As a model mentor and coach, not a week goes by that I don’t get a question regarding how to get started in the industry or the steps to getting signed to an agency. While the road to becoming a model is not a straight path and is slightly different for everyone, figuring out where to even start is where most people get stuck. Luckily, the starting point is pretty simple. Read below for some tips on how to get your foot in the door of the modeling industry.
First and foremost, I encourage all aspiring models to start with a quick reality check. When people ask me how to get started in modeling, I’ll often respond to them by asking why they want to be a model. If they only want to do it just because it sounds fun or people have always told them they should do it, I encourage them to do a little research before just jumping head first into the industry.
Whether you think it’s right or not, the modeling industry is one where you’ll always be judged on your looks to get booked for jobs. With that comes a lot of mental and physical pressure. Because of this, you have to be brutally honest with yourself and ask yourself if getting into this kind of industry is something you really want to do.
Modeling isn’t just standing in front of the camera for a few hours or walking a runway for 60 seconds. You have to be 100% committed to putting in the work. You won’t get jobs handed to you just because you’re pretty. Everyone in the modeling industry is pretty, so you will have to put in the hustle and work to set yourself apart from all the other pretty faces. And even after all that hard work, you will still hear the word “no” far more than you’ll hear the word “yes”. If you’re just expecting it to be all glitz and glam, this is not the industry for you. The modeling industry isn’t right for everyone, and that’s ok! That doesn’t have any reflection of who you are or your worth as a person.
Be Aware of Your Options
Under the large modeling industry umbrella, there are many different types of models. Become familiar with the industry and what different options are there because different types of modeling have different requirements.
Do you want to be on the runway? Do you want to be in magazines, commercials, or promote events? Do your research on the different categories and figure out which one(s) you’re best suited for. Maybe you have always wanted to be a fashion model, but your "look" is more commercial in nature, so getting editorial jobs will be way more difficult for you than getting a commercial campaign. Knowing your look and what you want to achieve can help to determine what area of modeling you will fit best into, so identifying that and playing to your own strengths will only help you in your career.
Develop Your Skills
This step is so important, and should be started the moment you decide you want to be a model.
Study and understand posing and light angles, practice runway walking over and over again. What separates a pretty model from any other model is going to be their skill and versatility. Modeling, just like many other professions, is something that needs to practiced to become good at doing. While it may feel silly posing in front of a mirror or doing a runway walk down a sidewalk, the more you do it the more comfortable you get and it becomes second nature.
Look into taking modeling classes or find blogs and videos to research and gain more knowledge. Many agencies will offer workshops (for free!) to their new models to help new faces develop their skills, and enlisting a credited model coach for more direction can also be beneficial.
Be At Your Personal Best
Along with developing your skills, you need to take time to work on yourself personally as well. Making sure you’re taking care of your body (fitness, skin, hair, nails- everything!) as well as your mental health is crucial to making it in the modeling industry. Since getting booked for jobs is based on your appearance and it’s such a competitive and high-stress industry, you want to make sure you’re healthy mentally and physically so you can bring you’re a-game to every casting and booking.
Don't Do Unnecessary Photoshoots
When you are just getting started and don’t yet have an agency, it’s not necessary to spend hundreds of dollars on multiple photoshoots. There is no telling how an agent is going to want to market you once they put you on their model roster. If you do a bunch of shoots before you're ever signed, the agent may not want to use any of them because they're not the right style, which means all that time and money spent was for nothing.
Many new models also make the mistake of doing too much TFP (Trade for Photos) work before getting signed to an agency. Quality is FAR better than quantity, so if you shoot with a bunch of sub-par photographers or have a lot of sub-par images floating out on social media and/or the internet, it could actually hurt your chances of getting signed instead of help it. If you want to shoot before having an agent, it's best to be very selective about who you shoot with and not do any overly-styled concepts that distract from you as a model. Having a few really amazing, strong images is much better than having a ton of just ok images.
