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USA What is a reasonable fee structure?

Discussion in 'Certified UAV Pilots' started by Quadpilot, Aug 16, 2015.

  1. Quadpilot

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    Some of you have been doing this for a while, either with or without a 333 exemption. I would like to hear from you on a reasonable and sustainable fee structure that you quote your clients for commercial work. I would like to price my work based on my skill level and experience without either pricing myself out of the market or unreasonably/unfairly under-cutting the fees that other commercial operators in my area/field are currently getting. Obviously, experience and skill level for a new operator has to be taken into account (most of my career has been spent flying heavy metal) and though I have not yet started to market my services while waiting for 333 approval, I do have the flying and photography/videography/editing skills to be confident in providing a professional product.

    Is your fee structure based on hourly/daily rates? Are you segmenting services to provide for raw footage, edited rough cut, or final production, or do you just quote a finished project, based on your client's needs? Do you differentiate fees between project types (real estate, agriculture, infrastructure inspection), or is your fee the same, based on project time to completion?

    I'm not asking anyone to reveal a proprietary business plan, or to seek to sniff out my competitor's pricing in order to undercut them. I've experienced the latter, to everyone's detriment, in the still photography field, and I hope that this won't happen with commercial UAVs. I find that there is a lack of data on this subject and just want to open this for discussion. Thanks for sharing your insights.
     
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  2. Guy Garcia

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    I have the same questions you have, Please someone reply. What started like a Hobby might be a good extra money.
     
  3. huppe

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    I have 2 options for customers.
    1: just delivering my raw material and let the editing for there own staff.Much companies have there own commercial staff.
    2: doing it all on my own and let them pay by the minute as long as an film takes.Example 3 minutes movie takes 3x 100,00
    I don't like to spend too much time on the editing stuff,because I like the flying more.
     
  4. lake_flyer

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    Mighty interesting topic. But I really need a little time to think about my contribution. I'm in the process of getting the paperwork done (Ops manual), I have my RPAS certificate and I am writing my businessplan, which also has an impact on the Ops manual.
    I'm still trying to narrow down on the zillion ideas I have. And today I got some more, after talking to a (possible) investor.

    But the pricing question is the hardest one and we should try to suggest a couple of very rough ballpark ideas for flying minutes or pilot hours, price per foto or minute RAW video, price per minute processed/edited. But then there's also flight preparation (always), safety (always), location/environment: like charging more for flying over (sea)water for instance.

    Some kind of very rough ballpark, that's what we need. Or at least a kind of baseline that we share opinions about, what could be the minimum a professional, commercial operation should be daring to ask?
    There are a lot of different kind of operations possible and they all have a different cost price.
    The selling price it is entirely up to each individually of course.
     
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  5. lake_flyer

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    On the other hand.....
    This is a public forum. Anyone can stumble over our posts including our prospects.

    Hmm, got me thinking. Can't do.
     
  6. The Editor

    The Editor Moderator
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    There are many ways at looking at how best to price up a job and put together a fee structure.
    At the end of the day, there will always be non certified individuals/companies that will be able to undercut you because they do not have the associated costs you have in simply 'staying legal'
    I will not go into a 'fee structure' but there are a few things you should consider over and above the 'How long do you want the video and do you want it edited etc'
    Some to consider are (in no particular order):
    • Length and complexity of risk assessment
    • Flight/Mission planning time or lead in (do you need prior permissions from local authorities/ATC)
    • Whether 'top up' liability over your standard cover is required
    • Mileage to/from shoot
    • Accommodation/Sustenance if overnight/2 day shoot
    • Risk loading for 'Higher Risk' locations
    • Weather delays
    • Deposit percentage and terms (refundable or not)
    I'm sure more will spring to mind but if you do some 'Dummy Scenarios' and then plan them and cost them you will get an idea.
    Additionally, take a look at some of the established websites set up and some (but not all) will list their tarrifs/fees. (Hint....take a look at some UK based CAA approved companies who DO quote fees and then convert into US$ ;)) Some are hourly and some quote day rates or part thereof. Most will not post rates since every single job is different.
    Personally I do not quote rates until I am able to fully cost out everything - this is why it is so important to get ALL information from the client together with a location Long and Lat reference accurate to 10meters!
    I hate surprises.....:mad:
     
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  7. World Media

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    One thing we always factor in is purpose and end use licence. if its a car shot for your local used car lot the value is VERY different to the same shot used for Ford's next national advertising campaign.
    we are always very careful about stipulating what usage is covered in the licence we grant for the use of footage we film.
    We always retain ownership of the footage we film.
     
