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How to Land Your First Modeling Job

Everything you need to know about how to approach modeling as a career path, and where the jobs are and how to get them.

You’ve got the look. You’ve got the walk. You’ve got the drive. Now let’s get you hired. If modeling is your dream job, you have to treat it like one. You’ll want to do one thing every day that furthers your career and helps you land that first modeling job. Whether that means updating your portfolio or scouring social media for trending hashtags, invest the time now—your future self will thank you.

Getting that first modeling job can sometimes feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But once you have some insider knowledge to landing that first beginner modeling job, you’ll be on your way to Vogue in no time.

Assess Your Assets

The world of modeling is like a popular ice cream chain, it has more flavors than you could ever sample. Options for modeling jobs could fall into the following categories:

  • Fitness Modeling
  • Glamour Modeling
  • Runway Modeling
  • Plus Size Modeling
  • Editorial/Commercial Modeling

Each of these fields has specific requirements. Runway models not only need to be able to walk and pose in garments in a way that practically gives them a life of their own, they must also adhere to strict height, weight, and measurement criteria. By assessing your strengths you will be able to pinpoint which modeling jobs are right for you.

Use Your Modeling Book To Get Booked

All creatives, models included, need a portfolio (commonly referred to as a book in the fashion industry). A good portfolio has a variety of images to show your versatility. A great portfolio will make casting directors sit up and pay attention. One tip to landing that first paid modeling job is to be memorable. You’ll want to build your modeling portfolio both digitally and physically. Before you’re ready to start sharing your portfolio, you’ll want to make sure it’s polished and error-free. A perfect portfolio will take you from amateur model to paid model in a blink of an eye.

Where to Look

To get hired for any job, you need to apply. Modeling jobs are no different. Curious about the best place to look for gigs? You can find modeling jobs the same way you find out about Great-Aunt Gertrude’s fifth cat: social media. Follow local designers and photographers on Instagram, Twitter, and even Pinterest. Creatives will often announce casting calls (sometimes affectionately referred to as cattle calls) or one-off modeling jobs on their social media feeds.

There are also Facebook groups dedicated to casting for jobs. Most major cities have groups specifically for local modeling jobs. Be an active group member. Post pictures of your work regularly and be open to collaboration opportunities.

When you hear about casting calls or go-sees, make sure you’re prepared. You’ll want to bring your composite card (an 8” x 11.5” page with your headshot on the front and several smaller photographs, contact information including a link to your digital portfolio, and your height, weight, measurements, and shoe size on the back) and your hard copy portfolio just in case the director would like to see more examples of your work.

Dress comfortably and simply. Tailored denim or trousers and a slim fitting t-shirt paired with sharp dress shoes are classic and classy. That means heels for some and a classic oxford or brogue for others. Other things to keep in mind:

  • Keep make up natural. Let your face be viewed as a blank canvas.
  • Hair should be clean and make sure to avoid over styling. Facial hair is to be well groomed and tidy.
  • Arrive early and be prepared to wait. Casting calls are notoriously overbooked and nothing ever runs as smoothly as it should. Bring a book, a bottle of water, and even a battery pack for your phone.
  • A notebook and pen to take down the details of the modeling job you’re about to get should be kept at your fingertips.
  • Stay positive. We’re all divas in our own right but a poor attitude or bad manners could get you blacklisted faster you can say, “Supermodel”.

Many photographers will also post casting calls for projects they are working on. These may be trade-for-print or paid modeling jobs. It’s always a good idea to bring someone with you if you’ve never worked with a team before. Many models have someone on set with them during shoots. Just make sure that the person you bring with you is unassuming and will blend into the background. They are there to make you comfortable, not make everyone else uncomfortable.

Get Ready To Mingle

Attending fashion industry events is another way to increase your chances of being hired for that first paid modeling job. Like many industries, it’s not always what you know or what you can do, it’s also about who you know. Get out there and network! While it will be tempting to befriend all the other models and dish the gossip, focus your attention instead on meeting and talking to photographers, designers, and casting agents.

It might feel like a great opportunity to sing your own praises and talk about your career aspirations. This is not the right atmosphere for this. Ask questions about their work or specific campaigns, be genuinely interested in the answers you receive, and always remain polite and professional. While that junior production assistant currently has no influence, they could be going places and you’ll want to be remembered in a positive light. Use restroom breaks to google past projects and ask insightful questions.

The Cold Call

This method may not work for everyone but it is a great way to get your face out there. Cold calling means you bring your composite card to any business that works in design, advertising, or photography. Bringing your composite card to the front office of these businesses may provide the added edge you need to be cast in local modeling jobs.

