There is more to the modeling world than the media lets on. If you want to find out what it really takes and how to manage your modeling career, then you've come to the right place! This blog is dedicated to the aspiring and already established models who live to defy the standards and stereotypes in order to make a place for themselves in this crazy industry.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Tips for Being a Successful Freelance Model

Freelance models have a tough job. You act as your own modeling agent, find your own work and do your own payroll. There are definite advantages as well as disadvantages to being freelance but for those models who are actively doing it or if you’ve been toying with the idea of freelance, the following tips will point you in the right direction:

1. Know Yourself.

The cool thing about being freelance is that you are free to pursue as many types of modeling as you’d like. There are many clients out there who don’t mind hiring a fashion model who is shorter or a commercial/print model who is taller, etc.

Depending on what direction you plan on going in, have the appropriate photos, portfolios, comp cards and business cards (optional). For models pursuing more than one category of modeling, you’ll need to have the right images for each type and only show them to the right clients.

* How I use this guideline: When I submit to freelance gigs, I don’t limit myself to commercial/print. I also submit to freelance castings for fashion/runway models, fitness & sports, swimwear, and stock photography gigs.

2. Master Your Communications Skills.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to communicate well. You are your own booking agent so you will be the one submitting your headshot, portfolio and/or resume to clients.

You will be the one making and answering the phone calls and emails so it is critical that you are a great communicator. If you are going to be serious about promoting yourself, you can’t be lazy, a procrastinator or leave a client hanging. This will quickly give you a bad rep. You never want to burn bridges if it can be helped.

* How I use this guideline: I regularly check my email accounts, respond to all emails as soon as I get them and answer phone calls even if I don’t recognize the number. I never want to take the chance of missing a call from a potential client. They won’t always leave a message and could lead to me missing out on a gig.

3. Be Clear About What You Want.

Don’t submit yourself to castings or take on modeling jobs that don’t interest you or don’t offer what you want. That’s the beauty of being a freelance model: you get to do the work you want and not what an agency thinks will be good for you. Use that to your advantage.

This will be important when it comes to collecting your payment as well. If possible, require all clients you work with to pay you after the shoot/work has been done. Do your best to avoid personal checks (hey, you just can’t trust a lot of folks nowadays). The best deals are done in cash with no strings attached.

* How I use this guideline: Gigs offering tearsheets from the actual publication—not regular prints--are my first priority. Monetary compensation is wonderful but it's the tearsheets that will serve as "proof" of being a published model. Monetary compensation is the next priority level when it comes to submitting myself. Lastly, I may submit to a modeling gig that isn’t paying or offering tearsheets if I really like the client/photographer’s work or if they are offering a CD of all the images for my personal use. As far as payment goes, I request payment immediately after the work has been completed or I submit an invoice via email afterwards.

4. Don’t Waste Time.

One pitfall that freelance models can fall prey to is wasting time on gigs or clients that aren’t worth it. During the course of your freelance modeling career you’ll find that many times the clients you are dealing with may not be on the same professional level as you. Unfortunately, some (not all) clients who turn to freelance models do so because they are not able or willing to pay huge agency fees or the standard rate for models.

Some may give you the run-around, possess horrible communications skills, etc. If you are currently dealing with such a client, it doesn’t matter what they’re offering, move on to the next client that is worth your time. If they are even half of the professional that you are, you wouldn’t have to deal with those types of hassles. Chalk it up as a loss and move on.

* How I use this guideline: In the past, I’ve had clients book me for a gig and then never contact me about it again, or return my calls/emails—even when it was the day or night before. I’ve spent a whole day waiting for a gig that never happened. Because of this, I tell my clients upfront that if they cannot promptly return my calls/emails, or if they have not attempted to make contact with me within at least 48 hours prior to a gig, that I will not show. It’s as simple as that for me. I say this in a professional way but I let them know that it goes both ways. I refuse to neglect other opportunities to work for someone who doesn’t even have the discipline to keep me in the loop.

5. Don’t Underestimate Your Potential.

You are a model. You are running yourself as a business. This takes a great deal of work, dedication and confidence. If you show any doubt or second-guess your abilities, it will show. Don’t let a client push you around, treat you unprofessionally, or try to talk you into something you aren’t comfortable with.