  8. Steven Powter

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    i have been doing realestate for over a year now... i have a minimum charge of $250 no matter what... $600 for a full video inside and out around 2 min long...(fully edited) and adjust the price for anything in between ...
     
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  9. lake_flyer

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    I have been typing a similar reply last night and after reading it again I erased it.
    I'm glad I did. You have a much better way of saying all this.
    Very helpful.
     
  10. Carlsberg

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    Steven, you left out the most important part, "where" are you doing real estate?
    I live the Midwest and the realtors are cheap out here, even on 1 mil properties.
     
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  11. Nick DroneBase

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    we are try to standardize this nationally over at DroneBase, specifically on single location, simple property locations. If you go to our site, you can see pricing. Obviously, price goes up based on complexity of job, hours needed. We pass on ~ 80% of the revenue to the pilot on all jobs. Example, a single property we charge $399, and a pilot makes about ~ $320 or so. The pilots do not have to do any post production or video editing. We handle that in house... thus the price point makes sense for most of our pilots since the editing takes the most time.

    http://www.dronebase.com/
     
  12. Walksalot

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    I am doing a real estate job for a TV producer on his house, and I asked him about "The going Rate".
    As The Editor and others have pointed out, lots of variables. However in his world, the TV producer, a ground camera operator with HD equipment can hire out for $900/day. Editors more or less the same.
    What can your market bear is one of the questions. $375 - $460 for me in real estate.
     
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  13. Hercules_One

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    As a newcomer in the market (southamerica) this is very interesting information. Although my experience is that is really hard to get into the aerial market, either there are so many cheap industries, real state, construction industries, etc., or I haven't been able to market myself enough, or simply I don't know how promote myself.
    Also is a little bit overwhelming the number of things you have into account for your work, it seems very professional, too much to learn here, thanks!
     
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  14. jonathan Atkin

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    Pricing photography, videography, or any creative work has several components that are integral. And these basics have long been discussed within the forums of APA and ASMP and other professional associations. "Standardized" fees are a slippery slope and in my view smacks of price fixing and collusion.

    First, as a businessman, whether you're a drone photographer or plumber fixing leaking faucets, you must know your own daily or monthly or yearly expenses including: your fixed costs, promotional costs, insurance, capital investment, and essentially every dime that goes out the door plus your peanut butter & jelly sandwiches you have for dinner and the bowl of Purina for your dog. Then you need to know what kind of income per job you need to sustain your expenses and life style. That evaluation is primary.

    Any job one undertakes in the creative production arena is similar whether you shoot from a drone, or cameras on your neck or you hire a production team. And whether you are a freelance or the dreaded work for hire.

    There are in every job I produce four major components:

    a.) pre-production costs. (consulting, permissions, pre-shoot prep, sending info to client etc, location scouting
    b.) shoot & production costs, (transport, assistants or none, lunch, gear rental, insurance,drone use costs. (this is not like having a Canon or Nikon around your neck. This is heavy duty cost plus piloting,and often a camera operator and spotter.
    c.) Creative fee/usage licensing..the current business model that is NOT piecemeal work..tho some real estate stuff sounds like its just that.
    d.) Post Production costs: Deliverables...whether B roll or a full blown vid editing with music...you have costs associated with same and must be spelled out.

    Someone raised an issue re: day rate, hourly rate etc. Day rates, hourly rates are so last century. It is not a sustainable model and clients who think in terms of hourly rates are low balling and you may as well hire a high school student to fly a Phantom for them.

    You rarely can take a 2nd job in a day, so 1/2 day thinking is out the window, unless the shoot is sunrise and leaves you 14 add'l hours in the day. Its a total project. With due diligence knowing your clients pay history and your understanding of their needs. And hopefully they value what you bring to the table as well. The quality of your deliverables and the knowledge you bring to solving their media needs and why they are enlisting your work and not someone else. While Drontebase suggests "standardized" fees, I reject that kind of thinking except for some very limited applications. Another respondent mentioned he simply gives the footage to the client and their in-house team does the editing.that's fine...many videographers simply produce "B ROLL" footage and hand the hard drive over to the client. Fees for simple "B" roll have been anywhere from $1500 and up plus out of pocket expenses, gear rental etc for a job, without pre-production or post considerations.

