SketchUp as a Career?

One of my favorite topics here is SketchUp as a Hobby. I thought it might be insightful to do a thread on SketchUp as a Career.

So my question is, for a person that loves using SketchUp as a Hobby, what are some potential career paths? Anyone who uses SketchUp in their career please chip in. I thought I would list a few that I know of, and I’ll give some info from the way I use it.

I use it as a project manager and concrete product design. No degree or certification is required, but they are available, and I do have a MBA and I am working on a project management certification (Project Management Professional, PMP)
Project Manager - use as a communications tool, to help illustrate worksite conditions, safety issues (thanks to the folks at Turner at the 2014 Basecamp for that idea). Probably use SketchUp 5% of my work time.
Manufacturing - as a communications tool to show clients what I am planning to produce for them. The clarity of 3d animations helps make sure that the customer fully understands what they’re getting. I also use it to communicate with workers to show how some more complicated things will work, when a plan and profile view just don’t make it clear. Probably use SketchUp 5% of my work time.

How do you use SketchUp for work? What percentage of your work time are you using SketchUp? Do you have to have an additional degree or certification to do your work?

edited to add more questions and information

Architect/Architectural Designer

SketchUp is not only tool I use for those purposes, but one of the major tool for it.

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@josephkim626, How much of your time would you say you use Sketchup as a percentage of work? Also, what other programs do you use, and why?

It really depends on the type of work I am on. It can be none to 100%.
It is hard to say because I don’t have same workflow for all projects.

Some other softwares are:
Adobe design suite (Indesign, photoshop, illustrator), Autodesk products (AutoCAD, Revit)

Would you say that in order to be an Architect or Architectural Visualizer you need to be able to use AutoCAD and Revit? I ask because those can be harder to gain experience with. How far could one get with a high degree of competence with SketchUp? With SketchUp and visualization (rendering, animated walkthroughs, etc.)

As a more general question for you and others, what types of jobs can you do without a degree in architecture. I want to avoid derailing the thread, but for many reasons (time, money, desire, etc.) some do not pursue a degree beyond high school, are there career paths within the field of Architecture that do not require one? Or, perhaps, ways to begin a career in Architecture and pursue a degree later along the way?

I think you can just get by without having knowledge in Revit or a BIM software. It would be difficult to fit in however. AutoCAD is almost a must. The market standard is still AutoCAD, although it is moving to Revit (BIM). As an Architect or Architectural Visualizer, you must know Photoshop however. Your knowledge in that software will greatly expend your capability to visualize your creative design onto a format which you can see and share.

Of course, this is what I think and what I have experienced. Not necessarily an answer represents everyone.

I think the best way to learn SketchUp is to just try stuff on your own and some research. Pure hours spent on the software will reflect your competence in it. I have taught myself whilst earning Architecture degree in college, and that was enough to get myself started in the field.

You can be an architectural visualizer or software specialist without degree in architecture. But it would be very difficult to gain experience in software to get yourself to start with. And especially in architecture, because you need license, there is a limit you will hit (job position, salary, etc.) without the a degree. I believe you can get license without a degree, but it is longer and more difficult.

I hope this answered your questions.


Thanks, that’s great information. I had no idea you could get a license at all without a degree, but in some states, you can.

I’m shamelessly bumping this topic, can any Interior Designers, Home Remodelers, Plugin Developers, or Game Developers jump in? Or anyone else that uses SketchUp professionally?

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I would note the distinction between using SketchUp as a tool to provide a service and providing SketchUp as the service itself. A cabinetmaker may provide the service of custom-built cabinets … how he (or she) actually builds the cabinets will involve a number of specialized tools, most of which require some practice and experience to use them effectively. Obviously, cabinetry has been around for a long time … long before computers or calculators (or even electricity, for that matter). Some cabinetmakers still draw their prints by hand … or merely use a well-dimensioned iso sketch. To each their own. If they choose to use SketchUp to make their life easier (or more profitable), they are still providing custom-built cabinets as the service.

In a former life, I was paid to convert 2D blueprints into 3D CAD models. These models were then used to generate CNC programs to make physical models, molds, and EDM electrodes. From time-to-time, I would get paid to only do the 2D to 3D conversion and then export it to 9-track tape as an IGES file for the customer to take elsewhere. Most balked at the fee I had to charge due to the expense of the system I was using at the time. But that was thirty-five years ago … computing speed has exponentially increased and software prices have dropped. It cost $500,000 in 1980 to have a decent CAD/CAM system that is easily out-performed today by the lowliest netbook running free software.

While CNC is still heavily used in the manufacturing world, 3D printing is slowly coming of age. From the brittle SLA parts of the 1990s to the organic tissue and chocolate printers of 2016. Whereas before, CNC programs first needed a 2D outline or a 3D surface to iterate over, 3D printing first requires that a manifold triangulated mesh be created. And, just as there is an art to cabinetry, there is also an art to 3D modeling. There is a growing niche market for providing concept-to-STL file creation as a service in and of itself (whether or not you use SketchUp to provide it). I think the market for concept-to-SketchUp-model is also there. but it’s hard to find people that need this and your competition is some guy that does it as a hobby for free.

BTW, where I work, we teach people how to use Autodesk and Creative Suite (now Creative Cloud). While we also provide SketchUp 8 to everyone, very few people seem to be aware of it since we don’t actually teach it. As a result, when our graduates go on to become animators, architects, graphic designers, and whatnot, their tools of choice are obviously the ones we taught them how to use (if a bit costly).