If you do drop a card at a modeling agency or business, be sure to follow up via email, thanking them for taking the time to look over your card. Be sure to include the link to your portfolio, your contact information, and a photo of your smiling face in the signature of your email. Virtual cold calls are also acceptable. Email your composite card and your online portfolio to casting teams and agencies. Be sure to follow up a few days later to confirm that they have received your package.

Do It For The ’Gram

As mentioned previously, social media has blown the modeling industry wide open. Instead of needing to know a guy, who knows a guy, who worked for a photographer to get your foot in the door, casting agents and brands are now creating custom hashtags and will use them to scout talent from the comfort of their mobile devices.

Check out the feeds of major music festivals, fashion events, and even local designers you love. They will often run campaigns encouraging people to post and share, rewarding winners with paid modeling jobs. Each opportunity to put yourself out there may be the moment that leads to a gig. Just ensure your posts show your versatility and choose your photos appropriately. If a prominent athleisure brand is looking for new faces, tagging a shot of you in formal wear may come across as off brand. A little costuming goes a long way. Dress to the theme and tag away.

In theater, there is the Rule of Threes that says things that come in threes are better, funnier, and more memorable. So post in threes. Each look should have three photos and will be posted at the time that best works for your demographic. Anyone can take one good photo. Casting directors will be looking for you to provide options. A camera on a tripod with a timer, a selfie stick with a remote shutter button or even a friend with a good eye for composition and 15 minutes to spare will really up your Instagram feed from cute selfies to a carefully curated professional tool.

Promotional Modeling Jobs

Influencer. Brand ambassador. Promotional Model. All different names but the game’s the same. Gone are the days of influencers with six-digit followings getting all the jobs. With the advances in e-commerce, small businesses, and things like drop shipping, lots of independent retailers are looking for people to be the faces of their company. There are many advantages to becoming a promotional model. If it’s a company you love, you’ll be getting a discount on items you would buy anyway. A 20% discount on jeans may not pay the bills, but the 5-10% revenue you can earn with referral codes sure does add up.

To tap into the money-making world of being a social media influencer, you’ll need to grow your following. Businesses look for large numbers of followers as well as what level of engagement your posts receive. Depending on what your stats are, you’ll want to charge accordingly.

You’ll also want to ensure that your content is fresh, fresh, FRESH! Collaborations with up-and-coming photographers, hair and makeup artists, and designers will help pad your Instagram feed.

Browse your feed and get inspired. Working on creative is good for everyone involved. Everybody gets new content to share as well as use for portfolio updates. It’s also a chance to take some risks. Don’t be afraid to get a little edgy and step outside your comfort zone.

Be sure to secure your account because celebrity influencers aren’t the only people who are vulnerable. Instagram is a lifeline to your income, protect it.

Think Outside the Box

Not every modeling job has to be a Milan runway of a Vogue cover shoot. Think of other ways you can model and still get paid. There are dozens of online-exclusive magazines that hold monthly casting calls. Often, there are themes laid out by the magazine you build your shoot to fit or work in something you have in your archives. These publications usually have strict rules about first publication rights so even if you are living for your proofs, keep them hidden until publication day.

Many photographers will also team up with models for commercial shoots for the sole purpose of selling those images as stock photography. This can be a very lucrative business arrangement, depending on what the royalties look like.

Or, maybe you’ve assembled an amazing, dynamic, creative team and you have a theme for a shoot that will make the gods themselves weep. You’ll want to make sure these photographs are given the respect (and not to mention views and clicks) they deserve. Shop the concept around to magazines. Writing personalized pitches for magazines or other publications tells casting and submission teams that you’re serious about modeling and you will be remembered for future modeling jobs.

Modeling Jobs for Kids

Child models may have some of the most limited opportunities but they definitely have the most fun. Who doesn’t want to eat string cheese all day? Child models tend to find the most success with commercial and catalog work. Getting your child that first paid modeling job is easier than you think. Most casting is done via agencies so you’ll want to get your child signed with a reputable agency. The agency may want to interview your child before signing them. Things to remember when submitting images to agencies for consideration:

  • No dirty faces—that means no cake smash photographs
  • Nothing obscuring their faces—hats, sunglasses, makeup
  • Keep backgrounds simple—don’t distract from your child

If your child can handle being fussed over (hairstyling and clothes changed multiple times a day), take direction (hands in pockets, look this way, etc.), and do so with a great big smile, your child will be cast over and over again.

