If you haven't done so already, I highly recommend reading Part 1 ("How Much Do Models Get Paid Part 1 - Overview") and Part 2 ("How Much Do Models Get Paid Part 2 - Determining Factors") first so that Part 3 will make more sense and put the content into better perspective).
Part 1 talked briefly about why such a question isn't so easy to answer and Part 2 covered in more detail all the factors involved in pay rates in modeling. Part 3 will wrap up this series by talking about the reality of the situation when it comes to whether or not one can make a living off of this particular profession.
I am a firm believer in reality checks because for anyone to be successful in the modeling industry, it is vital to put everything in perspective and not let unrealistic expectations interfere with generating real results. I do understand that a majority of the people who read this blog and who reach out to me for assistance are very young so it makes sense that their understanding of modeling is going to be, let's say, more far-fetched or the stars in their eyes might blur the lines between fantasy and reality.
But that motivates me even more to continue delivering these reality checks in the most positive and effective way possible. Now, when it comes to money, there is income to be made in modeling. However, I'm coming from the reality of the everyday, average working model. I could care less about addressing how many millions of dollars supermodels make because--let's be real here--the majority of us (myself included) will never earn even a fraction of that sort of income through modeling.
What I do know is that as a grown-up with grown-up bills and a lifestyle to maintain (I'm not a jet setter or big baller status, lol), I cannot earn a substantial, steady living off modeling alone. Yes, I have been in the industry for a long time. Yes, I've been published. Yes, I've got a great reputation that allows me great opportunities in my career BUT when it comes down to the numbers, the money I generate from modeling simply doesn't make the cut. Nor will I ever expect it to, unless I land a major campaign/spokesmodel contract or something.
If your interest in modeling mainly revolves around the idea of using the income to earn a living then I will be the first to say that you'll be sorely disappointed. The majority of models hold down full-time or part-time jobs in addition to modeling so that should be the first clue that money and modeling don't go hand-in-hand the way many people envision.
I've gotten emails from readers with questions as to whether it would be possible for them to just model full-time and not have to get a regular job. My answer is always to get a job until they can see how seriously their modeling career takes off. This applies to all categories, from commercial/print to fashion and runway. Each category has its earning pros/cons but the constant factor is that after all is said and done, there isn't much stability when it comes to making money in modeling.
The more work a model books, the money money he/she can make but that is much easier said than done, no matter what market you're working in. Depending on your lifestyle, age, bills, living situation, etc., each person's requirements for financial stability and independence will vary widely.
Teens and those yet to enter college have it the easiest simply because they have less financial obligations and commitments. Models/model hopefuls in college (or who have graduated and are now in the "real world" or who went straight from high school to the "real world") likely already have a taste of what it's like to be on a tight budget and while modeling jobs do give some breathing room financially, it's usually not enough...especially these days.
The bottom line (and my forever response to people wondering about the association between modeling and making money):
1. Get a F@&*ing Job! Like, a real job. Something that requires a skill set of some sort, ideally (see #4 below). Part-time or full-time. You need at least one reliable source of income to make pursuing modeling possible (if you're serious about it and not just doing it for fun or as a hobby).
2. Give It Time. Agency repped or freelance, it will take some time to establish a modeling career. Snag a few paid bookings and get your feet wet. It may take 6 months or a year or more to really get a feel for what your earning potential could be. Do not expect to be rolling in dough once you just start out. Even if you hit a good earning spree initially, don't expect it to last (another reality check here).
3. Start Saving. This applies to both adults as well as underage models but especially for the latter. Underage models with little to no bills to pay, start putting away the earnings from modeling into a special savings account. Use a bit as "play money" but don't be a big spender each time you get a decent payday from modeling (this includes tall teen models doing well in the fashion/runway world). I can't tell you how quickly time flies and before you know it, you'll be legal and have financial responsibilities. You'll want to be able to take care of yourself if and when modeling no longer continues to be a realistic career to maintain.
4. Have a Backup Plan. I hate to say it but not everyone who starts out in modeling stays in the business. Many won't get very far, while others may achieve moderate success but, for one reason or another, might hit a bad dry spell or find that modeling is no longer for them. Modeling as a profession isn't one that comes with a pension and retirement benefits so whether you're trying to do modeling short-term or long-term, do right by yourself and have a Plan B (throw in a Plan C or D if you need it) so that if modeling ends up no longer being a part of your life's equation, you'll be able to land on your feet after all is said and done.