When you dip your big toe into the modeling world, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the cut throat and fast-paced nature of the industry. The best way to arm yourself against looking like a total newbie is to read up as much as you can. It's easy to be distracted by the glittery perks or the whole party scene, but there's a whole lot more to modeling than dancing the night away in clubs.
The serious models know that the priority is building their portfolio and choosing a field to focus on. Contrary to popular belief, not all models are interchangeable. In diverse markets such as Los Angeles, models are further segmented based on specializations. Those who have endeared themselves to magazines might do fashion editorials exclusively. There are those who work better doing runway modeling, and some who shine particularly well in brand commercials. With models being a dime a dozen, it's important to choose what kind of modeling jobs strike your fancy, and concentrate on making yourself excel in that first.
In order to pick the right fit, it's important to familiarize yourself with the different kinds of modeling jobs available. Once you've decided, this will also help you pick an agency because even agencies now have a tendency to specialize. This is why it's not uncommon for supermodels to have a team of agents, because each one represents a different segment of the modeling industry. Here's a short run down on the different modeling jobs out there and how to book each one.
1.) Fashion Editorials
The easiest way to score face time in the top glossies is to cozy up with the editors through social events and connections. The likes of Anna Wintour have a group of top supermodels who they rotate, but once in a while they take a liking to a newbie (Karlie Kloss for example) and help cement her career in the industry.
Aside from that, magazines usually course their bookings through the numerous agencies they work with. On rare occasions, they might post ads for go-sees, so check the magazine or websites such as OneModelPlace.com for model searches.
There are also a handful of magazines such as Seventeen that have annual contests for Fresh Faces. This is another way to get a foot in the door, but be warned that it's a grueling process and might involve exclusivity contracts when you're hired.
While fashion magazines are all about glamour in their pages, it’s ironic that editorial gigs are usually the lowest paying ones. Of course, the big name models are exceptions, but for beginner models who book a fashion or beauty shoot, expect the average pay range to be around $100 to $400 dollars for the entire shoot. This could mean anything from less than two hours if you’re working with a mega efficient production team or a whole day of waiting around. Magazine covers aren’t any better either. A prominent magazine such as Women’s Health for example, only pays an average of $250 for models they put on the cover.
To book fashion editorials, first you must fit the physical bill. While editorials vary in theme, the general rule is that models have to be able to fit in the sample sizes that are sent in by the designers which usually range from about size 0 to size 2. Average weight ranges from 90 - 120 lbs, and a lean physique is preferred to make clothes look better. Height is generally an advantage for better proportions but it’s not non-negotiable since stylists can use heels to camouflage lack of height.
For how to book that job: you need to assemble a portfolio for the editors who would be doing the casting. If you have more details on the kind of model they are looking for, it would significantly up your chances if you customize the pictures you show them based on the job. All those glamour pictures might not impress them so much if they're looking to book models for their swimsuit issue. Similarly, don't expect to land a glamour modeling job, when all of the pictures in your portfolio are fashion.
Treat modeling jobs the same way you do other jobs you apply for. Your portfolio will serve as your resume and a cover letter would also be impressive and would show that you've done your research. Remember most aspiring models send in their pictures to magazines first, so these editors receive dozens of modeling portfolios a day. Also, the most important step is to follow through. After sending in your portfolio, make sure you ask if there's a specific person you should check in for updates. Diligently follow up, because with fast-pace industries such as the modeling industry, persistence is key.
2.) Commercial Ads (Print and TV)
While editorials are more for artistic expression, the commercial ad or advertorial is where the bigger bucks lie. Brands usually shell out serious dollars for their talents in TV commercials or even brand posters.
Another great thing about commercial ads is that the standards are generally looser since they want their models to look approachable and relatable. So girls below six feet or those with fuller waistlines definitely have a fighting chance.
