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Freelance Modeling: The Ins & Outs of Booking Your Own Modeling Gigs

The Internet has spawned the era of freelance modeling… What does that mean? It means that some models are marketing themselves and getting bookings without the help of an agency (some models are also finding it acceptable to work through various agencies in the same market). Liv Kingsbury, April Model of the Month, posted some of her photos on Models.com and subsequently was contacted by a photographer regarding doing a shoot in Long Island City (which is near Manhattan). The shoot, for the lookbook of a small boutique, would be in the evening and models would get photos but no pay. Liv’s mom, Suzanne Kingsbury, e-mailed and asked what I thought—does this sound legit?

Liv Kingsbury

Model Liv Kingsbury

First, I went to the photographer’s web site: cleciolira.com. The professional appearance of the site and the quality of the photos established that Clecio Lira was clearly a working photographer, though not a fashion photographer. This could explain the timing of the shoot. Photographers’ assistants or someone trying to break into a new area of photography will have easier (and less expensive) access to studio space in the evenings after bigger  shoots wrap up. Now, what about no pay? Well, Liv is not an established model with a portfolio and experience. She has a few snapshots and admittedly is just starting out. The photographer is taking a risk on her, so the trade-off is photos—hopefully good enough for her book—instead of a paycheck.

Before pondering that trade-off, there are bigger risks to consider. Remember the three women who disappeared after being contacted regarding their photos on modelmayhem.com? There are predators out there. Liv’s mother was well aware of this. She called Clecio and had a long conversation about the proposed shoot. Most importantly, she established that she was welcome to accompany Liv and stay in the studio the entire time. She also learned that there would be a hairdresser and makeup artist, which always ups a model’s odds of getting good photos.

Model Liv Kingsbury

Liv in Hair and Makeup

They decided to give it a shot. Liv’s mom reported back: “The photographer was professional and offered excellant guidance. The girls (two models) learned a ton in body movement and showing off clothes.  The shoot went a full five hours with hair and make up. Liv will get a cd with some photos early next week, and the lookbook will be ready in a month. So… it could have been sketchy, but ended up a great experience!”

Model Liv Kingsbury

Liv on Set

Before you jump at any freelance booking that comes your way, be as vigilant as the Kingsburys were. Suzanne adds, “Another photographer contacted Liv on models.com and my research found him listed as a predator photographer in NYC.  So you can’t be too careful!”

Pros of freelancing: you don’t have to wait to start working until you find agency representation, you don’t give a cut to an agent, and you control your own marketing and career.

Cons of freelancing: you have to do all the legwork to market yourself and manage booking details; you don’t have anyone to filter out potentially illegitimate, financially insolvent, or dangerous clients; rates will likely be lower (but not giving a cut to an agent can balance out the difference); and you don’t have an accountant to collect payment for you.

Freelance models: Report back to us on your experiences!

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