Stand your ground but always, always, always do it with grace and professionalism. No matter what happens, never lose your cool. If anything at least that client can’t say anything negative about you if nothing negative happened in the first place.

* How I use this guideline: Of course I have dealt with some pretty shady people in my freelance career but I’ve never badmouthed them to anyone afterwards, nor have I ever exchanged heated words with a client. Even when it seems that I’m losing out, I still walk away with my head held high. Without being condescending, I let “problem” clients know that I am a professional model with a decade of experience under my belt and if they don’t want to work with me on that same level, then they are free to find someone who will most likely give them poor quality results.

6. Network Your Butt Off!

After any gig you finish, be sure to thank the people you work with and hand out business cards. Or be sure to send out emails to the casting director, photographer, whoever and tell them how great it was to work with them. Also throw in that should they ever need a model for future projects, they can always call on you.

Of course there is a way to do this without sucking up. Keep the email brief and straight to the point. People in the modeling industry run in tight circles and impressing even one client greatly boosts your odds of them referring you to others. This is how you build a name and career for yourself.

* How I use this guideline: After every shoot I do, I personally shake hands with each person involved and give them my modeling business card. I also follow up with one email to let them know I had a great time working with them. I also use this email to work out details regarding getting tearsheets, CD of images, etc.

7. Practice Good Habits.

Make it a point to arrive on time, and answer every phone call and email in a timely fashion. Take direction well, don’t complain if it isn’t necessary (or at all if it can be helped!) and keep a positive and fun attitude while working and dealing with clients.

You want to get to the point where clients automatically associate you with being dependable, punctual and a joy to work with. Keep these good habits up and you’ll be able to hold down a freelance career for as long as you want.

* How I use this guideline: I make it a mandatory habit to show up to all gigs at least 30 minutes early, make sure I have at least one client contact number for emergencies or if I get lost, bring a bag with extra clothes and shoes, and my own makeup. Even just showing up early has always made a great impression on clients and has worked wonders for my freelance career. Many people associate me as being “that model who shows up before the rest of us do!” That’s the kind of stuff you want people to know you for, among many other things.


Amber said...

Love these tips Dania!! Very helpful - especially the networking tip and the communication tip. I've found those very true.

Anonymous said...

I love the info that ur giving but I want to no how to get clients I live in NYC if u get the chance e-mail me @ jemmprospere@aol.com

I am Jenn said...

Well done Dania. I have been free-lancing for a year now, and am managing my daughter also. This is the most put together list for new models that I have seen thus far.

minatina said...

the advice you have given is brilliant you are very clued up. I wam freelnce model too. At 21 I have been told Iam too old Iam not going to give up this is my deram. have you got any advice my email is christinaayoola@hotmail.co.uk

laliafiction said...

#1. Thank you so much for this post! You are not only beautiful and insightful, but also a very effective writer! Well done.
#2. I need some advice - I am a freelance model myself, but lately haven't been able to get much work. I know your time is very valuable, but if you have a moment to respond, I'd like to ask you some questions. Thanks!

Dania Denise said...

Hey, laliafiction! Thanks for the kind words and being a reader of my blog--I really appreciate it! Feel free to email me personally: daniadenise@gmail.com and you can ask away! In case you don't check back to this post, I'll also repost your question in its own post, titled "Answering a Reader Question #48."

Flora Sofia said...

Dania, thank you so much for the wonderful insights. I am in the process of branching out to find more work independent of my agency and would love to get a couple of insights from you, whenever you find appropriate. I'll certainly come back and read more of what you have written. Great work!

Dania Denise said...

Hi, Flora! Glad my post was able to be of some help to you. :-) If you need any advice outside of my blog, feel free to email me any questions or concerns you may have: daniadenise@gmail.com. I wish you the best of luck!

Rolly Escobido said...

Nice words...
As a beginner I really need this words ;)

Nurriah Ansari said...

Thank you so much for this information. I soon plan to get into the freelance modeling field and this gave me so great insight.