Many believe the life of a model to be an effortless, never-ending game of real life dress up. This could not be further from the case. Models invest time, money, and effort in their appearance, casting call attendance, and bookings. This alone is enough to be a full-time job! But what happens when they don’t have an agency on their side pulling the strings? What if they don’t have somebody securing the next booking, or giving information for the next casting call? What if they are their own marketer and manager?
What is it like when a model is their own agent?
This is a question I can answer from my own personal experience. Every shoot, runway show, commercial, and short film booking I have ever received has been secured on my own. I am my own manager, marketer, branding strategist, etc. What exactly must a model do to get work on their own? I can tell you what I did to get started, and what I do to continue growing.
Model: Ashley BeLoat – IG: @ashleybeloat
Photographer: Ina Pandora – www.inapandora.com – IG: @inapandoraphotography
Swarovski Gown by Inna Rudenko – www.innasdesigns.com – IG: @innasdesigns
Makeup Artistry and Headpiece: Val Mancini – @val.mancini
The initial goal of any model should be constructing a strong portfolio. This can be accomplished by either paying photographers for the sessions you want, or by booking shoots “time for print” (offering your services as a model in exchange for pictures). This may be tricky, as the model just starting out has no experience. There are often few photographers willing to do a time for print session with an inexperienced model, thus it requires persistence and patience to find the ones that will.
For me, building a portfolio was an extensive process. It meant waking up early in the morning and reaching out to photographers with styles I admired. I sent out many messages introducing myself, confessing what I liked about their work, and offering my services as a model. I made sure to present the opportunity as much for their own portfolio expansion as it was for mine. I remember receiving many rejections – if I was lucky to receive a response at all. I was also asked many times if I would consider doing nude, bikini, or lingerie work. Many a person masquerading as a photographer will prey upon young girls trying to make it in the industry, promising them that this sort of work is the way to get started. I can assure you…it isn’t. It’s important to know this from the early stage in the game, and steer clear of such “opportunities.”
The true key to building a portfolio is patience and wisdom. Never sacrifice who you are or what you want to be associated with for the sake of a few photos. Not only can this sell yourself short, but it can also be very dangerous for your personal – and professional – future. Which brings us to my next point…
Branding; as a model you must have something that sets you apart from the others. There must be something about your look that is unique. There should be something about the type of work you do that catches the eye. You must stand out, but most importantly…you must be you. Authenticity is extremely captivating, and it cannot be photoshopped. The most successful models are mindful to make every photo exude something that only they can bring to the table.
Every booking a model accepts will affect their future opportunities. Every job will lead further in another direction. Beginning models should act as if every photographer, company, and brand is watching. Models should always be asking themselves; would these clients want them representing a product or brand based on the work they are currently producing? Talent is selected fo bookings based on what their current work exudes. Therefor it’s imperative that the up and coming model is mindful of they want their brand to say about them. It’s a strong mindset to treat every job as only a step in the overall journey. Work that leads to the desired final destination is the work that should be accepted. Deviation from this path can be confusing to an audience and harmful for a model’s existing brand, so booking should be chosen wisely.
Let’s say a model builds his/her portfolio and defines their brand… If an agency isn’t where they desire to go with their work, what next? How do they continue to find work and keep an active presence in the industry?
On average, I spend at least 1-2 hours every morning with marketing, self-promotion, and responding to messages. This is the first step to keeping any name present in a circle of talent. When you are your own manager, nobody will promote your work for you. Models in this position need to take an active role in showcasing their work to the best of their ability.
One of my strategies is striving to post a daily picture on my pages. Not a selfie of any kind, but a real, professionally-taken photo. I take great care in captioning each one and do my best to share it in as many circles as possible. This alone has yielded me quite a few shoot opportunities.
Typically, shoot inquiries are sent for styles of work a model already exhibits in their portfolio. If an unrepresented model is looking to expand their horizons and try new things, very rarely will the job simply fall into their lap. This means that to continue growing and pushing their boundaries, they must be vigilant to make new connections and seek out different casting calls.
I respond to any casting calls I locate that spark my excitement. I send many messages to new professionals and brands I wish to work for. Searching for new opportunities is an active process. I am always seeking out new ways to push myself in front of the camera. This approach has kept me from remaining stagnant in the work I produce.
Being your own manager puts you in the driver’s seat – and modeling is no exception. Not only must the independent model seek out new opportunities, they will also have a bigger say in how these opportunities are executed. Photographers may give more artistic freedom when planning a shoot. I am often given the choice of shoot location, concept, wardrobe, posing style, and/or hair and makeup styling. In many of my photoshoots, my role has extended beyond being the prop in front of the camera.
Taking such an active role has given me knowledge of photography, lighting setups, garment construction, fabric choices, color coordination, storytelling, and more. I’m often blessed with the chance to select what story is told in the final frames and am familiar with the creative journey it takes to do so. I will spend much time on messages discussing these details and embarking on many prop-hunting errands. This sort of role is not for everyone but is a key part of working as an unrepresented model.
This concludes my brief summary of what it’s like to be your own agent in the modeling world. This is my modeling life (thus far) in a nutshell. Is there more you would like to know? Let me know in the comments below if I should write a part two about this lifestyle.
Until next time,
Print | Runway | Short Film