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21-01-2006
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The Truth about Modeling Expenses ... Who Really Pays?
The Truth About Modeling Expenses

Expenses are an area that seem to create the most confusion and misunderstandings between new models and agencies.

Modeling agencies often hear new models say "Well, if you liked me you would pay for everything". Unfortunately, the hype surrounding modeling agencies paying for expenses is grossly exaggerated and often wishful thinking on the part of new models who don't understand how the modeling industry really works.

We understand that models have been told "don't pay an agency to represent you" - that is true. But that is much different from investing in your own basic start-up costs that don't involve the agency, such as photoshoots, composite cards, etc. These are services you need from outside sources such as photographers, stylists, printers, etc.

Agencies that were willing to finance the careers of new models were much more prevalent in the 1980's (the Supermodel era) than they are today.

In the '80's the modeling industry was booming, many of the agencies such as Ford Models, Next, Company, Elite, IMG, etc. were new and building their rosters; clients were paying huge fees for models; Linda Evangelista "wouldn't get out of bed for less than $10,000.00 a day" and competition between modeling agencies was fierce. Well, those days are all but over.

Modeling agencies soon learned that financing the careers of new models was more costly than profitable. Many agencies lost hundreds of thousands of dollars each year when new models were unable to fulfill their obligations for a variety of reasons that were of no fault of the agency. Young models may have found they couldn't handle the stress, they didn't like being away from home, their looks changed, they were difficult to work with, or any number of reasons that would send a new model packing and the agency holding the bill.

Today, many agencies expect to be repaid for advances even if the model does not work. Some agencies have gone as far as taking legal action against models who have outstanding debts. These days over 90% of models working with top agencies in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Paris, London, Milan, etc. did not have their initial expenses advanced and they worked long and hard to get where they are.

As a fashion model you are a self-employed, independent contractor. You are considered a sole proprietor in your own small business, you are not an employee of the agency. In addition to basic start-up costs, professional models, including those represented by top agencies such as Ford Models, Elite, Next, Wilhelmina, DNA, Women or Karin's are required to cover all of their own promotional expenses such as composite cards, agency books, headsheets, websites, couriers, etc. These promotional expenses can run anywhere from $200 - $600 per year to post photos on the agency website, $1,500 - $2,500 per year for composite cards, in addition to couriers, postage, working visa's, legal and accounting fees. Professional models understand that this is simply the cost of doing business and it is standard in the industry for the model to cover these promotional expenses.

Don't make the mistake of telling an agent to pay for your expenses. Agents consider this extremely rude, presumptuous and unprofessional and it is a sure fire way to make the agent show you the door. If an agent is willing to help you financially they will offer it. Keep in mind this is extremely rare and is generally offered only by large agencies in markets such as New York, Paris or Milan and they will deduct what you owe them the moment you book a job.

Agencies in smaller markets simply do not have the resources to finance new models. However, the agencies in smaller markets are very important to a new model's career. Most models do not start at the top in big New York or Paris agencies, rather they learn the business, develop their look and build their books in the smaller market agencies. If you have the opportunity to work with an agency in a smaller market don't pass it up, they can be a valuable asset to your career. And please, please don't expect modeling agencies to finance your career. Remember that agents are just that - they are AGENTS. They are not bankers or magicians.

I found this article on a site called Minx models.

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21-01-2006
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I want to add that this is the one area that totally stunned us when Ali started modeling. Costs were never mentioned on anything till her first checks came in. Just like the article above I just wasn't thinking...nothing is free. It makes sense later when you see the number of girls they promote...and the number that don't make enough money to ever get out of debt. You pay to have your picture on their website,your compcards,your rent,your flights(unless the client is paying),messenger service,lasers,car service,some test photoshoots,tears from magazines,fedex,etc.etc.etc.But before all of this is taken out they take their 20%.

Most of her checks that were under a $1000.00 came back with a -0- balance. It's the facts of the business and the ones you don't hear about.
They wouldn't be in business if they weren't making money Modeling is hard work but for the ones that make it big the payoff for the agency and the model is well worth it.

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Last edited by model_mom; 21-01-2006 at 12:24 PM.
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21-01-2006
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I forgot to mention that you have to have living expenses while you are trying to jump start your career and most agencies are more than willing to give you a draw to live on....add this to your debt. it's so easy to forget.

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21-01-2006
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Thank you model_mom for creating this topic Very informative! Karma

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21-01-2006
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we're living this right now
Model Mom - Thanks for the very frank and well written view point on the start up expenses involved. We're still in the start up phase and can only hope that it all pays off. We look at it this way - any business that you start involves an investment and I'm sure the agencies want to see that the model is making that investment in her own future. It's a worthwhile investment if you get the connections with good bookings which comes with good representation. There is tremendous amount of luck involved in getting signed on by a big agency and you hope that the "look" you have is what they are "looking for".

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23-01-2006
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I think it's funny. Sometimes I'll read that if an agency if trying to get you to pay for anything, they're trying to con you. And then every once in a while I'll read something that contradicts that. Interesting. Modeling used to be so much more fabulous back in the day.

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23-01-2006
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^ What is usually said is not to give an agency any money up front before signing. Where you run into trouble is when an 'agency' is not a reputable one. There are so-called agencys everywhere! The first red flag should be if an agency asks for a fee to sign with their agency. No reputable agency will require a fee when you are asked to sign. There are also so-called agents that are just recruiters for high priced modelling schools. Many aspiring model's dreams are shot down because they think that these schools are agencies. The schools hardly ever get the model any real work and they charge high dollars for their classes.