You also don't need professional photos to submit to an agency. All model scouts & agents want to see from a potential model is simple, unedited and unfiltered snapshots of your face and body (aka- digitals). These photos can even be taken from your phone! They want to see how you look naturally, not with full glam & professional lighting. Check out my post on how to do online submissions to agencies for tips on how to get what agencies are looking for.
RESEARCH and Get a Good Agency
This is something I can’t stress enough. Even though models can make money doing freelance work, if you really want to work for big clients and really advance your career, you will need to have a good agent. There’s a reason even the top supermodels have agents!
But before submitting to every modeling agency that comes up in your Google search, do your research! I can almost guarantee you that if you submit to every agency in your area, you’re bound to be contacted by one of them- but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to sign with them.
When looking for an agent, there are some imperative questions to ask. First and most importantly, is this agency legit? I go into detail on this important topic in my post Finding the Right Modeling Agency because this is such a pivotal point in a model’s career. To achieve your modeling career goals, you will need the help of a knowledgeable and experienced agent by your side. They will help you get jobs, manage your bookings, negotiate your pay, protect your image and brand, and give you invaluable advice and insight to the modeling industry.
After you do your research and find the modeling agencies that you feel confident to be a good fit for you, submit your digitals to your top picks. If they are interested in your look, they will contact you and set up a meeting. Make sure you go into this first meeting prepared with all the questions you can think of, and never feel pressured to make a decision to sign with them right there on the spot. Be aware of some red flags you need to look out for, and trust your intuition. If an agency asks for money upfront, whether this is for a photo/portfolio package, mandatory classes, or a “signing fee”, that should be your first sign that the agency is a scam.
Don’t be so eager to sign a contract that you let all the warning signs fly out the window. It’s better to turn down an offer than to be stuck in a sketchy situation because you didn’t do your due diligence!
Being a model is just like upholding any other type of job- you need to be professional at all times. Answer phone calls, return voicemails and emails promptly, never (ever!) be late. This industry is fast paced and very competitive, so if you think you can skate by on your looks alone and put in minimal effort, you’ll be in for a rude awakening. It’s a small industry and word gets around quickly. Unprofessionalism and a bad attitude will give you a lousy reputation that will overshadow your beauty and have a big impact on the number of jobs you get. Nobody wants to work with a diva, and there are plenty of other beautiful and professional models that can take your spot. When you are on set, treat EVERYONE with respect and do your job to the best of your ability, even if you don’t like the way you look or someone else on set is rubbing you the wrong way.
As a model, especially when you're just starting out, you're in a pretty vulnerable position and there will be people trying to take advantage of you. Have your guard up and be safe. Don't fall for phony modeling schools, contests, dodgy "modeling agents" or "casting directors" or "photographers", or people that slide into your DMs with fake casting calls that promise a photo shoot in another country with thousands of dollars in compensation…
Have a sound support system in place. Keep your friends, family and agent informed of what is happening in your career. If anything crosses the line or makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to speak up and let someone know right away. You should never become so dedicated to your career that it becomes more important than your own safety.
Don’t Take It Personally
To become a model, you either have the ‘look’ agencies or clients want at that given moment or you don’t, and that’s something that you have no control over.
This should have NO reflection on your personal self-worth. Just because you keep getting turned down does not mean you're not good enough. Mentally prepare yourself for rejection- a lot of it. You MUST be able to handle having doors shut in your face without a second thought. Even the most stunning supermodels to ever walk the planet were told "NO" multiple times, many ways, by countless people.
Rejection is part of the industry and you have to have very tough skin. The sooner you not only understand but accept that, the better off you will be. I have had many tears over the mean words people have said throughout my career, and I have learned through the years that none of what they say has any meaning in the 'real' world.
You are still a valuable person with feelings, thoughts, and opinions. You are so much more than just a pretty face. Every agent and client has a different idea of what they want in a model, and it is impossible to know exactly what they are looking for. Keep your head up and keep getting in front of them, their idea of the ‘ideal model’ will change in a week!