6 Rules

Six Rules of Modeling


1. Think!

Remember the old adage "if it's too good to be true -- it isn't." There are hundreds of scams out there, usually designed to take money from a potential model. Remember that if someone WANTS YOU to be a model -- they should be GIVING YOU something. Does it even make sense to have someone say "Yes, I NEED you as a model, now pay me a $300 application fee."

Also consider that job / transaction needs to be a "balanced trade." Are you getting back as much as you're giving? If it seems that you're doing ALL the "giving" -- it's probably a bad situation.

When you evaluate jobs / transactions, however, you need to realize that you're only "worth" what you "bring to the table."

If you are a beginner with little (or no) experience, your time and talent is not worth much more than minimum wage. What makes you valuable is your experience and skills (just like any other profession). You need to balance your skills & experience with those working with you (whether they are a model, photographer, agent, art director, etc.).

If you think that a newcomer's time is worth as much as seasoned pro -- you're kidding yourself. (Would you pay a novice photographer with a disposable camera the same amount that you would pay an expert with 15 years of experience and an entire room full of equipment?)

2. It's all about EXPERIENCE!

Would you want to hire a doctor to perform major surgery if they had never attended medical school nor had ever held a scalpel? Of course not!

It's the same with commercial clients. They don't want untrained, inexperienced models who might botch the job for them. The model fees are only a small fraction of the total expense of shooting an ad, and if the model doesn't work out (or doesn't show up) thousands of dollars are wasted. Instead of taking a chance with all that money involved -- they will go with the model who has a portfolio and resume full of experience.

For this reason -- you should take ANY job that will increase your level or quality of experience -- regardless of whether it pays or not.

If the job will provide you with better photos for your portfolio, or a significant company / photographer to add to your resume, or great looking tear-sheets, or photos that will be used in regional / national exposure -- you should take it. The greater your experience and the better your "face recognition" -- the more you will be worth in the long haul.

Of course -- you don't have to work with just "any" photographer / designer. Approach those who have quality work -- and volunteer your services to them. Many times -- photographers will be in-charge of hiring models for commercial clients -- and by posing for their personal projects (perhaps for free or prints for your portfolio) -- you open doors to paying jobs in the future.

3. Go to Where the Jobs Are!

Would you expect to find work as a deep sea diver in Kansas? Probably not.

The same goes for the modeling industry -- you have to GO to where the jobs are.

Regular and steady modeling work can only be found in large metropolitan areas, and chances at NATIONAL modeling are pretty much restricted to Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles markets.

If you want to be a model -- you're going to have to relocate to a big metro area. There is no "choice" to the matter. Many agencies will call you at 8AM for interviews that you have to be at by 10AM for jobs (if you're picked) that might start at 11AM. Getting up, ready, and to the in-town location is hard enough when you're living right in the metro -- but is likely impossible if you're not.

ALSO -- clients strongly prefer LOCAL models. They are just more reliable. Since they live right in the city -- they have access to many types of transportation (so a car break-down will not "stop" a day's shooting dead in its tracks -- the model simply hails a cab and picks up her car later). ALSO -- local models don't add "travel" expense to the budget. Very few clients will pay for "travel" (unless it is THEIR travel of course), and they will simply hire a local model -- because there are "thousands" of pretty faces in each metro.

4. The Customer is Always Right!

When you are a model, you're NOT yourself. People aren't looking at YOU -- they are looking at the character you are portraying.

You are "acting" and "portraying" the look and type of person that the photographer, client, or art director feel is necessary for the job. For this reason -- you shouldn't get offended or take it personally if the client wants to use you in a manner that you feel is not the "real you." To them -- it doesn't matter who the "real you" is.

You're doing a job. YOU don't get a say (unless specifically asked for your opinion -- and then keep it brief).

The quickest way for models to trash their own careers is being "hard to work with." Being all smiles and going all out to be cooperative and helpful is the way to build a career in modeling. No one wants to work with a sour puss, but everyone enjoys working with someone who's happy and upbeat.

Take a look at the actors / actresses / models on TV talk shows. They only rarely complain about anything (and normally its a humble admission of their own faults) -- and they are constantly PRAISING the work and talent of those who have they've worked with. THESE are the types of people who have learned that PRAISING OTHERS helps build your career. It's also a great way to do "name dropping" without being obvious. (Rather than "and I also worked with _____ " you should say ".. and I learned so much about art directing from _____.")

5. You're a Small Business Now!

Every model is actually a "small business." Models have their own clients (photographers, fashion designers/stores, and commercial advertising clients) and their own employees (modeling agents -- see the section about "what are agencies" for more details of why they are "your employee).

Models also have revenue (income from modeling jobs) and expenses. The largest expense a model will have is for advertising and promotion. Unless you "show people" who you are and what you can do -- it will be very hard to get any jobs. That means that you must be ready to pay for portfolio photos, composite cards, business cards, advertising in agency "head books," postcards & stationary, postage, web sites, and a variety of other means to "get your image out there."

In addition to advertising and promotion -- you're responsible for your own travel expenses (models must deduct this out of their modeling fees -- unless you're a "super model" few commercial clients will pay "extra" travel expenses when they can hire a "cheaper" model locally). Also, you're responsible for your own make-up, work clothing, phone / beeper / answering service expenses, accounting / tax / legal expenses, and virtually all other expenses related to you being a model.  So... you get to deduct your travel, business cell phone, and make-up as tax expenses.  Pretty cool!

6. There are MILLIONS of Pretty Faces

There are literally MILLIONS of people who WANT to be models, but most will never be successful. It's VERY EASY to get knocked out of the running at being a successful model, and its VERY HARD to keep "in the running.

The first thing that will knock them out of the running is if they have any defects. Do they have scarring, stretch marks, tattoos? They generally are OUT. Are they too short, too heavy, or too plain? They generally are OUT.

Do they lack good work ethic, politeness, or responsibility? They generally are OUT. Are they too far away, too hard to get in touch with on the phone, too busy to do shoots or promo work, or generally just to hard to "line up" for work? They generally are OUT.

Do they put boyfriends/girlfriends, family, other jobs ahead of their modeling careers? They generally are OUT. Do they put limits on what types of clothing or posing they will do for legitimate commercial assignments? They generally are OUT.

Do they neglect to keep their portfolio and photos current, or neglect "keeping their face out there" by sending inquiries and thank-you cards to clients? They generally are OUT.

Those few who are left will likely be successful models.