How to Turn Your Drone Hobby Into a Profession
Youre starting to get the hang of it.
Taking off and landing. Rolling and pitching and yawing and throttling. Adjusting your gimbal, calibrating your software, and flying with strict safety and ethical standards.
Maybe youve graduated from your beginner drone and have upgraded to something with a little more pizzaz. A little more technologically advanced.
Being a recreational pilot is fun, but so is flying AND making money at the same time. Whether its just a side gig, or youre looking to dive first into the UAV industry as a professional drone pilot, Ive got good news for you:
If theres any better time to turn your drone hobby into a profession, its now.
As you think about building your drone business, keep these three points in mind:
U.S. DRONE PILOT CERTIFICATION / FAA EXEMPTION 333
While Im not a lawyer, what I can tell you is that you dont have to apply for the FAAs Exemption 333 to become a professional drone pilot. Yes, read that sentence again.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no federal legal drone licensing system in the U.S. right now. While the FAA claims that its illegal to fly drones for money in the United States, thats just a guideline.
Its not a law they can enforce.Hundreds of UAV pilots across the country right now are already starting their businesses.
Now, the FAA does have the authority to come after you if youre flying recklessly. That happened last year with Raphael Pirker, who was fined for operating recklessly. Make sure you have an intimate understanding of what it means to fly safely, and that youve got countless hours of flight practice. Stay under 400 feet, dont fly within 5 miles of an airport, gain private property flight permission, etc.
It also helps to have insurance, which youll not only use in the unfortunate event of a crash but also to gain trust and credibility with your potential clients.
It also helps to have gone through a formal drone flight training program. Here are a few programs you can look into:
PICK YOUR PERSONA
When youre building a service-based business, youll benefit from a persona-based marketing strategy. In a persona-based marketing strategy, youre not going after everyone. Youre picking one particular type of ideal client, with one particular set of problems and challenges.
Youll zero-in on that one persona and develop an intimate understanding of them. By focusing on one type of ideal customer, youll learn things like common objections and industry nuances much more effectively, and youll get your business off the ground much faster.
START MARKETING ASAP
Think youre not ready to become a professional pilot right this second, but its something youre still interested in pursuing?
Then why havent you started marketing yourself? Defining your persona, your brand,and designing your website and lead generation strategy–this stuff takes time, folks!
If youre not yet confident in your piloting skills, thats OK. You should still have a published website and a brand you can show to people, and you can try to get a few free gigs under your belt.
Offering your services for free will help you get more comfortable working with clients. If your clients can give you a positive testimonial / case study and you have their permission to put their project footage on your own website, then thats a great way to start establishing credibility and authenticity.
Free gigs will also help you better understand how to price and package your services in the future. How long do certain types of projects take? What are your margins?