What is a Freelance Model?

There are tons of resources via google already, but I recommend this article for a read. Let’s say you still want to read my perspective you may continue reading. Here’s are a few quick bullet points…

  • Definition
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit of being a full time or part time freelance model.
  • Basic tips and resources to much more in-depth tips.

Definition

Freelance Model

A person whom is working with creatives to create imagery, video, or to promote a product/service at an event. Differences from a freelance model and a signed model is a freelance model is basically a person who is their own boss and business.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Being a very successful freelance model requires not just entrepreneurial spirit, but using that spirit to learn to work hard and smart to grow into a well oiled machine. It will not be easy, heck running the business side may or will hurt your mindset of being a model for some as keeping in shape, learning poses, learning to master your body will be a day to day task, so adding on another million business tasks will not be easy to take on.

If you truly want to be a freelance model, study the possibilities of what you can or cannot do with your look, and then once you know this you can try each of those see which you may enjoy most and which can earn you most revenue/cash flow. If you can I highly recommend taking some business college courses or reading a whole lot of business articles and books on running a freelance/sole proprietor business. You may already assumed if you’re not 5’9 and “super skinny” you cannot be a model, its okay, its a very commons misconception as this is obviously to people in the industry incorrect. Many full time and part time models start at any age, size, ethnicity, background etc… yes some will pay more than the other and yes some areas will have a lot more work available and yes you may or may not have much competition in certain areas in the industry because your look isn’t extremely popular like glamour, high fashion, bikini, etc.

Here’s how you can see what can and cannot work with your look: look at your stats (measurements, height, age, etc.) see how much can you earn in modeling from freelance or being signed onto an agency. For example for one famous industry utilizing models, the fashion industry. If you meet the industry standards for fashion modeling for either runway or/and print fashion modeling, then you’d generally need to worry about your age, height, measurements being in the prime numbers of what most clients prefer, being in those prime numbers would get you casted more often than not being in those prime numbers. From what I’ve researched you can earn up to 6+ figures as a supermodel in fashion female modeling. And the prime numbers do change a tiny bit year to year but from what I’ve researched fashion prefers 16-17 years young for young women, heights 5’9-5’11, and generally no tattoos. But freelance modeling is not really made for fashion models, if you know you got the numbers to meet the industry standards then you should at least look into a reputable fashion modeling agency.  Of course what I’ve mentioned are generalizations, supermodels can go easily up to 30 or even 40 years old for fashion work, but generally this is where a model is “grandfathered” into the industry from the early ages or found that right agency that put them there, which are extremely rare.

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Now I’m no expert in every type of modeling industries out there, that was only a sample of what I’ve studied in the fashion because I’m a fashion photographer. But let’s say you’re not that fashion model, how about an alternative model, or plus size model, etc., etc… there are still agencies but they can be very far to access due to their locations and lack of agencies existing in these markets and the ones worth while to show up to an audition/casting call can be extremely difficult for most due to that distance and investment being much higher. So the only option (at first possibly) may be freelance modeling.

Freelance modeling can be a part time job or full time job (business), its your choice entirely. You can juggle freelance modeling with a current full time day job and work the weekends (or during your normal off days) you have available to do shoots.

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Agency or not to Agency, is the question?

Some people can choose to join an agency, some people cannot for many reasons. If you’re considering an agency either as a parent for your child or yourself as the minor, or as an adult study the agency inside and out. One being reputation which you can gather this information from public reviews, and contacting/talking to current/past models that was with that agency.

The sad reality is vast majority of modeling agencies are running unethical business practices. Ethical business practice from reputable modeling agency is slightly similar to an actual job/employment/temp agency. They get you a job, they get a cut plus expenses, that’s it. If they offer modeling classes, photography, etc. it is considered conflict of interest.  While the markets are the same, and can easily generate revenue for that agency, it is a conflict of interest because they can say “We require you to use X services we provide in order to become a signed model and get jobs from us”. A real agency will only sign a model they think they will earn a revenue based on their clientele being companies around the world or specific regions in a state or country. An agency that select any Joe or Jane doe off the street and asks for any upfront costs is a conflict of interest and does not encourage the agency to get you actual modeling jobs. While I do admit if they don’t get any model an actual modeling job they’d go out of business, so some of these questionable agencies still do get models jobs just to keep naive models who pay these upfront costs interested and have some kind of hope they’d get to have a career in modeling. This can cost you as a easily from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars!

