How to price a drone job

 

img_2386-1This blog post could easily have the title why drone operators are worth the fee’s they ask or how to value yourself and your business.  It seems that because there are now thousands of operators in the UK being trained for a small amount of work that everyone is undercutting and you could say ‘oh that is market forces’ but let me explain why actually once you just undercut you are undermining a whole new industry. It is important to be competitive but also don’t sell yourself to the bottom rates.

I have been in business for over 15 years, even if I haven’t been running my own company, I have always had a sideline. I have learnt so much in that time one is to value the service I provide to others and they will value you too.   I am member of BECTU and there are minimum day rates issued for camera operators, make up artists and all different grades across all different types of activities TV, Film and advertising.  What is not included is drone operator / Drone companies.

Like other businesses we need to take into account the following and this is then how you work out how much your day rate should be.    What you shouldn’t be doing is finding out how much else someone is charging and thinking ‘I will do it for half or seventy five percent of that.’   You are not Ikea, Lidl or some other budget high street offer.   Those companies use economies of scale and market forces and lost leaders to get customers through the door, also it can be highlighted about how the exploit some suppliers. You can not do that as a drone operator offering lost leaders, you can only fly for so many days of the year and you can only fly once in a day unless you are so lucky you get jobs grouped together. You have paid a significant amount for your training, you have put hours in learning about the law, you have stood for hours flying to make yourself a skilled drone pilot.  You have paid CAA fees and you have paid for insurance and the drone and all the accessories.

It isn’t possible to do for a cheap rate and then start to increase it doesn’t work like that.

Here is my formula and how work out my day rate for all my work strands.

First of all the drone how much does that cost, say you plan to fly 10 professional jobs a year.  (Yes you may not fly as much as you are being told by NQE’s. ) so divide that drone by 10 . That is how much it costs you to fly it for the day.  Alternatively you could price based on hire prices with Heliguy 

Lets take the example on Heliguy’s hire prices it’s £245 per day for an Inspire 2. That is the basic set up you may have more than the basic set up i.e more batteries

Then are you charging travel or travel time? That will tend to be something that is down to yourself.  I tended to charge mileage but now a lot of my projects now only do fuel contribution and so for me to go to Peak district to Birmingham they give me £25 fuel allowance.  That is actually probably what fuel it actually takes you can use google to calculate the proper costs for the car / van you drive.

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What about planning a job? This now can take me anywhere between a couple of hours if standard flight planning and bespoke risk assessment (RA) as a new drone operator this may take you half a day. This is not the flight planning that the NQE’s teach this is more as you have to think about where you are taking off, and where you are landing in relation to your directors filming requirements.  Also you will find some production companies want a bespoke risk assessment for their insurance / H&S department. I have been writing these for years now but I did a very low risk drone job on the moors in April and I had to write documents taking a full day to complete.   You need to factor that time in. This is a difficult one as this I did not expect and it was because the company had strict H&S department it was time I had not allowed. Had I known the charge would have been higher.

Micro SD cards are you adding the price to the job, I have started to and then the client get’s to keep it.  I have had too many being stolen in the post.   For this example it would be £30 as I use very high speed cards. Unless data wrangling is taking place on set.

Insurance let’s say £1000 and divide that by 10 pro jobs you are hoping do in your first year.

Can you see how now you might be under charging?

 

Drone £245

Fuel £25

Micro SD card £30

Time Planning £75

Costs so far  £375   – this will vary for you may have different value drone/ drones.

The costs above for your day rate are not including any training, your skills you have learnt and need to value, drone spares, batteries and props, drone maintenance, training, website, office supplies, accountant fees, holiday fees.  Spare drone, what happens if you crash your one drone or for some reason it doesn’t fly do you have contingency as the shoot still needs to go ahead.  Unless it is due to weather or perhaps legal reasons you need to maintain your professional reputation or create a good reputation if you are starting out.

Not all drone companies are equal, there are people who have better drones who have been flying years, they fly bigger drones than you, they have different skill set and an perhaps and enhanced OSC (operating safety case).  All this is going to factor into the day rate.

Production companies do forget this about any freelancer there are costs the day rates are not plucked out of the air if you pardon the pun. Part of the responsibly of value comes down to you as well. Please don’t undervalue what you do, don’t undervalue what others are doing.

I hope this helps anyone pricing their jobs if that is a camera operator, film maker or creative.  It is very difficult when you perhaps don’t have actual physical raw materials that are then manufactured into a physical object to find the price point.

I bet if you sit and work out about your costs you will actually think my goodness I am selling my skills cheap!

Food for thought.  I am sure there are things that I haven’t mentioned.   I am sure you are now going to say but you can only get what the market will pay.  Yes but equally the cheaper you go the less all drone operators will be paid.

TV companies are being pushed more and more to produce more content for less money, so day rates are being squeezed in all sectors. I have a good understanding of this. I think equally people doing the hiring of freelancers need to also understand the costs involved in being a freelancer.

A production company contacted me earlier in the year they wanted a drone for the whole day in Leicester and had been given my details as a recommendation for the grand fee of £150.  Let’s put it in perspective a freelance TV runner is paid £125 to £150 per day.  I could have sent and email that explained all the above but my simple reply was “the fee you are offering is not reflecting the skills nor the equipment that I operate.” The day after I got a booking on the same day at my proper day rate.

