How to become a professional FPV drone pilot?

by Jose

Hey, how’s it going. I hope that everyone’s safe. Everyone’s doing well. Obviously, given the situation’s, I haven’t, been able to go out and fly that much have been actually stock of my apartment for about almost two months now and yeah.

So I felt like I wanted to share with you something else something I’ve been meaning to share for a long time, because I see a lot of questions from a lot of people going coming and I kind of wanted to approach it, which Is how to become a professional fpv pilot, and I’m gonna speak mostly about the cinematic, not the racing aspect or just the YouTube side of things.

Just going to shoots and stuff like that. Over the last year, three and a half cinematic FPV has been everywhere has been in music videos, commercials, TV series, travel, videos, live events and even cinema it’s, been in so many places you might be considering it as a potential career.

Whether you started flying yet or not, and I’ve – been doing this for about a year and a half from the professional fpv pilot and I go on shoots all across the world. I’ve worked for some of my favourite brands like GoPro redbull, and a lot of like different car brands, also like them, CDs and yeah.

I’ve, been I &. # 39 ve been all over the world right now to like shoot for a lot of different things and different types of budgets and different types of artists as well. I’ve, been doing music videos and before that I had six years of experience as a creative in advertising.

So I thought I could share with you some of waffling along the journey. We’re, going to be looking at four different things. Today, we’re, going to be looking at before. You start what you should think about what you should consider then onset.

What’s? The attitude that you need to have is there some kind of mindset that you need to be on. The third part is going to be the art of the deal, so we’re, going to be looking at money. We’re, going to be looking at how to negotiate things and the kind of day rate that you can potentially ask as an fpv pilot and the last but not least, part is what it’s like in the day to day Life of an fpv pilot that’s, doing this for a living.

Alright, let’s go so before you start it as your job. The first thing that you need to consider is why you want it to become a career, and there’s. No easy answer for that, because there’s, a lot of illusions about this type of job.

If you’re really flying, you might think that you’re, going to have all the time in the world to just fly all the time and think about it, which is not necessarily true. We all see it later and if you’re, not flying already and you see as a potential cash-grab it, you’re, just gonna be frustrated because it takes at least one year of just flying as a hobby.

Before you can even get started, that’s all so that’s. The very first thing. The second thing that you’re going to be looking at, is how so my biggest advice for people is don’t quit your day, job just to start a professional fpv career.

You need to do it gradually. You need to do it at the same time as you have a clear revenue, because in the beginning you probably not going to get gigs every day and if you do it that way, you’re gonna end up broke very fast.

So my best advice for that is to start doing it over the weekend or like take some days off to actually just start doing this type of work. Another part that you need to look at wherever you are in the world there’s.

Some structure that you need to have, probably you need you’re, going to need to have it self-employed business. You’re, going to need to have some type of license and type of drone license. Then you don’t need to prepare some.

As you can see. I’ve, got a bunch of gear behind me and believe it or not. Everything is being used at pretty much fall times. So this is something that you really want to have is maybe tier 3 rigs that always ready just to fly for those types of jobs.

So it’s, a it’s a little bit of an investment at first. You need three cameras, three, probably three GoPros and then you need three drones. I’d, say at least personally when I go on a gig, I bring at least two sinner whoops, those those ones over there and then three five-inch drones, at least so.

This is something that you need to really consider. So you ‘ Ve got everything in order. You’ve got your license. You’ve, got your gear ready. What now? What is gonna happen now is that you ‘

Re gonna have to find clients, and they’re different ways to find clients. The first one is just to do some core calls, which is that you send emails to people and you just contact that try to contact them on social media or like different people that you may know around you in your personal network, so that’S one way of doing things: it’s, usually a lot of effort, and it’s, not necessarily going to bring your lovely wife, because you I mean people don’t know you, so they need to see some kind Of thing that you that you can do before that, so my best advice for this is to work really hard on personal projects, stuff that matters to you stuff, that you can have full creative vision in full creative impact on what you’re.

Doing and that’s, the best way to me to getting jobs is just putting out some great great content out there. If you do that, people are gonna call you that’s, just that’s. Just another thing that you can look into is partnering up with a more classic drum company, that’s flying usually inspires or Mavericks or like the mitrice, for example, like big drones, and they might be right now looking for fpv pilots and they’ll be very happy to partner up with you and send clients your way as long as they can use it as their footage and manage the whole project themselves.

It’s, an addition to their offer and it’s. Just a great way to work with different companies and get new clients. I’ve, been doing it for about a year now and it’s. Been it’s been helpful, so you got your first client.

