4 Things 3D Artists Starting Their Career Need to Know (and Usually Don’t)

4 Things 3D Artists Starting Their Career Need to Know (and Usually Don’t)

If you are embarking on your first industry job, we have four helpful suggestions that can help you find the job that fits your skillset, successfully get hired for that job, and help you earn more money for doing it.

Title Image by Luca Kraether

To some extent, this is true of every career field: newcomers just aren’t fully prepared for the challenges of navigating the job market. But in the fast-paced, constantly evolving 3D industry, many aspiring artists are essentially groping in the dark, unsure of what they want to do or where they’d like to end up, let alone how to get there.

An easy way to set yourself up for success is to do a little homework. To help get you started, we’ve provided four helpful suggestions that can help you find the job that fits your skillset, successfully get hired for that job, and help you earn more money for doing it.

1. Look in to Non-Traditional Careers

The biggest mistake most people make when applying for jobs in the 3D industry is casting too small a net. Believe it or not, there are fun, lucrative and fulfilling careers for 3D artists working outside of the video game and VFX industries.

Have you considered – or even heard of! – the field of medical animation? Pharmaceutical companies, NGOs, hospitals and universities are constantly looking to incorporate 3D animation into their presentations, advertising, advocacy work and research proposals, and skilled medical animators are in high demand and short supply. And as an added bonus, you’ll be able to incorporate a love of science or a curiosity about medical research into your work.

Let’s say you’re less about science and more about aesthetics. Have you thought about becoming a 3D architectural visualizer? You’d spend your time creating photo-realistic renders of building proposals for commercial or residential architecture, and in the process you’d be drawing on the entire set of skills needed within more typical 3D jobs: a mastery of modeling, texturing, lighting, and more.

Portfolio of Emil Rasmussen, Arch Viz Rookie of The Year 2020

To find out more about non-traditional career paths, check out our article on “Non-Traditional 3D Careers to Explore.”

2. Save Money With Autodesk's Indie Products

Newcomers to the VFX industry often find themselves in a tough spot. They are eager to improve their VFX skills in the hopes of earning money, but they can’t afford the high price tag associated with most professional-level software. No skills means no money, and no money means no software.

Fortunately, Autodesk has you covered. For both Maya and 3ds Max, special “indie” editions of the software are available at a steep discount for recent graduates, freelancers, hobbyists and beginner 3D artists. Some restrictions apply, so click the links to check if you’re eligible, but chances are you’ll be able to hone your skills for a fraction of the usual cost.

3. Negotiate Your Salary

If there’s one common mistake among all recent graduates and most job applicants, it’s a total failure to negotiate a starting salary. It’s understandable: you know you’re competing against a potentially large number of qualified candidates for a finite number of spots, so why not just accept the very first offer put on the table?

The team at Autodesk spoke with the experienced professionals of Bardel’s Talent Acquisition Team to help bring you a number of important takeaways to ensure that you end up with the job you want and the salary you deserve.

First off, know your worth. Is this your very first job, and will you need a certain amount of training before you’re working to your full potential? Or have you been in the industry for some time, having accrued a wide variety of experience?

Next, get over your fear of negotiating. You want the job, and they want your skills, so feel like you’re obliged to accept an offer that doesn’t match your expectations. If you’re really uncomfortable doing this, consider speaking with a recruiter and letting them do the heavy lifting.

The Team at IOI Malmö

As the good people at Bardel advised, “Talk to your recruiter. Let them know what your expectations are: Were you expecting your current rate? Were you expecting more? Explain. The recruiter will be the bridge between you and the producer.”

Learn more useful negotiating tips by reading Bardel’s full advice to Autodesk readers.

4. Perfect Your Portfolio

When you’re applying for jobs in the VFX industry, your work portfolio will make or break your chances, and that means you need to understand what employers are looking for and how you can meet their expectations.

Autodesk regularly hosts portfolio review sessions, which enable artists to submit their portfolios to a group of industry professionals for free, one-on-one review. It’s sort of like a practice run before the main event, and it helps applicants add polish and shore up glaring weaknesses. From our experience, there are several common and easily rectified portfolio mistakes.

For example, too often applicants have one, generic portfolio that they submit to all their various job applications, no matter how different these might be. This is a mistake, and potentially a costly one. Instead, you should be changing your portfolio based on the job you’re applying for. Are you hoping to work in character modeling? Demonstrate your character modeling skills. Are you applying for a job as an environment artist? Don’t dilute your presentation with needless animation models.

Detailed 3D Mech by Andrei Le Mézec

For more insights into crafting the perfect portfolio, check out Autodesk's portfolio advice for students looking to break into the VFX industry.