Tips & Tricks

Working for free in the Drone Industry

Starting off in a new industry is always going to be a lot of work if you want success. Initially, when entering into a new industry it may be wise to make some of your services free for clients. As tough a pill to swallow as it is, doing this may have benefits for a fledgeling business and may help you to reap rewards down the track, but it is also good to know when your value can be marked.

On throwing in the towel on my previous job to concentrate on Drones, I was presented with two problems, experience and a portfolio. It’s all good to set up the website and social media, have business cards, but when your business is fresh off the bat there is no material or content to help market the business. You could stick it out for that paid gig but this would put you in a situation where you are cold and lack the experience in dealing with unforeseen variables, and when flying Drones, believe me, there will be a few.

The remedy for this was simple, offer my services to free. Now you might say, well why not just go and take photos and videos for yourself, get footage of stuff you like or just want to film. That’s great and fun, but you have to get material that gives a future client context. In addition, by doing a job for someone you learn how to work to deadlines and pick up a knack for seeing a client’s vision, whether that be Real Estate, Construction or Marketing Promotions.

Real estate was easy enough, as realtors are always happy to trial someone for a free set of photos. In construction, I called at least 10 quarries to trial Drone Mapping software, and only one was interested and didn’t talk to me like I was practising witchcraft. Eventually, that one that called back saw the value in the data I was getting for them and put me on the books. Topped up with some free work at radio station festivals and large corporate events, and all of a sudden I had a body of work. But not only a body of work, also a body of experience. I can guarantee, three months of doing weekly work with drones and you’ll have had to problem solve a number of issues on-the-fly.

Hopefully, in the time you have offered free services you have gained extra business contacts from being on the road, you have a body of work with real-world examples, you can gauge how long jobs take and how to price them accordingly and how to deal with on-the-job problems and different client personalities.

So when is enough enough? It is gonna be a case by case scenario. It took me 6 months to finally start invoicing for my services, for me I knew it was time to charge via my confidence in providing my services on time and to client expectations, all of which I had polished during my free work. Someone will take advantage of you, learn to sniff that out quick, it’s a matter of evolving your business head and making them realise its time to start paying for something that is giving them value. If you are willing to back your self for the long run, can finance yourself (if you want it bad enough then budget for it), be willing to have few losses and a Passion for what you do then working from free during your initial setup will help you when it really counts to sell yourself and your product. How long did you work free? Do you still do free work? When did you realise it was time to invoice? We would love for you to share your story.

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