Outsourcing arch-vis work Archive

How to find clients from abroad, in the architectural visualization industry?

The first thing that I need to say here might sound surprising (or even stupid) for some people, but unfortunately it’s true so I will say it anyway :) If you are a freelancer or you own a small architectural visualization studio, it is better not to be the one trying to contact people that can assign you projects , and especially, NOT by email.

I know that everybody tried this at some point (including me) but I haven’t heard of anyone having good results with it. The reason is simple: architectural visualization companies, especially the ones located in North America and Western Europe receive tons of emails like that; NOBODY reads them anymore!
Further more, many consider this to be sp@m (although in my opinion it can not be labeled like that). Others don’t fully understand the concept of outsourcing and they will think that you are trying “to sell snow to the Eskimos”.

You may consider contacting a potential partner ONLY if that specific company (or person) has placed and ad somewhere on the web, expressing his wish to find people from abroad to work with, otherwise, it is better to wait for them to contact you.

Ok, so how will the clients find you?

1) Forums

The best places where you can get noticed are by far, the public forums.
It is better to stay active on as many forums as you can, but that can be really time consuming so eventually you will have to set some priorities. You don’t have to choose based only on how much traffic they receive, but also on how related they are to your niche. For example, if you are an architectural illustrator, Cgarchitect.com, evermotion.org and 3dallusions.com are the places for you, while if you are a 3d generalist you may find that cgsociety forum is the best option.

a) Posting
Many people just settle for posting on “final work” sections of these forums. While this certainly helps you can do more. If you want to get noticed, you need be active in the “wip sections” as well. Potential clients are interest not only in your final product, but also they want to see how well you respond to criticism, how fast do you work, how receptive you are to comments and how well you implement them in the rendering.

Another thing that you must do is to post comments on other people work as well. Keep in mind that comments like “Great work! Share the settings!” or “fantastic” don’t help much with regards to this. You have to pay attention to all the details and write smart criticism in order be noticed. Be careful not to be rude, or criticize when it’s not the case; just be nice and say what you think would help improve that particular work in a polite manner.

b) Make friends
Try to engage in discussions (even off-topic), be a part of the community and eventually make friends. You may be offered work from people that you talk with every day, or if not, there is a chance that they would recommend you to somebody else (just don’t be a pest and bug them with your offers). Believe me, the word of mouth is very powerful when it comes to making a name in this business.

c) Job sections
If the forum that you are familiar with has a job section, than that is the place for you to let everyone know that you are available for work. I have seen many trying to “poison” somebody else’s thread, in a totally inappropriate section with messages like “Hello! We are a professional architectural visualization studio from xxxx and we do great renderings for low prices!!!”. If you try something like this, you better pray that a moderator deletes your post asap, otherwise people may remember you as “the sp@mmer” and avoid you, even if they may actually need the kind of service that you provide.

2) Your website

A professionally designed website can make all the difference, so if you are not a web-designer, I strongly suggest that you hire someone to do it.
Think of it as your showroom or a shop; clients won’t even enter a location that looks like a cottage therefore they won’t have the chance to see if there are Armani suits on sale there.
Furthermore, a website designed with SEO in mind, can bring you organic traffic (via search engines) so you can benefit from more exposure without actually working too much for it.
Last but not least, your website is like your business card. You may place your url in the signature on forums and every time you make a post, you will leave your “business card” for hundreds or even thousands of potential clients to see.

3) Online portfolios and image galleries
There are a lot of those on the internet, starting with portfolio sites like Coroflot, to all major portals, forums and sites that host image galleries and contact details of the authors. Needless to say that you need to submit your best renderings to as many of those as you can.

4) Guru.com, Ifreelance.com and other similar sites
Sites like these are a great place, especially for freelancers/studios that are at the beginning of their online working adventure and don’t have a solid portfolio of clients yet. Personally I didn’t use this type of services, but I have heard from some friends that did, that they had good results.

5) Commenting on blogs
Similar to posting on forums, posting on blogs can get you noticed. As opposed to forums (where you have to put a link to your site in the signature), on blogs you automatically receive a link to your website, anchored to a name that specified by you. From my experience, the click-through rate on blogs is higher than for signatures on forums.