Just trying to help out :wink:


Thanks, I appreciate the input. It totally makes sense, and I like how you broke it down. What category do you fall into now? Are you teaching at a college?

I move bits for a living … I’m a network administrator for a community college.

In addition to my day job, I used to teach C and C++ as an evening class, but it took too much of my free time to do it right, so I stopped (plus it was very discouraging).

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I tried starting my own affordable 3D drafting & conceptual design firm to targeting smaller interior design firms , contractors projects, stakeholders etc. [] (

Pricing is based on sqft, lft, and turnaround time. (can be found on website)

I am also trying to convince furniture manufacturers to make 3D Warehouse catalogs of their products, and web marketing for meta data etc.

Still trying on a shoestring budget, and everyday obstacles of a drafter… but Sketchup has been my superpower for this self-taught, uneducated, currently penniless creative individual … like so many other hobbyist. I hope SketchUp jobs will continue to grow in todays career market.


I like your idea about providing services to other firms. It takes a lot of work to set out from scratch like that, and I can see that you put a lot into your website and your work. I know someone who did similar work on the side while working for a architecture firm. He does well with it.

I’m working with my children right now to help them get to the point where they can do that, perhaps as a way to earn some money when they get to high school, and maybe put them through college. It takes a lot of business knowledge to take an ability and convert it to income. I do some business consulting work on the side, if you ever wanted a second opinion or help with finding direction on solution to a business challenge, feel free to ask (pro bono). Some very successful entrepreneurs were “uneducated” and “penniless” when they got started, but research shows they were always great at getting the expertise that they lacked from those around them.

What is your favorite outcome of what you do with SketchUp? Is it the model itself, is it the creative act, perhaps the ability to make real something that was abstract, or some completely different reason?

Edited to clarify the first paragraph.

The ability to communicate clearly is my favorite outcome. I struggle with articulating situations and ideas. My weakness has made me seek out and learn SketchUp.

Plus, I also have a plan using 8A Loans to secure GSA contracts ( I am ADHD, with bad credit… so not likely on my own)

My biggest dream for SketchUp is… exploiting the genius of autism (evolution perhaps) via science grant and working with partners such as

No affiliation… I just appreciate what they are doing.
After working in an office, I think a high functioning autistics are more reliable employees.

SketchUp ‘could be’ an epic tool for all the autistics, caregivers, and the economy. ESPECIALLY with GSA contracts awaiting bids from 8A recipients. ;-0

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I use SketchUp and Autocad in my job on a daily basis. I go back and forth between the two, using SketchUp as a design and communication aid, and Autocad to produce the final drawings. It’s probably 50-50 as far as usage during the day.

I find that SketchUp is a valuable tool for solving 3D problems quickly, and many times I send people quick screenshots of models, along with an email to ask for clarification, or to communicate a design idea. A picture is worth 1000 words, as they say.

I have also, in my previous job, used SketchUp to produce final presentations of construction projects, by inserting the 3D model into Photoshop. The photo-matching feature in SketchUp make this a breeze!

I have no formal certifications or degrees in SketchUp. Back in the day I kept on showing SketchUp to an increasingly long list of co-workers and managers until they saw how valuable it was, and worked my way into a SketchUp-heavy career. In my current job I’m designing rock climbing walls in SketchUp.


@Explore3D, That’s an interesting keyboard solution, I can see how useful it would be in a variety of situations. I think there is a lot of room to develop new business methods that better utilize the strengths of people to create better business “fit,” and in that would include autism’s variety of strengths. I have to say I don’t know anything about 8A loans though. How do you envision SketchUp being used by autistics?

@apalexander76, I appreciate you sharing your path, and designing rock climbing walls sounds like a lot of fun. I also find myself mocking things up and making videos or animated GIFs to send so that they can see why I’m concerned about a given design. How did you find the jobs as you moved from one company to another?

GIS, BIM contracts for GSA

if anyone runs with this idea… i need a job :slight_smile:

re: autism
NSF Grant could be utilized for Autistics to learn how to build components for SketchUp and add meta data, earning a paycheck.

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My previous job was the one where I introduced SketchUp to everyone. I was there for 9 years, and a couple years after I started was when I learned it and got them to buy me a copy. When I was on the hunt for another job, the job posting mentioned “SketchUp and Autocad” as the software of choice. So they already knew the power of it, they were just losing their only draftsman, and needed to fill his position. So I was especially lucky to find this job, especially since we had just uprooted our lives and moved from Canada to Australia.

In my experience, co-workers, managers, and bosses are not always familiar enough with CAD software to really understand how one program differs from another. They like, however, to see results on screen, and SketchUp allows me to very quickly draw and change things almost as quick as they speak, so there’s a huge wow factor in it, and it wasn’t that hard to get them on board.


I actually work for a large firm in daily bases, but do SketchUp training and 3D visualization on the side as a freelancer. This takes a bit of time. Often I struggle for the time management as I can’t be at two places at once.

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@josephkim626, of course, and it’s common to have to cut back on freelancing an side work when the demands of the day job and family come first.

I often want to create a site to allow people to pick up SketchUp work on the side, but I worry about commoditizing 3d modeling and visualization the way graphic arts has become commoditized by those without the knowledge of how much their time is worth.

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