We’ve come a long way, Baby

I am in the process of creating new blogs to feature our vacation rental virtual toursand healthcare virtual tours.  We have shot over 500 virtual tours in the past couple of years and I’ve started by adding the tours we did back at the beginning of our virtual tour business.  This summer will be the three year anniversary from the day we got our equipment in the mail and we launched our virtual tour business and can I just say, we’ve come a long way baby! 
Here are some lessons we’ve learned along the way:
Find a Cutting Edge Virtual Tour Provider that Grows With You — Our virtual tour software provider, RTV Inc is about to release a brand new virtual tour delivery system that is going to be amazing and we can’t wait to start using it.  There is so much hype among our fellow virtual tour providers about how great the changes are going to be.  But this is actually just one of MANY advances and refinements that we have seen in the evolution of our virtual tour software since we started working with RTV.  RTV is constantly improving our technology so this big launch of the new system is exciting but also par for the course for a company that stays in front of the industry in terms of developing new and improved systems and products.
Buy the Best Equipment You Can Afford and Continually Upgrade As You Are Able  — We started our virtual tour business with an older model camera.  Within a few months after starting the company, we bought the latest model professional Canon camera and could see a difference immediately.  The richness of the colors and the crispness of the details made the tours look much better.  
We also upgraded recently to High Dynamic Range imaging and purchased specialized equipment that allows us to take 10 different exposures for every individual image.  This has taken our images to a new dimension and was well worth the investment!
Virtual Tour Photography is all about Staging and Composition — Greg had owned a photography studio for ten years and specialized in weddings and portraits but had never shot real estate before. Even though he is an experienced professional photographer with a degree in Commercial Photography, the difference in the composition of his current tours versus the ones he shot at the beginning is amazing! Shooting a 360º panorama of a room is different than shooting a wedding — in a wedding, it’s all about the bride but in a virtual tour, it’s all about the background. 
Looking back through the old tours, I see the progression of what Greg has learned about how to best showcase a property or facility. He’s always been a great photographer but now he is a fantastic virtual tour photographer.

The Key to a Successful Virtual Tour Business is Having a System and Sticking to It  — The only reason we are able to shoot 5 – 8 virtual tours in a single day and turn them around very quickly is because we have systems that maximize our efficiency.  We have cut our time both on site and post production about in half since we started virtual tour photography.  Greg is methodical about how he shoots, processes and builds his tours.  We invested in a Macbook Pro laptop that allows him to do all of his work from one computer (again buy the best equipment you can afford) so we are able to utilize our travel time and shooting time — we process one tour while traveling to and shooting the next one. 

Running the back office side of the business is also about having systems in place.  I’ve learned that written proposals, intentional prospecting and maintaining a full pipelinerequires the same methodical approach.
A Virtual Tour Business Isn’t Created Overnight — In the very beginning of our business, we were working full time jobs and shooting tours part time.  Now our entire business is virtual tour photography and we have no other source of income.  Our first year in business was very busy but not particularly profitable. It was spent getting our equipment, learning and perfecting our systems but didn’t produce much in the way of income.  In our second year, we both quit our full time jobs and traveled to 31 states.  In the words of Napolean Hill in his classic book, Think and Grow Rich, “When Riches begin to come they come so quickly and in such great abundance that one wonders where they have been hiding during all those lean years.” 
The challenge is that most people either don’t plan well enough for the ramp up time or quit because they aren’t seeing progress as quickly as they want to.  If progress is measured solely by income, then it’s no wonder that most small businesses including virtual tour businesses fail.  Many of our current jobs are from contacts that I have been working for the past two years!

There is nothing in the world we’d rather be doing than living the life we currently live. We get to work from our wonderful home overlooking the Mississippi River; we get to spend equal time with our families in Illinois, Georgia and South Carolina; we get to travel the country; we are able to spend all of our time together; we set our own hours; we are rewarded according to our accomplishments.  But most importantly, we provide a service that makes a difference in the lives of our customers and we make a great living doing it!
Vision Quest Virtual Tours specializes in healthcare virtual tours and vacation rental virtual tours.  To learn more about Vision Quest Virtual Tours, visit us online atwww.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com.