Career change from BIM to 3D Artist, looking for insight

Hello everyone,

I would like to make a career change and become a 3D Artist. I am 30 years old and had a wake up call that my career choice isn’t edifying or challenging to me anymore. Currently, I am a VDC Coordinator in the construction industry and what I have noticed working in BIM (Building Information Modeling) is that it is a constant battle to show value in what I do. Whether it is internal or external, the common belief is that BIM is not needed or a waste of money towards a project. I used to think this was just a belief that was in the minds of the people in my common area, but after working for projects that span across the nation, this is the common belief. You have PMs, VPs, upper management, etc. sabotaging or setting your department up to fail from the start. I always enjoyed modeling for the systems within the building and that is why I started to learn Blender.

Now that I shared some background, here are some questions I have for the community:

  1. How hard is it to get your foot into the door?

  2. Any tips on building a portfolio?

  3. Is this industry open to remote work?

  4. Is there opportunity for freelancing?

  5. I have narrowed down on what I think I would enjoy doing, what are the communities thoughts on them?

         a. Environmental Artist
         b. Product Modeling
         c. 3D Generalist (Lighting Artist, Composition, Modeling)

Any feedback would help.

Additional info is that I will be learning Blender primarily, I see it as a bigger influence and has a better acceptance to industry standards now, but I plan on also learning 3DS Max or Maya.

1 Like

Hey, unfortunately I don’t have the answers, and I am in a similar situation.
Just wanted to let you know you’re not alone.

The only advice I’d have is keep creating and make noise out there on social media. It might not be the way to get yourself hired, but I believe it is essential for a long term perspective as an artist rather than an employee.

1 Like

First of all, I would suggest that you begin by speaking to your manager. Is your perception of what “PMs, VPs, upper management, etc.” think … actually objective? You say that it is “a common belief,” but as a complete outsider to your industry I admit that I find this to be very surprising.

Now, assuming that you still do want to make a move – start looking around for the next evolution of your career path, which is actually what this will be … not “flush it and start over.” Try your best to think in ways that might leverage your existing experience. “How many ‘3D artists’ out there know anything solid about ‘building architecture?’” As well as you now do? Think frankly in terms of competitive advantage.

What makes your “Fuller Brush” better than anyone else’s? What sort of “buyer” would be especially motivated to hire you over all other candidates, because of the unique advantages that you bring? Now … what would those “advantages” be, and who might be the “buyer?”

Yeah. Be a salesman. (But, please don’t be Wally Lohman.)


Thanks! I’m relieved to hear I’m not alone and I hope the best for you. I love the outlook and will continue grinding.

@sundialsvc4 - I did ask them and this was the wake up call for me. I brought this up with my direct manager, as well as another regional manager that have both been in the BIM industry now for 20 years to get their take on the manner.
Both of them said that has been their experiences and it’s been frustrating to them as well. I only asked if they believe this issue would be constant in the future or if its been getting better over time and they both agreed its been and will be constant. I think they are settled in while I feel like I can pivot hard left and avoid the why the fuck did I stay into this bullshit realization.

I do agree with your idea of evolution, and leveraging my experience for this transition. Nothing i’ve done has been a waste or can’t be used. I’ve learned a fair bit of softskills (managing people, selling ideas, navigating upset clients, etc) and technical skills. I have thought about transitioning to Archviz but I need to give it more thought.

Thanks for you input btw.

Count me in too - I am currently at the end of architectural engineering job, I work in ArchiCAD.
I want to transition to 3D because it appears that I am not well suited to architecture, there is a lot of paper work, lots of norms and stuff, everything has to be exact - one wrong number in technical description and my client will not receive building permit.

But I like CAD precision :wink:


I don’t want to digress too much here, but the conversation triggers me.

While the approach that @sundialsvc4 suggests makes sense and this is the reasonable and safest way to go, I feel I am past that.
I am myself a chemical engineer having done the typical career; good studies, get hired in a clever firm, work your a** off, become a manager (whatever that means), get the company a lot of money by working really hard, launching a new business and so on. I always worked for small structures, but providing consultancy and services to the big industrial players.

