Real estate professionals are buying lots of drone photography, but you need a compelling pitch to land the most lucrative jobs. Show them you’re a pro and sell them on the time and money they will save by hiring you.
With the increasing interest in using drones for commercial photography and with such easy accessibility, many people are walking out of big box stores with a shiny new drone thinking they will be instant experts. Remote pilot certification is not particularly difficult to achieve, and the FAA requires only basic aeronautical knowledge—nothing related to actually flying a drone or making the most of its camera.
When talking to a prospective real estate client, be sure to point out your experience with flying, which involves a lot more than simply getting a drone in the air. There are safety issues and risks to consider. Your understanding of how to survey a flight area and knowledge of environmental factors such as wind and other distractions can be critical in emergency situations. Let them know that you are prepared to manage and react to unexpected matters to mitigate risks. If you have training and certifications for manned aviation, that can may give you an advantage once you explain how you apply that training (particularly in risk mitigation) to unmanned operations. Even if you are strictly a remote pilot, there are many opportunities to learn and train like a pilot, and all of that will help you close deals.
Also, be sure to mention that you fly regularly to maintain proficiency and polish your skills. A professional pilot flies constantly and explores their system and flight controls in depth, where an amateur may just dust off their drone now and then.
A real estate professional makes money only one way: in sales. To make sales in this highly competitive business, their focus needs to be on spending time working with their clients, not out doing peripheral work. Every hour they spend doing anything other than working with clients is time taken away from maximizing their bottom line. This is a very good point to make.
A successful Part 107 pilot needs to learn a lot more than the basics of how to fly drones. You also have to master photography, editing, and content delivery. This includes investing in the right computers, tablets, and software to get the job done. It does not take long to see how quickly the costs add up, not to mention the hours and hours of time invested in learning to use such applications as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom for photos, or iMovie, Final Cut Pro, or Lumafusion for video.
Once you know your stuff, show them. It doesn’t take long to illustrate the differences between hastily shot, poorly framed photos with little—or even worse—bad color correction and a nicely edited, refined product. Remember to mention that what the market sees reflects on the real estate professional behind the listing. Particularly with online shoppers, potential buyers have such a short attention span that bad images of even beautiful properties can cause that listing to be passed over while well-edited shots will stand out and get the attention.
Even after all the time invested in learning these techniques, it still takes even more time to work with every set of images or video after your flight to make them look their best. This element is easy to forget when the thinking is on the flying.
By hiring you, a professional remote pilot with training and skills, your prospective real estate client frees up their time to do what they do best (sales), while being confident that they will receive a quality product.
The FAA requires Part 107 certification for all pilots flying drones for non-hobby purposes. The definition of “commercial operation” is broad enough to include just about any that results in some kind of benefit or compensation in exchange for drone services, not strictly money in exchange for pictures. Those who ignore this expose themselves to potential penalties that can be quite expensive, though the FAA has (so far) preferred education over fines.
There’s more to it than just following federal regulations, however: Hiring uncertified operators could expose a real estate professional to consequences including potential liability for any damage that might be done by an uncertified operator flying on their behalf. Many people might assume that the responsibility rests solely with the person manipulating drone’s controls, but that is not necessarily so.
Carrying your own liability insurance will also help set you apart from the amateurs, and benefits both you and your clients. For you, it means you won’t lose your shirt if you crash a drone into somebody’s house and start a fire. For the client, it means they don’t have to worry about being on the hook for an accident, and it shows them that you’ve been vetted and approved by an entity other than the FAA, one that’s actually prepared to pay for your mistakes. Many clients will insist on liability coverage, and even those who don’t will appreciate that you have it once they understand what it means.
There are a number of carriers and options available. Verifly, for example, makes it quick, easy, and affordable to buy coverage for individual flights. You can also purchase annual policies, which might save money if you are lucky enough to fly every day. Having insurance coverage will help show your level of professionalism and while you are confident in your skills as a competent remote pilot, you also take the precautions to protect from unforeseen incidents.