Model Rates: Advice for Freelance Models

Ever since I started modeling, the question of “model rates” has been popping up just about every day in the modeling forum. I’ve finally decided to write a post with my personal take on setting modeling rates.

This is just from my experience—honestly, there are as many unique experiences and opinions as there are models. Additionally, this post is geared towards freelance models making money by helping new photographers develop their portfolios, as opposed to agency models.

Model: Aviva; Photographer: IMS PHOTOGRAPHIC

Warning to New Models: Making a Living as a Model Takes Time

First, if you started modeling only for the money, then think very carefully about the reality of making money as a model, especially if you are freelance. It is very important to understand your limitations, because there is not a single model out there that is suitable for all kinds of work.

I know a few freelance models on Model Mayhem who make a living modeling (I’ll certainly try to get them to submit a guest post or two here, and maybe interview them). They travel for shoots and are able to sustain themselves. From reading many of their forum posts, I can see that it took them a long time to build a reputation that can allow them to charge enough for their modeling to make a living at it. Making a living as a full-time freelance model requires a lot of hard work, dedication, a look that people are willing to pay for, and sometimes the willingness to lower your limits when it comes to nudity and the types of shoots you are willing to accept.

Rather than having set rates, consider leaving them open for negotiation

I have seen freelance models charge upwards of $150/hour. As a non-nude model I have usually been paid between $25/hr-$60/hour for shoots, although sometimes I get more.

I choose not to set a specific rate because I always want to know what the person hiring me is offering before I tell them. That way, I can try to renegotiate on jobs that I think are offering me too little money, or accept jobs that offer me more than what I had expected to get.

6 Things to Consider When Setting Your Modeling Rates

So, how much do you charge for modeling? How do you know how much you should charge? Should you charge?

1. Your Portfolio

When you are starting, focus on building a good portfolio that focuses on the areas of modeling that are most suited for your look, and your interests. Understand that if you are 5’4″ and 140 lbs, you probably will not make money as a fashion or commercial model. Therefore, stick with genres that suit your body type.

And, unless you have a fairly strong portfolio, it may be unreasonable to expect getting paid at all. You might be better off doing some trade/collaboration (TF*) work or even hiring a photographer or two.  A really good photographer would likely provide valuable images that help you build a portfolio.

2. The Photographer’s Portfolio

When deciding upon an offer you received, assess the person’s portfolio and decide for yourself if the amount of money they are offering you is worth being associated with that photographer and their work. Yes, they are paying you, but understand that those pictures will be on the Internet forever. Look at the person’s worst picture, and realize that their next worst one could be of you. Are you okay with that? One bad picture can cost you money or your future career—especially if you want to be a public figure.

One way that I was able to avoid working with some photographers that I did not want to work with was by quoting them rates that I knew they would not pay, and it worked well for me. I was able to be selective of who I worked with, while still making some money at modeling.

3. Your Look

How you look is probably the most important factor when it comes to setting your rates. If your look is in demand, you can charge higher rates for your modeling because people would be willing to pay you more. To be able to make money as a model, realize that maintaining your looks is important, which means taking care of your skin, eating right and going to the gym, among other things.

4. The Competition

The number of models who can do what you do is also an important factor in whether or not you can charge, and how much. If you see that, in your area, there are many models that do amazing standard glamour shots, and you want to also be a glamour model, understand that you are up against some stiff competition. When supply is high, simple economics say that the price would therefore be low. If you have a unique skill (such as posing) that few of the models in your area possess, use it to your advantage. Anything that is rare is usually more valuable.

When deciding how much to charge, check out what the models in your area (that are similar to you in looks, body type and genre) are charging. Some of them post their rates right on their Model Mayhem profile, or on their website.

Because you are new, charge a little bit less than the average, when starting out. If you see that, at your current rate, you are getting more offers than you have time for, you then raise your rates a little bit. If you are not getting any offers, then lower your rates.

If, you are not getting any offers, even after you have lowered your rates, it is time to go back to square one and re-assess your own portfolio,  your look, the market and your goals.

5. Nude Modeling

Due to the supply and demand principle, models willing to pose nude will be able to charge more and will likely get more work. That is because there are many beautiful girls who are willing to pose clothed for free/little money, but it is more difficult to find good models who pose nude. With that being said, carefully consider the consequences of posing nude and whether or not the money is worth it for you. You are the only one to make that decision.

6. What Do You Offer That Is Worth Paying For?

Consider that you are also competing against many models that would do the same thing that you do but for free. Make a list of all the things that you can offer to the person “hiring” that those who model for free can’t or don’t do. In other words, what can you do/what do you have that makes you worth paying for?

Summary: Deciding on a good rate depends on many factors

If you are disappointed that I didn’t write down the exact dollar figure, then, I can explain to you why I didn’t.

Here are all the reasons why I didn’t write the exact dollar figure in this post:

  • Modeling rates are variable by city and country. Chances are if you are a model in Victoria, BC your rates are different than if you are a model in Los Angeles, CA.
  • I don’t know what you look like.
  • I don’t know your competition in the city where you live.
  • I am not familiar with modeling rates for every genre that you may be suited for, and different genres have different rates.
  • There are far too many variable factors to come up with a solid numeric figure.

How do you set your modeling rates?

I hope you found this helpful. If you disagree with something, please say so in the comments. If you like this post, feel free to comment too.



AvivaH has been a model for 2 years and track athlete for 6 years. She lives in Victoria, BC, and specializes in fitness, promotional, bikini, lingerie, and commercial modeling.

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