Property has always been a solid market to get into, whether you’re building them, fixing them, drawing them or filming them with drones, houses and land will always be gold.
According to general estimates, there are around 7,000 PfCO qualified pilots in the UK right now. However, probably a quarter of them, are still scratching their heads about where they can go. A lot of them think that “the phone is going to ring off the hook” right after they get their PfCO. The reality is they need a niche because the money’s always in the niche.
One such niche is the property market because it’s something most people can relate to on some level. For those who are making their way up in the drone industry, taking photos and videos of picturesque houses is almost a natural progression from the golf courses and parks. Therefore, getting started might not seem too complicated. But, there’s a lot more to learn than just taking some nice shots.
Coptrz is proud to be launching its UK-first course specialising in aerial photography and videography for the property market on 17 December. With that in mind, industry expert (and course host) Jack Chapman, along with Coptrz’ own Business Development Manager, Andrew Robinson, share their knowledge and experience regarding drones in property marketing.
First Steps to Property Market
Jack Chapman made his first move into the drone market last year. He’d seen a few friends flying for fun and bought himself a DJI Mavic Air to get some aerial photos of his own. When another friend who works as an estate agent offered him a business opportunity, far from his job as a software salesman, Jack dived in immediately. He joined PfCO course at Coptrz in August 2018 then set up his own drone business called UK Droneography.
UK Droneography began flying in March 2019 and has since cornered the property market. Jack’s company even managed to get Coventry’s biggest estate agent as his number 1 client. “It was a big leap because I had to make sure that it works as I had to pay the bills,” he explains. “But that was my motivation to go hard at it and I still go hard at it now. But it’s just gone mad and I can’t believe it.”
Jack worked hard to reach that level. In the early days, he mailed every estate agent in the city to get a project. He was lucky enough that a few of them replied to his email which brings him to the door. Looking back, he describes the past six months as being like a paid work placement.
“It’s not like there was an existing business model out there for the services that I offer,” he says. “Everything was new to me and a lot of it was trial and error but fortunately most of the trials came out on top and there weren’t many errors.”
Drones for property marketing is certainly still a widely regarded but relatively untapped market. Jack only knows one other person who comes close to offering the same kind of services. However, according to Andrew, the industry is coming around to the benefits of an aerial view.
“We’ve certainly seen the rise in aerial footage being used for marketing purposes by property agents to effectively sell what were initially premium properties. A 360-degree view around the property is certainly more engaging and probably increases the number of enquiries the agent gets from prospective buyers,” Andrew explains.
Broadening Your Horizons
While a drone and good intentions could get you a long way, Jack and Andrew suggest you be able to offer more. Most estate agents will have been using their staff, or perhaps sub-contract a ground-based photographer, and so just being able to offer aerial images might be of limited interest. If you’re capable of delivering those same standard photos, as well as aerial videos and more for an affordable price, then your value goes up.
“My biggest piece of advice would be that once you’ve got your PfCO you get yourself trained up,” says Jack. “Become a domestic energy assessor, learn how to take internal photographs so when you go out and approach people you don’t get rejected, which is what I did initially.”
Jack says, he invested in a Panasonic Lumix G9 handheld camera for the groundwork and also learned how to create 3D models to compliment his drone skills. Eventually, it gave him Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and that’s a much more appealing prospect to any estate agents. According to Jack, it can even lead to non-aerial work which can be handy to keep the money rolling during bad weather and quiet market.
“Don’t rest on your laurels thinking you can make money just by buying a drone,” says Jack. “If you want to make money photographing houses you need to be able to offer all of the services that they want.”
You don’t need to be able to do everything Jack does. But, every box you can tick puts you one more step ahead of your potential competitors.
DJI Mavic Air, Jack’s first drone, might be good enough for a website or social media. For high-quality content, he recommends something a little bigger. He first moved to a DJI Inspire 2. “It’s an awesome drone and takes fantastic photos,” Jack says. However, as DJI Inspire 2 attracted so much attention, Jack changed his weapon of choice to DJI Mavic 2 Pro.
