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  • Writer's pictureKamla-Kay McKenzie

The Cost and Fees to Be a Model

You may have heard it over and over again as it relates to the fashion industry, "never pay to become a model."

While it should be noted that models should never pay as a means to receive a modeling CONTRACT from an agency, there are legitimate fees that should be expected as you pursue a career in the modeling industry.

Depending on which agency a model signs with, their market (region of work) and the types of jobs that they will book, fees may slightly range. However, the following are the fees that are generally standard and should be expected either on a monthly, yearly or 1-time basis as you progress through your modeling career.

Website Fees

I'm sure that you are well aware that by visiting agency websites, that you can quickly browse through the thumbnails of all the models in which the agency currently represents. This allows clients to be able to sort through model images, select some of their favorites and request for said models to meet the client at a casting or even to direct book the model from their photos.

As a result of the benefits of being on an agency website, not all, but a large percentage of agencies will therefore charge a web fee in order to host your modeling portfolio on their site.

This is a one-time, yearly fee that is generally taken out of the 1st paycheck that the model earns through the agency. Therefore, it is not typical for the model to have to come out of pocket for this fee if they have not booked any work.

Yearly fees for agency websites tend to range from $150-$300 on average but some agencies do not charge any web fees.

In addition, some modeling agencies require their models to upload their portfolio to sites such as for use in submitting the model to castings. These sites are typically on a monthly basis subscription or the model can pay annually. Generally speaking, the monthly fees are no more than $25.

Portfolio Development & Comp Card Fees

Your portfolio is what sells you as a model.

A client needs to quickly be able to flip through your portfolio and see that you have the ability to give a myriad of poses, racial expressions and that you fit their brand identity.

Therefore, the biggest bulk of a model's investment for the year tends to be for their Test Shoots. Test Shoots are shoots conducted as a way to develop and update one's portfolio and models will often pay for a test shoot 2-3 times a year to refresh their book.

Portfolio development Test Shoot fees can range from $500-$1000 per shoot on average depending on a range of factors such as the level of the photographer, whether the shoot is in studio or on-location, beauty or full body shots etc. Be sure that when discussing fees that you find out if the rate the photographer is charging you includes a make-up artist and a stylist as a package deal.

For newer aspiring models, I generally do not recommend that a model spends more than $700 to initially begin their portfolio especially as a commercial model.

Wardrobe Fees

It goes without saying that as a model, you are expected to look stylish to play the role.

But not to worry! This does not mean that you need to break the bank.

However, there will be times when you need to update your wardrobe to include basic pieces. Such wardrobe essentials include skinny black heels (women), skinny jeans and solid color tank tops & fitted t-shirts, white Converse/Keds type sneakers, simple black or brown backpack to toss in your daily items for castings etc.

You can typically achieve your basic everyday wardrobe needs for castings and potential bookings for $500 or less per year unless you push the envelope and go designer.

Basic Studio Equipment

Although this next suggestion is not a must, it is becoming more standard for clients to have models/actors self-tape from home to limit as many in-person auditions.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that models do a 1-time investment by purchasing either a large ring light and/or Softbox lights. Softbox lights typically come in a set of two.

This allows for more optional video and photo quality to take your updated model digitals, introduction videos and auditions tapes when requested to do so by your agency. A Ring Light and Softbox can be purchased on Amazon for around $80 each.

It would also behoove the model to buy a basic white drop cloth (around $40) to use as a backdrop should you not have a solid white wall at home where they can do your photos and tapings.

While other small ad hoc fees may pop-up in the year, these are the general ones that you should expect as part of your journey in pursuing a career as a model.

Fees may fluctuate from year to year depending on the agency(s) you are signed with, what updates are needed to your portfolio and what items you may have previously purchased that are already crossed off your list from the year prior.

Since some of these fees are never directly out of pocket and are taken from monies earned through the agency, the overall yearly fees to pursue your career are generally able to be handled with proper planning.

(my article was originally published on


Keep in mind that while the fees may vary and seem daunting, models who have the right tools (such as a professional portfolio) to make them stand out from the crowd, have an increased change of booking PAID work.

This will overset the fees and in most cases earnings outweigh the yearly fees once the model gets established in the industry as many jobs with reputable clients tend to pay $500+ per day of work.

1 Comment

Jun 15

i am intrested

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