Becoming a Freelance Model – 10 helpful tips for new models

Becoming a Freelance Model – 10 helpful tips for new models

Becoming a freelance model is an exciting journey! But stepping into the modeling industry as a beginner takes many steps, hops, leaps and crawls until you finally find your model flow.

When you don’t have an agency backing you and helping you book jobs, you have to hustle and network and find work on your own. I’m here to tell you it’s not easy.

But I’ve learned a few things along the way and today I’m sharing ten tips for new freelance models that I hope will help you if you are about to embark on this path.

I hope these help you get on your modeling feet and keep you walking strong!

10 Tips for Freelance Models

Becoming a freelance model means deciding how you want to portray yourself

Before presenting yourself to photographers, you need to go on a little inner journey.

Modeling Tip #1 – As a Freelance Model, Decide How You Want to Portray Yourself

Remember these photos will be displayed for a purpose. Others will see YOU in these photos, so identify what of yourself you want to come through them.

Knowing what you bring to the modeling industry will have a strong influence on the types of gigs you get hired for. It also will help you connect with other photographers and models who share a similar image or idea as you.

Deciding how you want to portray yourself is the most important decision of your modeling career.

If you are comfortable displaying yourself as a sex bunny with a big booty then go for it!

Or maybe you want to focus on fitness/yoga modeling. Maybe you want to be a tattoo/alternative model. As a  freelance model, the possibilities are limitless!

Think about what you are comfortable with, what you want to display and express in your photos, and most importantly what resonates with YOU.

This may take some trial and error and experimenting with different looks. It is all part of the journey and you do evolve along the way. But it’s a good idea when you are starting out to have some inspiration and ideas that will influence you on your modeling path.

Sidenote – This does not necessarily mean you must stick to a certain style of shoot all the time. I encourage you to experiment and discover, but also be aware and think about how you want to portray yourself. I had to experiment a good deal to discover styles I embraced and those I was not interested in investing my time in.

Freelance model poses and genres
Three very different styles and expressions Left-Right IG @grandmahphotography, Nevada Fantasies Photography, IG @harshulseth (desginer for right photo @tussah_siddhishah)

Modeling Tip #2 – Set Your Boundaries

Knowing your boundaries goes hand-in-hand with knowing how you want to portray yourself. Think about what you are comfortable with and what you are not comfortable with. Maybe you are open to artistic nude modeling but not erotic nude.

Maybe you don’t even want to do nudity. Whatever your personal boundaries are, decide on them and express them to the photographer BEFORE you decide to shoot.

Again, this also may take some trial and error…experimenting is a better word. You might even find yourself setting new “boundaries” as you gain experience. It is all part of the journey as a freelance model.

Just be sure to ALWAYS express your personal boundaries to a photographer BEFORE deciding to work with him/her.

Modeling Tip #3 – Determine Your Price as a Freelance Model

It is common for starting freelance models to get starting pay…but you have to start somewhere. It’s also common for beginning freelance models to pay a photographer for quality photos you can use in your portfolio, which helps you gain more paid shoots.

It’s not always easy to charge a set price for all photographers and shoots. Sometimes it’s wise to offer a trade with a particular photographer because he or she offers the opportunity to get you published. You pose for free, he takes awesome pictures which he submits to a magazine, and you both win if the photos are selected to be published.

Some freelance modeling gigs will result in published photos
A gig I did without pay because it presented the opportunity to get published….and it did!

On the other hand, you may encounter an amateur photographer who wants to use you to expand their own portfolio. Even though you are a beginner model, if you are more experienced than him, you can charge for your time.

If you are doing an unusual shoot requiring difficult poses, you can charge more. As well as if it’s an X-rated shoot. There are many situations where you will deserve higher compensation.

A few more tips for beginning freelance models regarding setting the price

Determining what to charge is a common question new freelance models have, so consider these questions when determining your price:

How experienced is the photographer? LOOK AT HIS PORTFOLIO OR WEBSITE! Is he experienced enough to offer you incredible, quality photos that you are lucky to have in your portfolio? If so, you may want to charge less as a new model or even a trade. Is he obviously inexperienced and looking to expand his portfolio? That’s when you can charge a little more.

Where is the location? If you must travel a distance for the shoot, that affects your net profit. Many beginner models forget to consider this.

