The thought of earning from your looks and becoming the face of brands is a popular one, but only a few get to the reality of becoming successful models. When thinking about becoming a model, there is always the dilemma of managing yourself and working under an agent. However, becoming a freelance model gives you the freedom to plan your own modeling schedule.
Working under an agent does not guarantee you that you will get jobs and when you do, you will primarily work under the agency’s guidelines. For me, it’s the thought of having someone else managing my time and earnings that influenced me into the freelance modeling niche, and so have many of my friends.
The truth is, becoming a freelance model is not always a rosy runway. You have to put in the effort, meet the right people, and ultimately love and enjoy what you do. So let’s find out how to become a freelance model and what it takes to have a fruitful career.
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What is a freelance model?
A freelance model works under their own management, unlike other corporate models who work under different agencies. A freelance model is responsible for managing the work they get and the money paid from their gigs, including filing their taxes. They can also work from anywhere without the limitations of employment.
As a freelance model, one needs to have looks, elegance, grace, confidence, and glamour. Modeling as a whole is a stylish and, let’s be honest, one of the most up to fate careers. Also, modeling has become an extremely competitive industry as the years go by. There are more models to pose than there are gigs to work on.
Although this may be the case for the modeling world, an aspiring model can still make it in modeling. The only factors that can contribute to an aspiring model to prosper and keep up with the intense competition are their determination, skill, and passion for their job.
How to become a freelance model
There are no fundamental requirements that you need to meet to become a freelance model for hire. This is because modeling is largely about confidence, physical appeal, and self-control. In short, your values as a person could guarantee you a successful career as a freelance model in the modeling industry.
But are personal characters all that you require to become a freelance model? Well, no, as you need to be aware of modeling basics, such as striking killer poses and the latest walking styles. This is one of the reasons many starting as freelance models consider taking introductory courses.
Apart from gaining basic skill knowledge, below are some things you should do to become a freelance model.
1. Take an online modeling course
You need a course that will take you through many concepts you need to know about modeling and freelancing. Here are some courses on Udemy that you can try out:
- Fundamentals of Modeling – you can learn about the runway walk, different types of modeling, and many more.
- How to Become a Model (Modeling 101) is the best one for beginner models. You will be taught the essential things of modeling and how to thrive in the modeling world.
2. Practice what you have learned
As always, practice makes perfect. When you practice what you learn from the best in the industry, you will eventually be good at what you do.
3. Create a website showing your portfolio
An online presence is a must-have for any freelancer. If you must succeed in freelancing, a website displaying your full portfolio, contact details and the types of work you prefer to do is necessary.
FYI: It’s incredibly easy to launch your own site. It’s also one of the cheapest things you’ll do for your new freelance modeling career at under $3 per month – less than a cup of coffee! In fact, that’s the price you’ll get if you launch your site with Bluehost, which is easily my top pick for the best website host to use (including that they even give you your domain name for free).
To find out more, check out my simple step-by-step guide on how to start a blog as I show you the exact steps needed to launch your site in less than 20 minutes – even without any tech experience!
4. Compile some photos and short videos
Modeling is all about selling with your appearance, and your pictures and videos are the heart of your portfolio. This is why it goes without saying that having great photos that show off your strengths is an absolute must.
5. Interact with other professionals in the industry
Make a name for yourself in the business! Send formal letters to photographers, make-up artists, ad agencies, businesses, and stylists with whom you’d want to collaborate. Always include your contact information, resume, and portfolio, so they can readily access it.
Don’t give up if you don’t receive many replies from cold calling.
Keep your social media profiles updated and work hard, so business insiders can see you. Then, hopefully, they will remember you and book you for future tasks.
Is freelance modeling a good career?
A freelance modeling career is good, especially if you are passionate about it. With this career, you will meet many people in the industry. You will be exposed to so many cultures. If successful, a modeling career could earn you good money, especially if you have the expertise (and a bit of luck) to make it in this field.
If your purpose is to make money out of it, then freelance modeling can help make good money. You can also progress as a trainer freelance model when you cannot do modeling anymore. You can always teach other aspiring freelance models to help them in their journey.
Can you make a living modeling?
You can certainly make a living modelling, including as a freelance model, but this will be unlikely at the start of your career. For example, you might want to charge less as you start so as to build your portfolio and get exposure and experience. However, as you develop all of these, your income will likely grow as well.
As you begin, put more effort into establishing your career for better results in the future without minding about the money – it will come later.
