How to Become a Model

Fashion model wearing sunglasses during photo shoot

The definition of the model’s job title has drastically changed over the years. Where before it was a designation exclusively held by towering Amazonian women with perfectly sculptured features and flawless skin, the world of modelling is now open to all kinds of shapes and sizes. The rise of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have also levelled the playing field and created a lot of opportunities for others to join.

So, if you think you have what it takes to join the ranks of top models Gisele Bündchen, Naomi Campbell and Ashley Graham, then read through our essential guide below.

Here’s how to become a model.

1. Research the Profession

As with any job, modelling is a career path that comes with its own set of challenges and rewards. It’s a cut-throat industry with incredibly high standards, and only those with tough skin rise to the very top. The good news is that modelling now, more than ever, presents numerous opportunities for growth.

Types of Models

Depending on your body type and the market you cater to, you will fall under one or two of the modelling categories below:

  • Editorial models: Often found in high fashion magazines like Vogue or Vanity Fair, editorial models have an androgynous or avant-garde look about them. They usually have a height of 5’9’’ and over and are often very slim.
  • Runway models: These refer to models who are hired to showcase a designer’s work on the catwalk. They range from high fashion to retail, depending on the look the designer requires.
  • Plus-Size models: They are models who are more on the voluptuous side. They usually cater to people who are size 18 and up. Some of the most popular plus-size models include Ashley Graham and Tess Holiday.
  • Commercial models: Unlike those in editorial or runway, commercial models have more common features which make them more appealing to the general public. They also stand to make the most amount of money because of their marketability and diverse clientele.
  • Lingerie or bikini models: They are often in the middle between editorial and plus-size models. Usually, they have an athletic body type which is mostly preferred by the industry. A great example of this would be model and entrepreneur Chrissy Teigen.
  • Petite models: These are models who are 5’7” and under. Most people credit this category to supermodel Kate Moss. (Fun fact: In the 90s, Moss wasn’t considered ‘model material’ due to her unconventional look and less-than-above-average height, but she eventually climbed her way to the top and built a category all on her own.)

There are a lot of other subcategories in modelling which require more specific jobs, such as hand or foot and even hair modelling, but the abovementioned categories are the most common ones you will encounter in the industry.

Job Description

Job descriptions usually vary due to the difference in categories. In essence, however, here are some of the most commonly shared duties of models across the board:

  • showcase a designer’s work on the runway or catwalk
  • pose for designers, editors and creative directors for magazines or commercial shoots
  • promote beauty, fashion and other products in photo shoots, commercials and other types of media
  • work with photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists and the entire editorial team for a shoot or campaign
  • meet with designers and potential clients to audition for a campaign or shoot (this is what the industry commonly refers to as go-sees)
  • attend fittings for a shoot or campaign
  • maintain a strong portfolio that best represents your body of work.

Essential Skills and Qualities

Despite the different categories, models share certain qualities that help them withstand the extreme pressure set by the industry. For example, while runway and plus-size models have different body sizes, both are required to maintain their weight in a healthy manner – which means both have to be highly disciplined in their diets and gym routines.

To make sure you stay in the game, here are the top skills and traits you must possess:

  • Time management skills: Models’ schedules can usually get overwhelming, especially during fashion week. It’s imperative that they’re able to manage their time well so that they don’t miss any appointments with clients.
  • Communication skills: In order to book a campaign or a photo shoot, a model must be able to communicate effectively with the people involved. No matter how impressive your portfolio is, if the client isn’t impressed by your personality or lack of chemistry, they won’t book you.
  • Formidability: Models work in a highly competitive environment where minute flaws are magnified on a daily basis. Hence, it’s essential that they develop a thick skin to overcome rejection and harsh criticism.
  • Discipline: Models are always under immense pressure to look good and perform great. To keep up with the demands of their day, they have to be extremely disciplined with their strict diet and intense gym regimen.
  • Patience: Booking a campaign can take a few days or a few weeks. Models need a lot of patience to get through numerous go-sees that might not end well. And if they do happen to book a shoot, these can take hours and hours of waiting as well.
  • Creativity and collaboration: Models are expected to take and execute directions from directors and photographers flawlessly. From time to time, models will also be asked for their creative input, and this determines whether or not they will be booked again.

Working Hours and Conditions

Whether it’s for an ad, magazine or campaign, photo and video shoots are notoriously long. Depending on the makeup and clothing requirements, models can spend as much as four to eight hours in one shoot. And since shoots are usually done months before the actual season, they also have to work under intense weather conditions. For instance, if they’re shooting a campaign for winter, models may have to wear fur during the summer.

The same is true for casting and fashion shows. They sit and wait for long periods to get their makeup done, for the photographer to set up and for the show to start. Whereas most people get to go home after 6pm, models’ schedules are erratic and often unpredictable.

Salary Prospects

According to PayScale, a model can earn an average of £24,000 ($31,760) per year. This amount varies depending on your experience, the number of campaigns you book and the categories you fit in. It’s also not unusual to get paid gift certificates. Sometimes, magazines don’t even pay new models who are still trying to build their portfolios.

2. Get the Qualifications

Once you know which category you will best fit in, it’s important to get the qualifications you need to stand out. If you’re new to the industry and want to be prepared, you can opt to go to modelling school where they teach you some basic skills such as how to pose for the camera, how to find your angle and how to build your portfolio. It’s not a necessary step since these are things you can learn on your own, but they can help you get your foot in the door and give you the confidence you need.

3. Land Your First Job

A lot of aspiring models have their headshots professionally taken, after which they send them to modelling agencies and wait for a call-back.

There are a number of renowned and credible agencies in the UK and the US, but there are other ways to get yourself noticed, too. One of the most effective ways is by creating and strengthening your brand on social media.

Make sure the shots you take are consistent with the kind of model you want to be. Once you grow a big enough following, you can tag agencies or brands on your posts to get their attention. Just be sure not to overdo it so as not to annoy them. This may sound unconventional, but a lot of known models got their start by doing exactly that. Just ask Kim Jones and Taylor LaShae.

4. Develop Your Career

There’s no denying that the world of modelling has changed. Where before models had an expiry date, now getting wrinkles and gaining a few extra pounds are no longer death sentences.

To have a lasting career in fashion, it’s not enough to just look pretty; you have to build on your knowledge of the industry, too. Constantly update your portfolio and other social media platforms. Network with different photographers, collaborate with designers and get to know other models – that way, not only will have you a more diverse portfolio but you’ll also have a more fulfilling career.

Are you considering a career in modelling? Perhaps you’ve successfully completed the journey to becoming a model and have a few insider tips you’d like to share with aspiring professionals? Join the conversation down below and let us know!