6) Advertising campaigns
Last but not least, it might be a good idea to invest some money in advertising campaigns. Banners on popular sites can be quite expensive, but you have other options (like google adwords, for example) that can be a lot cheaper and very effective.
This is a plus in gaining potential client’s trust because, by investing some money in making yourself known, it proves that you are serious about what you are doing.

Final advice
If you are really new in this business and you have no experience when it comes dealing with clients, than you’d better start working with some local clients before targeting the foreign ones. This is the only way of actually learning how to handle a project, not only in terms of execution, but also taking care of issues that concern project management and communicating with clients.

That’s about it for now; if you feel like I have missed something, feel free to add your input by using the comments form bellow.

The approach – From the freelancer’s point of view

When you are being approached by a potential client via email, there are certain things that you need to have in mind in order to make a good first impression.

1) The language
Probably one of the most important things is the language. If your English sucks, than go take some lessons and come back when you are ready. Don’t get me wrong, quality work and competitive prices are a “must” but your ability to communicate with the client is crucial.

2) Introduce yourself!
Even if the potential client doesn’t ask for it, make a short presentation of you/your company. Include info about your experience, how long have you been in this business and where are your clients located; the last one is particularly important because it proves that you where able to work and communicate with people from different cultural, social and even religious environments.

3) Testimonials
This part is critical also. Many people are very cautious when outsourcing their work, and for a good reason. You must include written reference from your current (or past) clients along with their names and companies that they work for. Otherwise, they are worthless. If you don’t have something like this, go and ask your clients for it, but don’t try to fake them! (Sooner or later you will get caught).

4) Samples of your work
If you’ve been in the architectural visualization business for a long time, you may have hundreds of renderings in your portfolio, but you don’t have to send all of them! Usually 10-12 renderings will do. However, it is important that you show as much variation as you can, in order to prove that you are able to do a good job, no matter what the specific constraints and difficulties of the task are.

To be more precise, you should include something that highlights your modeling abilities, something to show how well you can texture and some samples to show how good are you at lighting different kind of environments at particular times of the day (interior and exterior renderings, at mid day, late afternoon, dusk, night).

5) Rates and timings
Every rendering that you send as sample work, must have a stamp that indicates the price and time spent working on it. The important thing here is that you should mention the time as number of hours that where necessary to WORK on the job, and not include how much time you waited for feedback from your clients during preliminary revisions. It happens some times that you do the modeling part of a job in 1 day and you wait for the approval for another 3 days.

However, you should let your client know that what you have indicated represents the time effectively spent working on the job, so he does not get the wrong idea.

General guidelines

Be professional and polite
As a general idea you must address to the client in a professional and polite manner. Remember that people working in the architectural visualization industry are usually highly educated, so if you sound like a high-school kid they won’t want nothing to do with you.

Make it short but comprehensive
Also, keep in mind that the reason why architectural visualization companies outsource their work is because of the lack of time. Therefore, don’t turn your email into a 2500 words essay; make it brief, but make sure you cover all the important aspects.

The approach

In the next 2 articles I will try to cover some aspects that you should have in mind when making a first contact with your potential partner. The first impression counts a lot, so if you start on the wrong foot, you may miss the chance to find out if the person that you have established contact with, is what you are looking for (you may not even receive a response).

The article bellow highlights some of things that you need to take into consideration, from an “employer’s” point of view.

Here it goes:

1) Provide some information about you!

If you use email, contact the potential “employee” through your “business” address. If you are too afraid of sp@am and you want to make contact through a “disposable” email address, at least provide some details about you and/or your company and make sure you mention your website (or the website of the company that you work for).

A respectable freelancer or a studio that is used to working with foreign clients won’t even bother to respond to an email from someone that only asks for details but doesn’t reveal anything from his/their part.

You might not realize it, but the competition among freelancers or studios from countries like China, Russia, Indonezia, eastern European countries, etc. is very sharp. Therefore, a lot of people try to pose as employers just to know the rates practiced by the competition, or even worse, sabotage them by sending fake jobs (without paying a dime, of course) Trust me, I’ve been “around the block” a couple of times and I know.

2) Use a personal approach!