So I have played the game for over 10 years to finally burn out. And it appeared clearly to me: the engineering job is great on the principle, but:

  • Corporate culture is ugly, took me a lot of time to accept, but it’s true. I have been around a lot of CEO’s, COO’s, etc, of large companies, and I can tell you that their only worries are the shareholders and the always-can-be-increased-never-enough profit. The “company culture” is mostly a way to impose new officious rules. Top people do NOT care about people below, that is not a myth, that’s a fact. They see themselves accountable to shareholders only, and their direct boss. No one truly carries the flag of ethics (apart from PR stunts on the webpage, of course). Sometimes, visionaries emerge, but they tend to be crushed by the company politics and distanced by people having better connections and being more politically skilled. Even those end up doing only powerpoint presentations to convince their bosses that their ideas are good.
  • Engineers (and all technical personnel) is nowadays considered secondary compared to financial people. It is almost like people do not care about factories actually producing, they are more into mergers and acquisitions, speculations, guaranteed ROI, etc. The blame culture is often so strong that no one will dare to innovate.
  • Engineers themselves promote a culture of excellence and even competition. It ensures the highest standard of quality and the maximum amount of work, for sure, but it also depletes a lot of us to the bone.
  • Overall, I have forced myself to believe I was contributing to a better world for a long time, but I don’t think I was. I have accepted to be a cog in a system that I’m increasingly convinced makes people miserable.

I believe that as long as we will all accept to “play the game”, “sell ourselves” and bow to company cultures when we know meaning and sense are lacking, we will keep getting stuck.

@sundialsvc4 I would have had the exact same advice as the one you gave a few months/years ago, so please do not take this as criticism. When I see the words “objective” (reminds me of “measurable”, like in performance reviews), “evolution”, “career path”, “leverage”, “competitive advantage”, “buyer”, “salesman”, I think more and more that we do not have to be that. Humans are not goods that need to sell. Skills do not all need to be utterly marketable, as long as they make you happy. This all feels to me like a capitalist ideology that fails to deliver on its promise today (it did not make me rich nor happy, but it certainly sucked out all my energy). I believe we are much more than that, we are human beings with other needs than just a salary. Need of usefulness. Need for true human bounds. Need for meaning. Need to think that we are contributing to a better world.

I please to think that Blender is actually a good example of this mindset, I try to follow the spirit. Blender definitely made the world better for me, even fills a bit of this sense and meaning I’m looking for. Thanks Ton & team :blue_heart:

I am of course influenced by my current experience, but I see this feeling spreading like wildfire over the internet, so I guess I am not alone.

Thanks for the discussion, I hope I remain within the boundaries of this forum. :yellow_heart:

1 Like

I please to think that Blender is actually a good example of this mindset, I try to follow the spirit. Blender definitely made the world better for me, even fills a bit of this sense and meaning I’m looking for. Thanks Ton & team :blue_heart:

I am of course influenced by my current experience, but I see this feeling spreading like wildfire over the internet, so I guess I am not alone.

You’re not alone and I am burned out too and looking more within than ever. Im glad Blender made the world better for you. If you don’t mind, what do you like doing with Blender?

1 Like

@Daniel_Kiester Hey Daniel, thanks for the kind words.

Did a lot of things in Blender. I started with modding car games, did some archviz stuff, worked on a sci fi comic book, and finally landed in something more artistic for pure rendering. I am also working on photogrammetry to try building consistent asset packs, mostly focused on nature assets and trees. I’ll make a post about this soon, but that’s such a huge task, I still don’t have much to show for it.

Overall, I found that the “pure” artistic work was the most fulfilling and allowed a lot of feelings to be conveyed and shared with the community. It is also a safety buoy during the burnout and gives me some confidence back.

All the best to all of you in this thread. :heart:

Hey ! great subject to discuss, there are some similar thread on this forum that you may read too !

I think the first step is to start practicing and show your work, from that you can get a hint on your level. At some point don’t hesitate to ask if your work is close to what one can expect from a professional.
That said, what you can be asked to do professionally and what you can see in some gallery can be quite different. Nonetheless, personal work , as you can see on this forum is a good way to practice and improve.

For the question 1/ :
Really it depends on your personal work / level , your luck, your connections, what kind of job you’re looking for in what kind of company…
The thing is, getting your first job may be difficult in general. Because someone will look in your portfolio for previous professional work (even if personal work is very important too). As soon as you’ve worked on a few projects it’s easier to get the next ones.
So it’s cool to have some previous teamwork experience, like doing asset for a collaborative game, doing some FX for a student short film, that depend on what you want to do… It can be a good way to add “professional” work to your portfolio, even if it’s not paid.