While I did notice a local model friend of mine taking her son to a somewhat local agency, the agency did ask for a fee. You have the option of paying that upfront fee or paying the extra gas for a more reputable agency that would not have unethical practices. I would personally choose the ethical agency because even if a small fee like $30 for just an interview or something for new models is a small price to pay for a possibility of more work to pay this off. Its the principle of ethics and not just that its very likely they’d ask for more upfront costs and become a snowball of upfront costs.

Now the option of going or starting freelance modeling may be the best or only option, especially if you lack the funds, or any ability to travel to the agency’s location and its assignments, or simply are not ready to jump into an agency yet. If you’re a parent of the model or the actual inspiring model wanting to start going the route of freelance modeling as mentioned already it is not an easy task. Especially if your look is highly demanded and you are getting constant attempts for bookings. Some new inspiring models may be highly demanded in the freelance world purely because of looks and will overlook your lack of portfolio, skills, reputation, etc…

 

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Quick Tips

  • How to get started as a freelance model?
    • You have 2 different options on how to start a freelance modeling career.
      • One being to start it off with a BANG! By hiring a professional model photographer. If you got a few hundred dollars you can get a chance to shoot with one, some of these same photographer like myself have test rates or similar where its just you and that photographer to shoot on a light, casual, easy going shoot that does not require a ton of prep or money from the photographer on other creatives like makeup/hair.
        • Be sure to read the reviews, ratings, etc. on their model photography work, they don’t have any this will be a red flag. Search their social media for reviews, google their name +review keywords. I personally have more than 10 reviews on my business facebook page, and more than 10 reviews on Thumbtack.
      • Another second option would be starting at the bottom if you literally have no funds other than a car to travel to many different areas (or if you’re lucky down the block). Start TFP shooting. (not sure on TFP continue reading below on that).
        • But a big warning, TFP is hit or miss. Reason why the photographer is doing TFP is because experimentation. Experimentation does not guarantee a successful shoot and great images unless the photographer is really good and knows the experiment failed and moved onto something they have mastered. Most TFP shoots are like this especially for the new (less than 5 years in model photography) photographers. Most experienced photographers still will always do experimentation but they will notice it and move onto an area they have mastered and still provide some solid images for you can have for the TFP shoot. Generally this may or may not be mentioned its an experimentation will take place for the experienced photographers, the new photographers its basically every shoot is an experiment and practice so consistency is not there yet.
  • Increase the odds of being hired
    • Geographical Choices: As anything else in the world, go where your market is. If you seriously want to up your game as in either trade shoots and being hired more often go to the major markets in your modeling type. Fashion as I know, since I am a fashion photographer, in the U.S. is primarily NYC. Technically nowhere else in the U.S. too, but clients and agencies do time to time hire local talent in other major cities in the country to save on travel costs for a lot of campaigns. As well most of the time for very big clients they’re willing to cover the travel.
    • Study the Look, Be the Look!: You cant really be everyone’s cup of tea. So study what you think you can do best, if its a few different ones like fashion, lifestyle, performance, etc. You can do all of that, but if you are specialized you can demand a higher rate, especially if you got the reputation, and portfolio backing you.
    • Skills: Some modeling requires minimal skills, some modeling requires a lot of skills. When I say skills its a mixture of many skills from ability to contort your body and limbs, to knowing yoga, or knowing karate. Of course you can simply wait until you need it but you are competing for a job. The bigger the job the more competition. Skills I highly recommend most thought are acting and dance. Both are beyond the most important skills to become a very successful model. Reasons why are simple, when modeling, in most cases you are playing a role of another character. Generally a character of what the art director or in the freelance world mostly being the photographer being that art director. As for dance skills, it teaches you to know your body very well, the more you know your body the better you can move freely on your own, less direction would needed from the photographer making the shoot run faster and smoother.
    • Maintain: Maintaining your look or enhancing your look should always be your day to day task, part time or full time model. Depending on what look you have or want to have, most are not easily maintained.
    • Portfolio: There are many ways to getting a portfolio started, some start it out in the freelance world with other freelance photographers doing “Trade” work. More known as “TFP” Trade for pictures. While if you do start with TFP you can get extremely lucky and interest a very quality photographer. And when I say luck it could be based on they discovered you or stumbled onto you because honestly in most cases as a new inspiring model you do not have an eye of what is quality work so its likely you may simply ask every single photographer you can, which is fine, especially if you do not have the funds to hire a photographer. Sooner or later you will develop an eye, or you can hire a model or photographer to help you develop your portfolio by helping you choose the images you have to be on your portfolio or not. But if you do go the TFP route do not expect to get hired as a model by great photographers looking to hire models.