How long is the shoot? Time is money, baby!

Is it a lingerie or nude shoot? It is common to charge more for lingerie or nude shoots than it is for clothed shoots. The more skin YOU have in the game, the more skin they should pony up for the game. Or something like that.

Take all these into consideration and then express your price to the photographer BEFORE agreeing to work with them.

Modeling Tip #4 – Freelance Models Must Reach Out to the Right Photographers

When searching for photographers refer back to freelance model tip #1 – how do you want to portray yourself in the modeling industry?

Look for photographers who have a portfolio that inspires you and try to connect with them. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • Social networking will become one of your best friends. Send messages and requests to photographers expressing your interest and compliment their work.
  • Get in touch with fellow models and inquire about photographers they would recommend.
  • Use websites specifically made for models and photographers to network with one another such as Modelmayhem.com

The style of images and artists you decide to work with will influence your future gigs and opportunities.

A photographer who wants to shoot elegant fashion editorials is probably not going to hire a model who has mostly erotic photos in her portfolio. A fashion model would not want to hire a boudoir photographer for her photos.

Modeling Tip #5 – Meet Your Photographer

freelance models must negotiate with photographers
image from pixabay

Whenever you are working with a photographer for the first time, it is essential for your safety to speak to them directly – yes, an actual voice conversation! Not FB Messenger, not text, not email.

Have a phone interview (video phone, preferably) or meet at a busy coffee shop. This is your opportunity to ask questions and really determine if you want to work with them.

Here are some important questions a beginning freelance model should ask a potential photographer during this interview:

What is your main style of shooting and what are you wanting to shoot with me personally?

How long have you been shooting?

What will the photos be used for?

Will I get edited copies of the photos?

How many hours will the shoot take?

Ask for references and reach out to those references. It’s vital that you speak with other models who have worked with the photographer and ask about the photographer’s professionalism and skill.

Most importantly, get a vibe for the person you might potentially work with and decide if it feels good or not. I will say this now, if you have any hesitation about working with a photographer or you get a bad feeling about it…walk away.

It is a big step in your career to trust your gut and turn down an opportunity if it doesn’t feel right.

Decide what you will create together

After meeting and speaking with the photographer, you may decide to take it a step further. Now is when you discuss what you and the photographer want to create together.

Doing this will help you plan ahead for your wardrobe, hair and makeup. It also gives you time to practice expressions and poses that embody the decided concept or theme of the shoot.

It is never fun as a freelance model, to walk into a shoot with a bag full of multiple wardrobes and props with no idea what you are going to use or portray. Although sometimes it’s fun to play and experiment, it’s always beneficial to prepare yourself.

Take extra precautions

Be wary if the shoot is in a hotel or deep into nature (on a deserted beach or off a mountain trail, for instance). Hotel shoots and nature shoots are very common for freelance models, but they do require extra due diligence.

You may want to bring someone with you on the shoot for safety (most photographers will be fine with this). And you definitely want to make sure their references (other models they’ve worked with recently) are legit and speak to each one of them.

You have to protect yourself, really this is the #1 priority for new freelance models!

beginner modeling tips for freelance models
A boudoir style shoot I did (boudoir, not erotic -two very different genres) located in a hotel room. I had an extensive phone conversation with the photographer before working with him. He was very professional respectful.

Modeling Tip #6 – Practice for Your Shoot

So you have your first gig as a freelance model and you know what the theme is. Now it’s time to practice!

Pose in front of a mirror. Experiment with your body in ways you have not done before.

How can your body and face express what you want to say in a single capture?

Watching yourself as you pose will help you see what looks awkward and what looks graceful. It will help you become familiar and aware of your natural lines and form.

Experiment with hand gestures and facial expressions. Don’t be afraid to get weird with yourself! This is a discovery process that will benefit you and your craft.

an example of a freelance model gig is live art drawing model
My first model gig was for Stewart Freshwaters live figure art drawing class. I spent some time posing and experimenting with my body in the mirror to help me feel more prepared. Paintings by Daniel Miller

Modeling Tip #7 – Decide Wardrobe, Hair and Makeup

This is the fun part. Get creative with what you have. You will be surprised what you can utilize in your closet and how you can make it work for your theme.