If you're not dependent on an agency for bookings, you can also depend on friends who are working in the ad industry to see which brands are scouting for new models. If you have friends in marketing and brand management, you can try volunteering to be part of their campaigns as well.
These brands usually organize their own go-sees or VTRs (Video Tape Recordings) to scour for possible brand ambassadors, so keep your eyes peeled in the brand's website and other sites such as One Model Place for casting calls. Some brands also scout for possible talents in places where their target market hangs out in. For example, those casting for an alcohol commercial might find models in bars. To score commercial ad jobs, your physical appearance plays a big role. However, unlike fashion editorials, commercial modeling doesn’t have a cookie-cutter standard that they adhere to, it really depends on a client’s need. Generally clear skin and a fit physique are preferred, but there are definitely exceptions. Sometimes clients also specify certain nationalities or age groups that they want the model to be in. The bottom line is that if you’re a commercial model, it’s really your ability to embody the brand's image that is your main selling point.
Commercial models, especially those that are in video ads, are known to be paid well even if the aren’t very famous yet. Part of the reason why these jobs pay well is because they usually come with an exclusivity contract as well. It’s understood that if you model for a company like Coke, you're supposed to say no if Pepsi suddenly comes beating down your door. Big clothing brands such as H&M or J.Crew pay as much as $35,000 to $60,000 for a campaign which can include print advertising material, catalogs, and TV commercials. Consumer goods brands such as Gilette or Best Buy can pay upwards of $3,000 a day for a shoot, whether it’s for commercial TV or print. Smaller brands go a little bit lower, but around $500 - $1,000 is an industry standard for brand sponsored campaigns.
Commercial ads cover a wide range of modeling, and the good thing about brands, in particular clothing and beauty brands, especially those not specifically tied to an endorser is that they tend to get numerous people to grace all the collaterals they need. For example, bigger brands such as Avon usually employ a different girl for the commercial, the poster and the catalog. So make sure to exhaust all these options.
Don't limit yourself to international brands. That hip local store you frequent might be looking for a model for a smaller campaign. This is still a good opportunity, since you're assured that these ads will be getting exposure. The fact that a company is willing to spend on a full-blown shoot means that they would definitely plaster these ads all over the internet.
3.) Runway Modeling
Whenever Fashion Week rolls around, you can bet that there will be go-sees in every corner. Runway modeling is still considered the cream of the crop, because it has the most stringent requirements of all. To even get in the casting door, you have to be a minimum of 5’8” as a girl, but most fashion brands prefer that you be above 5’10". Anything above 120 pounds is usually too much for runway modeling. In terms of proportions, most fashion brands are of the mindset that the less curves the better. The reason behind this is that at fashion shows, it should really be the clothes that take the attention, and it’s easier to design clothes for tall, flat chested types.
Go-sees are usually advertised in websites and classified ads. To get a bigger chance of getting noticed, try auditioning for modeling jobs during off season such as when designers are just looking to present capsule collections . The competition is less fierce, and there's a bigger chance you'll strike up a friendly rapport with the designer because you're not just one of a hundred models.
In terms of payment, runway modeling isn’t very lucrative. There are some brands that don’t even pay their models in cash, but give them clothes instead. This is bad news for start up models, but it’s definitely part of the business. Brands pay an average of around $800 - $1,200 per show either in cash or in trade. This includes the time you spent for the go-see, the fittings and the show proper itself. It’s not a lot, but runway modeling is still the best way to make your big break as a model, so come fashion week, hundreds of models still troop to the tents despite the not so stellar pay.
4.) Trade Shows / Events
Trade shows and events that need live models are also a great way to make a mark and also have the chance to network with industry big wigs. The announcements for these jobs are usually done through casting calls, word of mouth, or through connections. It is always good to network with partyphiles or event organizing friends and influencers in the modeling industry.
