Are you thinking of starting a visualization company? Starting your own business is a tricky endeavor and can be nerve-wrecking, especially in the midst of a recession and in an industry with a growing number of small companies. Although one can arm him/herself with all sorts of PR, marketing and management skills, most young entrepreneurs would agree that the formative years in the life of any company are based on trial and error. The paths to running a successful visualization firm are diverse, but if you’re fresh out of university or have enough projects in your portfolio to think about the next step, there are many examples of similar scenarios out there, along with testimonials by people who have successfully navigated the rough waters of the archviz industry.
We’ve taken a look at the career paths of some of the best visualization experts, educators and companies working in the field and compiled a few tips on what to do and what to avoid doing when starting your own architectural visualization company. While building your portfolio or testing your design and management abilities, platforms such as RenderThat can provide a great opportunity for honing your skills not only as a designer, but also as a professional who knows how to time-manage a project, work with clients, go through corrections, meet deadlines, etc. Eventually, you end up building relationships and contacts that could be highly beneficial in the future.
Those who pursue 3d through their education often start by working as freelancers while studying. The academic environment in which professors and mentors often have their own practices (not to mention contacts) can be fertile ground for planting the seeds of your career. In an interview for ronenberkerman.com, co-founder of Bergen-based archviz company MIR, Trond Greve Andersen, stressed the importance of building contacts from the onset and amusedly recalled their beginnings:” Our first clients were professors at our school who wanted to present their furniture design to producers. We used to send strange e-mails to architects to get their attention, but they must have thought we were retarded.” Working on side projects while studying can help you better prepare for diving into the industry once you graduate. This scenario also played out in the case of two friends who, after graduating, started their own company -Harris Kalinka. The duo worked on several projects while at school and after graduating invested in building their own small render farm. ” When we set up in 2007 we had 28 cores with 94 Ghz of computing power. It doesn’t sound like much today (in 2014 we have 196 cores with 835 Ghz), but it was enough for us to take on our own projects without having to outsource the rendering.”
Harris Kalinka’s big break came with a commission for a golf course animation and since then they have built a substantial portfolio, a large portion of which is dedicated to the golf industry. The firm found a niche that works for them, which might be one of the best strategies when building your business. Working in a specific corner of the industry can help you get noticed as a company that has a unique service to offer. Finding a niche market for your designs is often characterized among the experts as more valuable than competently doing mainstream work.
Another way of going about it is to start by working for a large archviz agency. Although an increasing number of people start their own businesses straight out of school, some of the most successful companies in the industry were founded by professionals who initially worked for large 3d agencies. In an interview for CGpress, principals and founders of Neoscape-one of the leading creative studios in the industry, confirmed this claim. “In the early ’90s, the three of us were working for Parsons Brinckerhoff…Together, we started formulating a plan to start a visualization business that would bring us back into working on architecture and real estate development projects. We worked on a business plan for about a year before giving notice and launching Neoscape.”
In order to acquire initial exposure, it is highly recommended to set up your own website as soon as possible, upload videos on Youtube and Vimeo, set up social media accounts, become visible in the community and get others in the industry to look at your work and perhaps provide useful tips. It is important to know what your target group is, as well as the geographical area where you plan to develop your business. “An interesting part of starting a business is coming up with just the right name,” added the principals of Neoscape.
Becoming good at calculating the time needed for specific commissions, breaking down rates and legal aspects of projects is crucial. Coming up with an appropriate rate can be subjective, but there are many external factors like the state of the local economy and the type of work you specialize in. Properly estimating your monthly costs, including everyday small expenses, is crucial and will help you to get an insight into your financial situation and potentials. Learn what to include in your rates-time spent talking to the clients, delivering a specific number of drafts and make sure you understand all the copyright and licensing details related to your work. Most importantly, it is imperative to create a clear set of rules early on.