How to Make Money at Modeling

I’m frequently asked how to make money at modeling. From my experience, there are several options. I’ve included some of the ones that came to mind. Please be aware that some of the links below are NSFW, so visit at your own peril.

how to get paid as a modelBecome a Social Media Personality

I don’t know anyone who, strictly speaking, gets paid to be pretty on the web, except maybe the Kardashians. You can, however, get deals promoting clothing, jewelry, drinks, cosmetic products, fitness formulas, etc., provided that you build such a following that your fan base represents a built-in audience. Another word for this is becoming an “influencer”. Marketing agencies seek out these people within communities to promote brands that are a good fit. I recommend you only endorse products you genuinely use and like. Also, be transparent about it when you are being compensated to endorse something or risk being embarrassed.

Live Art Modeling for Classes 

These jobs can be found on Craigslist or a site like http://www.artmodeltips.com/life-drawing-sessions/united_states/  – Here in Chattanooga, Townsend Atelier is a place that uses live models for classes on drawing the human figure. Learn more at http://townsendatelier.com/ Of all the modeling gigs that involve nudity, this is the most purely reputable and socially accepted because the audience has likely been prepared to behave in a respectful and professional manner. If someone is comfortable baring their body, this can be an option.

Promotional Modeling

You basically get hired to be the pretty girl who dresses sexy and gets attention of people at events where there are large crowds, from sporting events to store openings to conventions and trade shows. Usually this means being part of a team of attractive people, handing out material, smiling and being friendly. The promo model assists in delivering a live experience that reflects the product or service he or she is representing. You can search for promo modeling jobs at http://www.atnpromo.com

joc2217Get Signed with an Agency

Most agencies are located in larger cities where commercial projects and creative professionals are concentrated within a metro area. They usually have someone on staff dedicated to reviewing “New Faces” and may announce dates set aside for meeting aspiring models. Be careful of scams such as photo studios that pose as agencies (to sell you pictures but never actually get you any work). Most agencies will take a percentage of the jobs you get booked for. They display their available talent on dedicated websites and make arrangements for a variety of bookings — from runway shows to catalog photo shoots to live events. Agencies typically prefer models who can portray a variety of ages and types, developing the talent at an early age to maximize the return on investing in the model over several years of marketability. Some agencies are exclusive, others let you sign with other agencies. The big time models (think Victoria’s Secret supermodels) are signed with agencies that do the work of sorting through offers and negotiating their rates on their behalf. Good places to start: http://ambiancemodels.com/ http://www.redmodels.net or http://www.gagetalent.com/ There’s even an agency that specializes in ordinary looking people: http://www.ugly.org/UGLY-MODELS/index.php/about-us.html In the past, agencies were primarily concerned with how the model looks, but increasingly, the models who get booked are the ones who have an established following on social media.

Or… Go the Freelance Route.

Making money as a modelIf you can’t get signed with an agency or don’t want to be restricted in what you want to do, you can always take charge and put yourself out there. For starters, join Model Mayhem and post pics, then network with others on the website. This used to be THE place, along with OneModelPlace.com, to get modeling work, but increasingly, it seems that Facebook Pages and Groups are taking over that role. As a free agent, you can do whatever you want to do, but be careful. Like answering an ad from Craigslist, you don’t always know if you are dealing with a reputable buyer. It’s a good idea to ask for references from other models who have shot with them previously. If you get a weird vibe from someone, listen to your gut. You can usually tell by the quality of someone’s images whether they are worth your time. Internet models are notoriously flaky, so you can become someone that photographers enjoy shooting with and want to hire again and again. In all honestly, sometimes the buyer is a lawyer or a doctor who has invested in expensive camera gear and wants to play photographer with a hot babe. Other photographers may be starving artists yet worth shooting with for free if their work is exceptional. Sign up at https://www.modelmayhem.com/registration/chooseMayhem

Traveling Model-For-Hire

I know several models who go on tour, so to speak, announcing dates they will be in this city or that town. They try to set up paid photo shoots with several photographers in each city. They may, in some cases, barter a shoot with one of them she trusts for a place to sleep and a bite to eat. Most of the traveling models I am aware of are figure models or do fetish work (which may be clothed and non-sexual). I’ve seen a few models who specialize in stock photography (generic imagery for commercial use) or fitness modeling. This tier of modeling requires laying the groundwork to establish yourself and polish your sales pitch. You’ll also need to be something of a chameleon with your looks and be highly organized when traveling. Reliable transportation is also a must. This is not really the best option if a model has young children at home.

Get Discovered

We’ve all heard the tales of top models who were approached by agents or scouts following chance encounters. It ain’t no fun waitin’ round to be a millionaire. These days, your chance of being discovered increase with entertainment such as America’s Next Top Model bringing exposure.

Models at dinner
These models were used in a restaurant feature article in Lookout Alabama magazine.

Get Published 

Work with a photographer who can increase your profile by getting your likeness published. This involves doing spec shoots with talented people who then farm the photos out as submissions to places like Playboy magazine or syndication services like Picdesk.com . Editorial work is highly prestigious but usually doesn’t pay a large amount. The payoff is the exposure one gets from being seen and having the tear sheet in a portfolio. Get started at http://www.playboy.com/pose-for-playboy – It is worth noting that sometimes it is better for the model to approach publications and websites with a submission rather than the photographer, especially if she has a big social media following.

Patreon – This website brings the crowdsharing business model to creative talents, including photographers and models. Here’s an example of a model using Patreon https://www.patreon.com/theresamanchester It is my understanding that you can make money on the site, but you really have to do the marketing work to make people aware that your content exists and make it appealing enough for someone to want to spend money to see what’s behind that paywall.

Appear on subscription sites like SuicideGirls.com  or Zivity.com

These sites offer a platform to start off from as opposed to just building a website and expecting hordes of adoring fans to simply show up out of thin air. Usually the sites either charge a fee to publish on their real estate or take a percentage of what your “patrons” pay you to see your pictures, watch your videos, etc. A word of advice: Don’t leave photographers out of the loop and make money off photos we take of you (unless you hired one of us in a Work For Hire arrangement). That’s a good way to get a bad rep and potentially get sued. You are better off working out some arrangement with a photographer you trust to create the content you use. There may be a photographer who enjoys shooting with you regularly for the fun of it and won’t charge you an arm and a leg. Usage rights are all part of the overall compensation when negotiating a shoot. If one party demands exclusive rights to the images, that party typically pays a hefty fee to the other. At the other end of the scale is trade, and that can include commercial usage of the images.

Webcam Modeling

webcam modelingCertainly not everyone’s cup of tea or anything I would strongly recommend anyone doing, but if a model is comfortable with her body and expressing her sexuality, it’s probably safer than working in a seedy strip bar.  I’d just recommend using an alias so one’s past of online sex work does not follow her forever. As you might imagine, the amount of skin revealed may depend on what the model wishes to share, but the more she shows, the more she probably makes. Tread carefully. As with other types of modeling, you get out of it what you put into it, i.e., building up content, attracting a fan base, etc.

Bottom line: Much of the money you make as a model will rely on the relationships you cultivate with your fan base, regardless of how “hot” you look or how well you photograph. Your ability to network with a modeling agent, fans, booking agents, and photographers you meet determines how far you can take it. That and, of course, how willing you are to put in the work (eating healthy, exercising at the gym, reliably showing up and performing as expected, etc.).

I am by no means the final authority on modeling, just a photographer who has seen a lot of different types of gigs over the years of doing photography. Let me know if I left anything out.