Can You Make a Living From Modeling?

Several years ago, when Tila Tequila rose to fame through her “Myspace Modeling,” she inspired many men and women to pursue a career as a model through social media, by making it possible for a girl to become famed, just for having the most friends on Myspace. In this new social media era, there are many ways for models, photographers, and brands to connect through model network sites like It seems like we all have a friend on Facebook or follow a girl on Instagram who just does photo shoots on her own, in her own clothes, for free (or even pays for the photos), and then calls it “modeling.”

model become one

If you are trying to become a model, I want to help you decide if pursuing a modeling career is something that is for you. Of course everyone would love to be a model. Models are known to be beautiful, rich, and seem to live perfect lives, traveling the world for photo shoots on exotic locations. The truth is, very few models can make a living off of being a model alone. I am here to clear up modeling misconceptions and provide information to help you decide if modeling is really for you.

If you want to be a working model and make a living off of modeling, set realistic expectations:

  • If you are not 5’9 or taller, you will NOT be able to make a living off of modeling alone. It doesn’t matter if you want to take jobs that the shorter girls can take: Commercial, Editorial, Lifestyle, etc., you will NOT make a living from modeling if you do not meet the height requirement. Some people may kindly say that 5’9 and above is just for high fashion, and that you could still do commercial modeling. Yes, you can, but you will not be able to make a living off of it. For example, a model that is 5’9 or above could do a national ad campaign that pays $3,000 for a day, while a 5’6 ‘commercial’ model may get a job for a local brand for a commercial broadcasted on local TV and make $200 for the day. I emphasize that if you are short you can’t make a living from just modeling. If you are a celebrity, an actress, a host, or a public figure, you may get modeling opportunities regardless of your height. 
  • Modeling is a JOB. It is about SELLING A PRODUCT. It is NOT ABOUT YOU. You may be the most beautiful woman on this earth, and all of your friends may tell you every day that you need to become a model, but when you go to castings you may get rejected almost every time. The reason is because the casting directors and clients are looking for models who can sell a product. The model must fit the vision of the client.
  • On that note, REJECTION is 98% of the industry. After a full week of going to 4 castings a day, you may get 1 callback and 1 booking. This industry is over saturated therefore extremely competitive. Make sure you have a thick skin if you want to pursue a career in modeling.
  • To make a living off of modeling, you must live in New York, Los Angeles, or Miami. The high-paying jobs and major agencies are located in these three cities. If you are lucky you may find a few opportunities in Chicago, Atlanta, or Washington, DC. If you are another city or a small town, you can take jobs as a promotional model at events or if you are over 21, do liquor promos.
  • Just because you have an agency doesn’t mean you will make money. An agency will do their best to find you work and book you, but if you aren’t signed with a major agency like Elite, Ford, or Wilhelmina (among others), you will not get enough bookings to make a living.

become a model

If you don’t fit the criteria, don’t worry. There are still ways to break into the industry.

  • Try industry-related jobs to break in to modeling. Try being an extra on a TV show, commercial, or feature film to break into the industry. Many models will take on jobs as actors as well because they go hand in hand. Acting does not require a height requirement!
  • Do you have special skills? Maybe you can perform stunts or you are bilingual! Play those skills up and see if you can find jobs that require bilingual talent or special skills (ex. dance, sing, gymnastics, etc).
  • Create your own opportunities. After being rejected to model for about 50 small name swimwear lines, I decided to make my own and model my own swimwear. That brought me to the point where I didn’t care about modeling anymore…I just became a full-time designer and entrepreneur ( ). You could start your own clothing label or product and model it. If you don’t have sewing skills or resources, try T-shirt design. T-shirt printing is affordable, easy, and everyone could use a new shirt!
  • Develop spokesmodel skills. Compete in a pageant! Pageantry is not a beauty contest. It is an opportunity to develop your skills in public speaking and engagement, physical fitness and confidence, poise, and personal accomplishments. As you prepare for a pageant you will see yourself developing these precious skills that will help you not only to break into the industry as a spokesmodel or titleholder, but in any aspect of your life! Who doesn’t want to be more fit, confident, better at public speaking, involved in their community, and accomplished? After your pageant, you will have the skills you need to be an incredible spokesmodel! Just apply everything you learned to your everyday life!
  • Build your fan base. Brands love popular models. Make a fan page, engage your fans, and develop a social media following. Even if you can’t model for a brand, they might just pay you to post a photo of you using their product!
  • Compete in legitimate model search competitions. Legitimate model searches are hosted by brands. There are many scams that claim to be a modeling school or claim to connect models with agencies for a fee. Don’t fall for that. Wet Seal, GUESS, Charlotte Russe, Beach Bunny, and Vizcaya Swimwear are examples of brands that host legitimate model search opportunities. Usually there is no fee to compete, and prizes include photo shoots, published work, modeling contracts, and cash.

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  • Don’t work with every photographer who wants to book a shoot with you. Only work with photographers with experience and good references.
  • Keep your image positive and consistent. Make sure you are respectful and kind when on set at photo shoots. Keep your social media image positive!
  • Don’t do nudity or implied work. Unless it is your dream to be a playboy playmate, I don’t see how it can help your career (but it can harm it!)

I hope this article provided you with more information about the modeling industry. Please share your thoughts/questions in the comments section below (I always respond to comments!) and SHARE if you thought it was helpful!



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