6 Ways to Treat Your Modeling Career Like a Business

As a model, you are a freelancer and in business for yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been talking with fellow models and hearing them gripe about how their agency doesnt get them enough work.

Models have to remember one clear and very important point: the modeling agency only gets 20% for a reason. It’s the model’s job to treat their career as a business and invest time, effort, and money into it.

Bonus Tip: About to go on a casting for Kohl’s? Check out their website and social media profiles to see what look and vibe they went for in their last campaign and try to dress and style yourself accordingly.

Invest Money into Advertising:

What business do you know that doesn’t have an advertising budget? Not a very successful one. Some examples of our advertising costs as models are our portfolio, comp cards, and agency/web fees. It takes money to make money, so set aside some money from every job in a separate savings account and do a full book shoot at least once a year.

You can check out my last post for a more in depth look at creating your modeling portfolio.

If the casting people see the same photos submitted year after year they may think you aren’t working. Work attracts work. Do test shoots based on the jobs/clients you want to book.

Bonus Tip: There’s a difference between paying a modeling agency up-front fees (something you should never do), and setting yourself up for success with quality marketing materials, such as a modeling portfolio and comp cards. Investing money to create the best advertising materials possible will have an exponential Return on Investment (ROI).

Take Your Health Seriously:

A model’s body, mind, and spirit are quite literally his or her biggest and most important assets, period. If you’re one of the extremely fortunate, genetically gifted models who can eat pizza and drink beer and have a perfect body, then you have a one-up on many of us, but how’s your head? The modeling industry can feel like a rollercoaster sometimes, with exciting ups and dark lows, so it’s important to take care of your mental and spiritual health, too.

Businesses invest in assets to make more money. Just as you should invest in yourself in some or all of the following ways: a fitness program that works for the results you want, whole and healthy food, quality skin care products, and any other form of support for your body, mind, and spirit that you see value in.

Show Gratitude and Give Gifts:

Who doesn’t love a handwritten “Thank You” note or a treat? Most modeling agents do. You have to understand that for some lucky models, there’s a low barrier to entry, many of whom were scouted out of nowhere and can be young and/or not take the job seriously, so modeling agents deal with a lot of flak. They have to work with all different types of personalities from the client, model, ad agency, sometimes stylists, etc, and will see you more favorably if you thank them or treat them every so often.

Be the model who sends a handwritten “Thank You” card a few days after your booking. Or, next time you stop by the agency to pick up a check, bring your agent a sweet treat. You don’t have to spend a lot of money either because it’s the thought that counts. Not only is it a nice thing to do, but you may be more likely to be top-of-mind when your agent gets a request for 8 models and she has to choose between you and someone with a similar look to submit.

Submit Yourself and Get Creative on Social Media:

You can scan different sites like Model Mayhem, Craigslist (carefully…), Back Stage, etc. for more work.

Please note: if you are under an exclusive contract with your agency, all bookings likely need to go through them.

If you are non-exclusively freelancing with your agency/agencies, go ahead and try to book some gigs on your own. I’ve booked small jobs for myself off Craigslist, and the shots from those jobs lead me to much larger bookings through my agency. You really never know where your next job will come from. As always, just be careful and vet these clients and photographer’s you find by yourself thoroughly, because if something goes down you won’t have the agency to back you up.

Bonus Tip: Don’t be afraid to tag brands you’d like to work with in relevant social media photos. You can submit your photos directly to clients on Instagram. Hey, you never know who’s checking those DMs and it could lead to a job.

Capitalize on Different Areas of the Modeling Industry:

Who says the client needs your pretty face? Maybe they just need a hand – literally. I have a separate “parts” modeling agency, which books me for clients who only need hands, legs, feet, shoes, lips, obliques, etc. Over half of my work as a model is totally unrecognizable, but guess what? The rates are usually the same and sometimes more than a fully recognizable gig.