Everything is set for you to go in a few days to a lock, a location. What are you going to do now? The first thing that you want to do and that have found super helpful – is to have a go bag. I have a bag that’s just what year it’s you and in this bag.

I have everything and might need onset, which means I have some spare parts. I have a charger that’s, not the charger that I use. Usually I’ve, got a spare radios pair goggles spare everything, and that way, when I’m on sets, I can just I mean when I have to go there on a gig.

I can just take this bag and know that I ‘ Ve got everything I’m gonna need this by I never unpack it. It’s, always ready to go that way, so that’s, a really helpful thing that that you need to do to help out with your anxiety of going.

You prepare really well. You bring at least enough to fix the whole quarter to build a new from scratch. You need to have a soldering iron. You need to have pretty much everything and to me what has been working as well as to have a little ritual before go so I packed my bag in a certain way.

I pack it at a certain time. Things like this that helped me get in the mood to kind of just go there. Then you take the plane this there’s, lots of videos of taking the plane with fpv drones. Basically, as long as you’ve got less than 20 batteries and that you put them in a little pouch for each one.

It’s, going to be fun, and then you arrive on set. What do you do on set when you’re right for the job? The first thing that you want to do is to identify everyone that is going to be working with you, so you need to know who the director is, who the producer is? Who is the director of photography? Who are the extras, the talents, their riggers, the everyone like that, the light guys, the everyone you need to know what they’re doing, because it might come in handy at some point.

The other thing that the second thing that you do once you know that who’s, everyone is to speak to your director. You take some time before the shoot. Usually you arrived a day early. I see you have time to speak to him or her, and you can just discuss exactly what they want.

I usually go and try to understand the film prior to coming on set, and that way I can also kind of offer different types of shots or like plan a little bit a day on the next day, for example, and you, you really need to understand what They want what they looking for to bring it to life pacing.

Is it’s your job, once you’ve done that you need to understand something which is to me 30 percent of the job, which is that you have to understand a year Archy of the set, so each team and depending on The size of the team is going to be different, but what you, the main thing you need to know is that the director is your boss and whatever he says you do it as long as it’s safe.

Obviously, but you have to you here to please one person or maybe two which are the director and the director photography, these two people are the ones that need to be happy, so communicate well with them.

If they ask you for something, if it’s safe, you have to do it. Even if you don’t agree with the way the shot is going to look or something you do it. And if you disagree, you can offer to do something else.

After, but first you have to cater their needs because they’re. The ones that brought you here they’re. The reason why you can you can make a living out of this, so you have to make sure to make them happy one of the first things that’s very important is the attitude you have to be perfect in terms of attitude.

That’s, one of the most important things, because people don’t work with they just like to work with people that are nice and if no matter how talented you are. If you’re, a piece of you’re, not gonna get that many jobs.

So the first thing in the attitude is that you have to be always ready. Your gear has to be set somewhere with a battery on top and everything that can be done in 30 seconds. If up you’re in there, that’s.

It because things happen really fast on sets and you don’t want it to be the gun you don’t want to be the guy that’s, making it everyone wait for ten minutes cause. You forgot your battery or that you don ‘

T know why your is not starting. So first thing you do you arrive on set you test everything you do a little hover test. You see. If you can see in the video, you can kind of have everything say even spare all that, so that you know that you won’t take some time when you get finally asked to do something.

Also, you have to communicate really well. That means that you go into the toilet, you let someone know about it, not the director, because he’s busy doing something, but probably like one of the producers or one of the assistants.

You go anywhere for more than 30 seconds and you out of sight you let someone know about it, simple. As that you you just communicate to people. You don’t, be afraid to ask when you’re, going to be able to shoot, like I mean most of the times, that I go to an assistant and ask like okay, so we’re doing this shot right Now, how many shots do we have before mine so that I know that I’ve got a certain time to prepare to do whatever I have to do.

If I need to do some tests or something one of the other, things is try to make everything easier for everyone. That means that if you have to carry a heavy table at some point, I’ll just help someone out so that it goes faster.

You do it like. If you have to clean up something that’s, not your mess! You you do it because it helps everyone. Everyone’s here for the same job and the more time you have the more you might have time to get some cool things going for that shoot.

This on mistakes that you shouldn’t. Do this well make, for example, not being able to say no is a big one, because sometimes you get asked something that’s very dangerous impossible or that you could lose signal and kind of crash somewhere.

If you do it and no matter how times that you are sometimes physics and radio waves, don’t go through concrete buildings. So you need to be able to say no or to put yourself in the best situation to do something make sure to stay in your comfort zone as well.

That’s, something super important on set. If the director asks you to do something, and you’re, not feeling confident, confident that you can pull it off first, try just let him either let him know or don’t do it.

