.
3. Keep the pace moving
This is a demo reel, not your portfolio. You want to give brief clips, 4-5 seconds of your best footage. This will hold your viewer’s interest better, and keep them watching through the whole video. If they see a portion that they like, they can contact you to find out if you have more of that location.
4. Don’t let the music become the star of the show
This is about your footage and your city’s famous attractions. Don’t let your reel become a music video for some royalty-free music you found online. Use music, sure, but make sure it’s the seasoning and not the main attraction. Choose something ambient or electric that will enhance the viewing experience, not dictate it.
How to Make Your Town Reel Findable
If you want people to buy your footage, they have to be able to find it, right? Keep in mind that your video is going to rank based on several factors: the information provided in the description, and the viewer engagement with low bounce rate.
Title and Description
The title’s not super important actually, but remember that people are searching for footage of a specific city, not for your name. Feature the name of your city in the title, not your name as the pilot, to get better ranking.
More important than the title is the information you provide in the description. The description will give google something to attach a search ranking to. You could say, for example: “Drone footage that I got while I was flying my Mavic 2 Pro, as a Part 107 licensed aerial drone operator.”
Note: If you’re selling drone video footage or photography, you must have your Part 107 license. To find out what you can do with a Part 107 license, read our article on the topic.
You want to get lots of viewers watching your video. This is going to be just people from your city that will enjoy watching locations that are familiar and resonate with them – “Oh, we were just at that hiking spot last month!”.
With good shots of familiar and popular places and a well-edited video that keeps the pace moving, you’re going to get good engagement. That just means lots of people clicking on your video. And if they stick it out rather than clicking away after the first couple seconds (bounce rate), your video will rank well on Google and YouTube, putting your video under more noses.
You can even point to your website from your YouTube video, and get some added bonus SEO for your website.
Your goal here is to get potential buyers to find your video. So if they’ve found it, make sure they have a way to contact you about buying. The simplest way is to have your contact info in your description. To use the corporate-speak, you can say: “For Inquiries…”, which means, please buy my stuff.
If you want to increase the chances of a sale, put your face on there somewhere. Making yourself relatable will increase your buyer’s confidence level that you’re a decent human being that they would like to do business with.
Image/Video Credit: Alex Harris