Successful Modeling Careers Don't Happen Overnight: 5 Steps to Starting Yours

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
So you want to be a successful model? Modeling can be an exciting and lucrative career if you do it well, come across the right opportunities and are willing to put in the time, hard work and energy. 

5 tips to get you into modeling

Here are five tips to get you into modeling, successfully.

1. Start taking professional photos of yourself.

The first step to becoming a model is taking professional photos of yourself that you can share with clients and agencies down the line. You'll want to start building up a portfolio to show clients and agencies, so it'd be wise to get together a book or an online collection of your photos. 
There are tons of photographers who are also just starting out and will need models to build their own portfolios. Join groups on Meetup and social media platforms like Facebook, put out a Craigslist ad, and share with your social circles to connect with other likeminded creatives who'd be willing to help you for little pay or no pay (and an exchange instead). 

2. Contact agencies and decide on one with values that align with yours.

Start contacting agencies to represent you. Most successful models are backed by agencies. It's important, however, to find an agency whose values align with yours. This is because your agency will find you opportunities, and you want to make sure that these are the kinds of opportunities that you'll want to take. While you should say yes to opportunities (see below), you don't want to pigeon hole yourself as a niche model if you're trying to branch out into other categories. Likewise, you don't want to be all over the map once you are trying to brand yourself in a certain way.
Some top modeling agencies include the following:
  • IMG Models
  • Premier Model Management
  • Storm Model Management
  • Next Management
  • Models 1 Agency
  • Q Management
  • Marilyn Agency
There are also tons of alternative modeling agencies cropping up around the world. Alternative and unconventional modeling agencies include Anti-Agency, STATE, No Agency and The Ugly Modeling Agency, to name a few.

3. Take modeling courses.

Sign up to take modeling courses to help you improve your skills. You can always be better, and taking a class, no matter what level you're already at, will help you to develop new skills and hone in on existing skills so that you can be the best model you can be. You'll learn from other modeling students in similar shoes, and you'll network with these people in your industry, as well.
It may also be a good idea to check out the pages of the aforementioned modeling agencies (and other agencies you may want to work with!) to get a sense of how their models work. Many of them, like IMG Models, for example, have advice pages and resources for up-and-coming models.
IMG Models’ unique mentorship program, Model Prep, for example is "where industry professionals and veteran models share expertise and experience with our emerging talent." The "round table conversations cover a broad range of subjects as disparate as cyber security and skincare, with an emphasis on gaining practical information and life skills, as well as building community with fellow models and IMG managers."

4. Say yes to opportunities.

Rule number one: Beggars can't be choosers. When you're first starting out modeling, say yes to opportunities! You need the experience. Of course, there will be some proposals with which you simply aren't comfortable or that go against your values and morales, and it's OK to say no when you need to. But, generally speaking, do your best to keep an open mind and take what comes your way. Everyone has to start somewhere.

5. Network.

In the modeling world, networking is key. Attend seminars, go to happy hours, show up at industry events and be present. In order to get yourself out there, you have to put yourself out there. So network, network, network.

How tall do you have to be to be a model?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no generalized height specification to become a model. While different agencies may have different requirements and runway models and high-end editorial models may mostly appear to be on the taller end, there's plenty of work out there for models who aren't super tall! As diversity in body image becomes ever more important in the media (and there's a stronger push for it!), models of all heights and body types will be accepted.
For example, supermodel Kate Moss is known as one of the first successful models at just 5 feet and 6 inches tall.
"You are likely to hear that to be a model you need to be beautiful, tall and slender with perfect proportions; now this is certainly true for high fashion models, where designers want one type of model that they feel shows off their designs in the best way," according to Model Management. "However, if you do not fit this criteria, don’t despair as there are many other areas that you can work in successfully and lucratively as a model. The modeling industry needs all different shapes and sizes. It ranges from the models who are required for the runways of Paris and Milan to those being seen in the background of TV commercials. You need to find the right fit for you and your place in the industry."

How much do models get paid?

Models get paid varying amounts depending on the type of modeling that they do, their experience, their agency, where they work and for whom they work. That said, a model will earn an average salary of around $32,000 to $48,000, based on their levels of tenure, according to Recruiter. Models tend to make the most money in California, where they can earn an average salary close to $42,180. 
How much money you earn as a model will vary, but by putting in the work, you can make a lucrative career out of it.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog,, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.