According to Jack, DJI Mavic 2 Pro is not only stealthier but also has better flight times and image quality. Its mighty 20MP Hasselblad camera is great in low light and delivers great video quality to boot. The only thing missing for him was a zoom function, and so, when he found a need for it, he invested in a Mavic 2 Zoom as well.
For the basic set-up you’d need to cover the basic requirements of your everyday estate agent, Jack says “you need a drone, a half-decent camera like the GH5, a gimbal such as a Ronin SC and a couple of flash units with a flash sync on it,” plus perhaps a microphone if you want to add soundbites from the agents. He adds that you can go “a bit mad with it” by adding a couple of extra handheld cameras plus some additional lenses like him for greater flexibility.
Embrace the Software
It’s also important that you’re not afraid to invest time and effort in making the most of the software available to you. For example, Adobe collection of Lightroom, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects and Illustrator. You don’t need to master all of them, but being able to turn good footage into a great marketing tool takes more than a little skill.
“That’s the thing that I think people under-estimate and it can make or break you,” says Jack. “You can be a fantastic drone pilot. But, if your footage is accompanied by poor graphics or poor overlays then it’s going to look amateur-ish like it was done in a kids’ bedroom, and not done professionally.”
He describes it as a “rabbit warren” where he’s constantly learning new stuff and improving from one week to the next. According to Jack, he has reached a point where he admits that videos submitted back in February now look poor in comparison to his latest work.
Getting a decent grasp on the software can also open up wider business opportunities. For example, Jack says that he can also produce animations and motion graphics which can make his property videos look amazing and also led him to projects in other fields. Best of all, such skills are not reliant on the weather, or for the inevitable downturn in the property market.
“I just say ‘yes’ to everything because you don’t know where it’s going to lead,” Jack tells us. “Whether it’s tomorrow, next week or even in a year or two years, it can always come back around to you a lot more than just that initial money in the bank.”
Although we don’t want to give away all of Jack’s secrets before the course itself in December, one tip that was shared was about being careful when it comes to expanding your client list. After all, your USP becomes a little less unique if you’re offering the same service to every estate agent in town.
Jack admits that he has a gentleman’s agreement in place to remain exclusive to his main Coventry-based client and has only expanded his reach into other neighbouring towns that don’t cross into the same territories. It leaves each client with a recognised and still unique way of marketing their properties while maintaining Jack’s value to them. The only downside is that you’re unlikely to get as much credit for your success as you may well deserve.
“I know full well that what I’m doing for them helps them win listings of houses and then selling them. There’s no doubt about it. A house was on the market with another estate agent and wasn’t sold. We’ve come in and I’ve done my bit and it sold… So I know in my head that what I do helps them out.”
What’s On The Property Course?
If you’re interested in following in Jack’s footsteps, our course on 17 December will encompass all that he’s learned. It covers marketing, pricing advice, hardware recommendation, plus a detailed look at the software required to make your work stand out. As Jack explains, “a lot of people on the course will have a drone, probably have a ground-based camera and most likely have a gimbal, so they know what to do; it’s more about building on that and jumping into the software.”
It’s something that Jack himself wishes was around when he first started. Although his PfCO got him off the ground, building up the skills he needed to succeed in property photography has taken “months and months” of time and effort trawling through YouTube videos and online searches. “It wasn’t difficult to learn but it would have been a lot easier if it was all in one place – and that’s what the course will entail. It’s the who, what, where, why and how questions!”
Speaking from a business development perspective, Andrew can certainly see the potential. “Everyone knows there’s a marketplace out there; many people think it’s sort-of saturated but I still don’t see that much aerial footage when I walk past estate agents. There’s an opportunity for either individual providing services to those property agents, or alternatively the property agents themselves, with the ability to take photographs and video from the air.”
Unsurprisingly Jack agrees. “There’s certainly scope out there to do it and, as I found out, it can lead to other things… It’s always been a solid market to be into. Whether you’re building them, fixing them, drawing them or filming them, houses and land will always be gold!”
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