How to make money with FPV drones

First; this article is not a “blueprint” on how you will make money with FPV drones. This is my story on how I got my first FPV gigs, in addition to some tips and tricks that could make it happen faster for you.

I’ve been building and flying FPV drones since 2013. During the first six years it was only a hobby for me where I enjoyed flying the quadcopter while trying crazier stunts for each week that passed.

A endless circle of crashing and rebuilding. It was a hobby that satisfied both the nerdy side of me and the satisfaction of getting out in nature.

On the film set for Wardruna song “Kvitravn”.
Content: How to make money with FPV drones
Intro
1: The Early Days
2: GoPro 6 and Reelsteady changed everything
3: The snowball started to roll
My best tips on making money with FPV drones
4: Social Media
5: Tell people what you do
6: Reach out to businesses
7: Reach out to people with a following
8: Stock Agencies
9: Free work
Making the deal
10: People Haggling
11: How to price yourself
12: Agree on the formal upfront
Other
13: Metadata in your FPV videos
14: Make a living of flying FPV drones

The early days

In the early days of FPV, the footage you got from the GoPro was shaky. Getting paid for that kind of footage was unlikely. All kinds of techniques was tried to reduce the vibrations and jello, but the technology wasn’t there just yet.

Once I tried to mount the GoPro camera to a plate that was attached to the frame with four wires in tension, making the camera “hover” above the frame. It was supposed to remove the jello according to a blog post I read online.

After waiting for weeks for the parts I ordered from Hobbyking. I assembled it all together, just to find out that it didn’t work well at all. The frustration was real…

First video: My FPV footage in 2015.
Second video: My FPV footage in 2019.

Gopro 6 and Reelsteady changed everything

In 2017 when the Gopro 6 was released and Reelsteady came out, everything changed. The until then shaky and useless Gopro footage you got from FPV drones was history. Now it was possible to use the footage for something more than just posting on YouTube or Instagram for other FPV nerds to watch.

In fact, I still use GoPro 6 until this day as it create awesome footage!

In late 2017 I had my first paid FPV job. It all happened by chance. I was out filming some friends while we were waterskiing. Another group of people were also waterskiing in the area. The father of one of the girls noticed my FPV drone flying around. He asked if I could film his kids water skiing.

The father was so impressed by the footage that he offered me hundred bucks for the footage. Making money doing something you enjoy, well, that was awesome! It gave me motivation to start reaching out to people and post more footage on social media like Instagram and TikTok to get paid jobs.

The snowball started to roll

It was not before mid 2018 I started to get real FPV gigs regularly as my Instagram account was growing from the FPV shots I did around Norway. A production company in Trondheim started using me regularly for music video production. Then I had a post go super-viral on Instagram some time in the fall of 2018.

Since then I’ve done FPV gigs all over Norway and a few countries abroad.

I’ve done music videos, documentaries, film and advertising. I’ve worked with small businesses, hotels and resorts and big production companies in Hollywood. I’ve made content for tour companies for social media.

My best tips on making money with FPV drones

Here are my list of tips on how you can start making money with FPV drones.

Social media

A famous rock formation where I live. This was advertising for a tour company.

For me it was social media that got me the first FPV gigs. It´ was no fancy portfolio website showcasing what kind of filming I could do.

It was getting out there, film some cool stuff, and publish it on YouTube, Instagram or TikTok. Once in a while my content would get a lot of views that resulted in requests coming my way.

Like the video I made from the Pulpit Rock in Norway May 2020. It went semi-viral. A few days later the manager in Ragnarok Film contacted me about a music video for the band Wardruna. He had seen my clip on Instagram. We had a conversation, and a few months later I traveled all over Norway to get the footage they needed. In October the same year the music video was published.

Filming Pilotviking with 850k followers at the Pulpit Rock in Norway.

Tell people what you do

Yes. As simple as that. When you meet new people. Tell them about FPV drones and show them some of your footage. You never know what people do for a living, who they might know or what they have going for them.

For example. I do real estate photography a few times a week. I always tell the homeowner about FPV drones and show them some my footage (of course, only if they respond to it). Sometimes the homeowner is a marketing manager at some company that is open to try out marketing with FPV drone footage.