    One of the discussions I hear all the time is that drone photography saves a lot of $$ from manned helicopters. That's true, but a drone is NOT a substitute of manned helicopters. It is not a cheap alternative. It is a different kind of aerial platform that comes with the same expertise, and creative capability from any other platform whether you rent a cherry picker or a Twin Star Helicopter.

    My 2 cents.

    Jonathan Atkin
    www.shipshooter.com
    NYC
     
  15. bluethundr

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    I have seen 250 per hour for non edited photos. That would been as many as it takes to get the job done.
    I have also seen 350 for 10 to 15 shots. No time limit, but usually done in 15 to 30 minutes. Editing would be more obviously. If i were starting my own, I would follow drone base prices. They are reasonable and I think that is what the market is at currently.
     
    #15 bluethundr, Aug 24, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2015
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  16. jonathan Atkin

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    The low ball hourly fees that seem to be swirling are just that and there is a market for folks who want that kind of work. I'm not mad at anyone grabbing at it.

    However, I reiterate: Photographing with a drone is merely a photo platform, no different (other than increased costs of risk, insurance, certification and other associated parts and pieces.)

    The cost of doing business must take into account all the production details, whether an hour at a Caldwell Banker featured home in a suburb 15 minutes from where you live or a production involving a camera operator, spotter, a 4 hour drive and post production of a slam dunk video with music. Whether on the ground or in the air, the risks, the liabilities, the costs of pre-planning and post production, the usage licenses (if that's part of your business model), and your creative fees need to be ruthlessly examined as well as understanding first & foremost your client's needs. This is no different than any other well thought out business. Its ultimately about building relationships with your clients and being totally familiar with their needs, their budgets & expectations and your expected fees. If you simply want to use your drone in the way that "grip and grin" photographers go to an event, shoot for an hour and leave..that's what it is. And I'm sure there is plenty of opportunity to do that.

    However, if you are producing stellar images and videos that make people go: WOW. That's not something that happens by throwing your quadcopter in your back seat and driving at a moment's notice to fulfill a low ball real estate agent's need for a quick photo.

    Again, my 2 cents.

    Jonathan Atkin
    NYC
    (Seeing the bigger picture.)
     
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  17. Dave Stanton

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    WOW, tons of great responses. Here's how we work. We don't charge for flying. My boss evaluates the job and if he's sure we will need aerials, he just builds it into the quote. We don't itemize because we've had clients trying to low-ball us with other (less qualified, skilled and reputable so-called video production companies). I always get permission to fly wherever I go but if someone just walks up out of the blue and asked me what I'm doing, I tell them, "Oh just flying for fun/practice. I have permission from...". That way if they still have some problem with us (I've mentioned before I'm in Texas with a lot of crazies!!!) they can't report me for being a "commercial" operator. If they did and it became a big stink, I'd stick to the fun story and we wouldn't use the footage (and we'd notify the client of course). If someone asks if it's my QC I say no, belongs with a colleague of mine...no lie there, my boss paid for it! If anyone ever does ask us for just aerial video or photos, well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
     
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  18. Bryan Conover

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    Craigslist is going to delegate pricing. 90% of the consumers out there haven't a clue who to hire. They are drawn to presented images (most of which are stolen)...and price...The guy with Phantom 3 Pro, decent skills and willingness to accept $50 a hour is going to own the playing field. Craigslist is proof positive.
     
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  19. sturgisphoto

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    This discussion is the very same that wedding photographers have been having for 20 years. For every highly skilled professional wedding photographer out there, there are 50 "housewives with cameras". Now, nearly every family has a cousin with a decent camera. Why spend $3,500 on a real photographer when cousin Bart will give you 2,000 jpgs for $200.00? I see the same thing with drones. Your local real estate guy could care less if his video was shot with a Black Magic Cinema camera....or a GoPro. He just wants it cheap.
     
  20. Fdnyfish

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    I have done some work for drone base , and they have been great
     
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