How much does it cost to become a model?
When scouting or meeting with potential talent that is often the first question they have for me. There are many variables that determine the cost required to get a model to a larger market.
At PRIM we aim to keep expenses at a minimum by not charging for comp cards, web fees or training to PRIM represented models. Below is a breakdown of where other expenses might arise when a model is working toward placement:
Style – Anymore, it is not enough to just be good looking, a model must look the part head to toe. Since we are in the fashion industry, this may mean some wardrobe updates will be in order when the time for castings, travel, etc., comes. If you don’t look like a model, people will not see you as one. Thrift stores, garage sales and fast-fashion retailers like Forever21 and H&M are great places to find cheap, stylish clothes. I often take models shopping myself or send links to the things we need to avoid unnecessary spending.
Hair/Skincare – Sometimes a model must change their look to become more competitive or differentiate theirs from the looks of other models. This could mean a hair cut, a new color, etc. Those things come with upkeep costs, but they can also be the deciding factor for a new face. Models may also have skin issues that need attention before they can really begin shooting, so a visit to the dermatologist is sometimes necessary.
Age – Age can be a factor if a model gets started quite young. If the model starts preparing and learning before they are actually able to work, the smaller costs can add up over the years before they are able to really work full time. However a young model should not necessarily start investing monetarily until they are ready to be presented for travel. An older model, who is ready to travel, but just needs experience/pictures might spend less because the development process is much shorter.
Fitness/Health – Modeling requires pique fitness regardless of the area or division of the industry a model is working in. For some models this means cleaning up their diet, joining a gym, investing in exercise equipment, etc.
Paid Testing – Paying for images is something I only recommend once a model has enough skill and ability to get the most out of the investment. There is nothing more frustrating than getting images back from a paid test and struggling as an agent to find images that will enhance the model’s book. Timing of paid tests is also important. Images, trends, and looks cycle in and out of style rapidly and images should be their freshest at the moment the model is preparing to travel or be presented for appointments in another market. Check out this post for more info on model testing!
Travel – Depending on the market, agency and season, a model may have all of some or all of their expenses advanced to them by the agency they are being placed with. This is not charity. The model works to pay off that debt out of their wages. It is much like taking a business loan. I typically encourage a model who is traveling to prepare well in advance, in order to pay for as many of their own expenses where possible. The sooner that debt is paid off, the sooner the model can start to make money.
Education/Knowledge of the Business – Self-education is something that is entirely possible in the modeling world. Because who knows you and your body better than you? I encourage all of my models to take as many art classes, acting classes, dance classes, etc., as they can. Especially if the model goes to public school, because it is free. There are dozens of books about the industry, some more accurate than others. Then there are the fashion magazines. I encourage models to explore their interest in the industry by borrowing from my library of magazines, books, videos, etc., which I have collected over the years. As in any industry, it is important to know the successes and failures of those who came before you.
Something I reiterate constantly to my models is that nothing in our industry is black and white. No two models are alike, no two models have the same precise goals, and no two models will take the same path to reach them. I have received offers for models who have never spent a dime, yet at the same time, there are aspiring models (not PRIM models) who spend thousands of dollars at scam schools, testing with every photographer that comes through town, never to see even a breath of a career materialize. Throwing money at something does not make success, but making calculated, well-informed and thoughtful business decisions can certainly set things off in the right direction.