From there, making a living as a freelance model is possible; many have done it, and so can you. However, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or experienced freelance model, some factors will determine how much you make out of modeling and if you live off it. Here are the three main factors:
As you gain more experience and you are established, you can add to your charges. Only at this time can you make a living out of modeling. At the same time, age is a factor that will determine if you can make a living out of the freelance modeling career – just in the other direction.
That is, whether or not you agree with this, you may not be surprised to hear that many modeling clients reportedly look for younger models. While there are exceptions to this, it can mean that the more you age, the more you lose your ability to land new clients. However, don’t be too disheartened, as you can land jobs in other modeling niches that are not age-sensitive.
For example, the family modeling niche is not age-sensitive; you can always become a family niche model at any age, whether you are a child, a teenager, or a little older. Of course, as you age, you might move to other forms of modeling like family modeling. But, of course, make sure you’re experienced to attract the big bucks.
Here’s something that may surprise you: male freelance models apparently tend to earn less than women. At least, this is one field where women reign supreme!
But, I must say, there is no contest when you compare the highest-paid female models and the highest-paid male counterparts. Just compare what the retired Gisele Bundchen earned in 2014 ($47 million) and what Sean O’Pry earned in 2013 ( $1.5 million).
There are an array of reasons for this pay disparity. According to modeling agencies, fewer males are on the runway for various reasons, including fewer designers foraying into menswear, primary profits earned from women’s collections, or simply less money spent on men’s clothing and products.
The other factor is networking. As I usually tell everyone, your network is your net worth, and this is the same for a freelance model. The more you network with the right audience, the more you can achieve from the networks you create.
Find the relevant people in the niche you want to specialize in, take part in whatever they invite models to do, and you might be lucky to have a close interaction with them.
Also, network with the public on social media networks such as Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. You never know who’s in the watch.
Networking also involves you collaborating with other models and other freelancers. For example, some freelance photographers are always on the lookout for models who will accept a collaboration. So you can look out for such photographers and collaborate with them.
A collabo may not really give you a job, but it will significantly enhance your freelance portfolio and eventually land you a gig.
How much does a freelance model earn?
According to Zip Recruiter, the bulk of freelance model salaries vary from $34,500 to $80,500 per year, with top earners in the industry (90th percentile) earning up to $129,500 yearly across the United States. This means that a successful freelance model may easily make upwards of $50 an hour.
This may be a far cry from Linda Evangelista’s renowned statement that “we don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day” but it’s also not bad at all. For instance, a freelance model can make several hundreds of dollars per hour depending on the job at hand and their status.
That said, when it comes to a freelance model’s pay, we must distinguish between the many types of models. Clearly, a top model makes more than a professional model. On the other hand, a professional model earns more than a total novice to the industry or a hobby model who only receives a few gigs each year.
How do freelance models make money?
Freelance models make money from gigs in looks-oriented fields such as active fashion and others. They make their money from displaying fashion, displaying beauty products, selling a product on TV commercials, wearing clothes for other designers on a runway, appearing in video shoots, game shows, and so much more.
A freelance model, as I mentioned earlier, does not rely on agencies to get gigs. They are solely responsible for finding their jobs and managing how they get paid. Both freelance models and those that work under an agency are likely to land the same types of gigs. For example, they can both be hired to advertise skills, clothing, or other merchandise.
Both of these models will eventually get paid from these types of jobs, but only a freelance model is entitled to managing their time, money, and salary.
There are so many ways a freelance model can make money but in a deeper view, here is how most of them do it:
Displaying clothes in print and other online advertisements
Have you seen clothes advertised in magazines? Were they worn by other people?
If you’ve come across such instances in magazines, then you know that the people wearing these clothes were models. This is one way that models make money, and it is one of the significant ways for making money as a freelance model.
Promoting fashion merchandise on tv commercials
This is another way that freelance and corporate models make their money. For example, a client may request that you help them advertise their merchandise on TV commercials. Depending on the products in question, your client will explain how they want you to display merchandise on TV commercials.
After designing a few pieces, many designers would want these pieces to be seen by the public. So the designers will host a show where models will put on these designs and get the runway shows. Runway shows are a major money-making gig for most agency and freelance models.
Working in collaboration with make-up artists
When a make-up artist wants to display skill to their audience, some will consider hiring a model to showcase these skills.
As a model, the make-up artists will work on you and display their works on different platforms.