Like when I was filming a music video last winter the entire production company stayed at a hotel. The receptionist at the hotel noticed all my strange drones I was bringing in and out every day. I started to talk to her about the drones and show her some of the footage and the potential it has. Turned out she was the manager of the hotel. A month later I was back at this hotel making 4 video reels for the hotel.

  1. One that show the inside of the hotel.
  2. One that show the area around the hotel.
  3. One that show some of the hiking areas in the area.
  4. One that show the nature in the area.

They used the videos for their TVs in the reception, in the pool area and they used the video on their website. I also made 6 short reels they used on Facebook and Instagram for advertising.

Reach out to businesses

Make a list of businesses in your area that would be likely to use FPV footage.

For example. In my area there are many hotels that are located in beautiful surroundings with magnificent nature in every direction. Could you make a one minute video reel with FPV drone footage to showcase the local area of the hotel? Send it to the hotel and ask if they are interested in buying it. Tell them with their permission you could come to film more of the hotel as well for a little extra payment. Tell them you make tailor-made videos for TV screens, for websites and for social media platforms.

What other businesses could you contact? You have to do the research.

In my area there are hotels, several spa resorts, tour companies, private mountain guides, newspapers, festivals, amusement parks, aquariums ++. Find a way how FPV footage can relate to these companies for marketing purposes.

As your portfolio grows you can start to reach out to businesses in a bigger area. Before you know it you have a FPV gig at some fancy hotel on the top of some mountain for a weekend, hotel room and food included.

Reach out to people with a following

Celebrities, Instagrammers, people doing sports etc. Reach out to them to ask if you can film them. This might not be paid work, but filming people with a big following is free advertising for your own brand and skills. The moment you have a FPV shot that goes viral with a famous person you will get a lot of requests your way.

Instagrammers are usually not hard to ask out. They love to get cool footage of themselves as it benefit themselves as well. It’s a win-win.

Stock agencies

Make money with FPV drones with stock agencies.
Sale of FPV footage on Adobe Stock

A lazy way to make money with FPV drones is to register to all the stock agencies out there. The most popular stock agencies for video footage is Adobe Stock, Shutterstock and Pond5. There are also smaller stock sites like Bigstock, Istockphoto, Envato and many more.

If you live a place with beautiful nature – like I am so lucky to do – you could upload short FPV clips lasting between 10 to 30 seconds to different stock sites. You’ll need to add titles, description and keywords to every video to make them searchable.

You can sign up for stock agencies here:
Adobe Stock
Shutterstock
Pond5

I do most of my sales with Adobe Stock and Shutterstock.

Pros with this method
It’s very little effort and you don’t need to deal with people. Once you’ve uploaded a video it’s out there forever as potential money. There is no limit to how many times a clip can sell. In fact – the more it sells the higher it will rank – making it sell even more.

Cons with this method
You will not make a lot of buck per sale. Each sale I have on Adobe Stock is between 30 and 90 dollars. I have anything between 2 and 10 sales per month. That’s from around 90 total FPV clips I have uploaded of various landscapes and atmospheres around Norway.

Another con is that you do not control the price. Sometimes the stock agencies run price wars between each other where you end up selling footage for as little as a few bucks. On the other hand its passive money once the footage is published. If you have surplus footage on your hard drives not being used to anything, why not make some use of it?

Don’t be scared doing free work

Also called passion projects. Sometimes people will contact you that have a project they are burning for. Something they want to make just for the joy of creativity. But don’t have the funds to pay you much – or anything at all.

If I vibe with the person or I like the idea they are presenting – I always say yes if I have the oppertunity.

Why? These projects usually turns out really great – as time, money and budget are not pushing factors. These people invest the time and effort it takes into making something really special.

Watch out for people who haggle

At the same time. People who contact you – who have a long list of requirements, want this and that or talk with you for an eternity – just to drop the bomb with a shameless haggle, I would be careful with.

1 in 5 who contact me always pull the “we don’t have a big budget” card. Well, get a bigger budget then if you can afford the services you need to complete your project.

These people just want everything as cheap as possible. They don’t care about you or the effort you have put into learning your skills. People who haggle also have a tendency to find something to complain about when the work is done, just to ask for another price reduction. Some might drop paying you at all.

Usually I don’t go along with a price reduction or haggling, but sometimes it depends on the project and what kind of vibe I get from the person who haggle.

Usually I tell my price, and that is what I want. Nothing less. I set the price I do for a reason.