Thrift stores and friends are also good resources for freelance models to find just the right piece for your shoot.

If you are going for a look that requires extensive hair and makeup, either hire someone to do it or practice doing it yourself. You don’t want the shoot day to arrive and you are struggling to create the right look.

Preparation and practice are keys to a beginning model’s success (at least until you gain some more experience and things become second nature).

freelance model work includes picking out costumes and applying makeup
Great example of practice and preparation. I spent WEEKS putting together the perfect pieces for this look. I did my own makeup…but practiced days before the shoot. The headpiece I found at a costume shop for $30. The little black skirt is actually my moms scarf. I went to a craft store and bought the feathers you see around my neck stringing them into a necklace. I spent a little bit of money and put in A LOT of effort and time for this shoot. It was not paid, because the photographer was (and is) incredible and offered the opportunity to get the images published…and they did! Published in Sheeba Magazine.

Modeling Tip #8 – Get a Photo Release

It’s shoot time! When walking into a photo shoot, any proper photographer will ALWAYS have a photo release for you to sign. If they don’t, I would reconsider working  with them.

This release states what they can legally do with your photos. And if there is nothing stated for you to sign, then anything goes.

How shitty would it be to find your photo is being used to make a large sum of money and you don’t get to see ANY of it? Or if they just cropped your face and pasted it onto a completely different body doing who knows what. I know it doesn’t seem likely, but it happens and it’s important for new models to know this.

So read over the photo release document and ask questions if you are confused or unsure of what it means.

Modeling Tip #9 – Posing

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your poses and expressions. If you practiced ahead of time in the mirror, you will thank yourself now. But even still, it’s different when you’re in front of the camera lens and it may take you a little time to warm up.

The only way to know if a pose looks and feels good is to try it. For new models (and even experienced ones), the first 25 to 50 shots are usually the worst, while the final 50 are usually the best. This is because you become more comfortable and familiar as the shoot goes on.

If you feel awkward at first, no worries. Take a breath, relax and enjoy the journey.

freelance models need to practice poses and facial expressions
Playing with expressions, and this turned out to be one of my favorite photos. Photographer IG @jonthevagabond

While you are posing it is important to move slow and take your time in each pose. Make micro movements and adjustments. Something as simple as changing your gaze can alter an entire photo.

If a pose feels really good, stick with it for a few shots and play around with it. Do minor hand movements, shifts of weight and changes of gaze, gradually working yourself into a new pose.

Think of it as a very slow dance.

Modeling Tip #10 – Communicate With the Photographer During the Shoot

If you are not sure how something looks, ask.

How does this look? Do I need to adjust anything? A good photographer will offer direction to get you into just the right pose.

As a new model, you may not want to feel amateurish by asking for feedback, but unless you’re Gisele or Iman, photographer feedback is common and expected.

After the first round of shots, ask the photographer to see the photos. Then you can see for yourself what you need to work on for the next round.

Personally, I often have trouble relaxing my face. I find my first 20 shots are pretty much “resting bitch face”. Seeing that first round of photos reminds me to close my eyes, then slowly open them to soften my expression.

beginner model tips for freelance models just starting out
Okay so thankfully my “resting bitch face” went with the look here. But it was not on purpose! Photographer- Sayed Mobin

Communicating with your photographer during the shoot is very important. You may want to express a desire to try something new to achieve your mutual vision for the shoot. Or maybe you’re uncomfortable with something or you want to know if the shots are coming out as imagined.

Or maybe you just need a break. Whatever the reason, communicating helps you develop a relationship with the photographer and become more comfortable with one another.

After the shoot, give the photographer some time to get the edited photos back to you. It’s hard, but be patient!

My Final Tips for New Freelance Models

New models may believe modeling is just two hours of shoot time and that’s it. But obviously it is MUCH more than that.

For a successful freelance modeling career you need to invest your time, energy, and overall self into it.

You are embarking on a journey. Take the time to look at your inner compass to guide you where to go.

The photographers you choose, the types of shoots you do, your preparation and poses – these are all the guideposts to help you get where you’re going in your freelance modeling career.

The more effort and passion you invest, the better you will feel. And it WILL reflect in your photos and influence the types of gigs you land and photographers you work with.

I hope these ten tips for new models help you get started in your freelance model career. I wish you love and success! Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.

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