The FAA recently released its annual Aerospace Forecast Report for the fiscal years of 2017 through 2037 and the news is promising … for drone manufacturers, anyway. According to their findings, “the commercial, non-hobbyist UAS fleet is forecast to grow from 42,000 at the end of 2016 to about 442,000 aircraft by 2021.” This means there will be at least 10 times as many pilots competing for paid gigs in four years time.
If you’re looking to make a living with your drone, acquiring the skills necessary to deliver top-notch work is only one factor for success. If no one knows you exist or what you’re able to offer, you’ll lose out to people who’ve built awareness. I went from hobbyist to professional Part 107-certified remote pilot by mastering the art of marketing myself and business. You can, too, with these five relatively inexpensive or free methods.
1) Build a social presence
One of my first paid gigs came by the way of an artist discovering my work through my Instagram account. She was so impressed, she hired me on the spot. I’ve been able to build a massive following there, on Twitter, Facebook, and gradually on Reddit by posting engaging content on a consistent basis. One key point to keep in mind: building up a following takes awhile. I’ve been at it for years. Spamming, massive following/unfollowing, and unsolicited messaging will erode your reputation quickly.
It’s imperative to remember the golden rule of social networking: 90% of the time you spend should be used to engage with other accounts of interest including industries where your prospects can be found. Like, share, and leave thoughtful commentary on posts of people you want to associate with in the long term. Offering genuinely helpful advice to others will build your credibility more than generic pitches and relentless self-promotion.
2) Create a home base
While being socially active is a great way to connect with other people and learn more about their needs, the fact remains that no one will think you’re legit unless you have a website. Stop me if you’ve seen or heard a line like this before: “I want to start my business but I don’t have $10,000 to hire someone to build a website.” What if I told you some of the most insanely successful professionals I know set up their own home base in a matter of hours, for less than $200.
Squarespace enables you to set up a clean, elegant hub to showcase your offerings without having to know how to code or design. It’ll easily allow you to provide the following required elements:
It’s important to communicate that you’re Part 107 certified and insured. These are the top two pieces of information any credible business will look for. Make sure your language is friendly and inviting. Be specific about what you offer and which geographic area you typically operate. A website that features too many flashy elements or displays too much pretension is likely going to intimidate prospects. Keep it simple.
3) Participate in relevant forums
Want to get the kind of publicity that is usually reserved for companies with astronomical marketing budgets? Post in drone-related forums. Major news outlets and publications are always scanning top destinations such as the DronePilots family of forums for aerial footage they can use in their stories or articles. You may not get compensated, but that won’t matter if tens of thousands of people who otherwise wouldn’t know you existed see your work.
Is your business using a specific product or service that makes your workflow possible? Sharing their social posts or mentioning them may get their attention. It could also work to your advantage. A client of mine has made it a point to feature mapping businesses that use their product. They’re usually identified for sharing a Facebook post to their own audience or mentioning the brand on Twitter. The reward is an in-depth blog post heavily featuring said business that is read by thousands of people. Think of it as an instant credibility booster.
5) Get involved IRL
A Part 107 gig I’m working on this weekend comes courtesy of someone I met at a casual networking event recently. Groups including The Commonwealth Club and local Meetups are underappreciated, overlooked resources for connecting with potential new prospects. Your network is ultimately what’s going to make or break your business. People may find you online but meeting someone in person, initially, and associating a face with your business is more effective for landing deals. Show up with business cards in hand (I personally love MOO) and remember the golden rule: 90% of your efforts should be focused on thinking of how you can help others.
I get it, you’d rather be out flying your drone. My love of flying is what got me involved in this industry and sustains me daily. However, unless you make an effort to consistently market yourself and your offerings, you’ll be known more as a hobbyist than a professional. These tips are easy to implement and, believe it or not, they don’t take up a lot of time. This is only the start. In a follow up post, coming out later this summer, I’ll be exploring directories and assessing their effectiveness.
Featured image: Pixabay
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