How to price yourself

It’s impossible for me to give you any exact number on what you should price yourself. That depends on the cost of living in your country, your skills, your portfolio and a lot of other factors. However, I can tell you a few things you should take into consideration.

What should the customer pay for?

  1. Your time and effort.
  2. Years of practising and learning FPV.
  3. The cost of getting to a location.
  4. If you need to risk your own gear to get the gig done, they should pay a premium for that.

Remember. When you have reached a skill level where people are starting to pay you for filming with FPV drones, you are already in the company of very few people. In Norway where I live, I only know a handful of people who can do what I do. When someone contact me I have the advantage of being in a niche. It’s not like someone can go into the shop next door to get the same product.

What I’m saying is; there is no reason to undersell yourself in this niche. It will only make you look unprofessional and insecure, and the people who want everything as cheap as possible are usually people you want to avoid anyways – especially in bigger projects where you have to invest several days or involves traveling somewhere.

Ask for a price upfront
If big production companies contact you it might be smart to make them give you an offer. If its a company that have the budget and respect artists they will most likely come with a fair offer – they might even surprise you.

Ask them what their budget is and how much they are willing to spend. What can you do for the amount they are willing to spend?

Have all the formal ready upfront

Before you agree on a gig – especially bigger gigs or gigs that involves traveling – agree upon all the formal things and details upfront. There should be no room for misunderstandings.

Always have a project contract and shoot list to avoid misunderstandings

For example. Recently I did a gig for a production company based in Los Angeles that involved me traveling to Lofoten Island in Northern Norway. They needed very specific shots for their project that involved long range flying, more artsy abstract nature shots and shots with very specific movements.

First conversation
During our first conversation we had a chat about what kind of footage they needed where I gave feedback on what was possible to do and not to do. I also gave them several ideas on where in Norway this could be filmed – where we agreed on Lofoten Islands. Then we talked about the budget where I gave them an opportunity to come with an offer. Then I told them what would be possible within their budget range.

One of the long range flights during my gig in Lofoten Islands.

We also talked about more general risks like unstable weather conditions which is common during wintertime in Northern Norway. What would we do if the weather was bad all week I was there? Would they be willing to pay me extra as I waited for the weather to improve? If not, were they willing to pay the original price without getting anything? If they were not prepared for that I would not do the gig as I don’t want to risk losing money because of bad weather – something that is out of my control.

Before our second conversation, they sent me a shot list of landscapes, moods and movements they needed. We also signed a project contract, they paid for my flight ticket and paid half of the agreed price upfront. I always take some extra precautions with companies abroad as its very hard to send a debt collection claim between different countries. Anyone who is professional understands that and will agree upon such conditions.

Second conversation
The second conversation was about more details around the shots they needed. I told them what shots would be possible to do with one hundred percent certainty, what shots would be weather dependent and what shots would be risky. But as they paid a premium rate I had no issues risking my gear for them.

We agreed upon a plan. Two weeks later when we got a window with decent weather. I jumped on a flight to Lofoten Islands. Everything went according to plan and they were super happy with the result even tho I didn’t get all the footage in the shot list as the wind conditions did not allow it. But we had talked about such scenarios and they were prepared for that.

One of the shot lists during my trip to Lofoten Islands.

Metadata in your FPV videos

Tags in one of my videos

When you start posting videos to YouTube or Tiktok, be mindful on how you use titles, descriptions and other metadata. Think about what people might search for. If someone wants to watch long range FPV videos, do they search for “long range FPV” or “chill flight during a sunset?”.

Always use descriptive titles about what is happening and where you are. In your tags you should always include what locations you are flying, what kind of style and maybe some more random keywords that are not used to often.

A lot of people have contacted me after they’ve watched my videos on YouTube. If you search for “FPV Norway” my video is one of the first in the search result. I also write early in the video description that I’m living in Norway.

FPV work in Liberia in West-Africa.

Make a living of flying FPV drones

So how could you make a living of flying FPV drones? I don’t really have the answer to that, but if you follow some of the tips in this guide you will be on the right course.

For me FPV work is something I like to do once in a while. I see it as something extra. An opportunity to get away, film at cool locations and meet new people. If I did this full-time I think some of the passion would disappear away pretty fast. It’s also a niche with a limited marked unless you are willing to travel a lot.

The question you should ask yourself is. How much are you willing to invest?

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