Like everyone who starts out with their own business, especially for drone pilots, you want to do everything you can for every customer. It doesn’t matter on their request, you value your time at zero and think if you get that job, it will lead to many more drone aerial filming jobs. The saying “they are really big and could open up doors for us” comes up or “lets do a special deal for them if they promote us to other companies”.
If I had a pound for every time we experienced this and went through the same chat, we wouldn’t have needed to raise investment for our drone marketplace and would have been probably in a better position as a result. Don’t get me wrong, and my co-founder would happily admit it, that you do have to take chances and sometimes it really does work. However, if I was being honest, my co-founder, would have been right on several occasions when he said, leave it, its not worth the pain.
For me, I would say the signs to watch out for:
Very basic brief – The standard “we only need 1 shot” we have heard many times, but that one shot turns into 20 and then a full day and sometimes even 2 days, but you start off at a very low price for just 1 shot and then have to have the conversation where the price increases with the amount of shots suddenly required. We have learnt that 1 shot is a minimum of half a day so price it that way and if it turns out longer, it enters full day price territory.
Budget problems – This typically goes to “can we do a deal” or “if you can do this, I will use you for every shoot we do”, or even “I will tell everyone about you guys”, but we have heard it all before. You never gain anything by doing special deals for single customers unless there is concrete paperwork to back up the claims and even then, I would be hesitant. Of course, everyone is happy to offer discounts, that’s sales, but if it’s the case of either losing money or just having enough to cover costs, you have to ask whether it is worth it. Looking at it the opposite way, from experience the best customers that keep hiring your services time after time probably didn’t haggle the price the first time they hired you.
Sudden uncertainty right at the end – This can be a change of demand at the end, or a sudden stress of what they maybe getting for the money. This will typically be because one of the higher members of the company have put the results on their head, which ends up with several requirements, issues and a lot of phone calls and emails, and ultimately, questioning whether it is worth it for generally a low price, because you know they will scrutinise the work to see if they can get any costs back.
Paperwork requirements – On several occasions, we have spent ages to get a tonne of paperwork for big companies, who require it to prevent being fined. That I do understand, but on multiple occasions, we have worked with pilots to get all the paperwork carried out only for the customer to pull out, with no understanding of the amount of time and work that has already taken place, just because they have decided to change their mind. For us now, we will do this if a deposit has been made and any costs in sorting the paperwork out is taken from this. This at least that if the shoot is cancelled, your work is still paid for.
We are still learning and will continue to make mistakes like everyone, but we are getting better at spotting good and bad customers and making that call early doors. It is always your call to make, but never be afraid to say no to a customer, it might end up being the best call you make on some occasions.
As the market grows and new industries and customers adopt drone technology, it will be interesting to revisit this and see how it has changed. So watch this space and good luck……