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How much do Visualization Specialists make?
In San Francisco?
What about Job stability?
What about work pressure?
What about competitionfor this position as compared to regular architecture job?
You'd be competing with a lot of people, and a lot of people that can do it faster and much cheaper than you'd be willing do it for. China, for instance, has a large chunk of off-shore rendering services; many of the larger firms use this system.
That's not to say you couldn't tap into the local/smaller segment, but stability won't be there. You'll need to contract like crazy to ensure any kind of steady income; not all firms always need renders/graphics/presentation boards, etc. Most of the time they simply need CDs to head out the door. Keep in mind that most entry-level architects can do visualizations now. You'll need to show that you can do it better, and at the same cost, than what a firm's interns could.
In regards to how much you can make, I'd say if you really grind, you could make 35-40k if you can produce high quality stuff. If you are amazing, and sell yourself to the right firms, maybe 50-60k. If you are among the best in the world...mayyyyybe six figures.
Toss up some VIZ and get the ball rolling! Archinect is a great resource for critique, and if you're serious about getting into that segment, it's better to know what you're getting into!
I have a couple of friends trying to do this. Let's just say its an uphill battle. It seems like its a harder industry to "break into" than architecture, so if you're planning to do it as an alternative to the architectural career grind, you're SOL.