How to Launch a Career in Freelance Modeling


When I was conducting a research for my article on entrepreneurial opportunities in the Philippines, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and diversify the criteria for viable business ideas. Thus far, I have focused on experience, technical and fundamental competencies, and technology-based concepts. We acquire these assets as we go through our different stages in life.

What about the assets that we are born with? Can we build a business and a career by monetizing the blessings we inherited at birth? How about those who are born physically attractive? Can they build a career in freelance modeling?

In 2015, Filipinos made their mark in an international competition. The interpretive dance group El Gamma Penumbra won the inaugural Asia’s Got Talent reality show talent contest in Singapore. The all-Filipina ensemble 4th Power almost made it to the finals of The X Factor. The UST Choir, UPCC, Aleron, and the Mandaue Children’s Choir all won the grand prize in their respective international singing competitions.

But perhaps, 2015 would be best remembered as the year the world recognized the Philippines as the country with the most beautiful people in the universe!

Angelia Gabrena Ong won the Ms. Earth beauty contest, whereas Janicel Lubina and Hilarie Danielle Parungao landed in the Top 10 of Ms. International and Ms. World pageants, respectively.

The most-coveted title, the Ms. Universe, was won by our own Pia Wurtzbach although not without a controversy. Still, no Steve Harvey gaffe can deny Pia the recognition as the “most beautiful woman” in the universe!

I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel around the world. In my eyes and without bias, I can honestly and confidently proclaim that the Philippines has the most beautiful people in the world.

My comment will probably elicit the proverbial “eye roll” from some readers, and they are entitled to their own opinion. However, if “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” all you need to be “beholden” is to look around you. There are beautiful people everywhere in the Philippines.

With the world captivated by the beauty of the Filipino, you can certainly build a career in freelance modeling.

It must be obvious from my profile picture that I am not or have never been a freelance model! My bases for researching the article came from written sources and interviews with friends who are and have been freelance models. In the course of writing this article, I discovered that being a freelance model is not all glitz and glamour.

It requires hard work, dedication, and commitment to excel in the modeling industry. If you put in time and effort, remain resilient, and display fortitude in the face of difficulties, you will find great success in freelance modeling.

Launching a career in freelance modeling starts with YOU.

How to Launch a Career in Freelance Modeling

1. Be true to yourself

In general, we perceive models to be taller than average, physically fit, and sculpted and to have flawless complexion, strong facial structure, and great hair.

However, what if you’re “none of the above”? Can you still build a successful career in freelance modeling? Yes!

The key is to be true to yourself; accept who you are and embrace not just your strengths but also your imperfections. Remember that there are different opportunities in freelance modeling; some of which capitalize on your strong features.

If you are not tall or well built, you can have modeling assignments that require only head shots. On the contrary, if you are not particularly good looking, but you are tall and have a good shoulder-to-waist ratio and excellent structure that carries clothes well, a ramp modeling career can be your primary option.

Companies hire models for different reasons. Be confident in presenting yourself and your portfolio when meeting with potential clients.

2. Invest in yourself

As a freelance model, your physical attributes are your assets. You have to invest in them to be competitive in the industry. Again, take full accounting of your strengths and weaknesses. In freelance modeling, you have to work on both but place greater emphasis on improving your weaknesses.

There are different ways on how models “invest” in their assets. In the conversations with my friends with modeling experiences, some of the methods are fairly common, whereas some tend to be extreme at least in the mind of a nonmodel.

Here are a few ways on how you can invest in your assets:

  • Sign up for regular training sessions in a gym.
  • Enroll in acting, confidence enhancement, and presentation workshops.
  • Take up communication courses.
  • Schedule facial treatments.
  • Consider cosmetic surgery.

It is entirely up to you on how far you want to go. Your decision would depend on your purpose for wanting to become a freelance model.

One freelance model I had spoken to shared that he takes diuretics to maintain his sculpted body. He was very much in demand and had many commitments, which came one after the other.

He said if he stayed on his diet for an extended period, his body would start retaining water and he would look “smooth.” I advised him of the risks of using diuretics. It would have been better to get off the diet and indulge in one high-calorie or “cheat” meal.

A low-calorie diet shuts down the body’s production of leptin, which is a hormone that regulates body fat. You can only “restart” it with a high- calorie cheat meal. However, he insisted that he knew what he was doing.

When in doubt, remember tip #1. Do not accept modeling assignments that do not conform to you are as a person.

3. Learn to manage and organize

As a freelance model, you are in charge of everything. This includes your schedule, networking, marketing and promotion, and payroll. You are your own organization!

You have to learn how to manage various responsibilities of a freelance model. Becoming a freelance model is no different than running your own business.

Here are a few tips that you can consider in setting up your freelance modeling business:

  • Build a website. A website has many functions. For a freelance model, a website can become a valuable tool to promote his or her portfolio and an avenue for potential clients to learn about the personality behind the face. Keep in mind that companies are conscious about branding strategies. They often hire models whose look and personality aligns with their brand. Companies always see beyond the beautiful face and discover if the personality fits the brand.
  • Set up social media accounts. This is a great way to turn on the charm! Moreover, 92% of marketers use social media for their business. Companies that are looking for models to front their marketing campaigns see Facebook as a great resource. Furthermore, 94% of marketers prefer Facebook as their platform for marketing.
  • Create an online profile. There are several online platforms that connect models with prospective clients. The key to success lies in your online profile. The more complete and the better the presentation of your online profile is, the greater the chances of being hired become.