Fitness Modeling Jobs

Fitness modeling is one of the fastest growing modeling niches right now. Within the fitness world there are many options when it comes to finding paid fitness modeling jobs:

  • Magazine covers/spreads
  • Fitness commercials
  • Supplement advertisements
  • Fitness fashion shows

Many fitness models want to grace the cover of an industry magazine. While that is absolutely an honor, you’ll only be on that cover for 30 days. Aiming for spokesmodel status with athletic wear, supplements, or even gym marketing campaigns will reap greater, longer lasting rewards. Many fitness modeling jobs are cast during open model calls or social media contests. Utilize your social media to its full potential. Wearing a brand in that mirror selfie? Tag them. Drinking a specific recovery shake? Tag them. Brands are always looking for their next face, maybe it will be yours.

One thing that’s very important to note: Know your niche! If you’re not a bodybuilder, sending images to muscle mags may be an exercise in futility. Don’t submit if you don’t fit.

No Contest

Remember your dreamy concept from above? If by some slim, minuscule chance it didn’t get snapped up by a major publication, all is not lost. Every year (and sometimes every month) there are photography contests. Some have strict entry requirements around subject matter or location, while others are open to interpretation.

Some of these contests even award up to $50,000! While it is awarded to the photographer, a simple contract outlining the division of the prize money will help protect everyone involved. The exposure could lead to future contracts, modeling jobs, and all sorts of opportunities.

Plus Size Modeling Jobs

With more and more well-known brands adding plus sizes to their lines, the availability of plus size modeling jobs is as easy as finding cute, curve-loving clothing. Individual brands will often hold model search contests.

Every year, Canadian retailer Addition Elle does just that to find a new face. Contests like this lead to visibility and that is amazing. In this case, the winner gets a year-long contract that includes a plus size modeling job, wardrobe, and a cash prize. Runner-ups get cash prizes and they something even more tantalizing: visibility and freedom. Just as viewed without a contract. Nothing like free advertising.

Due to the recent boom in the industry, more and more agencies are signing plus size men and women as clients. Designers are featuring these models on the runways during big fashion events, in ad campaigns, and online. Getting on an agency’s roster gives you the inside track and gets you into casting calls for plus modeling jobs like these much more efficiently.

Print Modeling Jobs

Commercial and catalog modeling jobs are often the most financially rewarding for a model. A model can make a few hundred dollars for smaller-scale catalogs. In larger designer campaigns or large format catalogs, that paycheck can be in the thousands. Catalog modeling jobs are also the most diverse. Catalogs tend to include the widest variety of customers: Men, women, plus, petite, and children. Models will be needed to represent all of these demographics. Catalog work also provides important tear sheets for your portfolio.

The majority of commercial and catalog work is cast through agencies, though in this age of the internet, many retailers hold open casting calls to reach a more diverse pool of models. If you don’t use an agency, always have a lawyer review any contracts before you sign them. While exclusivity may sound great, it could really stagnate your career in the long run.

Print commercial work often leads to television commercial work. Contracts with home shopping channels may not sound glamorous, but they offer regular paychecks and an opportunity to show your range. Commercial modeling jobs are tickets to take you anywhere and everywhere. Editorial modeling jobs look very similar to commercial modeling jobs on the surface but vary wildly once you dig a little deeper. Editorial jobs have much stricter guidelines for their models. Where commercial models typically look like the girl or guy next door, editorial models look like other-worldly. Editorial modeling is the runway of the print world.

When you are starting out in editorial modeling, you’re there to build your name. Many jobs will be TFP (trade for print). With enough work, you’ll build a reputation and photographers, casting directors, and brands will begin to ask for you by name. Say yes to collaborative work and if you’re working in trade, take risks. Give your portfolio a boost and give casting agents a wide variety of looks to browse.

Enlist Help

There are a lot of ways further your modeling career. If it sounds like a full-time job, it’s because it is. If your head is already spinning and your to-do list is overflowing, it may be time to bring in professional help.

Agents are able to do most of the legwork for you. They find the casting calls. They invoice the businesses when the job is done. They do the worst parts of the job for (usually) about twenty percent of your wages. They will also negotiate higher rates for you because it works out better for everyone in the long run. Some agencies have flexible, open contracts. You’ll have the freedom to float between a couple of agencies and still take freelance modeling jobs.

A perfect relationship between model and agency has the agency advocating for the model because it’s in everyone’s best interest. If you’re not feeling like you are being promoted enough it’s time to renegotiate that contract. And never sign a contract until you’ve spoken to a lawyer. Make sure you know what you’re signing.

Now Get Out There

Now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to get started. Treat every modeling job as an opportunity to build relationships and boost your career.

And remember: You’re beautiful. You’re gorgeous. You’re insert supermodel name here. Now show them what you’re made of.

More on fashion careers:
20 Fashion Stylists to Get Inspired By
Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Fashion Shoot
18 Models With Portfolios That Slay

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