You should always be at about 80 % of your abilities, because if you go 100 percent there’s, a chance of missing out or 110, you’re gonna crash, and you have to go through a horse. Haul chute not just nail three shots and then and then mess it up, so you really have to kind of let people know about this and make sure to always kind of stay in that comfort zone.

But once you’ve said it. You have to commit to what you said if you said yes to something, you do it, that’s, it you can’t just back down. You have. Oh, you have to have a very clear reason for why you’re doing that another mistake is just letting yourself get distracted, because I mean you’ve, waited for like five hours of 10 hours and then suddenly you have to go So you have to keep your game going all the time and be very focused on what you’re.

Doing the last mistake that’s happened to me in the past, is so you just get angry and that couldn’t happen, for various reasons did for a crash, because you were not able to say no, for example, that’s, what happened to me once and I’ll, never forget about it.

I still feel bad about it even today, but yeah like get angry for something is just not an option you find and it’s, a very extreme condition. Mentally because I mean you know that at the end of the flight you’ve, you may be shaking you ‘

Ve got this all this adrenaline pumping, but you shouldn’t. Let it just get you pissed off or anything. You just have to stay cool at all times and just keep it easy and try to just forget about everything.

So yeah never get frustrated. Sometimes it can be a bit frustrated. You feel, like you know, being listening creatively or you feel like you could do so much more because there’s, not a lot of time for FPV, because there’s.

All these cameras that pass before you, but just remember that you came here to do one job and that is to please your director and to get the shots that he wants. Not the shots that you want. But if you want to get specific shots feel free to let them know and to be like once you’ve, gotten everything they want.

You can be like hey, you know. I think I could shoot it that way or that way, maybe it would be interesting and sometimes they’ll agree. Sometimes they’ll, say no. We don’t have time or something, but that is part of the job.

So yeah, but I mean the job is going to take you to so many cool different locations. So many situations that you never imagined really I mean I’ve, had situations where I met some of like the biggest heroes or very talented people that I’ve been loving for a long time and it’s.

It’s, really cool it’s; it’s, so empowering to see other talented people, and so you’d, be able to work with them in the mutual respect that’s. That’s, the dream moving on to a different part of the job, which is the art of the deal.

So in that part, we’re, going to speak about money and negotiation. It’s, a subject that some people are not comfortable with, but I think it’s really important to mention, because it may be your first job as a freelancer or it may be something that is completely different from what you used To do before so there’s.

Gon na be a lot of different things to adjust in to kind of understand, so that you can really make the best out of it and not get scammed or taken advantage of. So the first thing that you’re gonna try to think about is how much can I ask for and how much what is my price? So there are different ways of determining what a good price for an FPT pilot is the first one is to really think about what other pilots are charging.

You can ask if you know some pilots, you can you can ask them how much they charge if they’re happy with what they charge as well. You can just be very transparent about it, and usually most people will say.

Yes, if they know you just don’t ask them and then just don’t. Come to my second ask me: if I don’t know you, I like mr. Steele’s or like oh, my god or or Johnny don’t don’t just go and like ask professional pilots just Like if you don’t know them.

If you know them or you interacted with them, you can you can try and ask what they charge. So then you get, you have to think about something which is that you’re, not gon. Na be able to work every day, so the way we usually charge is called a day rates because we just charge for a whole day and that’s.

The time that we we charge for that day rate can vary based on the project, but usually it’s, either a day rate or half day rate. If it’s, something that you can do local and you know that it doesn’t take too much time.

Your half-day rate is never the price of a day rate divided by two. It’s, actually more about 70 %, because when you think about it, if you take a job for a half a day, it’s very unlikely that you’re gonna get another half day job on that day.

So you can’t just accept something half price just because they’re. Taking you for half a day. You need to go at least 70 to 80 percent of what you usually take it. I wouldn’t, recommend doing anything out early because it’s.

Never gonna take two hours to do a job. It’s, always going to take you at least half a day, and then you have travel days which are days that you travel for a specific job that are not, and then thou are used for that specific job.

That are days that you don ‘ T fly you just traveling, for example, so these days are usually half the day rate. So I mean I’ve been happy charging that some people charge 40 percent. Some people charge 60 depends on what you want to do, but I think half is fair same for the Scout days.

They usually charge half on it. On the scalp days, I’m, not going to give you any feature of what you should charge or what you shouldn’t, but because it’s internet. So it’s forever and also it might change in the future, and I don’t want people to look at this in two years and think okay, I should charge this when the prices went up or maybe down, and then, like Kind of have an unpleasant experience by that another way for you to know what kind of money you can charge is to look at the prices that inspire like DJ DJI inspire pilots charge and from that you can kind of just match that price, because today we Know that it’s, not it’s more complicated than flying, a maverick, for example, and it’s rarer than people flying in spires.