Start by doing some personal work, and from there you can build your portfolio and add the remaining bits if needed.

It really depends, it’s possible to work remotely on some projects, but that would mean you really know the job well. It’s best to work on site for a few years first, you’ll learn a lot and from there it will be possible to work remotely.
You can still start to work remotely, but you may have a hard time.
Interesting projects are made with teams working in the same room.
This is the kind of small projects I work on alone and remotely :

This is the kind of small projects I do with a team in the same room :

For the first one, what I get was a brief from the client and a few photos of the washing machine, I had to take this a make a clip out of it, touching every aspects. Of course the clients generally don’t know film making and have a very naive vision, you need to take these informations and make something they like. In the end, like on every project a lot of changes are needed (even if they can be contradictory to the initial brief) you need to know how to handle all this while staying on the budget/schedule.

In the second, I was also involved in different aspects, but there is more room in the team for less generalist profile. One of the artists was very good at camera work , editing and lighting, but didn’t know how to do rigging, shading, modeling ect…
It’s really a different way of working, clients tends to know better the subject, and if you get stuck there is always someone with a solution. As it’s more technical every one as a lot of questions every time.
That’s also why it’s hard to do remote work, we need to talk constantly on every aspect of the project, also all the pipeline, tools and infrastructure may not allow remote work.

It depends on the country and the kind of job, I live in France and worked mostly in corporate films, animated series, advertising. It was always freelancing gigs and companies hire you for a particular project. It could be 2 weeks, 1 year, really it depends. For most people here it’s the same , but you can also join a company a get a regular contract. It really depends on the field you’re working on.

Ok ! if that’s what you like start practicing these.
After that, it’s ok to accept whatever job is offered to you, being able to do a bit of everything and produce good looking images, or little animations like a product presentation is a good start.

Blender is good to start learning, it’s possible to work with it, at least that’s what I did for 15 years, and there are more projects/companies using it now. But it’s hard to work with it for big companies. If that’s an issue for you, concentrate on Maya or Houdini, or try to know which tools these companies are using.

Hopes that helps a bit, don’t want to sound obsessive compulsive, but I wanted to see what you can do with blender , but didn’t find any of your work on the site. From that I could have told you more valuable information.

Good luck in your first steps toward the CG world !


Perhaps in BIM you dislike that job, but still believe in some general concepts, so you might build upon these. Combined with interior design or architecture, it might result into something new. For those who worked in architecture, perhaps disliked their bosses, or the lack of creativity of the firms they worked. So it means that there are lots of new excuses and opportunities to create new sort of designs and new proposals on how things should be done.

My personal rant in the world of archvis, is that I personally see 0% nice things about these new boxed and jagged uneven modern houses that are built everywhere nowadays. So my own take on this problem would be to make the design much more simpler and remove sharp box edges. I would build an entire portfolio for this reason, just to show that boxed designs are afwful. But this is only an example to mention, do not take it seriously. Or if you are in for the challege take it seriously. :wink:

Within a reasonable timeframe and legit effort, I think that everybody can learn the basic stuff and use Blender as a “tool” that works within a few months. After this first step is completed, then everything else is based on “contextual knowledge”, how well you know the ins and outs of a specific area. The fastest you exclude irrelevant things you don’t want to spend time to, the better your time-efficiency would be. As for example you can learn 100 things and typically find no use for them, or you can learn 10 basic things that work, and eventually little by little add the rest within a few years.

Such as for example: If you want to use some drop-in 3D humans in your scenes, typically you import them as premade assets you bought and you are allowed to legally use. However learning about human anatomy and face topology is simply a no-go in this specific case. You always have to do this test - and see if actually something is worth time spend to be learnt and practiced.

To me, the most important thing is to look for ways to leverage whatever your past jobs have taught you.

People don’t hire “artists” in a purely-abstract sense: they want to get a job done, and “they’ll know it when they see it.” Well, if you’ve spent many years in the architecture business as the OP of this thread did, then you know things about that field that you don’t even realize that you know! These are things that you can apply to create competitive advantage: “bloom where you are planted.” You are better-prepared to create things for these clients because you understand more about what they need to do with them. “You understand where they are coming from.”

But the one thing that you will never escape is “corporate politics.” (Here’s where the “soft skills” that the OP mentioned come into beneficial play.) Anytime and every time you get a bunch of people together to work on a common objective, there will be politics.