Modeling as a career may sound glittery and glamorous, but becoming a professional model requires dedication, planning, and determination. With all the established models in your area, landing your first modeling job in this competitive industry can be overwhelming. But once you have some insider knowledge to landing that first beginner modeling job, you’ll be on your way to signing more contracts in no time.
Here’s how you get started in this career.
How Professional Models Got Their First Modeling Job
Know what kind of model you are.
When most people think of models, they usually think of the famous ones like Tyra Banks, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Cara Delevingne, or Gigi Hadid. However, little do you know that there are many other types of modeling out there, and in each type, there are models whose names you don’t know but who are making a terrific income. Modeling, much like other industries, is made up of a variety of genres or types:
- Runway modeling
- Editorial fashion modeling
- Commercial modeling
- Print modeling
- Catalog modeling
- Teen/child/mature modeling
- Plus-size modeling
- Fitness modeling
- Parts modeling
- Promotional modeling
- Lingerie modeling
- Alternative modeling
- Pinup modeling
- Art modeling
Each of these fields has specific requirements. Don’t waste your time and effort trying to fit into one modeling work. Be familiar with all the other types by assessing your strengths so you will be able to determine which modeling job is right for you.
Prepare a portfolio and composite card.
This is usually easier said than done. But just like applying for any job, one has to have their recent picture taken, their résumé updated and printed, and their cover letter ready. For aspiring models, prepare the following:
- Take your measurements. Since most modeling jobs have particular types of models in mind, you should have a clear understanding of your own physical attributes. If you’re a woman, measure your chest, waist, and hips, and verify your height and weight. If you’re man, measure your shoulders, waist, and inseam, as well as your height and weight.
- Have as many pictures taken. “You don’t need to be shooting professional photos,” says Chris Gay, general manager of The Society Management, who suggests models send prospective agencies honest, amateur shots. You can send photos taken by amateur photographers or even by your friends or family, as long as they are well-focused, have good lighting and are high in resolution. It is even best if you will send in images of you wearing minimal or no makeup at all, as these will show them your natural looks and will give them an idea on what might or might not work with you. “Take the most effortless beauty pictures, not a lot of makeup or hair, just be yourself,” advises Ivan Bart, President of IMG Models.
- Prepare a composite card. A composite card is a sheet of paper that contains an 8 × 10 headshot on one side and several photos with vital statistics on the back. It is often given to casting directors, photographers, and art directors, who are looking for talents.
- Create an initial portfolio. When a client shows interest in a model, the next thing they want to see is more photos. This is where your portfolio comes in. Like all creatives, models need one (it’s commonly referred to as a book in the fashion industry). Have many photographs taken and compile the best ones to create an attractive portfolio than you can carry to go-sees, cattle calls, and agency interviews. This portfolio should represent the range of your expressiveness and emphasize your personal style and physical attributes. You’ll want to build your modeling portfolio both digitally and physically. Your digital portfolio, such as a DVD or flash drive, might be useful especially if you’re interested in modeling for television or the catwalk. You can include video footage of your walk or your previous video modeling experience.
Tip: Before you’re ready to start sharing your portfolio, you’ll want to make sure it’s polished and error-free!
When you hear about casting calls or go-sees, make sure you come prepared! You’ll want to bring your composite card and your hard copy portfolio just in case the director would like to see more examples of your work.
Look for agencies or casting calls.
If you live in a big city, such as New York or Los Angeles, then having an agent is ideal. However, if you live in a small or mid-size city with a population of less than one million, then you may want to consider working as a freelance model. While agencies in large cities will often cover the cost of things like headshots, agencies in smaller cities will not and they may also charge more for their services in order to stay in business.
You can find a modeling job through 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 a one-off modeling job on social media feeds. There are also Facebook groups dedicated to casting for jobs. Most major cities have groups specifically for local modeling jobs.
Also check out credible model listing sites. These sites are a clearinghouse for models seeking work and clients looking for models. Most of them require membership fees, but a few reputable free sites do exist. However, do be wary of false casting calls. There are reports of predators posing as photographers or agents.
Attend industry events.
Networking is a great way to meet models and people in the modeling industry who can help you to find a modeling job. Networking involves meeting people, getting to know them in a casual, conversational way, and then asking them for suggestions and advice about how to find jobs. Make sure that you add these events to your calendar and start making yourself a regular presence in the modeling world. Keep in mind that someone who it not influential today may be influential tomorrow, so be nice to everyone.
It might feel like a great opportunity to toot your own horn and talk about your ambitions, but this is not the right time for this. Focus your attention instead on meeting and talking to photographers, designers, and casting agents. Ask questions about their work or specific campaigns, be genuinely interested in the answers you receive, and always remain polite and professional.
This method may not work for everyone but it is a great way to get your face out there. If a scout hasn’t stumbled upon you, go to them. “Email images of yourself directly to the agency,” suggests Gay. It may feel undignifying, but try bringing your composite card to any business that works in design, advertising, or photography. Sending your composite card to the front office of these businesses may provide the added edge you need to be cast in a local modeling job.
Be sure to follow up via email, thanking them for taking the time to look over your card. Don’t forget to include the link to your online portfolio, your contact information, and a photo of your smiling face in the signature of your email.
Build a following.
As models compete with movie actresses and TV stars for high-paying beauty contracts and endorsement deals, the appetite for models who can build a following of their own has never been greater. Modeling agencies are now casting their eyes wider, scouring even music festivals such as Coachella, and scrolling Instagram feeds through campaigns like IMG’s @WeLoveYourGenes, inviting aspiring models to hashtag their photos with #WLYG to be considered. Be active on social media accounts. Post pictures of your work regularly and be open to collaboration opportunities!
Good luck!How Do You Actually Get a Modeling Job? by Minette