Unless these trade shows are explicitly for a high-end fashion brands, the physical requirements are not so stringent. It’s similar to commercial modeling wherein the important thing is being a good representation of a brand. In terms of pay, events modeling is one of the lowest paying kinds of modeling, but it’s a steadier source of income. Unlike commercials, which usually come only once every few months, models needed for bars to promote liquor brands or cigarettes usually pay $100 - $200 as a day rate. Cities with a more vibrant party culture such as Las Vegas tend to pay more.
Trade show modeling on the other hand commands a higher price since it sometimes requires models to do presentations and train with the brand. Trade models can make as much as $4,000 per day representing brands to industry bigwigs. Trade show modeling opportunities occur in bigger cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or Orlando, which are the frequent venues for industry conventions.
5.) Acting / TV Gigs
While the usual pattern is for established models to try their hand at acting after a while, doing it the opposite way is not unheard of. Remember that as an aspiring model, especially an independent one without an agent, the most important part is exposure and getting in the radar of important people who have the chance to make or break your career.
There's a misconception that acting jobs are rare in suburban cities. In fact, if you scour hard enough, there will always be acting jobs that suit your qualifications. Prepare to accept that these roles would definitely not be top roles. Most likely you will just be an extra, but it's a start. Having TV roles in your portfolio significantly ups your chances of booking jobs for TV commercials too, so don't scoff at small parts.
To find these roles, you don't have to pack your bags and move to LA. Start in your local filmmaking scene, make friends and offer to help out by playing some roles. Indie films are big right now, and you'll make some connections. Another advantage is that if film crews for bigger movies or TV shows come into your town, they usually recruit local talent, so with a little patience, you will have an easy-in for the bigger jobs.
Calls for bit roles and extras are usually posted on the casting call sections of sites like One Model Place and in the classifieds section of local newspapers. Also, be sure to check the official websites of your favorite shows, they might be planning to shoot special episodes near your hometown.
The requirements in terms of looks are very subjective and largely dependent on a director’s vision. With the sheer number of roles available, it’s impossible to define a type. In terms of pay for bit roles there are a number of permutations. For walk-ins or extras, $100 to $150 for the first 8 hours is standard. Anything that requires night shooting must come with overtime pay of either time and a half or double of the hourly pay. Challenging conditions such as requirements to do stunts, working in water or smoke require additional hourly pay as well. If you luck out and manage to nab a speaking role, the base rate may go up to upwards of $850 per day. Again, these are just rough estimates and rates usually vary per city and production outfit that you work with.
Another way to get into acting is through theater roles. As a model, getting comfortable with an audience is a very valuable skill, and theater is a great way to hone this. Aside from that, theater plays also teach you valuable skills in projecting, blocking, and how to elicit a reaction from a crowd. If there's a drought in screen acting jobs, theater is a great alternative. Plus, creative people in the modeling industry would appreciate these credentials and would definitely give you an advantage in go-sees when you demonstrate flair in your personality.
6.) Niche Modeling
There are certain modeling jobs with requirements so specialized, they don’t necessarily fit into any of the categories we’ve mentioned above.
Artistic modeling can be a steady paying job for a few weeks, especially if you live near an art school. This kind of modeling basically requires you to be a model for a class or an artist so they can draw or paint you. Sometimes artistic modeling requires nude modeling, so if that’s not something you’re willing to consider, you definitely have to state it outright. These kinds of models make as much as $50 per hour with more established art schools, and there are no strict limits when it comes to physical proportions either.
There is also conceptual modeling for artistic photographs such as glamour or pinup or nude images. These photo shoots can have the same finished product as fashion editorials, but the main difference is that they are not used for the glossies. Most of the time these are for art exhibits or portfolios of photographers. In terms of pay, it’s usually a personal arrangement between the model and the artist.
Another specialized kind of modeling for commercial purposes is parts modeling. If you have particularly soft-looking hands or perfect tootsies, you may be perfect for a nail polish brand. Perfect looking legs could do well in an ad for stockings. The key is to pay attention to magazines and other print ads around to see what the market needs.