1) Locate real estate agents in your area online and offline
One of the most consistent ways to make money with your drone will be through relationships with local realtors. When you are first starting out it might be hard to find your first client so it is important to remember you are trying to build relationships with these agents because they will be recurring customers if you do a good job for a fair price. When I was first starting out I looked at websites that listed all the local real estate in my area and focused on the 5-10 agents that had multiple listings in higher end homes and lots. Also pay attention when you are driving around, if you see an agents name on more than one listing you might as well add them to the list.
I would send emails introducing myself and offering to shoot a listing for free. This not only helped me build my portfolio that I could show to future prospective clients but it often lead to the agent becoming a client for an actual paying job. I can only remember one agent who did not use me for another job in the future. If you don't want to end up doing something for nothing, you can charge a highly reduced rate to at least cover some of your costs. Remember - real estate agents get listings all the time so think long term relationships. I looked back through the emails I sent when I was starting out and it looks like I sent about 20 emails and heard back from 3-4 people so think of it as a numbers game. The following is an email (that seems terrible in hindsight, but it worked for me) I sent out but remember this was 2012 and drones barely existed. You would want to modify this because drones are no longer a high tech novelty.
I am using a high tech drone to shoot aerial photography for real estate. If you have a property that you want to show off from any height, please let me know. I will do the first one for free so you can see if you like it. Cliff side, lake front, and sprawling properties look amazing with a wide angled lens 50 - 100 ft up in the air! l I have lived in Austin all my life, if you visit my website at http://DroneAbove.com you can see a picture I took of my house in Rollingwood/Westlake.
Please give me a call with any questions and to schedule - xxx-xxx-xxxx
The picture above was from one of the first paying shoots after I did a free one for a client. It turns out this agent had a lot of ranch listings and raw land and lots are a perfect fit for aerial photography. I had just gotten the S800 and I got this job filming this amazing ranch just outside of Austin sitting on 100 acres with its own tiny river and sprawling hills. I also almost lost the S800 during this shoot because the battery managed to come loose in its velcro strap and fell out, luckily it did not disconnect and I was able to land. To make things even worse, I happened to be over a pond on the property when this happened. The lesson I learned was to make sure your battery is very secure when flying. The newer drones have click in compartments so this risk has been elminated but if you are using a home built rig use extra velcro!
Make the decisions about which pics are best
After you shoot the property, you should have a LOT of pictures to work through. Resist the urge to send all the unedited photos to the agent to have them pick which one they like best. Pick the best 1-4 (the number depends on how many truly unique angles you got, don't send 4 slightly different shots of the same angle) and let them know you have additional angles if they don't like what you sent. It is a rare day when they are not happy with the first few pictures I send. Send edited and corrected photos but keep them looking natural, these are not the pictures to crank the saturation and contrast on - unless they specifically ask for the grass or sky to pop.
Get in the habit of under promising and over delivering. When you are talking to them, tell them you will deliver 2-3 shots and make sure you have at least 4 to give them as a bonus. Always do more than was bargained for and make sure they know that. Always try and find a way to stand apart.
Offer a contingent on sale price to boost earnings
A good way to make significantly more money is to offer to get paid contingent on a sale. This way, a realtor does not have to come out of pocket for the photo session until it sells. If an expensive property is not selling and the owner decides to change realtors, this is the best time to offer a contigent on sale because the realtor will want to impress his client with great media while not having to spend much of his own money. If the agent does not have to come out of pocket for the drone work you have decreased his risk. Spending $300-500 on a listing that has a history of not selling is much more risky than paying $500-1000 when the property sells because the agent now stands to get a large payday (3% of the sales price). In return for taking on the risk with the agent you might not ever get paid so you need to make sure when it does sell you make enough to justify the risk. Whatever work you do is also likely to be viewed by other high end realtors so even if it doesn't sell it is still worth doing. Even if the realtor loses the listing and it goes to another agent, they will often just purchase the media from you or the contingent on sale agreement will transfer over as long as the new agent likes the work you did.
There is going to be 10 parts to this, for part 2 click here.