Deez Interviews: Meet Drone Girl!!! AKA the blog founder now parlaying her expertise and mad hustle into a full-on media empire

Happy Friday, Deezers! This week’s interview is with Sally French, a social media editor and drone expert for whom the word “side hustler” does not begin to do justice. Enjoy!

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The interviewee:
Sally French (follow her here and her official Drone Girl account here). Also she is on Instagram obvi.

Current gig(s): I am MarketWatch's social media editor, and I am also the Official Drone Girl behind Drone Girl!! My third payroll comes from Equinox — I teach group fitness.

How she balances that clearly intense hustle:

It is pretty crazy, and there is a lot to balance! I will say that MarketWatch is an awesome company to work at for many reasons, but a big one is that they are very flexible about scheduling. Their attitude is "Get the work done, and we don't really care how or when you do it." It also helps that media companies have no money (duh) so instead of more money they just give you more vacation days!

And yes, I am a competitive powerlifter and a group fitness instructor. I love having the gym alter ego too though because it forces you to get away from the computer screen for a few hours.

So, let’s talk about your site Drone Girl. Drone journalism has been a super hot but niche topic in the industry. How did you get into that field, and what made you want to start a whole media outlet about drones?

I actually started Drone Girl because of Mizzou [editor’s note: the University of Missouri in Columbia, home of the objectively best J-school on earth, y’all]!! They always said that journalism students need to have a blog. Blogs about cooking or being frugal or fitness (other interests of mine) were just so overdone (SORRY IF YOU HAVE A BLOG ON THOSE TOPICS!!!) that I thought, "there's no way I can compete with those." Honestly the blog started as just me posting photos from my own drone, but there was such a need for news, reviews, profiles, etc, that it grew into something bigger.

What's the best use of drones for journalism that you've seen in the past year?

To be honest, there is nothing GREAT out there yet. Don't tell them I said that!!! There are a lot of environmental/landscape photos being taken via drone, but not a lot being told about people. And let's face it, people like to read about people!

The issues are that there are huge restrictions on flying drones over people, so we miss out on a lot of potential stories like protests or major event coverage.

I won't be a TOTAL Debbie Downer though. There has been great imagery from drones. Josh Haner from the New York Times took a really awesome shot documenting the widespread devastation from the Napa fires. There were also great shots showing the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. But again — you are sensing the theme. Lots of environmental stories, but no people.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to start something like their version of The Drone Girl?

Hustle, hustle, hustle!!! You might go a whole year with having less than 100 followers (I did). You need to believe in it and keep fighting to grow your online presence. You are NEVER too good for anything — especially when you are just getting started. Say yes to every meeting or gig.

The first conference I ever spoke at was this terrible venue on the outskirts of Vegas, and I think there were maximum 30 people in the audience. However, a bigger drone conference in Vegas found me through that, which was my next gig, which led to Harvard Business School finding me, which led to an invitation to speak at SXSW. If I had turned down the first crappy event, none of the other ones would have happened.

What's been the most surprising thing about having your own outlet? Is it the amount of work? The fame? The immense riches??

As far as most SURPRISING thing, I would say the riches? Am I allowed to say that? Traditional media companies are terrible at making money. I've learned that it is actually entirely possible to live off a blog (though let's be clear this is not like RICHES riches, but you could live a humble life working for yourself as a blogger and eat more than ramen noodles). When I started my blog, I had no idea that blogging could even make money. The last year was a huge learning experience for me in terms of sponsored posts, selling ads and affiliate links (which are my biggest source of income).

What’s next for Drone Girl in 2k18?

I've gotten AMAZING opportunities to speak in countries I've never even heard of...I'm looking at you, Oman. I have another Drone Girl event coming in February that has not been announced yet but I'll tell y’all anyway! I'm partnering with Intel to do an event about how they make those sweet drone light shows. [editor’s note: Um holy fucking shit!!!]

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Well, if that doesn’t make you want to race home and work on your passion project, nothing will. Again, you can keep tabs on all things Drone Girl @TheDroneGirl, and keep an eye out for that hella cool Intel event!

Like Deez Links? Forward to the hustle.