Maybe it’s promotional modeling, being a brand ambassador, or hosting – how can you maximize your income potential as a model? I was on set last month with a model who makes a solid side income by contracting her on-camera hosting talents on Fiverr. Another great example is fit modeling, where models work directly with designers and buyers to help create the best fit for new clothing. Many models make a highly lucrative modeling career off of this work alone.

Increase the Number of Leads for Modeling Jobs:

There are a lot of agencies and markets outside of the two or three major ones (at least here in the states). A lot of freelance models work with agencies all around the United States and even abroad. They’re shooting a lot of work in Chicago, down South, and beyond. There are some smaller agencies in states like North Carolina, Ohio, Floria, Arizona and surely other states, too, that are booking their models on great work today. Do your research and give it a Google.

Please note: If you’re signed exclusively with your agent or have a manager/mother agent, it’s probably best to check with them before randomly sending your comp card around the United States.

Final Thoughts on Treating Your Modeling Career As a Business

It’s easy to get complacent as a model, especially if you have some great work behind you, but always remmeber to treat your career like a business. Keep good records and save relevant write-off receipts.

Bonus Tip: That porfolio test shoot you paid for? Save the receipt, and if you paid with Venmo, make sure you write “Porfolio Test Shoot, 5/28/19, Joe Photographer” in the memo section and screenshot the transaction for your records.

If you’re just beginning and have never been on set before, you can get a competitive advantage by taking your career more seriously than the average model. Treating your modeling career like a business will help you book more work, be taken more seriosly, and grow exponentially for your next business venture.

Bonus Tip: There’s a great book by Cal Newport called So Good They Can’t Ignore You. In this book, Newport talks about the concept of “Career Capital,” which for a model is their portfolio and tearsheets, posing abilities and ability to convey emotion through photos and videos, and their physical body and overall look. These are skills, talents, rare qualities, and on-the-job experience that set you apart from the pack and contribue to your niche in the market and overall bookability.

How to Become a Male Model After 30

Don’t let all the 18-year-old fresh faces plucked from Eastern European villages fool you: there is a huge market for male models over 30-years-old and beyond.

The first step to starting your male modeling career after age 30 is creating a portfolio. You can begin by using a free website like Model Mayhem to connect with local photographers and build your portolio.

Next, you should showcase your images with high-resolution prints for a physical portfolio to show clients, and also create a website to be hired from. I’d recommend a sleek site like Pixpa to showcase your portfolio beautifully.

The next step is making sure your online presence is up-to-date and showcases your best self. Make sure you have an Instagram and Facebook modeling page at the very least. Post your professional photos, but also post everyday selfies because audiences like to see the “real you,” too.

While there are many ways to find work as a male model over 30 on your own, it can also be helpful to sign up with a modeling agency. Do a quick Google search for modeling agencies in your area and find out if they have an open call, what their submission guidelines are, and any requirements.

If you do get a chance to go meet with a modeling agent, make sure you wear form-fitting, clean clothes free of large prints and logos. Simple well-fitted jeans and a t-shirt work great. Make sure you are groomed according to your look and get a good night’s sleep before.

If you are booked on a modeling job, make sure you arrive on time and bring a book or some form of entertainment because a lot of the day could be a hurry-up-and-wait situation. As a model, you are one part of the creative process, but there are many different people on set doing different jobs to make the images/videos come together perfectly for the client. Be ready and available to shoot when the director/photographer calls you over and listen carefully to their direction.

Preparation is key to becoming a successful male model over 30, so make sure you’re mindful of your diet and are eating whole, nutritious foods and exercising regularly. Stay consistent with a skin care routine, which includes a face wash, moisturizer, eye cream, and any other products you feel called to.

Remember, there are a lot of modeling jobs out there for male models over 30, so stay consistent in your efforts and don’t get discouraged. Modeling careers are sporadic and jobs come and go randomly: some months you may book 5 jobs, and then you won’t work again for 3 months. So, keep your side-hustle or flexible survival job. That way you won’t have desperate energy when you walk into any room because your bills will be paid.

Follow me here or on my Instagram at @myles.ellison to follow my journey as a working male model over 30 in New York City.

Photo credit: Brian Jamie