Posing for painting or sculptures
Some painting and sculpture artists require live models to pose for them to draw something or craft a sculpture. A freelance model can get gigs from these artists and get paid for posing.
Displaying hair products
Hair product companies also hire models, whether freelance or working under agencies, to help them display their hair types. If you are a freelance model looking to work under a hair company, you must be open-minded and attractive because most companies require the two to showcase their merchandise publicly.
How do I start modeling with no experience?
Do you want to start modeling, but you have no experience? Be encouraged; even the top models you know of started from the ground up. Some of them were scouted and rejected by agencies or clients but never gave up until they became some of the renowned models you admire.
So how do you start modeling with no experience? Below are a few tips on how you can do it.
- Identify your best physical features – A simple way to do this is to have some photos taken of yourself. That way, you’ll start to see the features that really make you stand out.
- Take a few online courses – By doing this, it will help you learn the basics of modeling.
- Practice makes perfect – Be sure to practice what you have learned. Take many pictures in front of your camera and see which are your best poses, the ones that project your best features.
- Create an online portfolio – This should include plenty of superb photos or even short videos showing your strengths.
- Enroll in modeling competitions – Modeling competitions are a good step to displaying your modeling skills out to the world. You might not win in a few of the first competitions, but the experience you get from them will greatly help you.
- Join modeling workshops – This can also help you to build your experience in this field and get tips on any weak areas you may have.
- Network – This is important in any field and modeling is no exception to help you to gain the exposure you need.
How to be successful at freelance modeling
If you think freelance modeling is the perfect job for you and want to be successful in it, I can promise you that it won’t be a walk in the park – you’ll need to put much effort into looks and practice.
Remember, just being beautiful isn’t a direct ticket to success. You have to own the beauty and work yourself up the ladder. Luckily, here are some tips I have compiled for you as you start your journey in the modeling niche.
Pay attention to your appearance
As a model, your business and merchandise are your outward appearance. Unfortunately, your appearance can limit your success in freelance modeling, so you have to take extra care of your appearance.
Don’t wait until you have a gig to look superb; as a model, you need to look extra good all the time. It means that your appearance has to be excellent whether you are at home or on a grocery haul.
For instance, a model advertising shoes (or anyone selling feet pics) generally has to have perfect feet, so it can help to stay up to date with your pedicures.
You are a freelance model, so you are not forced to work under a certain niche. So what niche do you think is perfect for you? For instance, if you think you can fit into the plus-size niche, you need to channel your marketing efforts to that niche.
Some modeling niches you can venture into include the following:
- Fashion modeling
- Runway modeling
- Commercial Modeling
- Promotional Model
- Print Model
Place a good camera in front of you and try poses that bring out your best features. By doing this frequently, you will be gaining more experience and more skills. Also, practice what you have learned in a course or from other veteran freelance models.
After putting your portfolio out there for the world to see and perfecting your skills, you should never forget to apply to the jobs sent to your email. Make sure you apply to several gigs online each day; you never know when you land a perfect gig.
A good online portfolio will enable you to attract employers online. Always be ready to apply, and the only way to do this is by ensuring that you have your resume and portfolio ready for you to apply.
While applying, you can directly contact make-up artists, photographers, stylists, and other potential clients. Send them formal emails, showcasing your skills and telling them what service you can offer them.
Unlike models working under an agency, a freelance model has to manage themselves. Get organization skills to ensure that nothing goes wrong when you find clients and find yourself working on multiple ones.
You need to know when to answer your emails, meet a client, do a photoshoot, get to the gym, get your hair done, make that dentist appointment, and so on.
It can get hectic, and if you are just starting, you might not afford a manager who will help you. This means that you need to be organized to avoid falling apart when you have a lot on your hands.
Where can I find freelance model jobs?
You can get jobs from any source as a freelance model, including online job boards, friends, and even a freelance model agency. As stated above, the modeling industry is highly competitive, but you can still keep up with the competition by being determined to showcase exemplary skills.
When starting as a freelance model, the first question may be where to get jobs that will sustain your blooming career. If so, here are some of the places you can find freelance model jobs.
- Model mayhem
- Freelance model agencies
Upwork is a great freelancing platform with millions of gigs. Freelancers like you can get jobs from this platform by applying to the hundreds of jobs available on the platform. As a freelance model, you can sign up, create a profile, and include the skills you want to offer.