Here are some tips on creating an effective online profile:

  • Your headshot or profile picture must be made by a professional photographer who has experience shooting models.
  • Your write-up must maintain a positive tone and highlight the best reasons to hire you as a model.
  • Be detailed and extensive with your modeling experience.
  • Provide references and testimonies from previous clients.
  • Attach your portfolio.
  • Create a marketing portfolio. This is a set of printed materials that you distribute when you network for clients. A portfolio should include the same items as your online profile, but this time, you must have calling cards to pass around.
  • Read contracts very carefully. Every business engagement has contracts. Make sure that you read the contract given to you before signing it. Do not hesitate to ask questions or seek clarification on provisions that you don’t answer. Better yet, consult a friend who is a lawyer.

4. Schedule networking activities

As a freelance model, you are not committed to any modeling agency, but you can be hired by more than one agency.

Take the opportunity to market your portfolio to as many prospective clients as you can by networking constantly.

You can network through social media or by attending trade shows, conventions, and events that need models. Build up your list of connections and get referrals from friends, families, and associates.

When you get a referral, try to touch base immediately. The best way would be to introduce yourself first by sending an e-mail. Keep the e-mail short, but make sure to mention the person who referred you.

If you don’t receive any response, do not assume that you are declined. Call the prospective client’s office. Then after introducing yourself, ask if they have read your e-mail. If yes, ask if there is a possibility of exploring future work with them and if you can submit your portfolio.

If no, politely acknowledge their decision and ask if you can at least submit your portfolio for future consideration.

Finally, always make it a point to look good when you are in public. You do not have to look like you are attending an awards night but be presentable. Wear decent clothes and look refreshed. Talent agents are everywhere. You can be discovered in a coffee shop, a mall, or in the MRT!

Be persistent when you network. Several of the world’s greatest fashion models, including Giselle Bundchen, the most successful model in history, were rejected several times before they made it big.

5. Develop and practice good habits

As a freelance model, you must act professionally at all times. Nobody wants to work with a “prima donna” or a “diva.”

Good habits are developed early on. Here are a few tips that can help develop the important habits that you should possess as a freelance model:

  • Be punctual. When you get offers to work with a client, always be punctual for meetings and photo shoots. These are all paid hours by the client. You do not want to waste their time and money by being tardy.
  • Always respond to communication. Make it a point to reply immediately to messages and e-mails from clients or prospects. If you are not sure of how to reply, give yourself some time but no more than 24 hours upon receiving the message.
  • Be respectful and courteous. A little bit of courtesy and respect will take you far in your career. If you don’t get the job, they will always remember you for your character. If you do get the job, extend respect and courtesy to everyone you work with.
  • Be professional. If you have concerns about the assignment, address with the appropriate person. Conduct yourself in a professional manner and keep an open mind to the ideas of the client.

6. Work with “right-fit” clients

There are many freelance models that give in to desperation and take any project that is offered to them even if it is not aligned to who they are or even if the client does not conduct business in a professional manner.

Always remember tip #1, “be true to yourself.” Look for clients and projects that are aligned with your values, purpose, and vision. Being selective has less to do with money than building solid relationships in the industry.

If you are offered two choices, namely, working with a client who is respected in the industry but cannot pay you a high rate or working for another client with a notorious reputation and dubious background but with the capacity to pay you more, always choose the reputable client.

There are many reasons why a client may not be able to pay you the rate you want. None of these reasons may have anything to do with financial capacity. It could be that they want to test your dedication and commitment to work for them.

7. Establish your rates

As a freelance model, you are promoting your services. Prospective clients always want to know your rates before they proceed with their offer. Keep in mind that all clients have a prepared budget for a project, and this includes payment for models.

When I was preparing the marketing collaterals for our restaurant in 2003, we hired freelance models who charged us Php 1,500 for a whole day shoot. Today, there are freelance models who will start out for as low as Php 500 for a whole day shoot!

One reason the rates have dropped is because the industry has become competitive. Many foreign models have arrived in Philippine shores to build up their portfolios as well.

Try to land as many paying jobs as you can even if these are below your expectation. The more clients you work with, the more experiences you gain and the better you will be in your job as a freelance model.

In business, there is a saying that foregone income at the beginning of your career is the tuition you pay to get better in your profession. In time, your sacrifices will be rewarded as you slowly build your name and reputation in the industry.

Start Your Freelance Modeling Career

Similar to any other business, becoming a freelance model has inherent risks. We’ve all heard horror stories of modeling engagements that have gone from promising to tragic.

This is the importance of being deeply rooted in your values. Yes, the money you can potentially earn in freelance modeling can be much more than what a regular 9-to-5 desk job will pay. However, if money is your purpose, you will be waylaid by unscrupulous people who will take advantage of your material objective.

Becoming a freelance model is not just about looking good. It is also about presenting and conducting yourself in a very professional manner. Most of all, it is about staying true to who you are.

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