As an employer, you are probably looking to find more potential “employees” for you to choose from. However, don’t compose just one email starting with “dear sir/madam”, and send it to everyone. I am not saying that you should write a different email for each person you contact; I know that that takes a lot of time. I am saying that the best way to do this is to start with a template and “personalize” it a little, for each one. For example, the details you request and the information about you/your company will remain the same, but you should write at least a phrase to mention where you have seen their work (on which website or forum), and maybe even what particular work was that.

It may sound a little time consuming, but this way it won’t seem like you are sending mass emails, and the other part will feel “honored” to have been contacted by you.

3) What details should you ask for?

Ok, so you have introduced yourself, you have mentioned that you have seen their work and where, what do you ask for now? Most people just ask for some representative renderings along with prices and timelines. Although this is absolutely necessary, it is definitely not enough. You have to ask for some proof of the freelancer’s/studio’s experience; and there is no other than written testimonials and contact details from their clients (so you can check their authenticity if you feel like it).

If you don’t ask for this, you might find out the hard way that a lot of so called studios have 0 experience regarding working with clients, and their portfolio is done at their ease with no constraints whatsoever (or even worse, they could not even be the real authors of the visuals that they show you; believe me, this can happen also).

Regarding the rendering samples that you ask for, it is better to mention that you would like see as much diversity as they can show.

You never know how good a person is at modeling furniture for example, if you have seen only exterior renderings of steel and glass office buildings. You don’t know how he can handle a night rendering if you have seen only “classic” mid day renderings.

As you know, each project has it’s particular difficulties, and you must evaluate your potential outsourcing partners on how they handle different situations (you may chose one to do an interior rendering of a living room, but you may choose somebody else to do a dusk rendering of a high-rise office building).

The second part of this article will cover the same issue, but from the freelancer’s point of view.

Stay tuned!

Successful outsourcing for architectural visualization business

If it’s done the correct way, outsourcing can be a very good way of growing your business, no matter if you are the one that outsources the work or if you are the one that actually does the work for some foreign client.

However, there is still a lot of skepticism from architectural visualization studios when it comes to assigning their projects to freelancers/other studios from different parts of the world, and for a good reason; actually several good reasons.

-The main thing is the lack of control. You don’t know for sure if the freelancer or studio that you have hired will do the job on time, and if the quality of renderings will meet your expectations.

-When outsourcing in a business like the architectural visualization, where the amounts of money involved are not very high, contracts are pretty much worthless. Let’s face it, if you hire somebody to do a rendering for 500 euros for example, and he does not deliver the work on time, would you take legal action against him? How much time and money would that cost you in the end? Do you even know which court to address to for this case?

-You have never met the guy in person, and therefore you did not have a chance to interview him in a proper manner. When you hire somebody to work for you “in house” on a full time basis, things are a lot easier. There are a lot of tests that can help you evaluate the person’s ability to work under stressful conditions, his level or creativity, in a word to “draw” a psychological profile of the potential employee.

-You don’t even know for sure if the person “on the other end of your internet connection” is the real author of the renderings that he has sent you.
And the list can go on and on.

As a freelancer or studio that offers to do services for clients from overseas, you also have your share of doubts (the main one being the fear that you will work and won’t get paid for it)

The “starting point” of a business relationship like this is the most difficult part. Once you have managed to establish long term partnerships, based on mutual trust you may find that it is more convenient to you to assign all the work to your partner(s) from overseas and focus on getting more customers (and therefore grow your business) rather than just outsourcing your “overload”.

To start it right, besides a little luck you also need a little more planning. This is a very complex issue, so in the next articles, I will try to cover as many details as I can, starting with “the first contact”, “asking for a quote”, “assigning a project” and all the things to do and not to do, in order to establish a partnership from which both parts can profit. I will also try to analyze everything from both points of view (the one that outsources the work and the one who does it).

I need to mention that this article and the ones that will follow are based solely on my experience and not on extensive research on the subject. However, my studio has been working for clients from all over the world for the last 3 years and I am proud to say that I managed to establish long term partnerships with most of them (in some cases we’ve even become friends), so I hope that sharing from my experience will help some people.

Even if my focus will be mainly on the architectural visualization business, the concepts can be applied to most similar activities.