How to find a client as 3d artist?
- 13 May 2017
Hey, it's great you found this article worth checking and reading :) A short disclosure - what you will find below is just a summary of my thoughts and observations gathered throughout the few years of working both as a small studio owner, freelancer and regular agency employee. It's not my intention to create a "5 steps to success" guide and share fixed methods of finding the clients as, in my opinion, it never works this way in a long run.
If you're starting your way as a freelancer or think about launching something bigger, you had probably asked yourself this question multiple times - how do I get my first client or, how should I do the client outreach properly? I hope you'll find my article helpful in answering these questions!
Client outreach is hard!
You probably know it already, especially if you've tried for days and weeks and still have no results. Yes, client outreach is hard! It is hard to convince someone to take his hard-earned money and give it to you, as an exchange for the services you think are valuable and precious. Most of us work hard and rarely decide to spend money on things we don't need. The very honest question here should be - is 3D graphics the actual need people find worth spending money on? The answer is - not really... at least if we consider majority of people around us. Our potential client base is very limited and only covers the industries, companies and agencies that would find 3D graphics beneficial to their business . That alone makes things hard.
But don't be discouraged! 3D industry is constantly growing and every year, more and more companies start using 3D graphics for different purposes. I think it's important to know that you may be really good 3D artist, yet still struggle with getting your first client. The struggle is not only limited to freelancers or small companies, in fact every business faces the issue of convincing people to use their product or service. Bigger or even medium sized companies tend to have the entire departments responsible for marketing and client outreach only. It's good to be aware that search for new clients can be a full time job just by itself...
How do you even start?
Before you send your first e-mail or make your first phone call, I think it's important to ask yourself a few important questions.
First, who exactly are you trying to reach? I think one of the most common errors we do is not being fully aware who could actually be our client and what are the client's real needs. Does the company you've e-mailed really looks for any 3D services at all? Do they really need high end, top notch renderings? Maybe their entire pipeline is based solely on pre-viz quality images which don't need to have perfect illumination or material quality? Maybe instead they need to be produced very quickly and in high volumes?
Second, how do you encourage clients to choose your services? Is it the price you offer? Are you sure you want to compete with others by proposing the lowest or "the most affordable" rates every single time? There are many companies that identify low prices with low quality and would hardly ever agree on this type of collaboration. What about your reliability as a freelancer or contractor? Are you delivering on time? How good is your communication skill and the ability to understand what client really wants?
Third, why is it YOU exactly who should get the job, contract or project opportunity? Would you, as a hiring company, consider yourself worth getting the job? Nowadays there are hundreds or even thousands of highly skilled, creative 2D and 3D individuals on the market - are you somewhere in the middle of the crowd, or are you standing out? Who do you think has a higher chance of being noticed?
I know these might be tough questions but I also believe that answering them honestly can give us very valuable insights on our current market position and automatically increase chances of finding the client in near future.
What attracts clients?
1. Being the best.
It's really that "simple". Best people never complain about the lack of clients - they don't even need to do the outreach as companies want to employ them and compete with each other to get the best people on board. It's hard to be the best, it requires commitment, sacrifice, and there are no shortcuts in becoming best in what you do. Luckily, that always pays off in a long run, even if you end up being second or "just" in a top ten.
2. Being first.
Starting earlier than others often goes in pair with being the best. You commit yourself to work on things other people don't find valuable or worth spending time on. There's always element of risk in being the first as you're never fully sure if your idea, product or skill will find its place on the market. Once it happens, you'll be years ahead from the competition.
3. Becoming an expert.
Being an expert goes in pair with starting early, but not necessarily with being the best. It requires you to be recognized as a person who knows the drill and always finds the best solution to a problem. Publishing your tutorials online or, if possible, in brand magazines will increase your credibility and generate positive publicity in a long run.
4. Winning a competition.
Winning is great way of showcasing and standing out from the crowd. It is hard to win competitions nowadays as the general skill level in 3D has greatly increased. Don't be discouraged as participating in challenges is always beneficial to your portfolio and the more you try, the bigger the chance of getting noticed. Weekly CG Challenge might be a good starting point if you've never participated in any 3D competition.
5. Standing out from the crowd.
If you already have a stationary job, be remembered as reliable, skilled professional that always delivered on time, understood feedback, was able to collaborate with others and managed his time efficiently. In the future, many of your colleagues will find another job, move to a different city or country and consider working with you again on remote base.
6. Building a contact network.
A friend of a friend also has his friends - as one saying goes, it is better to keep your mouth shut. Of course in our case, the more people know and talk about what we do, the better. The word of mouth is considered to be the most effective marketing methods - it's honest, effective and free.
7. Moving to a proper area.
There are many companies working online but from my personal experience, the best projects always come from the local customers. You can always meet up with the client face to face, discuss all the issues, execute payments much more efficiently etc. Living in a highly urbanized and developed area can greatly increase your chance of finding the client, especially in the creative field.
8. Browsing local newspapers and brand magazines.
This is possibly the most straight forward way of looking for clients, but it can be very effective if approached correctly. For example, if you're an architecture visualization artist, you may check the articles covering local real estate investments, preferably the residential ones. You will most likely find companies looking for someone to help them with project visualizations or interior renderings.
What makes finding client harder?
Why is spamming so popular and common? Because it's the easiest, cheapest and lowest effort method of reaching out to the potential clients. You just buy a list of several thousand e-mails, send a generic message and hope that 1% of the receivers answers. It almost never works in a long run as hundreds of other companies does exactly the same thing, discouraging most of the potential clients from even opening these kind of e-mails.
2. Living in a wrong place.
There are places in this world that simply make running a business easier. I like using the example of penguin's farm - you might have a dream of having one, but what if you're living on a desert? There are only three things that can happen - you can simply move to a place, where fulfilling your passion would be much easier (just go to the arctic circle). You can also bite the bullet, take the risk and try to pursue your passion by establishing the farm on a desert (which will cost you more time, money and effort). Finally, you can simply abandon your passion, build a well and start distributing water... It works pretty much the same in 3D or any other industry.
3. Searching for online clients only.
This probably won't be a problem if you're already one of the best out there, but with extensive online competition it may be very challenging to look for the remote clients only. Working online also brings many rarely discussed problems such as cultural differences in work ethics, international money transfers, copyright problems etc. Of course it is possible to work with remote clients only, but mixing the local and online outreach will always be more beneficial.
To conclude, I think we could ask the final question - is there really any fixed formula on finding the first client? I personally really doubt it. The client outreach is very organic process and cannot be reduced to a set of rules, as in mathematical equation, that will always work if we set the numbers correctly. What I actually think is that marketing or client outreach has much more to do with who we are and what we actually represent. I really hope this article will inspire you to push harder and reach out for more.
The entire topic of marketing is obviously hard to cover in a singe block of text, that's why it would be great to hear your thoughts and experiences on it :-).
Feel free to drop a comment below and keep Blending!