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?
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.
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.
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.