Employers then post the jobs that they want to be handled by freelancers. Your work as a freelancer is to apply to these jobs. It might get fuzzy while using Upwork as a beginner, especially if you’re not used to similar odd jobs apps, but you can get the hang of it and use the platform flawlessly with time.
Indeed is an online job board that brings both employers and freelancers together. It is a free service platform for job seekers. The platform allows you to upload a resume, create job alerts, save them, and apply later.
The platform includes several job listings from newspapers, employers searching for freelancers, company career pages, and more. In addition, employers are allowed to post job ads that they have not posted anywhere else. A freelance model will get these job alerts directly to their email, save them and apply to them.
ZipRecruiter is similar to Indeed but with some significant differences. ZipRecruiter is both a recruiting platform and a marketplace for jobs. Ziprecruiter allows employers to post job alerts to 100 other job sites with just a single submission.
Freelancers post their resumes, and the ZipRecruiter AI can match the employers with the freelancer that closely matches the employer’s requirements.
As a freelance model, you can get jobs from ZipRecruiter. You only need to post your resume or portfolio, and the site will match you with the best job listings according to your preferences. You can then apply to these jobs in real-time.
Model Mayhem is probably the most popular among models, whether newbies or veterans. Model mayhem is a collective for photographers, models, designers, make-up artists, and stylists. The platform allows all of these artists to work together as a community, and you can work on free or paid projects.
Craigslist’s main function is to post classified ads that cover all the categories you can think of. From modeling job ads, selling merchandise, looking for a job, and many others. A freelance model can search for modeling job ads and apply to find paid modeling gigs.
LinkedIn is for professionals, but who said models ain’t professionals? The thing is, there are professionals on the platform that may need models or have fantastic connections that can lead you to those expensive occasional gigs. Create your profile on the site with all your credentials. The only other thing you’ll need is to be active by posting your offering or just a picture a day to let people know what you offer as a model. You never know who may come knocking, so even as you sleep, there’s something out there advertising you.
Freelance modeling agencies
A freelance model can also source jobs from an agency that can hire on freelance terms.
Things to be aware of when becoming a freelance model
The modeling industry might seem glamorous, but as with many other industries, there are dangers that you need to be aware of before venturing into this industry. These include:
- Model release rights
- Health concerns
As with many saturated industries, modeling has lots of scams that accompany it. The internet is full of scams that prey on gullible and naïve models. Before accepting any job, thoroughly do a background check about the job listing and the employer. Never rush to accept a job invite.
Before becoming a freelance model, you need to know more about contracts that are related to modeling. As a model, it is recommended that you always take a job with a contract, including to avoid this becoming an illegal side hustle. A contract includes the conditions of the offered job, payment conditions and also, shooting conditions.
Most employers will hand the contract to you to read through before making a deal with them. Make sure you read the contract thoroughly until you understand what the job is all about.
Model release rights
Before you sign to release your images, make sure that you know how they will be used in detail. If you sense something fishy, then delay the signing until you are comfortable with how they will be used.
Harassment definitely isn’t something found exclusively in the modeling field, but it’s been found to be particularly prevalent in this area. A lot of this comes down to the fact that many models are quite young women and others in the business have taken advantage of that.
It can be hard to say no to something, especially if you’re just starting out, but you absolutely have the right to do so. And if something happens to you that you think isn’t right, talk to someone you trust to consider the next steps to take.
While the world is slowly shifting away from the super thin models of the past, there’s no doubt that the fashion industry as a whole continues to promote the idea that less weight is better.
Body positivity isn’t taking hold at the rate it should be and so many models may feel the pressure to rapidly drop their weight, which can clearly have health consequences for those models. It can help if you’re aware of this possibility upfront so you can decide how you wish to address it should you face it in your own freelance modeling career.
How long do freelance models’ careers last?
Freelance modeling careers tend to not last for so long. As is clear in any magazine these days, most models tend to be relatively young. That said, in niches like commercial modeling, there is a need for older models so you do have the option to pursue that as a way to extend your career in this field.
At the same time, while freelance modeling isn’t the longest term career for most people, it can be fun and lucrative. So you should absolutely give it a try, even if you only end up doing it for a few years.
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About the author
Anna is the founder of LogicalDollar and a personal finance expert, having been seen in Forbes, HuffPost, Reader’s Digest, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, CreditCards.com and many more. She’s committed to helping others get on the path to financial freedom using the experience gained from turning $60,000 in debt into a thriving investment portfolio. Find out more.