How much should I charge?

9 01 2009

So you get a phone call, and a client is asking you if you can do a aerial photo shoot of a property.  Simple enough; something you’ve done  hundreds times.  But then the dreaded question comes – how much do you charge?  Alas, that is the question!

Often people in all different lines of business must make this sometimes awful decision.  How much is your work and time worth?  And just as important, how much does your competition charge?

There are a number of variables to consider, and tasks you must do before you answer your client’s question.  First, do your research of your competition.  Call them, ask for a qoute on a shoot, or check their website.  If you are competing against full scale operators, they likely are charging  just to show up! Costs for the actual photos or other deliverables are typically extra.  Second, determine what your time is worth.  This is a more complicated task than you might think.  For one, you have associated costs and liabilities you must consider.  Is it worth doing this shoot if you end up with a total loss on your machine?  You also want to consider how much you are willing to discount your services based on the competition – if at all.  Every market is different, and every client is different.

So you know what your competition charges, and you’ve decided what amount you should charge for doing this job.  Answering that question is now easy.  You know your product is superior, you know you can beat the competition’s prices (because now you know what they are!)

Of course there are still some unknowns you must deal with as well.  For one, your competition may not be able to deliver the same kind of shots that you can.   In that case, you really need to consider the price of uniqueness and (un)attainability of what you can deliver.  Can your competition deliver a spherical panorama over a property, or at a intersection?  Probably not!  Adjust your price accordingly.  Remember, pricing yourself too low may even make that client think you deliver something cheap or sub-par to your competition!


Common startup business failures…

7 01 2009

You might ask yourself, what does this have to do with Chopperpix? Well, it has everything to do with it! Just like any other business that started with the idea of “what if?” Chopperpix has had it’s ups and downs as well. Ever since the idea of Chopperpix was dreamed up, there have been struggles to keep it going. Here are a few of my experiences in the startup of this business. Be sure to read the follow up post where you’ll read a little about my personal experience in Chopperpix’s startup.

1. Aerial photography. Sounds interesting right? Sure, but it’s kind of plain – boring too. What any business needs to do is differentiate itself from the competition. Not just aerial photography, it’s low-level aerial photography, using low cost UAV helicopters! Now that sounds more interesting doesn’t it? As you get the grasp of where this lies in importance and the general business plan, you’ll understand why differentiation in a big pond is important.

2. The old saying is “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” All too true, isn’t it? I had my own issues with this saying when I first started Chopperpix. My first goal was to buy, buy and buy more “stuff.” But I had no plan. I didn’t have a business plan, plans for how the machines would operate, and plans to market. Guess how much money I made? Not much, and wasted a lot of time spinning my wheels. All too often in internet forums catering to aerial photography you will see this same scenario repeated over and over.

3. This may sound silly, but brochures and business cards are pretty much worthless for a startup. Focus your time with one-one contact with your potential clients. When you have your game down – REALLY down – then start with that.

4. Advertising in the phone book? No way. First of all it’s a dying medium. If you’ve got a website, focus on proliferating it everywhere you can. This is your best calling card and way to be found. Print media will soon be such a small segment of how we find one another, and your internet presence is much more important. Focus on search engine optimization. Here’s a great link on how to do that – here

5. The website. Should you go plunk down $1000 for a domain name and website right off the bat? I say no. There are websites out there that will help you get on your way to designing your own website, and you can buy domains for ~$15/year. It is best to build from the basics and as income allows, expand it. You wouldn’t want to drop that money only to give up and lose it down the road. I personally build my own websites. For me the answer was simple, but not for everyone.

6. You stopped marketing? This truly could be the biggest failure point of any start-up. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t keep marketing. Repetition is the key. Just like in real estate (my primary profession), you MUST keep your name or product out there in peoples faces or your competition will get your cut.

7. When you tried, nothing happened, so you didn’t try again? One of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill – Never, Never, Never give up. No one likes a quitter. Have I thought I’d quite my dream of Chopperpix? Actually no, but I did get discouraged. If you make a mistake in your start-up, try again, and again. If you give up, you may never know the success that you could have possibly been.

8. You figured what worked for that company will work for yours. But for some reason it doesn’t. Just like in my experience with Chopperpix, there are many business who’ve tried to replicate another’s business model and failed. Why? Because they took a long time to get things figured out too. And tweaked it. More importantly, if you can focus on diversifying your business into a slightly different niche, you could capitalize on the customers that your competition isn’t. If you can make that work, then focus on the goals your competition is focusing on, and then you’ll leave the start-up phase behind in better shape and more successful.

What’s the bottom line here? Starting a business can be one of the hardest things to do. Uncertainty, lack of structure, and lack of your “safety zone” can leave you scratching your head and perhaps giving up. No one knows what tomorrow brings. No one knows if you’ll be successful. If you give up, you’ll never know. If you fail you can say you tried. If you succeed, you’ll rejoice in the fruit of your labors, knowing you achieved something that relatively few ever do. Just don’t give up.

New camera platform..

6 01 2009

This spring will mark the start of a new era for Chopperpix. We have acquired a new photo/video helicopter that is immense in proportion to some of our other machines. Staying with the “green” theme, this new machine is capable of carrying cameras that are worthy of production TV/movie results. That’s a pretty exciting prospect! We’ve run machines in the past that were capable of heavy lifting as well, but the near vibration-free electric machines make all the difference!

I’ll be posting some “spy” shots in a few weeks, as well as some video snippets so you can see just how amazing this thing is! We hope to add additional machines of the same kind to the fleet this spring as well, so there will be a lot of testing going on at the “hangar”.

Green machine!

20 12 2008

Ok, so I’m not a tree hugger, but I do love the Earth we’ve been given. If you like your Prius or have a preorder in for a Chevy Volt, you’ll appreciate that all of Chopperpix’s helicopters are 100% electric powered. The best part of using electric powered machines is consistency, reliability, and quiet operations. Even on our largest machine, we can see flight times exceed 15 minutes per set of batteries. Switching out packs is a easy task and can be done within minutes and resume flight.

We’ve flown hundreds of flights in the past, and have never had a complaint about noise. We’ve even done flights in areas where people were around and didn’t even know that the machine was in the air! Talk about stealth!