(This post is mainly for freelance models whose goal is to progress in their careers past the local modeling level)
Being a freelance model is hard enough and it doesn’t help when clients seeking the services of freelancers either offer little to no pay or use fancy wordplay in their postings to make it sound like their project is worth your time and effort. I just wanted to address this latest pet peeve of mine and just state some basic guidelines for navigating the online freelancing scene for models.
Until I secure new agency representation, I am freelancing a lot right now and I must say I am just appalled at the posts I see on a number of sites, mainly Craigslist. Of course Craigslist is Craigslist so what can you expect—but regardless that doesn’t mean that these clients should be asking for professionalism for free.
Are there times when a modeling assignment is worth not getting paid money? Sure, but before you make that decision, check to see if your situation falls into one of these categories:
- Tearsheets: I’ve already made a post about why tearsheets are better than money for models, but let me just restate their importance for the sake of this post. Tearsheets come from the actual publications that you have modeled in.
This is direct proof that you were hired for a gig that resulted in publication, which is impressive to clients and is a great way to catalog your career and add to your “book” (lingo for “portfolio”). In my opinion, it is completely legitimate to do a modeling gig for tearsheets as compensation BUT be sure to inquire what publications they will be appearing in and decide then if it will benefit you or not.
- Money Isn’t an Issue to You: There may be some of you out there that really just want the experience, regardless of what is (or isn’t) being offered. If that describes you, well, then more power to you!
- Networking: Sometimes doing a freebie modeling gig can lead to great networking opportunities. In this situation, it’s best to do a lot of research on who you’re about to work with. Ask for websites or other information that you can use to see if this is really someone you can benefit from. It’s commonplace in the industry for people to talk a big game where—in reality—the “connections” they know aren’t even worth being connected with.
- ***Positive Exposure: Sometimes just getting the opportunity to work with a well known photographer or client is enough to jumpstart a model’s career and in those instances I do believe that it is justifiable to do a shoot for no monetary compensation. Again, make sure that this photographer or client is someone that is legit, reputable, and has the potential to boost your career and portfolio.***
***While I just talked about positive exposure being a good reason to do a modeling gig for little to no pay, that does not mean that all exposure is going to be worth your time. Even if you are a newbie, you should still be wary of what gigs you’ll do for “exposure.” Many people that post casting calls for models online will say that while they don’t offer any pay, you will get a lot of great exposure.
In most cases they’re talking about a website or some other type of exposure that is not what I would consider “huge exposure.” Sorry, but this is not what you should settle for. When going through modeling gigs online, read through each post thoroughly and see if it even makes sense.
For example, I’ve come across postings where the client states they are looking for models for a project for a company that is well known, will give you tons of exposure to make you famous (yes, they actually say things like that!), and may even have a team of makeup artists, hair stylists, and crew to work with you. Ummm…if they have the money to pay such a great crew to work on the shoot then they should also allot for money in their budget to pay you, the model.
A model is a part of the crew that works to make the final results possible so why expect a model (new or not) to spend their time, effort, and talent in exchange for “exposure” that may not even register on the public radar? To put it another way, appearing on a website or a publication that no one has even heard of (and most likely won’t become well known) won’t do your career much good.***
Additionally, there are times when clients make posts claiming they’re so well known and reputable, yet they don’t even state the name of the company or provide a website where you can find out if that is indeed true. I’ve seen companies like IKEA, Verizon, and other large companies willingly state who they are and what they are looking for in castings. Be wary if a client doesn’t seem to want to reveal much about themselves as a company or if the post seems very broad and lacking information.
There is a trend on some modeling casting sites (also Craigslist) where a person will “make up” modeling gigs in order to collect email addresses and—even worse—pictures from unsuspecting models, male or female. Always be skeptical of posts that seem too general, broad or that don’t have a lot of information. On Craigslist in particular, there is an individual that will post 4-5 castings in a row that all appear similar and often don’t even make sense. I once saw this listing of headlines on Craigslist for the San Francisco/Bay Area:
1) Models Needed
2) Modeling Audition
3) Model Casting Call
4) Model Search
In each of the postings it said that some big name company was searching for models and that the pay was an unusually extraordinary amount (one said the pay range was from $3,000-5,000). The person who wrote these postings obviously didn’t care about trying to sound convincing because they were asking for models to shoot in far off places nowhere near where they listed their casting call, as well as giving shoot dates that were either in the past or so far in the future, it made the post as a whole seem ridiculous. For these reasons, please be careful of who you reply to with your information and pictures. If you come across such postings anywhere, report it as spam/fraud/abuse right away.
If the modeling gig in question actually does offer pay, make sure it is a decent rate. The problem with many clients that want to hire models is that oftentimes they have no experience working with models and may be a tad naïve when it comes to proper pay scales (or they may just be cheap jerks who want to see if anyone will take the bait!).
There are clients that post on modeling casting sites that actually believe that it is reasonable to have a model work a 1-2 hour gig or even a 3-4 hour gig for $40-50 FLAT RATE—NOT PER HOUR!!! Yes, you read right and I’ve seen other pay ranges that are worse, believe it or not. Honestly, if it’s not $100 or more (and even $100 as a flat rate is cheap to me), you may want to think twice about whether this would be worth your time or not (remember to also calculate the cost for gas, travel, parking fees, etc. If those costs are almost half, are half, or exceed the amount you'd be paid, chances are it’s not worth it).
Oh and another thing I see that just gets my goat (yes, I went to the old school sayings on this one!) is when I see people posting for models and even actresses for their gigs and projects and offering them gift cards or gift certificates in lieu of monetary compensation. My thoughts on this: instead of using the money to buy the gift card/certificate, why don't you humor us and use that money to actually PAY your talent? This doesn't sound like rocket science to me, just simple common sense.
Asking yourself these questions will help you determine whether a modeling gig is going to be worth your time and effort. I think there are many models out there that are blindly willing to take on projects no matter whether it’s free or for chump change and I think that as long as those individuals continue to give clients their time, the clients will keep thinking they can find talent for mere pennies or nothing at all.
In my opinion, it is an insult and it cheapens the quality of the industry, at least at the freelancing level. Do your best to submit to castings that actually pay a good rate that doesn’t undermine your worth as a professional.
In freelancing you are your own business so associate yourself with others in the industry that will bring you higher. Working with a handful of wannabes with delusions of grandeur won’t move your career any further up the modeling industry food chain.
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