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23-01-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LOVEITALL
Model Mom - Thanks for the very frank and well written view point on the start up expenses involved. We're still in the start up phase and can only hope that it all pays off. We look at it this way - any business that you start involves an investment and I'm sure the agencies want to see that the model is making that investment in her own future. It's a worthwhile investment if you get the connections with good bookings which comes with good representation. There is tremendous amount of luck involved in getting signed on by a big agency and you hope that the "look" you have is what they are "looking for".
^^Sloan, love the avatar...was that a Gray Scott ed in Z!nk mag? I think my friend did the makeup for that.

LOVEITALL, that is exactly the way how I would look at it...being a model is in fact running your own business, or running your own corporation, etc. This might be a hard concept to grasp for someone who is 14 or 15.

There are going to be startup costs and you are going to have to incur some debt in the short term in order to have it the possibility of profiting in the long run. Owing agencies money in the short term for composite cards, housing, test shots, etc, is all a part of the game. Its a shame that sometimes these costs can be extremely high. For instance, I know that agencies charge upwards of 2000 dollars a month just to live in a dirty 2 bdrm models apartment with 7 other girls. It doesnt seem fair, and I think it is somewhat unethical but thats just the way it is. Also, tests can cost 4-5 hundred dollars. The good thing is, the models dont actually have to pay for these things until they start making money. All of these costs will come out of future earnings. One should not feel down about starting "in the hole" so the speak, because the agency probably wouldnt make those initial investments if they didnt think they could recoup those costs.

With that said, whenever you start a business, one must do their due diligence and make sure they are not getting involved in a money pit, or end up owing money to a 4th rate agency or a "modeling school" (whoever heard of such a thing)...Definately know what your getting into and know that models usually dont make money until they've been around for at least 6 months to a year, so be ready to incur some initial start up costs...


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23-01-2006
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Great article, model_mom!

sadly, it's the otherside of modeling but it's all legit. I'm surprised Ford didn't have that in their contract... it's baffling to say the least. I know for those girls that , I guess you can say, are more 'in demand' don't have to worry with most of the costs because the agent takes care of her but of course will have to give their share sometime or another but not to the extent of bankruptcy. But true, majority of the girls are not so fortunate and will have to shoulder alot of the costs. It's alot of money with alot of accounting and bookkeeping for the models to tackle. you mature quickly in these conditions. It's overwhelming for alot of girls but those who are "in demand" tend to bypass the grunt side of it. There are alot of models , per se, but it's only the Supermodels status that are fortunate enough and those are the select few and the ones that agents pay their way because they rack in the business. They will only 'take care' of you if you bring in business for them and are "in demand". Not to say agents don't, it's just that you don't get 'perks', per se.

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23-01-2006
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why can't i give karma?! GRRRRRRRR!

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23-01-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sleazie ninja
Also, tests can cost 4-5 hundred dollars. The good thing is, the models dont actually have to pay for these things until they start making money. All of these costs will come out of future earnings.
This only applies to models with some of the bigger fashion/editorial agencies in the main markets. Move away from that, either to a smaller agency, to a smaller market or into the commercial realm and you will often find that models do have to pay for tests, prints & cards etc straight out of their pocket. No advances or loans.

In the case of small fashion agencies in the main markets (I'm in London FWIW) the agency will probably be able offset the fact that they don't pay/advance the cost of testing by only using photographers that are willing to cover the costs themselves.

In return a few photographers, often shooting more commercial work, are willing to waive their testing rates in return a release that allows the pictures to be used as stock.


Last edited by FC5; 23-01-2006 at 01:58 PM.
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23-01-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FC5
This only applies to models with some of the bigger fashion/editorial agencies in the main markets. Move away from that, either to a smaller agency, to a smaller market or into the commercial realm and you will often find that models do have to pay for tests, prints & cards etc straight out of their pocket. No advances or loans.
Very good point, I should have prefaced what I said by stating that my comments were largely based on personal experience with first and second tier agencies in New York, which would probably include the top 10 on models.com, and some third tier agencies, such as SVM and the like...But even at the tops ones, such as ford, models do have to pay upfront for test shots even with photographers that have a relationship with the agency.

SIDE NOTE: I think its pretty B.S. when agencies become friends with a particular photographer (who sucks) and they force their models to test with them... Sometimes bookers can be quite daft, get involved in the politics, etc.. and not have a clue whats good for their models careers...

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23-01-2006
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This is a good thread. Karma.

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26-01-2006
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I forgot to tell you about the taxman. Save every reciept you can get your hands on. You are an independent contractor and unless you remember to put money back to pay the taxes on your earnings you are in for quite the shock.

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27-01-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by model_mom
I forgot to tell you about the taxman. Save every reciept you can get your hands on. You are an independent contractor and unless you remember to put money back to pay the taxes on your earnings you are in for quite the shock.
Well, every working model should have an excellent accountant to give them advice, such as saving your receipts, how to handle foreign income, etc. For instance, I think if you're a foreign model working in a foreign country, i.e., canadian working in argentina, then you pay less taxes if any. Also, it's pretty sweet that pretty much all the shopping you do you can put towards tax write-offs... Kind of annoying to keep every single receipt, but definately worth it in the long run.

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