As a model trying to make it in the industry, turning down a paid booking sounds like complete blasphemy. Who in their right mind would do that?! While it’s tempting to take every single modeling job that comes your way, sometimes it may actually be more beneficial to you and your career to decline.
Yes, getting modeling jobs can be really hard. You hustle day in and day out to get those paid bookings, but situations will arise where saying “no, thanks” is much smarter than taking the money.
So, when to call it off?
When It Violates Your Beliefs
Whether it be religious beliefs, moral reasonings, or just not a look you want to portray, many models have lines they will not cross when being photographed. Models who are vegetarians may not do ads that promote eating meat. Others may refuse to pose nude or do ads for furs, alcohol, cigarettes because it goes against their morals or religion. Some models may avoid doing any type of political ads because they don’t want to be associated with a candidate or campaign that they don’t agree with.
If the shoot requires you to do something you’re uncomfortable with or against, regardless of the pay, it is important that you decline. Not only do you need to stand true to what you believe in and maintain your boundaries, you also won’t be able to give 100% to the project if it’s not something you support in your personal life.
If you are a signed model and get your bookings through your agency, make sure that you are up front with them about what you are ok and not ok doing. You never want to audition, book the job, and then tell your agent last minute that decided not to do the job because it goes against your beliefs. It would be even worse if you were on the fence about the job but waited until you got on set before you decided to back out. Not only does that make you look unprofessional, it puts your agent in a difficult situation.
When You Have Other Commitments
Sometimes when you have multiple agencies, they can both want to book you for a project on the same day or around the same time. Obviously, you can’t be in two places at once, and rescheduling a booking for a different day isn’t usually an option.
In most instances, the best decision is to keep your first commitment and turn down the second job. This can be tough to do, especially if the other job is more profitable or for a bigger client, but is the more professional way to handle that situation. The modeling industry is a small world, and you never want to run the risk of burning bridges! The only situation where it would be acceptable to cancel your first booking is if it was for trade or a project just for fun. In most cases the photographer you were planning to work with will understand that paid jobs always come before fun projects.
If It Could Affect Future Bookings
Especially in the commercial modeling world, your previous jobs can greatly affect your future bookings. Even though it is a model’s job to transform into whatever character is needed for that particular project, models are often unfairly stereotyped by their previous work even if it may be the exact opposite of who they really are as a person. What may have been a harmless bikini ad displayed in a men’s magazine can turn off clients that are booking models for a more family-oriented project even though you may be a parent yourself. It can also work in the reverse, where if most of your previous work has been family lifestyle ads you may be passed over for things that are edgier or sexier. Some clients also have clauses in their contracts that prohibit models working for a similar or competing company for a certain period of time, which can greatly impact the work you’re able to do.
This is why it’s important to think about every job that you get offered and not just take it because it pays. You may literally be prohibited to work with other clients until an ad campaign is finished, or you could be stereotyped into just one field and have a difficult time rebranding yourself.
When Your Gut Says No
If a booking doesn’t sit right with you for any reason, you should really consider cancelling it. If it was a booking through your agent, a simple phone call with them could help clear your doubt or just confirm that it’s better to decline the booking. Your unease might turn out to be nothing, but it might turn out to be something, too. It’s always better to trust your gut than to be put in a situation that makes you uncomfortable or could cause problems for you and/or your career down the road.
Your agent might not be happy with your decision to turn down a booking because they could lose money from a big commission, but they are also professionals and are supposed to put your best interests at the forefront. As long as you explain your reasoning, they should understand and will be able to better judge future bookings for you. Remember, it’s always important to be upfront with them from the very beginning so they can avoid sending you to castings for bookings that don’t align with your career boundaries.
The most important thing to remember is that this is your life and your career. It is imperative that you trust your intuition and make smart decisions that you will be content with throughout and even after your career has ended.