    • Getting paid by photographers: The harsh reality is this, professional photographers generally would not want to hire models. The rare times they hire models are hiring models in behalf of a client of their own for a shoot (which is generally an art director of an advertising/creative agency) and hire models for a specific advertising and portfolio piece if the specific model looks are not achievable through TFP. Generally the photographers who pay models often are GWCs, known as Guys with cameras. These are the guys (and some cases women) who simply want to hire a model to remove clothing. While some of these are for legitimate nude or implied nude artistic photos, most are simply just wanting to see you naked or nearly naked.
      • While the small percentage of professional photographers would hire freelance models directly for personal projects or/and advertising needs, they’d also in-directly hire models by going to workshops/seminars as attendees or as hosts they’d hire freelance models. As well some shooting get togethers or more known as shoot out events where both models and photographers pays a flat rate fee for a day or few days of shooting with many different models, but generally the host would hire out an experienced and popular model for the event as a featured model.
      • Being a small percentage of photographers willing to hire freelance models, you’d need increase this volume to be able to live off of the income is (as already recommended above) living in a more populated market, and market area that is known to be “booming” like for glamour and bikini modeling would be best in warmer markets like Los Angeles, CA and Miami, FL. As for fashion NYC and maybe LA, etc… you’d need to research your market and live and work in the booming areas to really become successful. While it is still possible to live in a less populated areas and demand can become high for your modeling services all over the country or globe, this will not be easy to go into this type of modeling. You’d need a look and have great reputation both with fans and workers, if you can great, some clients may even pay your travels too and you can be a traveling model.
        • The other option when you cannot simply move to anywhere and stuck in your area (either city/town or region of your state) and still lack income you’d need to look into other markets (types of modeling) that are more popular within the freelance world. I can tell you now though outside of NYC, for fashion it is extremely difficult to get hired for fashion work unless you get lucky with a gem photographer seeing the value in you to hire you for a fashion project (which I would if you have the stats which are extremely rare to find outside of NYC). Be prepared to work as a part time freelance model if jobs are too limited in your areas, and work a “normal” day job while doing your part time modeling work.
      • When to start asking for money for your time and likenesses may be a question now on top of your head right? If so it is a great question. You can offer your rates when a photographer requests to shoot you, but if they’re looking to shoot TFP and you are still working on your portfolio look into their portfolio, look at your portfolio. Ask yourself, do you see any potential of adding their style or unique shoot idea that you think would help your portfolio? If you honestly do not at all, then offer your rates, but if you’re unsure ask a close photographer friend you’ve worked with a long time to provide input. Not every experienced or even new model has an eye for quality photography, and quality is very subjective as well a perception by the level of a photographer you speak to, not every photographer has the same standards in quality.
        • WARNINGS: (especially for female models)
          • ALWAYS have an escort! (family, friend, anyone you truly trust!), you can choose not to have one when you know and truly trust the photographer you’ve worked with many times before. Even then, bring some defensive weapon even, legal one, like mace/pepper spray.
          • Common Sense if you’re traveling, have a fully charged phone, if possible have spare batteries to your phone.
          • Communication is extremely important in freelance modeling with freelance photographers, a miscommunication can derail a photoshoot very easily, cost everyone the shoot and any investments into the shoot.
          • Not every photographer is the same. I for example will do things very differently as to how I handle TFP shoots than another photographer. This is a huge misconception where every photographer that will shoot a TFP will do it the same way is not true. When I started I did provide all shots cause I was still in the very early stages of learning and portfolio building, but today 5 years later I still do portfolio building but will not give all shots any longer, only the best shots I think are best and edit them the way I think are best. Photographers change, artists change, they get better or change directions.
      • TFP more defined in this post TF vs. FREE.
    • There is much, much more, but this post is already too long and may scare some people from reading even further, but everything else is below with links I promise!

Resources

As we know Google is great, but why spend the millions of hours combing through quality tips. While I’d admit I’m no top dog or top industry expert in the world of modeling. But I highly recommend inspiring models checking out my tips from a photographer’s perspective on my blog. I do have 5 years of experience in shooting models since I started my journey in photography in late 2010, and my primary goal is to shoot fashion and other modeling type shooting. I am based in a not so major modeling or even fashion market Northeastern PA.

 

Blog Posts to Check Out!

Check out blog series posts I have on my blog site regarding my entire journey in learning model photography

Any questions? Simply comment here I’ll answer as soon as I can and best to my ability!

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