So I think the good benchmark is kind of the inspire pilots and then, as your notoriety goes up, you can you can increase your price in and kind of, look at based on the different jobs that you’ve done the references you can increase That price, another thing is that if you go abroad, you should you don’t want to be poaching, anyone that’s, trying to make a living locally.

So if you’re going let’s say. If I’m going to the US, I might ask what they charge over there to know that I’m, not under charging. I’m, not taking cheaper than a local person who’s gonna take as otherwise it creates a problem if it’s, if it, if it’s, usually cheaper in the local country.

I’ll, keep my usual day right and then, if it’s more expensive, I’ll, go and match that there rate for someone – and one thing to remember, is that you have to remember that this price you asking For you’re, going to be taxed and taxed, and we taxed on that price.

So this is not money that goes straight to your pocket. Sometimes people are like sweet like this is like thousands of euros of dollars coming straight to my pocket, but this is not it’s. Actually gonna be taxed a lot.

So you need to take that into consideration, and the last thing that I want to speak about is people that just take super super cheap prices, some of them it’s because they don’t necessarily know what they can charge and For others, it’s, a very deliberate approach to getting jobs, and that is just not a healthy way to keep everything going because it’s, going to be a race at a race towards the bottom.

If you do that, I mean let’s, say some pilot that doesn’t have a lot of like networking experience, charges something very low because he wants to get the job, a pilot that earns a lot of more money and wants The job as well is more easily gonna be able to just like match the price and be like yeah off like you want to charge this I’ll.

Do that and then that person is not going to get the job for sure, because then, if you get two people with different experience and one that’s, just saying, okay, like I’ll just match it yeah it’S not healthy, because every its going to progressively bring everyone down so the best way we can face my competition between each other and the best way.

We can actually make this something that is positive for everyone, that people can actually make a living out of is to stay together and to kind of agree that we need to charge a certain amount and and and to try to have all my kind of a Similar price, if you will based on experience of course, but like yeah, that’s, that’s, one of the very important things that you need to know about now on to how to negotiate with production companies.

That is a big subject. There’s, a lot of sharks in there in in production companies. I’m, not saying that everyone’s bad or anything, but they have a lot of experience in negotiating with talent and you don’t because you started so yeah.

You have to know a few things to make sure that they don’t take advantage of you. The first thing is that if someone is calling you for something, then that means that they probably need fpv. You need to determine whether or not they need fpv in that shoot very fast, and whether or not they are on other pilots or whether you’ve been contacted because they like something that you’ve done in they’Re very specific about it and that’s, going to be your bombing ships onto how you can how much you can actually like work on something so that’s.

One thing the other thing is: why are you bringing those unique to the table? Is there something that you can do that? No one else can do or is there something that you specifically talented at that they’re looking at and usually production companies are going to try to like get your prices to go down.

They’re going to say you know, you know like it’s, a great opportunity. You can get exposure through that and what not? Just to me, my personal advice in term of exposure, don’t, give in to it at all exposure.

Doesn’t come through what you’ve done with X or Y. It comes from the great work that you can do yourself and like that’s, where you actually gonna get rural exposure because otherwise it’s. Just gonna I mean it’s, just a nice piece, but it never never works.

In my experience so yeah I would. I would advise just not to lower your price for exposure. You can lower the prices if you think this is a great opportunity if you think there’s, something interesting about that business, but don’t lower the price to a point.

That is just ridiculous, like 50 % of something you can go 20 %. Maybe if you’re very interested by this job and it’s, it’s. Not it’s, not often that you can do that feel free to be kind of hard on production companies there.

If they’re used to it. This is negotiation and it’s. Only business you don’t have to get pissed off at someone and if they take something that’s not as good or because it was cheaper or something their loss, you don’t.

Don’t be emotionally tied into any of this. It’s, just business and if yeah, if they’ve taken a cheap-ass pilot that’s. Doing like something stupid, just let them they won’t, get great footage from that, and eventually it will be their loss and then might call you back.

I’d, be in the day like don’t don’t get bothered by that. But once you said yes to something, just know that you said yes to it and you can’t go back. So if you’ve agreed to a price don’t, show up to the set and be like Oh want to renegotiate or something because it’s.

Gon na just piss off everybody, you’re, not gon. Na get your raise and you not going to get another job from these guys ever again after that, so there’s no point, and sometimes you just have to know to let it go.

