For over 2 decades I’ve been privileged to say “I am a model”. But today, almost everyone claims that.
So what does it mean to actually ‘be a model’? During this series, I’m going to cover some topics that most people wouldn’t necessarily think of when they say, “I’m a model”.
I mean, you just put on hair and makeup and something cool and stand in front of a camera right?
What exactly makes that a business? Well, you are selling a product to provide a service. Let me step back a minute, let’s define what a model is exactly.
When you go shopping for a car, depending on you are looking for, you are shown a base model. The base model is the starting point. It’s an example. If you choose to, you can upgrade, add special features and customize the car so it represents you. The same goes for the fashion industry.
When you are a fashion model, it’s the same principle. You are a walking hanger that shows potential clients, what they could be in that garment. Often times, young or green models, think that it’s about them, but in reality, you are merely a living hangar to bring fashions to life so the designer sells them and makes money. After all, do you think they just make the clothes so they have pretty pictures to hang on their walls? NO! This industry is a business and everyone involved from the fabric store owner to the production company producing the shoot or show is out to make money. No one does this ‘just for the fun of it’.
Now, back to you being a small business owner. As a model, you are now selling yourself. So you are the product, providing the service of being a hangar to the client. Are you following me?
Let me explain. Let’s say Bob Smith is a designer, he’s looking to break into the fashion scene and wants to host a fashion show. He needs models to wear his clothes because having his assistant walk hangars with his clothes on them down the runway just isn’t as appealing. Now, how does Bob make this happen?
His first step would be to contact an agency. But, if he’s just starting out, he likely doesn’t have a budget to pay models, so he’s going to look for independent talent that fits his style and ask them to model for him. Most of the time, the models ‘work’ for free. This is a great opportunity if you are just starting out because there is this catch 22 in the modeling industry;
“You can’t get work without experience and you can’t get experience without work” so what do you do? You do free gigs. But if you have been modeling for free for years, it’s time to reflect on your long-term goals. At some point, you should be getting paid, but that’s another story.
Now back to Bob. Bob has his models. All are volunteering to walk for him. Some might be getting photos in exchange for their time, but usually, that’s about it. I’ve even seen some shows charge models who are volunteering, to get photos from the show. Crazy right?!
Now, you as the model, during the hours you are at the show, are now representing Bob. You are Bob Smith. You are no longer you. Your ego and your identity are checked at the door because remember, the show isn’t about you, it’s about selling Bob’s designs.
During NYFW, in the audience, there are usually buyers from stores and boutiques, who will hopefully see something their clients will like and make a deal with Bob to buy his designs to sell in their stores. There are also media outlets who will give Bob free advertising so he can expose his brand to more people.
Most of the time the show costs money to attend, and for some smaller market shows, models are required to sell tickets. (Sales. Another skill of the business owner)
So, you can now see how this industry is a business. Everyone is making money in this scenario but the model.
Let’s look at this from a professionally signed models perspective who is working with an agency.
The agency works for you. You know this because you pay them a commission to find you work. However, they are subject matter experts in their fields so listening to their career advice is usually recommended. Plus the agency will only deal with legitimate clients who they trust to treat the models right and can afford to pay what the talent is worth. The agency is the middleman between you and Bob. They negotiate your pay based on Bob’s needs, time requirements, & location. The more the agency can get from Bob, the more the agency makes. So it’s in their best interest to provide the best.
Bob can afford to pay the models in this scenario because he has an investor and the production company has sponsors to help pay for the location and publicity. So, the models are left to just be models. What they do best.
For helping Bob secure the best talent to represent him, the agency gets a commission from Bob too. The models are all highly trained (the agency would only send trained talent to guarantee a ROI) (ROI- return on investment). The models show up on time. Hair and makeup provided by the show. Their models bags are complete. Their shoes are new, clean and look brand new. Everything is as Bob requested. Bob does the show, and ends up signing contracts with 3 stores, making a profit. Bob covered his collection production costs, the costs of the talent and paid his investor back, and still earned a paycheck, plus now he has those stores to use for next time as a marketing tool to advertise his business and validate his credentials as a designer.
The agency, when representing a model, is in charge of their marketing to clients. They arrange comp cards based on what their client base wants to see. The portfolios use photos that only show the model in their best light. After all, clients will always remember your worst photo. (We’ll cover photos in another blog post)
Now let’s look at this from an independent models perspective. Bob’s budget doesn’t include paying models. So you have to look at the opportunity to see if it furthers your career or not. You decide Bob is a good designer to work for. Bob hires you.
You are told by Bob where to be, what to bring, and any other requests Bob has for his show. You are responsible for making sure you have all of your stuff together. You don’t have the shoes he needs, so you go out and invest in some. He can’t afford hair and makeup, so you have to do your own, or hire someone to do it. So far, you’re spending more money on the show than you are getting out of it. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Bob cancels the show the day of.
An agency model would get paid regardless since there was a contract involved between Bob and the agency.
But let’s use the same success scenario as above. The show did happen & Bob lands those 3 deals. Bob makes money. You still make none. But Bob did say he’d use you next time! WIN! Not really.
Sounds harsh right? Welcome to the business world.
As a business owner, which is the topic of this blog post….all hope is not lost. All of those expenses for prepping for the show are a write-off. You can deduct those fees, clothes etc. from your income on your taxes to pay less. They are after all business expenses.
Now it’s time to start thinking of yourself as a business. You are your own marketing department (think the commercials on tv, that’s all you!). You are your own accountant **. If you do all your marketing on your phone, it’s a write-off. If you bought shoes, that would only be worn for fashion shows or shoots, those are a write-off. Hair, makeup, facials etc are all business expenses because as a model, you are required to maintain your product. Gas, mileage etc etc etc….yep, you can write it off.
Do you think a car dealership writes off their car wash? You betcha! It’s used to make their products look shiny so people will want to buy it. After all, no one wants to buy a dirty car.
It’s in your best interest as a model, to study how to be a small business.
Once you get this down, you’ll see a definite shift in how people respond to you.
Remember, no one will take you seriously as a model until you take modeling seriously.
Stay tuned for more on my “I’m A Model” series.
For one on one coaching with me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org