This brings me to half day rates,  if you take that lower rate that half day what happens when a full booking comes in?  Do you commit to that cheaper booking or go for the full rate?  That is why a lot of freelancers are considered flakey and mess around production companies around.  I have a good reputation that once I commit to a day that might be as a film maker or white label drone operation for another company, I don’t let people down.

For those that say our budget is only £150 for a drone operator, I say well then you can’t afford a drone for your production then.   I would never say to a plumber I want a new bathroom can you do it for free or a very low rate it is good for your portfolio or for a good social media post.

You may choose to fly for your favourite charitable cause for free, I sometimes do things I want to, but  I tell those that are working for the charity what it would cost them so that they can value the skills you are giving them.

Please feel to write comments below on what you feel about day rates being driven lower, what I have missed out of this post.

Have a great day

The Drone Lass

 

 

 

 

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Evolve Filmmakers retreat

I have known for a while that I am heading to Switzerland in November to speak at Evolve Filmmakers retreat, I will be doing an introduction to using drones section. I am very excited. The aim of the retreat is increase your story telling skills and as well as increasing your confidence and also network with a wide variety of film makers from all over Europe and the UK.  Carrying on from yesterday’s blog post I think it is really important that you don’t hold yourself back, invest in your training as a freelancer is really important.

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My friend and colleague Emma Wilson has opened up two final places on her Evolve Videography Retreat in Switzerland – Two days of immersive learning and practical exercises and three nights of good food and great conversation in a five star spa hotel with like-minded female filmmakers, all expenses paid*

More reasons to book onto this FEMALE ONLY workshop, Evolve NOW:
1. BE INSPIRED and learn from an experienced and successful female wedding filmmaker and former BBC Trainer with guest appearances from Sharrone Califiore, Fiore Films and The Drone Lass (me)
2. THE CHANCE TO SHADOW Emma on a European destination wedding, expenses paid.
3. LEARN NOW, PAY LATER – payment available in instalments so you can BOOK now with a deposit and take advantage of this ‘once-a-year workshop’ and be ready for 2019
*Flights to Switzerland currently around £40.00 RTN

** this workshop is all about hands-on and fully immersive learning and only for those women ready to take their business to the next level

So feel free to share this blog post and link to Evolve Videography Training link 

I would recommend talking to Emma as she is very inspiring.

If you are thinking why female only please read this post 

Happy #filmmakerfriday and #femalefilmmakerfriday

Looking forward to meeting everyone in Switzerland.

The Drone Lass

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Sister Sister: All female groups, why?

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Photo by Joolze Dymond

Exciting news that I have been invited to speak at a female film makers retreat in Switzerland. Evolve Retreat  There has been a lot of discussion about why only female film makers?  Female drone pilots, female camera operators and female film makers are in a minority.

Myself and some fellow female drone pilots have started an all female drone pilot group called The UK drone collective.  If we ever post in any drone groups, we get a lot of negative reaction saying that we are segregating ourselves and that it is illegal but the equality act 2010.  The law stipulates we can as a disadvantaged group can have a group that is all female so we can access employment and training and it is called positive action.  I have seen a lot of comments on social media ‘Oh here is a woman she has no friends’ when a technical question was asked.  We have been called witches and bitches for having an all female group.  Along with lots of examples of when we could also join the #metoo loads of examples of touching and unwanted attention from men whilst we are trying to do our jobs.

I am in a number of female film maker groups and female camera operator groups and I find that most of it is down to confidence or lack of confidence from the women themselves.   My mantra only thing that is holding you back is you! Which can also be applied to your own work/ career.

I have been guilty of in the past going occasionally saying  “Oh I can’t do that”. However when I look at what I have done over the years, I think I have achieved a lot, there is still however a lot more I want to do and now I feel all that is holding be back aside from money is time. Time to fit it all in.  I used to work 15 hour days sometimes 7 days a week and realised I can’t keep up that momentum. Life has taught me,  the time we have is short why should I spend it working all the time. Yes I could earn more money but would I be happy? I was recently criticised for not being hungry enough.  I don’t see that as a bad thing. I have life balance now and I will work that 15 hour day if it’s required but I will also take time out to be with family and friends to feel inspired, motivated and most importantly rested.   How much could we achieve if we built each other and supported each other?

For anyone who has criticised me, you don’t know where I have been and what I have been through but having a family loss really made me evaluate everything. That brings me back to all female groups,  I can’t tell you what it is like to be another’s shoes.  I can tell you but unless you have experienced some of it then you can’t understand just empathise. Hence you will find women trying to build others up.

We need a mixed workforce for all of the male dominated professions you may find all female groups.  The idea of positive action is to increase the opportunities for a group that is under represented in that technical field.

I have always worked in predominately male environments IT, Telecoms, TV camera and now drones and I never felt the need for an all female group however recently I have felt the tide turn and I don’t know why that is?  I still find there are some very supportive groups of men but I have recently experienced bias and I will discuss that in another blog post at some point.

I feel I need to champion other women and encourage them to fly drones and operate cameras.   By providing opportunities for women to do this we can have more confident women in technical roles.   You will know from this blog, I will encourage anyone to fly a drone and get involved in the drone industry. I am supportive all those trying to break into TV but I am also not going to shy away from all female groups.

This question to all of you female and male what do you feel is holding you back?

 

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Photo by Joolze Dymond

The Drone Lass

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