I mean I usually always give a fair price in the first email that they they asked me for the flow rate, and if they try to negotiate, I usually just let it go. But yeah you have to stay firm, give yourself a figure and if it goes below that figure up you just you just have to let it go.

Sometimes it’s, not worth it all. Right now, we’ve, been on to what it’s like to be an fpv pilot as a professional level. Everyday. There’s, some positive, and there’s, some negatives as well. One thing that’s positive and a negative at the same time, is that your work is your passion.

So it’s really cool, because you you get to live out of what you’re passionate about, but at the same time, when it becomes your work, does it still remain a hobby and something fun that you like to do it’s, not always the case.

You get to travel as well, which is another bad end, negative aspects of that job, because it means that you’re gonna get to amazing places. You’re gonna get to places you’ve never seen before, but that means that you’re, also gonna be away for a long time.

Sometimes mom. I’ve, been away for my family. For some jobs for almost three months – sometimes just just not coming back to my wife and seeing and being at home, it can get very draining. But at the same time you get to see amazing places.

But it’s, something that you really have to think about. You get to participate in something artistic as well. You get to see a lot of talented people work on a very nice piece of art that is gonna come out, and that is pretty awesome.

You get to just be your boss as well. You decide whether or not you want to go on the job. Once you’re on the job, you definitely have a boss. Don’t get me wrong, but before that you decide whether or not you’ll say yes to that job, and that’s.

Pretty freaking great one of the negatives and things to really think about is that everything can stop at once, like, for example, right now with coronavirus, I’m deeply impacted of I’ve lost, I ‘

Ve lost a lot of gigs because of that in it’s, something that you have to prepare for like to me one of the things I had the ways that I prepared for it was that I set some money aside for rainy days and That’s, something that you really need to do like the first benefits that you do.

Just don’t, go out and spend it on something stupid. Just keep it as like a rainy day fund, because you’re gonna need it at some point you just on no one and that’s. What happened with the coronavirus but yeah you, you never know what tomorrow is gonna.

Be made of sometimes you, don’t know one month in advance. What’s gonna happen to you of two weeks like I’ve, got got one course to go to the other side of the world five days prior to actually being there, so it’s, a life that is Very like unpredictable, and you have to come to peace with that, because you you just you just don’t know, wish you end up every month it’s fun, but so it’s a bit weird to think about It’s.

Also, the same for money like you, don’t know what you’re gonna make. Every month after a year or two of experience, you kind of know when you’re gonna get big jobs and when you’re, not going to get them, but still like it’s, something that can just happen.

Like that, like you, you can have a month with no earnings whatsoever, so that’s, something to consider and yeah like you, you just it’s. It’s. Far all these things that you need to think of once again for me, if you’re, considering doing it as a job, I wouldn’t, consider doing FPV cinematic FPV as a job before at least one year of regular flying regular Content creating because you need to have a certain experience and know exactly what your machine is gonna do and where and a lot of people actually said that you need even more than I like to for years for me, have been flat for three years and Doing this for a year and a half in 4/4 hours, I was just flying, but I was flying two three times a week and I was training really hard and at some point just felt confident that I could do it.

But something that takes a lot of time before you you get to that place and before you think yeah I can go to a job and nail it first right, because that’s, one of the things as well as that, usually you get one Or two tries to to nail a shot in conclusion to me: if you are looking into making it a career, don’t quit your day job and just go ahead.

Headfirst into this new adventure just try to make it progressively and have always a revenue stream that makes it safe for you to try and build up something over a long period of time, like maybe six months to a year before you actually make the big jump.

You have to know that you have clients that this is something reliable if you are not flying currently, and you’re thinking about this as a career, so you want to start fpd to literally go and make a career out of it.

You have to remember that it should be a hobby first and then after a year it’s. You might be able to start something, but this all there’s, always something very in certain about it. So, just just keep that in mind, you have to understand the Yaqui of a shoe.

You have to be able to take care of the people that you work with to communicate. Well, you have to be able to say no and put some money aside for, but most of all remember that you need to be having fun.

You need to be passionate not only about fpv, but you need to be passionate about filmmaking. You need to be passionate about all aspects of the job like there’s so many times where I just sit down and look at the Steadicam guy work or look at the riggers preparing something or just having great conversations with them.

You need to be passionate about the whole process, otherwise it’s, not gonna work, because fpv is your passion for fpv is eventually you kind of fade out and it’s. Gon na it’s. Gon na become a job and it won’t work so be passionate about filmmaking as a whole and have fun, and that is it for that video.

I hope they helped. You figure things out, or maybe it helped you in any way whether you started working or not in fpv. I wish you good luck to every project that you may start and, in the meantime, see you next time.

Bye, bye, [, Music, ],

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