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How to Become a Model: How To Start Owning The Runway

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Have you ever dreamed of strutting down the runway and posing for professional photographers? 

Modeling is a super-competitive industry with a market value of around $1.6 billion. Getting into the industry isn’t only about the looks or physique; there’s much more to it.

Many people dream about becoming a model, but only a few understand the proper steps to turn their dream into reality. Not to worry; we’re here to help.

This guide will walk you through how to become a model. We’ll review everything from the job requirements to how long it takes to kickstart your modeling career.

An Overview of Modeling: A Primer

Before diving in head first, you need to understand how the modeling job works. A model’s job involves promoting and advertising various products, concepts, and services. 

These advertised products can vary from cosmetics, clothes, and accessories to food, cars, and locations. Advertising can be through magazines, TV, catalogs, or newspapers.

There are numerous types of modeling, and a model’s job description and earnings vary depending on the type of modeling.

To explain more, let’s compare fashion and commercial modeling.

Fashion modeling is the modeling you likely see on TV. Fashion models often work with reputable designers to showcase their products walking down runways. 

Though, fashion models are usually tall and slim as they should attract the audience’s attention from a distance.

On the other hand, commercial modeling is about hiring relatable people to showcase a wide range of products. The goal is to allow consumers to imagine themselves using the advertised goods. 

As a model, you use your looks and physique to promote brands, services, or arts. Accordingly, a model should always look after their skin, hair, nails, diet, fitness, and more. 

How Much Do Models Make?

It’s hard to say the exact salary of a model since a model’s income varies greatly depending on the experience, location, and type of modeling. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2022, the median annual wage of a model in the USA was $43,130. 

ZipRecruiter states that the average annual salary of a model in the USA is $97,255 in 2023.

As you can see, the modeling industry has a massive variation in salaries. The above numbers don’t necessarily represent the earnings of all models, as some can earn significantly higher or lower.

What You’ll Need to Become a Model

When thinking about modeling, you might picture the private jet lifestyle and flying from one fashion show to another. While the career seems prestigious, it’s far more demanding than you imagine. 

To become a model, you need a blend of physical attributes, soft skills, and investing in certain aspects of your life, such as your health, fitness, wardrobe, and more.

Physical Requirements

Depending on the modeling type you wish to pursue, specific physical requirements might exist. The demands are usually more specific in fashion modeling than in other types.

For instance, the height-to-body ratio is crucial for fashion and runway modeling. Women should strive to reach the following parameters:

  • Height: from 5’8″ to 6’0″
  • Body measurements: 34 24 34 inches

On the other hand, a male model should aim for the following:

  • Height: 5’11”-6’3″
  • Body measurements: 38 32 40 inches

Models must also maintain their appearance, skin care, fitness, and hair routine. 

Personal Skills

Models need to acquire several personal skills to excel in their careers. 

  1. Communication: You’ll always be in front of cameras and audiences, so you should be comfortable interacting with multiple people at a time
  2. Poise: Modeling involves being in various locations and settings, so whether you’re catwalking or having a photoshoot outside, you should carry yourself with grace and confidence
  3. Networking: Building connections with agencies, photographers, and industry professionals is crucial to succeed in this career path
  4. Time management: To say ahead in this competitive career, you should always plan and organize your tasks as you’ll have very little work-life balance
  5. Persistence: You need to have the resilience to handle criticism and rejection
  6. Adaptability and flexibility: It’s critical to be adaptive and flexible while taking directions from other professionals.

Professional Portfolio

You should craft a professional portfolio showcasing your best work to kickstart your modeling career. Clients must be able to see your past projects to determine if you’re fit for their campaign. 

Creating your modeling portfolio is perhaps the most costly part because you’ll need to cover fees for photographers, makeup artists, stylists, and hairstylists. You’ll also need to invest in clothes and accessories that represent your modeling style.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Model?

It’s challenging to say how much it costs to become a model. While you shouldn’t pay for a modeling contract, you should invest in yourself for better job opportunities. 

A photographer shooting a redhead model in the studio (1)

Let’s break down the costs of becoming a model:

  1. To be featured on modeling websites, you might have to pay annual fees ranging from $150-$300
  2. Test shoots for developing your portfolio will cost anywhere between $500-$1000 per shoot, depending on the photographer, location, and type of shots
  3. Updating your wardrobe for castings and bookings might cost around $500 or less per year
  4. You might need to invest in a ring light and a softbox, as clients often ask models to self-tape from their homes. These would cost you around $200

Is It Hard to Become a Model?

According to IBS World, the market size of modeling agencies is around $1.6 billion. This reflects the industry’s competitiveness and how many women and men strive to make a living out of modeling.

Modeling also has strict physical requirements such as height, weight, and facial features, and only a few can easily meet these desired attributes. 

How Long Does It Take to Become a Model?

The time it takes to become a professional model varies depending on many factors. Some models are discovered after months of contacting modeling agencies, while others spend years until they get noticed. 

It takes time to build your portfolio, reach an ideal physique, and attend photoshoots and casting calls.

John Horner, CEO of Models 1, says in an interview with the BBC that they scout models by going to clubs, restaurants, malls, music festivals, and airports. They also host competitions where thousands compete to become models. 

Horner then said that out of 2,000 applicants and around 20,000 online applications, they sign up only 100 per year. He also pointed out that out of 100 potential models, only around 20 models stay within the agency for years.

Becoming a model takes a lot of time, dedication, and effort. But on the bright side, in today’s world, it’s much easier than before. 

Modeling agencies now opt for social media to scout thousands of profiles at a time, making it easier for everyone to get noticed.

How to Become a Model in 5 Simple Steps

Becoming a model isn’t a walk in the park. In addition to the work you must put into yourself, you must ensure you’re on the right track. 

To help you start your journey as a model, we’ll explain how to become a model in five simple steps.

A young female model in a photo session

Step 1: Develop Your Attributes

To start your modeling career, you must evaluate your potential and work on your weaknesses. You must ensure you have all the skills and requirements that modeling agents need.

First, assess your physical attributes and choose a modeling type that fits you. For example, fashion modeling demands certain heights, weights, and body measurements. 

If you want to be a fashion model, you need to ensure you meet those standards.

You’ll also need to develop the essential skills required for most modeling types, such as:

  • Learning how to pose according to the modeling type you choose
  • Know how to angle your face and body in front of cameras
  • Develop your communication skills
  • Consider joining a modeling school to help you learn the essential modeling skills

Step 2: Build a Professional Portfolio

Your portfolio is your gateway to kickstart your modeling career. Clients and modeling agencies will always ask for an updated portfolio to see your previous work and decide if they’ll hire you.

That said, you must invest in high-quality professional photos showcasing your unique features.

You can ask a friend to take headshots and full-body shots of you wearing different clothes in various settings. Make sure you include several poses and expressions to show your versatility.

Note that thousands of professional photographers are starting out and looking for models to photograph. Working with a professional photographer won’t only help you get better pictures for your portfolio; it’ll help you make more connections as well.

Step 3: Network and Build Connections

Networking is crucial in modeling, especially when you’re starting out. You need to get yourself out there and introduce yourself to clients, photographers, and other models. 

You can attend industry events, casting calls, and fashion shows. That way, you’ll familiarize yourself with professionals in the modeling world who might help you get better opportunities in the future.

Step 4: Research and Approach Modeling Agencies

Models often need modeling agencies to help them find work, especially in their early careers. Start by gathering information about reputable modeling agencies and aim for a modeling agency that represents your desired niche.

Submit your portfolio to as many agencies as possible to increase your chances of getting noticed. Maintain a professional attitude and prepare yourself for rejection; it’s totally normal. 

Step 5: Build a Social Media Presence

In today’s digital world, having a solid online presence is crucial to promote yourself. Use your social media profiles to upload photos and videos of yourself to showcase your attributes. 

You can also use social media to share your portfolio with industry professionals to attract potential agencies and clients.

Reasons to Consider Becoming a Model

Modeling is a super-rewarding career as a full-time job or a side hustle. According to Ziprecruiter, models can make up to $401,500 and as low as $11,000 annually.

Fashion models catwalk

Apart from being a great gig job, there are several reasons to consider becoming a model.

  1. Building confidence: Modeling helps you grow as a person and build confidence, self-assurance, and body positivity
  2. Networking: Building an extensive network of industry professionals will help you get better opportunities in the long run
  3. Traveling: Modeling allows you to travel to various destinations for fashion shows, photoshoots, and events
  4. Career options: Modeling can open doors to other career opportunities such as acting, dancing, fashion design

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal age to start modeling?

There’s no perfect age to start modeling, as the industry accommodates various age groups. But generally speaking, most models start their careers between 16 and 21. 

Modeling agencies are often after this age group as they seek fresh faces and youthful looks.

Do beginners earn money for modeling?

Yes. Beginner models get paid for their work, but the amount varies depending on the type of modeling, location, and market. However, beginners often earn significantly less than experienced models.

Similar Gigs to Check Out

Now that you understand how to become a successful model, you might have decided that it’s not the best career option for you. That’s why we provided similar gigs to consider:

  • How to become an influencer: To become an influencer, you should create engaging and high-quality content to attract followers and build a fan base. Make sure to check our article on how to become an influencer.
  • How to become a voice actor: If you have a passion for acting and enjoy using your voice to express your feelings, you might consider a career as a voice actor. Check out our guide on how to become a voice actor for more information.
  • How to become famous: It’s tough to become famous, but with hard work, dedication, and talent, it’s doable. Check out our article on how to become famous.

If you’re looking for a decent-paying side hustle, read our article on fairly uncommon side hustles.

Wrapping Up

In the often challenging and competitive modeling world, an aspiring model must understand what it takes to succeed. That’s why we provided clear, concise, and actionable steps to help you pursue your dream of becoming a model.

We hope you enjoyed our guide on how to become a model as much as we enjoyed writing it. Don’t forget to share the guide with your friends and share your opinions in the comments section below!

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